My Eager Return to WordPress and Some Other Tasty Bits

New year, new me…

Well, sort of. After taking what I consider a stay-at-home-sabbatical, meaning a month and a half period of REAL rest, complete with sleep (more than 5 or 6 hours a night!), a whole lot of Netflix in bed, several good books, pancake breakfasts in the afternoon after arising from twelve hour sleep-marathons, attempting to tackle a still-unmanageable pile of things to do and lots of delicious red wine, I’m back at it.

I don’t make resolutions, per se, as I admit several years back I made a ‘change my diet’ resolution (which included giving gluten the axe) and that probably lasted, oh, about two weeks ending in unhealthy tortilla binges. However, I do ‘resolve’ to visit new places I’ve never been every year. And to try things I’ve never done before. So, let me refine my statement a little bit: I make resolutions and fully support those of others that entail new adventures and foster mental, physical and spiritual growth and betterment. I do not make resolutions and advise others against those that involve numbers, self-imposed denial of anything, or any sort of masochistic restrictions that have the inevitable end result of a) being broken or b) breaking you.

My journey to gluten-freedom was an adventure that is ongoing yet; removing all foods, drinks and other products with gluten was a slow and conscious process during which I honored my body, my desires and my weaknesses. Complete dietary and lifestyle change and the benefits that it bestows upon me have been a blessing, but ‘change’ is really just an umbrella term for an evolving set of processes that in coordination represent the abstract ‘change’ paradigm. Change for me is conscious effort and thought in daily choices: to go to bed early instead of staying up late watching tv, drinking herbal tea instead of alcohol, going to yoga instead of sleeping in. Trust me, I don’t always make the healthier choice, because this would be somewhat masochistic/obsessive-compulsive/make-life-a-living-hell. In fact, ALWAYS making the ‘right’ choice would be akin to making resolutions. What seems to be overall a healthier and more sustainable intention: vowing to go to the gym every morning for two hours or attempting to go to the gym several times per week during times when you would otherwise be doing something less inclined to healthy development?

I think I’ve hammered the point in by now. I should admit at this point that I do in fact have a resolution (one of the good kinds of resolutions, of course). Updating this blog. On a regular, biweekly schedule. I’ve returned to wordpress and am very excited to share the things I’ve discovered, mixed, concocted and read about as of late. And I think this resolution will set me up for many more adventures, which will be condensed, organized into words, pictures, and more rants, and eventually be shared with y’all.

So, my friends, this spiel about resolutions and eating gluten-free (especially for us non-celiac gluten-freers) is really my mind’s inconclusive effort to come to terms with an article I read back in December in Creative Loafing, one of my absolute favorite reviews for all things food and fun in Atlanta. “Trends to be banished in 2013,” posted by Cliff Bostock on December 27th predicted the end of several gourmet trends that did truly set some frivolous, if not outright aggravating, standards on our plates during the past year. A little playful sarcasm without any truly hardball cynicism, his prescient musing takes current foodie peeves such as the overuse of white truffle oil (which IS fake), the omnipresence of fried eggs on top of everything, and the “gentrification of ‘nose-to-tail dining” (cleverly worded and SO true), among many others. Yet, one of his final thoughts struck a different chord: “I know that many people are allergic to gluten. At its worst, it’s called celiac disease. Milder cases are called gluten sensitivity. I’m sorry. But please stop making a scene at the table if you can’t find gluten-free dishes or the server has no idea what you’re talking about. Why not call ahead and ask?”

As a gluten-freer by choice (guided by professional opinion on managing autoimmune disease) and not by restriction, my gluten-free ego is torn in half by this statement. Yes, I am somewhat offended; in part, because I don’t make a scene when this scenario arises. I just don’t eat. And then my friends at the table get annoyed and self-conscious that they’re gorging themselves in front of a ‘sick person’ that can’t eat. Sigh. Mostly, though, because I know people that do get violently ill from cross-contamination from anything that has even touched wheat. If something says ‘gluten-free’ on the menu, yes, in fact, they have a right to ‘make a scene’ in the instance that a restaurant’s chose to implement a health safety guarantee on its own volition and did not live up to its self-imposed standard.

On second thought, I support Bostock’s appeal in a sort of twisted turn of logic. I have ranted extensively about my feelings on the ‘gluten-free trend,’ and from this perspective, I commend his plea to end the obnoxious behavior of said patrons. Those that have mini-meltdowns tableside are more likely to be the trend-followers, seeking attention via the ‘I’m healthier and more disciplined than you’ route. When you are forced or even choose to commit to a gluten-free diet, your approach to food and the way you structure your daily diet is changed fundamentally; I wouldn’t show up at a pizza restaurant and be completely blown away that there is not a single thing on the menu that I could eat, subsequently throwing a fit out of genuine disappointment. It’s not an amateur move…a scenario like that (a pizza restaurant representing one extreme to prove my point) just wouldn’t really happen in the life of a dedicated gluten-freer.

But, before you take offense, remember, I am still completely conflicted about the statement. The world isn’t black and white, and in more instances than not, I find myself going to dinner at a new restaurant right after work, my only opportunity to look at the menu was on my iPhone in miniscule print while driving to the restaurant, and, in reality, I have ABSOLUTELY NO CLUE whether I will be able to eat or not. I don’t blame the restaurant, but my growling stomach and that overly-concerned friend that wants to rain on everyone else’s parade and go to another restaurant just to accomodate me don’t make those situations any easier.

In conclusion, gluten-freers, keep on gluten-freein’. And thank you, Mr. Bostock, for making me think. Take it day by day; don’t make unreasonable resolutions that you know you can’t keep; be polite and understanding to waiters but never be afraid to grill them about cooking methods and cross-contamination prevention procedures; look at menus beforehand when possible, and if not possible, remember wine IS indeed gluten-free, and I highly suggest it when there is nothing else to consume on the menu. It makes dealing with the “oh great he can’t eat anything here” situation just a little bit easier to deal with.

Good to be back. And friends, check out these other great reads I’ve come across lately:

“Removing ‘Sacrifice’ from ‘Gluten-Free” in the New York Times

and Atlanta dining suggestions in “Great Gluten-Free Nights Out” from our good friend, Scoutmob

Pancakes are good any time of day….or morning or night or middle of the night…

Is it the coming of fall? Increased running mileage (I’m getting closer and closer to an upcoming half-marathon in the fall and full marathon in the winter)? Craving for something other than the mundane oatmeal in the mornings? Need for something sweet late at night?

Whatever it was, I really NEEDED pancakes. Really. I’ve tried some very good gluten-free mixes in my day, but I’ve had my eye on the blue corn flour that I picked up at the farmer’s market a couple of weekends ago. Time for something new. Growing up in New Mexico, I had my fair share of very delicious, authentic blue corn dishes: everything from blue corn enchiladas to blue corn bread with pine nuts. So here’s my best shot to honor my heritage, my gluten-free diet, and, above all, my early autumn longing for some delicious flapjacks.

My best advice? When making pancakes, use less measuring cups and more tasting spoons. Less worry about ratios and more happiness during the process and carefree satisfaction for whatever the outcome may be. Enjoy y’all:

Blue Corn Berry Pancakes

Berries, blue corn, cinnamon….mmm, fall is here.

  • 1 cup blue corn flour
  • 1 cup soy/amaranth/gluten-free mix flour
  • 3 tsp. baking powder
  • ½ tsp. salt
  • ¼ tsp. cinnamon
  • ¼ tsp. nutmeg
  • 1 ¼-1 1/2 c. milk (dairy/soy/almond)
  • 1/4 c. agave syrup (if desired, use 2 TBS. sugar instead and increase milk to 1 cup)
  • 2 eggs
  • ½ cup greek or non-dairy yogurt
  • 1.5 tablespoons canola/olive/coconut oil or 2 tablespoons melted butter +extra for pan or skillet
  • 1 very-ripe banana
  • 2 big handfuls berries, well-rinsed
  • ¼ cup almonds, chopped (optional)
  • Orange zest (optional)
  • Apple chuncks (optional)
  1. Combine all dry ingredients in large mixing bowl.
  2. Mash banana well to mushy consistency. Add to dry ingredients along with milk, eggs, agave, oil/butter and yogurt. Whisk well to create homogeneous mixture; it should be smooth enough to flow slowly with few lumps when poured (you should NOT have to spoon the mixture into the pan like cookie dough) but still remain somewhat thick and not runny. Take note here y’all: for those of you that have worked with different types of gluten-free flours, you know they all have slightly different outcomes. For those of you that haven’t or are trying a different kind for the first time, be patient. Have some extra milk and some extra flour on the side to add if the batter is too lumpy or, conversely, if pancakes run and do not hold shape when poured. Add nuts, apples and/or orange zest if desired.
  3. Set skillet to 375 degrees F or skillet pan to medium-high heat on stove. Melt a little butter or oil on hot surface, pour batter to form pancake, and drop in the berries. Cook a couple minutes per side MAX (pancakes will not bubble as much or at all like regular pancakes with unbleached all-purposed flour do when they cook). Pour as large, if you’re like me and want a plate-sized pancake, or as small as you like. Be CAREFUL to ensure pancakes are not burning (yogurt and agave are the prime suspects). Pancakes should be slightly fluffy and golden brown on each side (and blue in the middle, of course).
  4. Go to town with more greek yogurt, honey, maple syrup, berries, more cinnamon, fruit, and/or whatever else you feel like. If you want to go full-throttle with the almond theme, like I have for the past couple weeks, buy a jar of almond paste and put a spoonful on top. Breakfast, brunch, snack, dinner or midnight snack…you deserve this.

Almonds, almonds and more almonds

Pleasing your Hedonist Tendancies in Sophisticated Gluten-Free Style

Bacchanalia, [bak-uh-ney-lee-uh] noun. 1 a festival in honor of Bacchus. 2 a drunken feast; orgy. {Merriam-Webster} 3 the current and former number one restaurant in Atlanta in the Zagat Guide, featuring a five-course contemporary American meal, each of which is carefully crafted with local and organic ingredients and paired prudently with wines that compliment and highlight each of the unique, delicate conceptions. Note: Almost any combination of the five-course prix fixe dinner can be prepared completely gluten-free. {yours truly}

Yes, this takes the prize for most elegant and well-catered to gluten-free indulgence I’ve ever made. Though, let me put a disclaimer on this before I continue: it was not cheap. Or for that matter, neither was it even payable within my week-to-week food budget. I waited for the right time, and after several months of having to suffice with fantasizing about how every morsel on the ever-rotating menu would taste, the occasion finally came for me to sit on my throne as gluten-free king in the dimly-lit atmostphere of this Westside gem.

Take a look at the Star Provisions Group site and then find your way to Bacchanalia’s current 5-Course Prix Fixe Menu. I dare you.

And while you gaze at all the wonders that await you such as the Hawaiian Blue Prawns with Gazpacho, the North Georgia Rainbow Trout, or the Lamb prepared six ways, here’s some more food for thought: your gluten-free experience at Bacchanalia is not going to be the run-of-the-mill, ask which plates are gluten-free and then choose between the two or three on the menu that make the cut. At Bacchanalia, mention that you are gluten-free from the onset of your dining experience and, voila, the first four courses will all be catered accordingly. Meaning, gluten-freers, you can have anything you want here. I know this doesn’t happen very often, and you may feel confused, shocked and/or in utter disbelief. But take my word, fellow gluten-free ATLiens, the chef will prepare every dish as you need it to be, even bringing out gluten-free mid-course surprises in place of the breads and pastries that are otherwise presented.

For dessert, I was notified that the fig soufflé was the only dish that could be prepared gluten-free (go ahead and look back in the archives if you are unsure or want to learn more in regards to why creating delicious desserts are the toughest challenge in the gluten-free kitchen). But if I were to complain or even indirectly hint that my lack of options in the fifth course was an unsatisfactory aspect of my dining experience, I should hope the gluten-free gods would whack me over the head. The Celeste Fig Soufflé with Georgia Pecan Ice Cream may have just been the most memorable course. To revel in a dessert that has perfectly light texture, distinct and contrasting fig, nut and butter flavors and is, on top of all of that, gluten-free…this is one of the true sybaritic delights in life.

Image courtesy of Lindsay at, a guide to everything exciting, delicious and fun in ATL

So for all of the epicures and the lovers, the hedonists and, of course, the gluten-freers, if you do only one thing to treat yourself in Atlanta this year, do this. Maybe you have a special event coming up, but there need be no rhyme or reason. Let your gormandizing instincts go wild, and indulge yourself at Bacchanalia. Oh, and to start, may I suggest the Kumamoto Oysters and Sea Urchins with Prawn Consommé Gelee?

Discoveries Amidst the Clutter of Moving: Gluten-Free Wisdom and Lima Bean Flatbread

Moving twice within a month during Atlanta’s hottest summer on record has had its fair share of frustrations, headaches and inevitable episodes of delicate things slipping from my grasp, all the while trying not to pass out in the 100 degree+ weather. Yes, this could technically be the worst time ever throughout the span of Atlanta’s meterologically-recorded history to be exerting oneself outside for extended periods of time.

Despite the sweat, dehydration and broken lamps and dishes, this “transition” period has not been without some very sweet, gluten-free fruits.

The first find came about while lightly browsing a recent Men’s Journal that had surfaced in my never-ending pile of things to move/recycle/pray-to-disappear. And by that I mean no disrespect by any means to Men’s Journal. It is far superior to the other fitness, nutrition and sex bi-monthlies promising every red-blooded male biceps as thick as tree trunks and mind-blowing sex all the time, all the while maintaining or even increasing his steady consumption of beer and hamburgers (‘5 minutes a day to perfect abs!’ ‘7 things you’re not doing that will GUARANTEE you get her in your bed tonight!’ ‘the 8 things that are making you fat, and your favorite I.P.A. isn’t one of them!’). Really. Men’s Journal presents well-written pieces on varying subjects that are sure to intrigue both men and even some women seeking travel, nutrition, and fitness guidance. The reason I am resigned to ‘lightly browsing’ when I flip open Men’s Journal is that I’m not in a place in my life to spend $600 on a camelback for a month-long kayak trip through Norway’s fjords followed by a sojourn in Spain to recuperate and nurse myself back to real life with organic wine and fine cheese.

Despite the fantastic reality of most of the reads and uber-sweet outdoorsy products offered, a recent article did catch my attention. “Frank Lipman: Alternative Medicine Man” in the August 2012 issue is a concise and matter-of-fact short read highlighting Dr. Lipman’s emphasis on holistic approaches, alternative medicines and preventative lifestyle changes in light of the autoimmune, obesity, heart disease and cancer epidemics at large. “Gluten and sugar are the devil,” Dr. Lipman bluntly states. Yes, he has my full attention. Many of the recent discoveries within my focus on the complicated interconnected relationships between diet, environment and autoimmune disease are reflected and/or highlighted by Dr. Lipman’s assertion that our lifestyle choices restrict most of us to living at “half capacity.” That is living only somewhat-fulfilling lives, constantly hampered down by aches and diseases.

I know more readers than not will be skeptics. They will justifiably refute Dr. Lipman’s holistic approach with the large body of evidence that upholds both gluten’s status as a neutral agent as well as the unbelievable success rate of modern medicine within the past decade to treat cancers and quiet down autoimmune diseases. Take a minute to consider what he is really saying though. Do you down several Advil every day to mask your back pain or have you attempted to introduce a regimen of alignment-focused yoga in your life to treat its possible underlying cause? Do you tolerate the side effects of cholesterol-reducing or blood pressure-lowering drugs just so you can have your cake and eat it too, literally? Has it become easier to ignore the plethora of scientifically backed evidence and advice, akin to that of Dr. Lipman’s, that demonstrate clear benefits of lifestyle changes at the physiological level, all because our methods of treating disease, only once it has manifested itself, have become so successful?

For both skeptics and supporters, read this article. Take this as a start. One thing I say with full confidence is that the majority of us are NOT living at 100% capacity. Headaches, fatigue, gastrointestinal discomfort, joint pain, depression, allergies. They bear down on us, and the gravity of these maladies that we simply accept as inevitable reaches absurd magnitudes. The don’t-worry now, deal-with-it-when-it-strikes mentality, pervasive in our modern healthcare system, can literally create an alternate reality in which ‘healthy’ becomes an adjective to describe the physical condition of anyone that is not confined to a hospital bed. To drive this point home, I can offer a personal anecdote of my own experience with integrative and preventative medicine. Throughout my experience with Crohn’s Disease, I have never, NOT ONCE, had a gastrointestinal doctor tell me that diet influences the course of the disease. Never. The wonder drugs that I have taken have definitely been nothing short of, well, wonder drugs. Yet, biological medicines, while extraordinarily successful in controlling overactivity of the immune system in autoimmune diseases, are accompanied by a dreadful black hole of adverse side effects and health risks. Despite my persistent inquiries into alternative therapies, to the irksome annoyance of my caregivers, I have been assured by every one of them time and again that the biological infusion treatment (known as Remicade) is the only solution to maintaining remission for me. Since making the decision to paddle against the current, aka consulting a nutritionist to explore alternative and preventative dietary changes, I have had dramatic improvements in many aspects of my everyday life. Gluten-free has become the conduit to living every day closer to 100% capacity for me. Moral of the story? You will never know what capacity at which you are sailing through life until you challenge your own assumptions, think critically about your own choices and try something new.

‘Nuff about that.

A second discovery during my move, which I promise to be more exciting to my hungry readers than the first, was the box of lima bean flour that I had relinquished to the back of the pantry in an effort to start moving and packing. I finally got to the Zocalo Gourmet Judia de lima that I had eagerly set my eyes and hunger upon two months ago. Simple, easy, and deliciously multidimensional flavor. With the few things remaining in my refrigerator the nights before moving out, I was able to make an exquisite dinner with this stuff. Check out Zocalo’s blog for nine incredible and versatile recipes using lima bean flour. I made the flatbread (though I was forced in my unorganized and displaced state to use red chile powder instead of pimenton) trying each piece with different combinations of the goat cheese, arugula, honey, tomatoes, and various bits of other things that were the last survivors in my kitchen. Definitely try this out, my fellow gluten-freers.

I’ve never had anything quite like it, and it packs a surprising amount of unique flavor that holds definite potential for many new concoctions in my kitchen. Well, potential once I’m finally settled in that new kitchen.

Mashed Potatoes…the Purple and Spicy Kind

Purple, Peruvian, All-Blue, Congo, Purple Viking, Purple Majesty. What do all these regal and slightly exotic names have in common?

All at once, spud-afficionados: they are all varieties of purple fingerling potatoes. Curious, delicious, and very nutritious. My new obsession.

Mashed purple potatoes with sage and red chile.

Depending on the variety, the skin ranges from light blue to dark purple, and once cut open, the inside reveals anything from violet to deep purple, marbled to opaque. Unlike their white and yellow counterparts, purple potatoes are rich in the antioxidant, anthocyanin. And akin to their purple and blue cousins (blueberries, blackberries and grapes), they contain flavonoids, which are a proven immune-boosting and cancer-preventing plant metabolites. Preliminary research has also suggested that flavonoids are positive biological response modifiers, meaning (and autoimmune and allergy sufferers, listen up!) that plants containing flavonoids may be a powerful anti-allergy and anti-inflammatory tool. To my paleo readers, if by the small chance you have made it two paragraphs into a blog about potatoes, the debate is still out as to whether purple and sweet potatoes (when consumed in moderation, just like everything else) can be part of a strict paleo diet. Due to different chemcial structures, amino acids and plant toxicity levels, the bright and colorful varieties of tubers may be a highly nutritious and very satisfying addition to the paleo diet. What’s not to like about these things?!?

Yes, they are nutritious and anti-inflammatory, but I haven’t even gotten to the best part. The flavor. Purple potatoes (though again, there is a range of intensity depending on the variety) have a rich earthy and nutty taste. Regular baked white potatoes cry out for butter, bacon, chives, cheese, etc. etc. etc. because plain they taste like, well, pretty much just bland texture. Purple potatoes have an amazingly complex taste for such a small, simple tuber.

With all of this in mind, I’ve created a recipe for simple mashed purple potatoes that highlights the rich nutty flavor and adds on a little more (flavor and nutrition!)

Buy the purple potatoes next time you’re at the market ogling at them. You won’t regret it, I promise!

  • Approx. 10 purple potatoes, any variety you find or like, leaving skin intact
  • 1 cup almond milk
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 3-4 cloves garlic, peeled and diced
  • a couple stems of sage, leaves pulled off and chopped coarsely
  • appox. 1/2 teaspoon red chile powder to be added by the pinchful at your discretion!
  • pinchful of sea salt

1. Get a pot of water boiling on the stove.

2. Clean the potatoes (with skin intact unless you really, really don’t like the idea of the texture of the skin in the final product) and boil them about 8-14 minutes (less for smaller varities, more for the larger ones).

3. While the potatoes are boiling, pour  half of the olive oil into a pan and heat on medium (NEVER heat olive oil at a higher temperature than this; once it hits ‘smoke point’ at which point the oil becomes very viscous and starts smoking, you have created a saucepan of carcinogens) and add diced garlic and sage (save some fresh garlic and sage to add at the very end if desired). Saute at a low temp about 5-7 minutes, at least long enough to ensure the flavors have infused into the oil, but not too long, at which point the garlic and sage turn black and crispy.

4. Strain the potatoes and set aside to cool.

5. Strain the infused olive oil into a glass bowl or cup. Discard the sauteed sage and garlic if you don’t like bits and pieces in your mashed potatoes. If you’re okay with the bits and pieces, add some of the sauteed goodies for added flavor and texture.

6. Begin the mashing. With a large fork, mash up the purple potatoes gradually adding almond milk, sage-garlic oil, salt and chili powder (and sauteed and/or fresh garlic and sage, if you’re feelin’ it!). Make it personal, make it delicious. And keep it gluten-free.

The final product.

Happy eating y’all.

Front Porch Libations: Beer and Cider to Survive the Summer

Several weeks ago, my facebook inbox and twitter account decided for me that I would be going to the Atlanta Summer Beer Fest this year. The beer tasting celebration has become somewhat of a hallmark event since its inception in 2009, drawing Atlantans together for an afternoon of beer sipping and music when the weather has just become near-to-unbearable. This year, the event’s website featured a gluten-free list. This caught the eye of several prominent ATLiens (mainly foodies and gluten-freers) in the twitter arena, and I was delighted to be the recipient of many good vibes as my tweeting comrades related this information to me.

My relationship with cider and beer (especially beer) in my post-gluten era can pretty accurately be described as one of a tragic breakup followed by gradual disinterest and a open-armed embrace of wine to fill the void. Gluten-free beers and ciders have made a welcome appearance to Atlanta bars and restaurants recently, but more often than not, us gluten-freers that do imbibe are left to choose between wine or certain spirits but no other gluten-free alternatives (and PLEASE be very careful when treading among what you think are gluten-free liquors; most brown liquors and even some clear ones that we all assume to be have added wheat or other grains).

Come summertime and the nearly 110 degree weather that it brought to Atlanta this past weekend, and a glass of merlot has all of a sudden lost its appeal. I want beer! (And lots and lots and lots of ice water…) Unfortunately, the Beer Fest did not live up to its or my expectations, if not somewhat misplaced, and I didn’t have a single gluten-free beer. Lots of cider, and some, especially Jack’s, were quite refreshing and worth hunting down for a future Saturday night. Boasting the only gluten-free sign that I saw the whole time, Jack’s booth pretty much became my homebase for the entire evening.

But no cold, gluten-free beer. Maybe next time.

For this Fourth of July, I’ll be picking up some Redbridge. Anheuser-Busch’s gluten-free baby is one of the more ubiquitous GF beers in bars and supermarkets alike. Now that Atlanta’s weather has taken a turn for hellishly unbearable, I’m back on the beer train and very eager to hear suggestions from y’all!

Happy Fourth to everyone and fireworks, family, barbecue and ice cold beer for all! Be back soon with some new restaurant suggestions and recipes I’ll be exploring in the coming week.

Soy Sauce, the Great Menace

Reasonbly priced, Asian and delicious are a trio that usually coalesce in either hole in the wall, family-run joints in large cities or authentic Dim Sum houses that feature menus offering endless possibilities…just not in English. This holy trinity, when it can be found unites foodies, young urbanites (you say SAKE, I say BOMB!), and both Asians as well as non-Asian lovers of truly incredible cuisine.

One noticably absent demographic among seekers of delicious Asian cuisine is the gluten-freer. One of the shared wonders of Chinese, Japanese, Korean and Taiwanese food is soy sauce (and, respectively, they all deserve their own independent recognition…each one is incredibly different and delicious in its own way). Soy sauce is the phantom menace of the gluten-free world. Which types don’t have wheat listed as an ingredient? Do these types still have gluten? Due to the extensive hydrolosis of proteins (during the fermentation process), does soy sauce with wheat actually contain gluten? If so, is the amount negligible?

The best scientific and nutritional analyses to date have shown overall that gluten-freers should opt for gluten-free soy sauce (obvious), but also that small to moderate amounts of the stuff might actually have no effect on those with a gluten intolerance (interesting). To read a little more about gluten and soy sauce, take a look at fellow wordpresser ‘Gluten Free Gobsmacked’s great post on the raging debate:

Anywho. Like most of y’all, I’m guessing, I pretty much avoid the stuff when eating out. There are many great brands of certified gluten-free soy sauce ( offers several), but the ambiguity of information out there has thus far kept me quite cautious when eating Hibachi or sushi. And this can really be quite a bummer.

Fortunately, I stumbled upon a small, tasty surprise the other day. Tin Drum, with 3 locations in metro Atlanta, features a gluten-free menu.

Gluten-Free Menu at Tin Drum!

No this isn’t one of those necessary-to-bring-Chinese-speaking-friend authentic places as mentioned above, but it is delicious, very reasonably priced Asian food. Check, check, check. And I was extremely impressed by the layout of the menu, offering nutritional allergy information dish by dish. Hats off, Tin Drum. Had the Thai Green Curry, and it was excellent. I’ll be back.

Thai Green Curry

For now, I’m headed back to the kitchen. Fig season is upon us, and I’ll be taking this fruitful occasion very seriously this year.


The Gluten-Free Sausage Link between the GF Diet and a Healthy Diet: What to Make of It

I apologize y’all for being completely MIA as of late. Work has taken me for a grand tour of the Eastern Seaboard and all the way over to the beautiful green Ozarks in Arkansas. All for some pretty big music festivals. Ahh, the perks of my job.

And in the past three weeks, I’ve met a number of new people, seen some really great live music and, surely, faced a number of eating-on-the-road challenges. Which has all really got me thinking about the connection between eating gluten-free and trying to eat a diet that is healthy and fulfilling (especially when you are living in an RV for a week or making regular stops at Waffle House while cruising late night). Allow me to explain:

The following is a sample conversation that us gluten-freers have with our non-GF counterparts on an  extraordinarily regular basis. It is a basic model of the millions of versions of the same fundamental exchange that we endure at the gym, over coffee and at the grocery store check-out (and trust me, it is ALWAYS the same conversation in its missing-the-whole-point essence):

“Is gluten-free a healthy diet?”

-It depends. Eating gluten-free is usually not a dietary choice, but rather a necessity.

“What do you miss the most?”

-I definitely miss (insert favorite gluten-filled food here) the most. Nothing comes close the real thing, but I’ve had a couple gluten-free versions recently that are definitely tasty.

Followed shortly by: “Ooh, I bet that makes it easier to be healthy if you just can’t have it.”

-Well, not necessarily. Listen, it’s been great seeing/to meet you, but I’ve gotta run! (Not really in a rush, wink wink).

To all of you that have been on the answering side of this endless examination, you have my sympathy. And to those of you that may have asked these questions (or something along those lines), let me explain why the seemingly logical connection between gluten-free and nutritiously healthy is a fallacious one. No, most of us will never get mad or completely avoid this question; we are the missionaries that must spread this small bit of truth to naive diners the world over, deceived by the misleading baggage of the gluten-free trend that is blazing through gourmet circles like a wildfire right now.

Where to begin? A gluten-free beer first, and then I’ll carry on.

I’ll start with an example. Take an acquaintance I’ve made since I came to Atlanta several years back. She has embraced her middle age onset of Celiac Disease with welcoming, loving arms, and used this opportunity to drastically change her diet, regardless of everything the gluten-free switch entailed and began to exercise regularly. What does she miss most from the days of gluten ignorant yore? Pies, cakes and cookies. Growing up in the South planted sweetly decadent memories of desserts that are inextricably connected with her happiest recollections of childhood. Is she happier as a physical trainer, having trimmed off many pounds and made a career of being fit? Yes. Does she miss those happy memories, the distant dream of Grandma’s Key Lime Pie or strawberry shortcake? Well, yes, of course. I doubt that even the healthiest sugar-shunning nutrition guru out there, whether they would admit it or not, doesn’t occasionally miss the divine richness of a dark chocolate torte or the simplistic perfection of peach pie. But a healthy lifestyle, be it gluten-filled or gluten-free, tends to be much more fulfilling overall.

Yet, my friend here is a perfect example of why the gluten-consuming majority equates this restrictive diet with health. The false connection is made when everyone sees the pounds shed and muscles tone after a Celiac diagnosis. Just because we must stop eating everything with gluten in it doesn’t mean we magically are forced to start eating more green leafy vegetables and drink herbal tea instead of wine at night. I must admit, in light of all my rants about the elusive gluten-free desserts, the “healthy choice” is sometimes made much easier for us. Indulgence isn’t even an option when there is nothing indulgently gluten-free to thoroughly enjoy all the while feeling guilty and traitorous to a usually-strict diet regimen. But, as many of us know by now, there are still many options out there that are sans gluten and packed with calories, cholesterol, saturated fat, etc. etc. etc.

Now, myself. I can easily (and often do) watch friends devour pizza, pasta and cake without even a bit of desire or hint of gustatory jealousy. Flour tortillas, completely different story. Growing up in New Mexico, I was raised on breakfast burritos and enchiladas, flour tortillas being the conclusive wrap, both figuratively and literally, that holds many New Mexican dishes together. Whether filled with beans, green chile, calabacitas (squash, onions, chile and herbs), rice, carnitas (braised pork), chicken or really anything you want, this is a true staple of everything that was my childhood. And, yes, I love corn tortillas, don’t get me wrong. But it irks me to have to sit idly by at Mexican restaurants while everyone else mindlessly (seemingly, at least, in my emotionally-altered state of mind) chows down on flour tortillas. Avoiding the entire rack at the grocery store has become a sort of painful ritual to which I’ve become all to accustomed. But am I better off without the carb- and cholesterol-filled tortillas in the long run? If I were to eat hundreds of them a day, then yes. But I, like my southern belle marathon-running friend, have made a conscious choice, completely separate of my gluten-free eating restrictions, to be healthy. Yes, we miss the treats of our childhood. And, yes, it is impossible for us to eat them anymore. Yes, there are gluten-free versions of many of these things that are usually pretty good, sometimes even better, and tend to be on the expensive side. And, finally, yes, we will eat those things occasionally. But, NO, our gluten-free restriction has nothing to do with our choice to be healthy. It may indirectly make dessert cravings easier, as we all have come to know in the perpetual hunt for the ever-elusive gluten-free option at the end of the meal. What it comes down to in the end is that decision that we ALL must make: picking the salad over the french fries; riding the bike to work over eating donuts in the passenger seat of the carpool; training for a marathon over watching Harry Potter televised marathons in front of a bowl of popcorn.

Hopefully you get the point here.

In all, it seems like the gluten-free journey is just one of many that is intertwined with all the other paths we take and choices we must make. Being healthy and gluten-free have just been two positive and mutually beneficial (albeit distinct) paths in my life. But as I’ve said before, the occasional dessert or beer or whatever it is that brings you the sort of happiness that pre-workout wheatgrass juice cannot, is also a joyous experience. Life shouldn’t be diminished by denying yourself its sweet pleasures.

Cranberry Grapefruit Date Walnut Muffins

Once you find the right gluten-free flour, it makes all your favorite breakfast and dessert treats even better than their enriched wheat flour-laden counterparts

Gluten-free flour.

As most of you gluten-free chefs and bakers (along with the rest of us perpetual kitchen dwellers) have come to find out, learning the taste, textures, uses and, ultimately, the best mixtures of GF flour is a long drawn out experiment, sometimes delicious and sometimes not so much. I have tried to experiment using soy, amaranth, almond, quinoa, lima bean and several mixtures of the aforementioned candidates. While I love the added taste of almond flour in some desserts (almond torte!), I’ve found that breads, pizza crusts, pancakes and waffles all benefit greatly from a mixture…that is, an expertly devised mixture. Pamelas and Bob’s Red Mill have impressed me the most when it comes to great all-purpose flours to use for baking. But better yet, check it out for yourselves. In my experience, Whole Foods has a great selection of GF flours and other products; check this website out for a complete gluten-free rundown before hitting the aisles. I hope to continue to explore and enlighten you all along the way with more flour discoveries in the near future.

My latest creation was inspired by muffins I’d had quite some time ago. Breakfast goodies, like desserts, are something that I miss dearly. These muffins are full of healthy bits and pieces, and most importantly, are moist and crumbly. Note the flours I suggest below, but PLEASE (like always) feel free to use your favorite if you think it’ll taste better!

Happy gluten-free morning ATL:

  • one cup cranberries, thawed to room temperature if using frozen
  • half-whole cup chopped, pitted dates (depending on your personal preference)
  • zest and juice of one large, ripe grapefruit
  • 2 cups flour (almond, soy, or your favorite mixture…I recommend Pamela’s Baking Mix, Arrowhead Mills GF All Purpose Baking Mix or either Bob’s Red Mill Almond or All Purpose Flour)
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • half teaspoon salt (Kosher or sea salt)
  • 2/3 cup granulated sugar or cane sugar (double check for gluten free) or just a little more than 1/2 cup agave nectar if you prefer to use this healthier substitution
  • half cup unsalted butter
  • 2 eggs
  • half cup milk (cow, almond, soy, or anything gluten-free!)
  • half cup chopped walnuts
  • half teaspoon cinnamon (more or less if you like)
  • small pinch of allspice (optional)

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F if using sugar (NOTE: if using agave, set to 360).

2. Bring cranberries and grapefruit juice to  a simmer over medium heat, and remove mixture after 2-3 minutes (do not let cranberries pop and mixture to thicken).

3. Whisk flour, baking powder, salt and cinnamon and allspice in a medium bowl.

4. Using an electric mixer, cream the butter, grapefruit zest and sugar two minutes until slightly fluffy in a large bowl. (If using agave, cream first two ingredients and then gradually add agave syrup to maintain fluffy texture). Add eggs, one at a time, beating the mixture well.

5. Add the dry mixture slowly alternating with the milk, just until the mixture is combined evenly. Fold in cranberries and chopped walnuts.

6. Prepare muffin tins, either by greasing with a little melted butter or by using cupcake wrappers (which I think is easier and less clean up) and bake for 20-25 minutes, until golden brown on top.


Summer is Here! Along with many Gluten-Free updates…

This week has really started off with some great gluten-free surprises. Scratch that. This summer has started off with some great gluten-free surprises, with potential for many, many more good things to come. Yes my fellow Georgians, the heat and humidity are here, and there is no turning back after this. But with it have come several exciting opportunities and sightings in the past couple of days that EVERY gluten-freer needs to be aware of.

On the last day of April, I had the delicious privilege of taste testing some of Yeah! Burger’s new gluten-free items as part of a panel, designed by co-founder and CEO Erik Maier, to help choose the next gluten-free burger bun. Customer appreciation at its finest, indeed; this was truly a magnanimous act by one of Bon Appétit’s top-10 burger restaurants in the country to get in touch with a very distinct sliver of its customer base. After tasting three thoroughly different buns all containing perfectly cooked grass-fed beef, the 12 of us on the panel picked our favorites in several different categories, including taste, texture, shape, etc., and then gave a brief summary of our preferences for alternative grains. Unfortunately for the public’s sake, our gluten-free gathering came down to a dead tie between two of the buns, and so we’ll all just have to wait for the final winner. As for the make-up of the delectable duo I have several guesses, but the twelve of us will have to wait along with the rest of Atlanta’s carnivorous gluten-freers until the release to find out what combinations of grains made the products of Yeah! Burger’s gluten-free taste laboratory so palatable compared to other gluten-free buns. (After an hour of slowly tasting and trying to determine what these buttery buns were made from, we all felt like victims of unrequited love when we were told we would have to wait to find out anything more!) Follow the Virginia Highlands facebook and twitter for the upcoming revelation.

Yeah! Burger, courtesy of fellow ATL gluten-free guru Betsy Metcalf at Check out her site if you haven’t already seen it!

 But the tasting panel didn’t end with the bun ratings. Mr. Maier came through where many others, as I have and will probably continue to constantly point out, never do. Yes, if you are thinking of dinner’s grand finale that is inevitably a let down for us gluten-freers; the ultimate course that many of us have given up on; the sweet consummation starting with a d and ending in -essert then, yes, then you are correct. The last time I had a brownie was, well, I have no idea. And the brownies we were served as the finishing touch of the tasting panel were better than I ever remember brownies being (among both gluten-full and gluten-free). Hats off to the chef(s). This gooey piece of heaven, soon to grace the Virginia Highlands location’s menu (and hopefully West Side, but I’m not positive), is a must after your burger. Don’t forget to add on a side of GF fries, sweet potato fries or onion rings. Being too full is not an excuse either.

And yet, the feast continued on after that. This eclectic group of twelve brought to the table many ideas, GF preferences and GF stories, both good and bad (not getting even a bite of your own wedding cake…imagine that, if you will…). Gluten-free goddess Randi Krasnoff of Nana K’s Artisan Quality Gluten Free Goodies took the next step in gluten-free sharing and graced our table with some of her homemade lemon shortbread cookies. With cookies and brownies floating amongst the 12 of us, most of us realized this was the first time we had enjoyed not one, but two (!), delicious desserts while eating out.

Something I had never given much thought to was the fact that I had long ago given up desserts at restaurants. Only occasionally do I eat gluten-free tortes or cakes, and that’s when I make them for holidays, birthdays or other celebrations. And as I found out at the panel, I was not alone in this life devoid of pies, cakes and cookies. Several of us at my end of the table vocalized this sad collective realization almost simultaneously after we had reveled in our delicious treats. As a true lover of everything delicious in life, I’ve decided to do something about this. On top of my resolution to run a full marathon in December, I’m adding another big New Year’s resolution, albeit 5 months late: EAT MORE DESSERT! After eating a couple of Nana K’ s airy, buttery and super-lemony shortbread cookies, there is no turning back in this challenge. They were amazing! GF soy-free carrot cake and several types of pound cakes are just some of the standouts on Nana K’s ever-expanding repertoire, all of which I plan to sample very soon. If this has inspired you to reinvigorate long-lost cravings of your sweet tooth, catch her at the Alpharetta Farmer’s Market on Saturdays and check out her facebook page to find her at other events or contact her directly for something deliciously gluten-free.

Following Monday night, the rest of my week brought even more gluten-free discoveries. The Happy Belly Truck made a very welcome appearance at the Alpharetta Harry’s Food Truck Tuesdays with a gluten-free special:

Pear BBQ Pulled Pork over Brussels sprout slaw with grilled Vidalia Onion cornbread…mmm

I was unfortunately not able to make it over in time to get a taste of the Gluten-free 3P. Judging by how quickly it sold out, I think the 3P special might just make it back again in the future (hopefully not just wishful thinking on my behalf!) If not, I’m still going to make sure I make it over to Harry’s on Tuesdays before the afternoon organic shopping crowd arrives en masse. Offering delicious organic, vegetarian and paleo items on their menu, I’m hoping there will be something gluten-free and as creatively scrumptious-sounding as the Pear Pulled Pork next time. Check out Happy Belly Curbside Kitchen’s facebook for upcoming events and menus.

I had an unhappy belly this past Tuesday when I just barely missed the GF special at Happy Belly’s Food Truck at Harry’s in Alpharetta

Last, but not least, I finally gave Yumbii a try, after seeing them at every major food truck event in Atlanta this spring. With the option of substituting flour for corn tortillas, all four types of tacos can magically become gluten-free! The chicken taco, with perfectly complementing  hints of cilantro and lime, really hit the spot. Yep, so good that I was back the next day for more.

Gluten-free goodness two days in a row.

Yumbii is @Peachtree Circle and Peachtree every Thursday with King of Pops

So there you have it, my fellow gluten-freers. Many good things, from hamburger buns all the way up to gluten-free goodies served out of kitchens on wheels, are here for the summer. For now, I’m back to the kitchen to experiment with new GF flours. In the meantime, y’all stay hungry, my friends. And find the food trucks nearest you for a delectably gluten-free break from work!