This week's blog post is coming to you from the road! I'm sitting in my hotel room in Thunder Bay, where I've traveled to give a presentation. I thought this would be a good opportunity for me to share how I manage to travel with my dietary restrictions, especially with the additional challenge of getting through airport security. I've traveled all over the world avoiding gluten and nuts, and I've never let it stop me from going on an adventure. On this trip, I made sure to get a hotel room that had a microwave and a fridge.
Dinner - Black Beans and Rice
Chopped Roasted Red Peppers (from a jar)
Organic Steamed Broccoli
Chopped Red Onions
Garlic Cloves (pressed through a garlic press)
I was so hungry, I ate most of this dish during my layover before I remembered I needed to take a picture of it. When I went through security at the airport, I was told that they appreciated my translucent containers, because it allowed them to see what was inside. These containers are very old (I don't think they come in blue anymore). In fact, they even went on a three-month backpacking trip with me back in the day. They've never been in the dishwasher or the microwave (to limit anything transferring from the plastic to the food) and they NEVER leak or break (which is the only reason I use plastic). The two other containers in this photo contain my breakfast and lunch for the next day.
I packed a lot of my foods in this plastic container, which also served as a bowl and something to boil water in. Under no other circumstances would I recommend putting plastic in the microwave!
Snacks - I brings snacks like these - macaroons, protein powder, chocolate, ReBars, and sunflower seeds.
Breakfast - Oatmeal with Mango
This instant oatmeal comes from a company called GlutenFreeda. This is a good opportunity for me to discuss the issue of oats and their gluten content. I've noticed that the packaging of this particular oatmeal (pictured below) no longer mentions that it is gluten-free. There is a lot of confusion, in general, regarding how oats come to be contaminated with gluten. GlutenFreeda has her/their own explanation. I believe that the packaging has changed for legal reasons, but that the product continues to be gluten-free. Generally, you can treat 'wheat-free' oats the same as 'gluten-free' oats because oats are inherently gluten-free. Avena Foods, the makers of Only Oats (a gluten-free oat product mentioned previously in this blog) has this explanation for packaging changes.
Lunch - Salad
Organic Baby Kale
Daiya Shredded 'Mozzarella'
Poppy Seed Salad Dressing
This salad dressing is handy for those times when you really miss mayonnaise. I use it sometimes to make tuna or salmon salad, but it's also delicious on salads.
Dinner - Steak Dinner
I wish that it weren't so, but it's often easier to eat out at fancy restaurants. The chefs tend to use more 'whole food' ingredients and/or make everything themselves, and they are also very accommodating This is my first time in Thunder Bay and Caribou Restaurant came highly recommended (and, it was right across the street from my hotel) so I decided to check it out. My meal was delicious!
Emergency Meals - Pictured above are some of the things I bring to eat as emergency meals (or, possibly, just dinner tomorrow night on my layover). I've picked up tuna in this kind of package before for travel, and I was disappointed to notice that this particular brand is made with vegetable broth. It's probably fine (labeling laws make it pretty unlikely that it contains gluten) but please use caution if you're seriously intolerant!
Today's post features the return of my fabulous guest chef, Sarah, who made me breakfast and lunch, and the debut of my newest guest chef, Steve, who made us dinner! Steve is a good friend (and Sarah's husband) who makes a mean lettuce wrap AND is one of the funniest people I know! Scroll, read, learn, and laugh. Everything is in Sarah and Steve's words except for a few *notes from me. Sarah and Steve spoil me ridiculously every time I visit them, so I'm happy to have a chance to say THANK YOU!
Breakfast - Wintertime Fish Chowder
* Note - Sarah was slightly appalled, but yes, I did eat this for breakfast. It was delicious, and gave me lots of sustainable energy for a busy day with a late lunch!
1 box Campbell’s Gluten Free Vegetable stock (it’s not quite 1L)
1 package frozen fish fillets (4 per pack, I like Haddock or Tilapia)
4 large potatoes peeled and diced into 1-inch cubes
1 medium onion finely chopped
2 or 3 green onions finely chopped
8 strips of bacon chopped into 1 inch pieces
¼ cup heavy cream
Fry bacon over medium heat in the bottom of your medium sized pot until it is brown and crispy. Remove bacon pieces and set them aside.
Fry onions over medium heat in the pot you cooked the bacon in (yes, in the bacon fat) until they’re golden brown
Add the box of broth and the potatoes to the pot with the fried onions and simmer (covered) until potatoes are tender (about 15 -20 minutes on medium)
Add the frozen fish, pushing the frozen fillets down into the hot broth, and cover the pot again. You’re basically ‘poaching’ the fish in the soup. Keep it bubbling on medium for another 5 minutes or so. The fish cooks through very quickly. The fish is done when it is opaque and the fillets flake apart when you give the pot a stir.
Remove from heat. Stir in the heavy cream. Portion the soup into bowls and top with the green onion and bacon bits. Makes 4 meal-sized servings.
Lunch - Roasted Root Vegetable Hummus
1 large carrot
1 medium sweet potato
1 medium parsnip
10-12 peeled garlic cloves
¾ cup raw sesame seeds
2 tbsp light olive oil
1 tbsp toasted sesame oil
Juice of one large lemon (avoid substituting with the bitter ‘real lemon’ stuff you get in a bottle if you can)
1 large can drained and rinsed chick peas
Salt and pepper to taste
Peel and chop the carrot, parsnip, and sweet potato into small cubes. Toss them in a bowl with 1 tbsp of olive oil and lightly season with salt and pepper to taste. Place them in a pyrex baking dish and roast them in the oven until tender (approximately 30-40 minutes at 350? I’m guessing here... I just stick a fork in them and when the pieces are soft they’re done. I’m sorry I can’t be more precise).
In a food processor, combine the sesame seeds, remaining tbsp of olive oil, and the tbsp of sesame oil, and process on high until you have a sesame paste (use approximately 1/3 to 1/2 cup of prepared tahini if you don’t want to make your own, I have just discovered that sesame seeds keep better than tahini does and, since I don’t use it often enough, when I buy prepared tahini half of it always gets wasted).
Once sesame paste is smooth, add remaining ingredients (lemon juice, then roasted vegetables and chickpeas) and process until smooth and well blended. If you find that the mixture is too dry to process easily in the food processor, add water a little bit at a time until you achieve the consistency you are looking for
Makes about four cups.
Dinner - Lettuce Wraps
Part 1: Rice
Boil, steam or otherwise cook your favourite rice. We use Tilda’s Basmati rice. To cook this rice, we first rinse the grains in cold water until water runs clear. Determine how much rice you want. 1 cup of rice serves four people, usually with rice left over.
-Bring 2 cups of water to a boil.
-Add 1 cup of rinsed rice to boiling water, stir, cover, and immediately reduce heat to low (2 out of 10 if your stovetop has numbers).
-Add salt and butter if you wish, but it's not a requirement.
-Simmer in a covered pot for 15-20 minutes until water is absorbed.
-Remove from heat and let sit (still covered) for another 5-10 minutes.
-Fluff with a fork before serving.
Part 2: Stir-Fry
1 "container" of lean or extra lean ground chicken, around 450 grams or 1lb (serves 3 to 4 people)
2 green Thai chilies (as per photo)
5 fresh garlic cloves
LOTS of fresh ginger (one large knob which is almost 1/2 cup once its shredded) (more or less according to your taste)
A glug? (my wife says about 3Tbsp) of toasted sesame oil (make sure the bottom of your frying pan is good and covered in the oil)
Half a bottle of General Tao sauce (more or less depending on you)
1 each of red, orange and yellow peppers (diced)
*Note - I have no guarantee that the stir-fry sauce is gluten-free. I looked over the ingredients and the warnings (contains soy and sesame) and decided I was comfortable eating it.
Chop, shred, food process the chilies, garlic and ginger and then throw it all in the pan to simmer on low in the sesame oil. I find it infuses the oil with all the flavours of the three ingredients which in turn will make the chicken taste better.
Let that simmer on low for five or ten minutes while you dice the peppers.
Put the chicken in once the peppers are diced. Keep the heat just a little bit below half. It needs to start cooking but you're going to be busy with the lettuce cups and you don't want to worry about it burning so...put the chicken in. Add three or four good cranks of salt and pepper, stir occasionally.
Now you can start working on the lettuce cups. While the chicken simmers, you can start with the cups. TAKE YOUR TIME! If you're rammy, you will tear the lettuce and do a cruddy job. Remember that the cups are going to be the vessels that deliver your stir fry. They need to be in good if not great condition. I use scissors to trim off the floppy or unpleasant looking bits and usually you need to get about two layers down with the head of lettuce before you start getting respectable leaves to turn into cups. Stir your chicken. For your first time...it might get frustrating. That's why you bought the extra head of lettuce right? Stir your chicken. The extra head of lettuce will give you some breathing room. Eventually you will get to down a smaller, more compact center of the head. Stir your chicken. Leave that and move onto the next head. You will have lettuce left over and I suggest you shred it for the tacos you're making later in the week. ;) Or salad or give it to your pet rabbits or...make a decorative lamp out of it and put it on Pinterest. Take your lettuce cups and put them in the fridge, NOT the freezer. You'll do that later.
Part 3: Lettuce Cups
I use iceberg lettuce for it’s crunch and cupped shape. Other lettuce can be used if preferred, or required, but iceberg lettuce has the best crunch and shape (in my opinion) My wife like leaf or bib lettuce. Bib lettuce is like iceberg lettuce…but less crispy, crunchy and delicious. ;) However…when we order meals similar to this at restaurants, it always comes with bib lettuce. If you wish to make the inferior version…bib lettuce. Superior? Iceberg. I like to serve the cups "chilled" because I enjoy the mixture of “cold” lettuce and “hot” stir fry. Depending on the quality and size of the heads of lettuce; for four people you'll want at least three. (If it's your first time, get one additional head of lettuce. Your kung fu might not be strong with lettuce dissection. You'll most likely muddle it up a bit.)
Remove, wash, and trim all the outer leaves that are suitable for wrapping (hopefully you’ll get as many as 8 per head). I use a clean pair of scissors to make the cups look presentable.
Also...about five to ten minutes before serving, I like to chill the cups. If it's winter...rad...just put them outside. If it's not winter, put them in the freezer. BE CAREFUL. If you put the cups in the freezer or out in the cold for too long, they will freeze and then when they thaw they get slimy and unpleasant. Check on your cups often! I repeat…if you screw this up and let them chill too long the lettuce cups will become slimy and unpleasant…like…really. So, pay attention to your cups.
Once the cups are done...check on the chicken. Find a cooked bit and taste it. You should get a taste of the seasonings and what not, but you also get a bit of heat from the thai chilies. It's more of a tingly heat and it doesn't last long. This is what you want. You can also use this moment to add more salt, pepper, garlic, ginger etc...
Crank up the heat under the chicken and get it browning. Now you add the diced peppers and let all that cook for about three minutes. While this cooks, move the lettuce cups from the fridge to the freezer.
Then you throw in a couple good glugs of General Tao sauce into the chicken and peppers and stir it all up. Let it all cook for another three to five minutes depending on how crunchy you want the peppers. (short time for crunchy peppers – long time for squishy peppers)
Take the chicken off the heat. Start getting the rice and chicken into separate bowls with tablespoons for serving. Get those on the table. Get the cups out of the freezer and put them on the table.
You can have some plum sauce handy for those that might want it.
Take a cup. Put two or three table spoons of rice in it. Put two or three table spoons of chicken in it. Fold the lettuce cup around it and EAT QUICKLY. Lettuce wraps are great but their lifespans are worse than mayflies.
They go down fast and you will eat more of these than you would normal tacos. They're smaller *much like Sarah and Steve's daughter enjoying her lettuce wrap in the photo below :)
Today's dinner and dessert are brought to you by my latest guest chef, my Mom! My Mom is dedicated to eating locally. She's a regular at the Powassan Farmers' Market (where I took the above photo), buys local meat and eggs, and she and my Dad have a large vegetable garden. The venison from today's dinner came from a neighbor. I'm very lucky to be able to visit my parents and eat wonderful meals that cater to my restrictions, as well as being locally sourced.
In the winter, we can still find Ontario cabbage, radishes, apples, potatoes, onions, squash, etc.; and these are the best produce to eat when it's cold outside. It takes digestive fire/heat (in Ayurvedic Medicine this is known as 'agni') to digest raw foods, and in the winter your body is focused on using that heat to stay warm. If you crave a salad, go for it! However, if you don't, it isn't ideal to purchase lettuce and salad ingredients that have been shipped from far away. Focus on eating the kind of cooked vegetables you would find in a root cellar, and you're good to go!
*When you wish to eat other vegetables, the freezer section is a great place to find good quality produce in the winter.
Breakfast - Sweet Potato Stir Fry
4 large garlic cloves, coarsely chopped
1 medium-large sweet potato, peeled and diced
1/2 red onion, chopped
1 tsp grape seed oil
Bragg's Liquid Aminos
Frozen package of greens (pictured below)
1/3 cup raw pumpkin seeds
I fried the garlic, onion, and sweet potato with the oil in my ceramic frying pan at medium heat until the potato was cooked through, occasionally adding a few tablespoons of water and allowing it to evaporate. Then, I added the frozen greens and the Bragg's. After it was cooked, I added the pumpkin seeds and left them in just long enough to warm them up.
Lunch - Noodles and Veggies
I made this dish with steamed broccoli, sliced avocado, boiled edamame, sliced and toasted nori, bean noodles, Bragg's Liquid Aminos, toasted sesame oil, and hot sauce. I just dump the seasoning onto the noodles after they're cooked. If I had to guess, I'd say I used about 2 tbsp of Bragg's, 1 tsp of toasted sesame oil, and a 1/2 tsp of my hot sauce.
You can can find dry bean or pea noodles in a lot of the grocery stores here in North Bay (usually in an 'ethnic food' section of the store). They don't have anything with gluten in the ingredients, but I'm always slightly wary of something shipped from overseas actually being gluten-free. Have any of my readers had a reaction to these kinds of noodles?
To cook the bean/pea noodles you simply immerse them in freshly boiled water until they become soft. They don't tend to stick together as much as rice noodles.
I buy the edamame frozen (and organic). I bring a pot of water to a boil, add the frozen edamame, and leave it to boil until they all float (this takes less than five minutes).
Last but not least, you can find packages of toasted nori (seaweed) sheets here in North Bay too. It's harder to find the pre-shredded variety, but you can just rip up the sheets. Watch out for added soy sauce (which contains wheat)! Last but not least, add the nori to the warm noodles immediately so that it softens up.
Dinner - Venison Stew
I've always wondered if you can cook dry beans in a slow cooker, and it turns out you can!
6 cups of water
1 1/2 cups dried red kidney beans
1 large choppd onion
1 1/2 cups sliced parsnips
1 cup chopped celery
1 tsp dried thyme
1 tsp paprika
1 dried, crushed, small, hot red pepper
3/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1 pound sliced, browned sausage (my Mom used venison)
1 small bay leaf
5 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 tsp salt
1 cups hot cooked long-grain rice
Combine everything but rice in an electric slow cooker. Cover and cook on low for eight hours. Serve bean mixture over rice.
Dessert - Pumpkin Cake with Orange Glaze
2 cups of all-purpose gluten-free flour (such as Bob's Red Mill)
1/4 cup potato flour
2 tsp xanthan gum
1 1/2 tsp (gluten-free) baking powder
3/4 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground allspice
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp ground nutmeg
1/2 cup grapeseed oil
1 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup orange juice concentrate, thawed
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup canned pumpkin puree (not pumpkin pie filling)
1/3 cup chopped candied or crystallized ginger
In a large bowl stir together flours, xanthan gum, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, allspice, ginger, and nutmeg. Ensure you stir thoroughly (or sift) because you want the spices to mix thoroughly.
In a separate bowl, using an electric mixer, cream oil and brown sugar. Add orange juice, eggs, vanilla extract, and pumpkin puree and beat well.
Gradually beat in dry ingredients, mixing until smooth, about 2 minutes.
Spoon into oiled pan. Spread to edges and smooth top. Let stand for 30 minutes.
Bake in 350 F oven for 25 to 35 minutes. Let cool in pan for 10 minutes. Remove from pan and let cool completely on rack.
In a small bowl, stir together 1/8 cup arrowroot flour and 2 tsp orange juice concentrate. Stir in 1 tbsp of honey. Drizzle over cooled cake.
Beet Breakfast (please forgive the slightly blurry photo)
-one large beet, previously steamed and cooled, skin removed, and sliced
-Daiya mozzarella 'cheese'
-one tsp. dried dill
-3 tbsp. raw sunflower seeds
-one tbsp. olive oil
-fresh ground pepper
*it's best to steam beets without cutting off the top or the bottom
Lunch - Pumpkin Pasta
-one small baking pumpkin (I cut the skin off first, cut it in half, scoop out the insides, and then cut into small pieces)
-one orange bell pepper
-one red onion
-one teaspoon curry powder
-three cloves of garlic (put through garlic press)
-brown rice noodles from Tinkyada
Directions for Pumpkin Topping
I started by chopping up the onion and began to fry it at a medium heat. Before it was done, I added the pumpkin pieces. I test my pumpkin with a fork to determine if it is done. I shoot for leaving it a little bit firm, so that the pieces don't become too mushy. I usually add about a half cup of water, and let it reduce/evaporate as the pumpkin cooks (this prevents the pumpkin for burning or sticking to the pan). Then I added the garlic, curry powder, and bell pepper . When the pepper was cooked, the topping was done.
I totally forgot to put pine nuts on top of this dish before I took a photo of it. Please use your imagination....
Directions for Noodles
I would recommend using only a small amount of noodles in comparison the vegetables in your dish. Rice noodles tend to stick together, so you don't want too many of them. Bring a pot of water to boiling and then add noodles (I used half a package). Give them a good stir when they first go in the pot to ensure that none stick together, but then stir them as minimally as possible afterwards. Take them out of the boiling water a bit before they are done (because carry-over cooking will finish the job for you). Rinse them once. Either serve them immediately OR put some oil on them to stop them from sticking together. Rice noodles make TERRIBLE leftovers (they get really hard and I swear to God they don't taste as good), but I find they keep okay for a couple of days if you mix them with oil and vegetables.
Use Those Seeds!
Save the pumpkin seeds, rinse them off, and bake them for a delicious and healthy snack. My pumpkin had been in storage a bit too long, so I decided to pass on the seeds this time. I'll give instructions for pumpkin seeds in a future post.
Dinner - Roasted Cauliflower and Tofu
This is the easiest dinner I make! I rinse and cut up a head of cauliflower. I cut a block of firm tofu into cubes. I heat up my oven to something above 380 degrees. I put the cauliflower and the tofu (sprinkled with a spice mixture) in an oiled pyrex pan (I either put them in separate pans, or I put the cauliflower in first and mix it around so that it gets coated with a very small amount of oil). Then I bake (approximately 45 minutes and/or until the tips of the cauliflower start to brown). That's it!
I purchased the spice mixture that I used on the tofu (pictured below) at Vested Interest here in North Bay, they have loads of gluten-free foods, including fresh baked goods!
My favourite cookies are pictured above. These cookies are free from nuts, dairy, corn, and gluten. I enjoy these cookies because I feel good when I eat them (and they're yummy). Specifically, I may, or may not, be admitting to the entire world that I've eaten an entire bag in one sitting on at east one occasion without feeling anything other than fantastic. Other gluten-free cookies (fresh and packaged) tend to make me feel sluggish or jacked up on sugar.
What I Eat
I want to give you an idea of how to eat healthfully on a restricted diet, without a lot of work, by showing you how I eat! I eat strictly gluten-free. You'll find A LOT of veggies in this blog! I eat both fish and meat a few times a week (local and/or humane, whenever possible), and dairy when I'm visiting family and friends, or eating out. I hope you find this blog inspiring and interesting!