Living without gluten, casein, soy, eggs and peanuts. Living with ASD and ADHD. Life is good!

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Green Tomato Relish

Our tomatoes bit the dust.  We planted them on the south side of the house in an area that gets some shade during the day, because last summer it was so depressing to see them fry in the hot sun all day long dying slow, tortured deaths.  Last summer we ended up pulling the poor dried plants out of the ground about the beginning of July.  We were hoping to make them last a little longer this summer by giving them a reprieve from the heat and the sun, but instead of frying, they caught blight.  This year instead of the drought of last year we had a wet spring.  Our tomato plants got plenty of water but probably not enough sun and we watched sadly as they withered with blight.  We had to pull them out of the ground before mid-June.

Before our tomato plants gave up the ghost, they gave us a few Cherokee Purples and a several full handfuls of cherry tomatoes.  The Cherokee Purples were perhaps the best tomato I have ever tasted - juicy and sweet and fabulous on sandwiches.  Next year we'll try again, and plant them in the full sun.  I'm thinking about making a little roll-up tent system to shade them from the 100 degree mid-day heat.  Not sure if that will work, but it's worth a try.  Setting up our garden system (complete with several Bunny Banes, or chicken wire attached to moveable frames) has been an investment of time, energy and money, but it's been a great learning experience.  We learn something new each season.  This year, I have not had to buy as many veggies at the store, so our garden is almost paying for itself.  It's certainly helping with our grocery bills and next year, our garden will hopefully save us a lot of money.

But back to our tomato plants.  They still had many green cherry tomatoes that would never ripen as the plants were so damaged with blight.  I could not bear to throw them into the compost, so I looked for green tomato relish recipes.  I didn't have enough to bother canning, so I looked for fresh recipes that would keep in the refrigerator.  This recipe by Martha Stewart caught my eye.  I modified it a little bit, cutting back the sugar by half and substituting chopped dried figs for the golden raisins.  It came out really good!  I think chopped dried apricots would be a good substitute for the raisins, too.

You can enjoy green tomato relish on crackers with cheese, in sandwiches, or anything your heart desires.  I personally think it's tasty plain by the spoonful.  This will keep in the fridge for a week or two, if it lasts that long.  I like this relish so much that next year, I might have to plant many more tomato plants - some for ripe tomatoes and some solely for making green tomato relish, which I will can and give away as gifts.  I think someday we'll need a bigger yard for a bigger garden, and I'll need a bigger kitchen for canning.  I like dreaming big about the simple joys in life!

Green Tomato Relish

1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
1/4 cup lightly packed brown sugar
1/2 cup diced onion
1/4 cup water

green tomatoes, deseeded and chopped, about 1 cup
3 dried figs, chopped into small pieces
1 tsp. mustard seeds
1 tsp. kosher salt
1/4 tsp. black pepper

Combine the cider vinegar, brown sugar, onion and water in a small saucepan.  Simmer until the sugar dissolves.  To the saucepan add the green tomatoes, figs, mustard seeds, kosher salt and black pepper.  Simmer rapidly for about 10 minutes, or until the tomato and onion are tender and the mixture has thickened, then remove from the heat.    Cool and store in the refrigerator for up to two weeks.

Cheese, Glorious Cheese (Sliceable Daiya!)

Daiya has done it again.  They've made a completely plausible vegan, soy-free, nut-free, gluten-free cheese that you can slice.  You can put it on crackers.  It melts too, and makes wonderful sandwich melts.  It's impossibly creamy and tastes like actual cheese (or at least, very close to what I remember cheese tasting like).  I am in love with Daiya's new Wedges.

There are three Wedge flavors - Cheddar, Jack and Havarti styles.  The girls like the cheddar best, but I am more fond of the Jack and Havarti.  The Havarti, which gets a spicy kick from jalapenos, is my favorite.  Right now I can only find it at one of my local Whole Foods.  It's pricey, but it lasts awhile if you use it judiciously.  For us the Wedges are a treat food, and they are totally worth it.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Finally! "Sour Cream" I Can Buy - And other Stuff by Wayfare!

For years I have stalked the cheese aisles at my local natural food stores to see what new dairy-free, soy-free, gluten-free "dairy" products are offered, waiting for that elusive holy grail - sour cream.  Imagine my excitement, after years of waiting, to see We Can't Say It's Sour Cream at one of my local Whole Foods stores!  And right next to it, We Can't Say It's Cheese cheese spreads - all by Wayfare and free of dairy, soy and gluten!  So I snapped them up and brought them home.

First I tried the We Can't Say It's Sour Cream, which uses a lima bean, oat and rice base instead of a soy base.  You must stir it before using it, otherwise the texture is off (slightly grainy).  After stirring, it becomes creamy.  By itself the taste is a little interesting.  By interesting, I mean only very vaguely like sour cream.  However, in something it does taste a lot like sour cream.  I swirled it into chicken soup for dinner one night and topped the soup with diced avocado.  It was fabulous.  The girls loved it.  The sour cream gets a thumbs up from us - the only problem we have is that the container is too big.  16 ounces is too much for us and it went moldy before I could use it all.  I should have made sour cream muffins with it - maybe I'll do that next time.  It might make a good egg replacer too, I'll have to experiment with it.

Next I tried the cheese spreads.  I bought the Cheddar and the Mexi Cheddar.  The girls and I enjoyed them with crackers.  These cheese spreads are interesting.  By interesting, I don't mean bad...I mean quite good - it's hard to stop eating them because I'm trying to figure them out.  I like the Mexi Cheddar better than the plain cheddar - it tastes like a nacho cheese dip.  A product made of oats, nutritional yeast and spices (see ingredient lists here) that tastes like nacho cheese is just fascinating to me.  It's really quite good!

These products by Wayfare are pricey, so in this house they will be occasional treats.  But as treats, they are worth the price.  As of right now, only one Whole Foods in my area (and we have several, plus several other natural food stores) is carrying these particular Wayfare products.  I'm pretty sure if asked, other stores will place a special order.  Or you can order them online!

Thursday, June 21, 2012

What to Eat When You Eat Out Gluten Free - A Review

Hello everyone!  I'm back.  After months of flying by the seat of my pants, writing minimally on my neglected blog, and hosting family and friends for a month at the start of the summer, I can relax.  And relaxing for me means cooking and writing.  I have a stack of recipes to post, a head full of humming thoughts and fingers itchy to type.

The first thing I want to share is:  I have recently had the pleasure of reviewing a book.*  And not just any book - a really useful restaurant guide for gluten free folks!  Making it even more useful, this is an ebook meant for smartphones, tablets and ereaders with lots of hyperlinks for easy and fast navigation to loads of information.  There are also PDF and HTML versions for your home computer if you don't happen to have a smartphone, tablet or ereader (like me). 

What to Eat Out When You Eat Out Gluten Free by TK Kenyon focuses mainly on national chain restaurants, although there is a section for local restaurants that includes a few mom-and-pop type restaurants in a few states. Although this guide focuses only on eating out gluten free, those folks with other food allergies in addition to gluten (like dairy, soy, egg, nuts, etc.) such as yours truly will find this guide to be a good starting point.  In my experience, if a restaurant has a handle on providing gluten free options for their customers, it's not hard at all to ask them to accommodate other allergies as well.**  

What to Eat Out When You Eat Out Gluten Free is jam-packed with information - including the author's own dining experiences, impressions and recommendations. There are over 60 restaurants reviewed in this book.  Restaurants with good GF selections are listed in the index first, then all restaurants reviewed are listed in alphabetical order, and then a few restaurants are listed by region.  Each restaurant name in the index links to its respective page in the book where you can read details such as whether or not a GF menu is available, how responsive and knowledgeable staff/management (and the company as a whole) are to GF requests and issues like cross contamination, a list of gluten free offerings at that particular restaurant (at the time of publishing), and menu items that might seem innocuous but that are unsafe (such as hidden gluten in beverages, condiments, etc.).  Each restaurant description also includes a link to its website if available and also a link back to the index.  The book is easy to navigate and easy to read.  As a gluten-phobe, I would recommend this book as a handy resource to help take some of the guesswork out of dining out gluten free.

What to Eat When You Eat Out Gluten Free is available to order from Smashwords, Amazon, Barnes and Noble and iTunes.

*Disclaimer:  I was provided with a review copy of "What to Eat Out When You Eat Out Gluten Free" at no charge.  The review above is my personal opinion and I have received no compensation to review this book.

**As always - to be safe, when planning to eat out call the restaurant ahead of time or talk to a manager when you get there about your food allergies and whether they can/will accommodate them. 

Friday, June 1, 2012

Marinated Cucumbers

My mom made this side dish many times while I was growing up. She never had a recipe for them, she just threw together a little bit of this and a little bit of that until the dish tasted right. Here I think I have the measurements right - you can adjust the amounts to suit your taste. The leftover vinaigrette is good to put on salad, too.

1 small English cucumber (regular cukes work well too, I just prefer ones without seeds)
2 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
1 tbsp. white vinegar
1/2 tsp. sugar
1/8 tsp. black pepper
pinch of salt
1/4 - 1/2 tsp. dill, if desired

Wash and thinly slice the cucumber and place in a shallow bowl. Whisk together the remaining ingredients. Adjust marinade to taste and pour over the cucumbers. Marinate at least 30 minutes, turning occasionally. Serve chilled.