Monday, August 23, 2010

5 Napkin Burger, I think I love you... for helping me not crumble under the pressure of emotional eating impulses.

I have happy news to report on the restaurant front.  Another great place to add to proverbial gluten free lists! And a burger joint, no doubt.  More on that...

My mission is to find at least one good GF friendly restaurant within every cuisine I love (which is pretty much every cuisine in existence) so that no matter the craving, there's no need for a caving in to wheat to follow.

I keep saying to friends and family when they inevitably ask how I'm adjusting to this change that I'm doing really well BUT (HUGE BUT) I am worried that I am going to have a really bad day and it will all unravel.  And by bad day I don't mean bad eating day.  I mean bad emotional day.  For me, food and emotions have always been somewhat linked.  And when I have a bad emotional day, I feel entitled to eat whatever the hell I want.  Generally this translates to macaroni and cheese from a box or takeout. 

This attitude runs deep in my veins.  I actually didn't know that not everyone understood the first day of their menstrual cycle as a caloric free for all until college.  And I never felt a smidgen of guilt about it until then either.  Thankfully my parents weren't big on food as punishment (though dessert was withheld if we were particularly obnoxious during dinner).  But they were huuuge proponents of food as reward, celebration, solace, grief counselor, medicine and psychotropic drug.  Food is the center of every family get together, birthday and holiday.  We eat as a family when we're sad (a binge-y trip to Friendly's (which my spell check keeps correcting to Friendless. Heh.) after my Aunt's funeral comes to mind) and when we're happy (uh, the rest of the time).  So naturally, my fear that I'll have a terrible day at work, a fight with a friend etc has been building.  Fearing that I won't have something to satisfy that urge to feel better has been nagging at me*.  A good cheeseburger is high on that list.

That cheeseburger has been found.  I give you... 5 Napkin Burger. Ground chuck, gruyere and comte cheese and caramelized onions make this thing gawgeous for burger lovers like myself. My boyfriend adores 5 Napkin Burger.  I figured I could make do with some modifications on the Burger Salad, assuming that the french fries would be cross contaminated.  But my server, Christopher, had many surprises up his sleeve.  1. THEY OFFER A GLUTEN FREE BUN (I just about fainted out of joy) 2. All items are fried in separate oil, making the french fries good to go.  The rosemary aioli on the burger had to be nixed, but all the other components were there and amazing. Booyah! Thanks 5N!

*Author's Note: Hi.  This paragraph makes me sound like I have the makings of an eating disorder.  But fear not, my devoted reader(s?).  I'm mostly exaggerating/referring to the rare occasion that I still want to be mentally prepared for.  These days, I am more want to pick up the phone and bother my boyfriend rather than going for an indulgent fork. Lucky him!! Also, I'd like to take this time to shout out Moishe Gold, my most hard-assed English professor at Fordham who would obviously be thrilled to see my love of parentheticals (and parenthesis within parenthesis!) is still very much surviving. And to see that I'm still making up words. And using parenthesis in the very sentence that I use to be self deprecating about their usage.  Sigh.

Saturday, August 21, 2010


I MADE BREAD! See? The little teeny bit I tasted was delicious too.  Recipe to come later.


Me Vs. The Server

What I learned this week? I hate asking questions at restaurants.  I've always despised people that made servers' lives hellish, despite the fact that a good friend of mine is infamous for this very behavior. For those of you who don't know about "the shrimps incident" consider yourself blessed.

I prepare most of my meals at home.  Most weeks I don't buy lunch at all.  And if my boyfriend is traveling or in Florida with his kids, I don't usually eat at restaurants at all.  We spend at least every other weekend together, which is always when I tend to indulge the most (usually on his dime *cough*), even though cooking together is one of our favorite activities.  But recently, the weekends (and weekdays!) between have been full of restaurant outings as pretty much all of my friends are summer babies. On top of that, after a difficult month of May largely spent mourning the ending of a friendship, I had really recommitted to some old friendships that hadn't been on my radar in quite some time. Which quite happily meant reunions over wine and food in restaurants. Which translated to me scouring menus and ordering many salads with oil and vinegar dressing because I felt strange asking questions.  Don't get me wrong, I love a good salad but I love going to restaurants and trying new things/recommendations. It's time to speak up, fo sheez.

It just feels strange telling my server, friends of friends and others with me when out and about that I have this allergy.  Which is really an autoimmune condition rather than an allergy.  I've always been pretty private about health struggles and this feels no different.  But unlike other troubles, I have to get used to wearing this one on my sleeve so that I'm not sitting at birthday dinners half moping. And reconcile with myself that it isn't weakness or overdramatic to show others that I'm committed to this while turning down their good intentions.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Gluten Free Banana Walnut Muffins

This is generally more calorically dense than what I would choose for breakfast, even with the substitutions, but these should freeze well and served me well on days like today where I was craving a hearty, chewy break from the usual breakfast routine.

I adapted this recipe from Bob's Red Mill. 

Prep Time: 10 minutes

Cooking Time: < 60 minutes
Serves: 10
Yield 11 muffins (love when this doesn't add up. thankfully sites like this do the calculations for me.)

1 3/4 cups Bob's Red Mill Gluten Free All Purpose Baking Flour
1/6 cup Canola Oil
1/6 cup unsweetened applesauce
1/2 cup Brown Sugar Blend
1/2 cup Egg Beaters
1 tbsp Pure Vanilla Extract
2 tsp Baking Powder
1 tbsp Cinnamon
1/2 tsp Salt
1 1/2 cups Bananas
1/2 cup walnuts

Nutritional information per muffin:

Calories 226
Calories from Fat 68.8
Total Fat 7.64g
Saturated Fat 0.57g
Cholesterol 0mg
Sodium 163.93mg
Total Carbohydrate 34.71g
Dietary Fiber 3.6g
Sugars 16.82g
Protein 4.33g

On the newfound joy/rage of eating gluten free in restaurants

Saturday night was my first experience eating in an unfamilliar restaurant since taking the gluten free plunge.

My little brother turned 23 this week, so the family was headed out to our annual celebration at Ruth's Chris Steak House.  A little googling brought me to this site: which left me super excited, figuring this would be no different than my typical restaurant experience pre-GF, since the menu seemed so straight forward and with plenty of options.

Not sure if it was just my server, but they weren't able to make many accomodations.  As he explained, many items are pre-made or shipped from facilities where things were cross contaminated.  I could take risks with the things on the menu I had seen, but the restaurant "wasn't guaranteeing" anything. Charming! None of their desserts were GF, with exception of the chocolate sin cake.  Except you need to call at least 3 days in advance to order that. Greeeeeeat.  So I sat at the table, pouting, as my family and my brother's girlfriend dug into their respective desserts.

Used all that angry "I WANT CHOCOLATE" energy to bake my first batch of GF cookies with chickpea flour and xanthan gum when I got back to my apartment. Of course I managed to undercook the first batch and burn the second, but that I think that is more the fun of having an ancient oven in an old building in NYC than it is my error. Or that's what I'd like to think, anyway.

My awesome friends have been sending me restaurants which cater extensively to gluten free eating.  While I am not a pizza fanatic, I do like to indulge from time to time.  It's such a specific craving that it is difficult to satisfy with much else.  Thankfully my good friend Laura (THANK YOU!) got me this list of NYC pizza joints with gluten free options that a friend of hers who eats GF compiled.

Mozzarelli's (also boasting gluten free desserts!)
Risotteria (ditto on the desserts)

Woohoo! Start your lists!  I am also super excited to share that approximately 75% of Rosa Mexicano's regular menu is gluten free.  In comparison to other restaurants, they are delightfully straight forward, listing separate gluten free menus on the main menu page of their website, found here.

It doesn't HAVE to be so freaking difficult to eat gluten free and still enjoy dining out.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Day One... Part Deux?

So, as you probably guessed from the title of this post, yesterday was supposed to be day one. Note the italics...

I learned a valuable lesson, which is that gluten is in many things aside from the obvious that resemble grains.

After excessively patting myself on the back for ordering my favorite sandwich from Bottino's (#11 - marinated eggplant, roasted red peppers, goat cheese and arugula on focaccia!) as a salad over arugula instead, I failed to realize that balsamic vinaigrette likely contains either thickeners or colorants which contain gluten. Greeeeat.  Then, looking back I realize that the honey roasted peanuts I ate as a morning snack "may contain trace amounts of wheat" after consulting with the label. and THEN I notice that the random brand of cottage cheese I got at the bodega because I was too lazy and tired to go to Fairway after work yesterday contained "modified food starch" with a disclaimer at the bottom that it also "may contain trace amounts of wheat." Effffffffff.

Now, the prudent thing to do would have been to just be to accept that it will likely take time for my thinking to get in line with this new lifestyle, and that even though day one wasn't perfection, it was a vast improvement.  But instead, I ordered Turkish for dinner on lavash bread... with baklava for dessert. Had to get that pissy attitude out of my system, I suppose.

But, I started going through labels in my pantry and learned that there is gluten in soy sauce (!), pretty much all of my favorite salad dressings and in many, many boxed/packaged goods.  Thankfully, I had long ago pledged to have no more than one packaged item per day, in an effort to control sodium and reduce my exposure to processed shit that can also contain synthetic hormones. Plus, I've been dieting for years off and on to combat weight gain related to a hormonal disorder and love to cook/bake.  So I'm better prepared than most would be diving into a lifestyle change of this magnitude.  I am also blessed to live in NYC, within walking distance of Whole Foods and Fairway, which both have dedicated gluten free sections. Aaaaand my mother is a dietician, who will be amused by the many "CAN I EAT THIS?" phone calls that she will definitely be getting in the coming weeks and months during the big adjustment.

I can so do this.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

And away we go...

Here we are. Let's start with the basics. I'm going gluten free for the wellness of my body, mind and soul.

Or because my allergist told me that I have to, for the sake of my digestive tract and immune functioning...

As a southern Italian who is very much in touch with her culture's roots (particularly through their starchy foods) the prospect of living gluten free is extremely daunting. What I hope to do with this blog is share the challenges (and hopefully successes) of my transition to gluten free living as well as recipes, gluten free friendly restaurants and dishes in NYC, and touch on the emotional part of the changes that I need to make for my health and well being.

My hope is that by blogging about my experience, I won't feel alone and that just maybe, someone else struggling with this same change in lifestyle can join with me to make their own gluten free journey a little more okay.