Geek. Pirate. Mom

The Life and Times of Whitney Drake

Posts tagged 'gluten free'

Easy Noodle Bowl.

Like Ramen, but want something a little healthier? Or, if you’re like me and gluten-free, do you miss the comfort of a bowl of noodles?

That’s when you make yourself this easy recipe. Promise you, it’ll only take a few more minutes than making yourself ramen, and it’s so much more flavorful!

Noodle Bowl for one.

1/2 Tbsp flavorless oil, like vegetable oil or canola oil
1/4 tsp minced ginger
1/4 tsp minced garlic (or more if you’re like me)
pinch red pepper flakes
1/4 cup mushrooms
1 cup good quality broth (I used beef)
noodles (you can use ramen noodles or a serving of your favorite pasta)
1/4 cup frozen broccoli
soy sauce (gf substitution: Bragg’s Amino) to taste
dash of sesame oil
salt & pepper to taste
some green onions, chopped

Heat your saucepan on medium-low, and add the oil. Add in the garlic, ginger and chili flakes- let the garlic & ginger soften, and then add in the mushrooms. Let the mushrooms saute a little, and then remove them from the saucepan.

Add in the broth, a dash of sesame oil and season with soy sauce (probably about 2 Tbsp), and bring to a boil. Add in the noodles/pasta (and broccoli) and cook until the noodles are finished. Adjust seasoning with salt & pepper- garnish with the green onions. And voila! You have a yummy noodle soup with veggies & no MSG.

All in all, it took me about 15 minutes to make- the longest part was waiting for the noodles to cook.

Day 3 of NaBloPoMo

Gluten-free Chicken Katsu

In the past few weeks, I’ve fallen into a pattern where I wasn’t trying anything new, food-wise. I am a decent cook, but there are a lot of things I don’t make on a regular basis. Chicken is one of them. So I decided to challenge myself to making one new thing a week. I figure it gives me a couple days of wiggle room in making them- which is key when you’re a stay at home mom to two kids 5 and under. They just don’t give you the time you need. Chicken Katsu was a dish that immediately popped into my head.

After I left Disneyland, I started working in the front office for an oral surgeon in Orange County. The office manager was a girl not much older than me, and once a week when the doctor was out for a long lunch, we’d try to take a long lunch ourselves. We’d go to a little Japanese curry house that was sort of nearby, and she’d urge me to try various items from the menu. Most often I’d get the chicken katsu.

I always wanted to take TheBoy, but things never worked out. The curry house had odd hours, and combined with our odd work hours- we could never get there. So I pledged to learn to make my own katsu.

I’m very comfortable shallow frying in a pan, so when I found a recipe for chicken katsu that wasn’t deep fried… I was excited. While the curry recipes looked a little time intensive, I had tried tonkatsu sauce before, and found a recipe that looked easy enough to make.

I’m going to share the gluten free version. All the ingredients are easy enough to find, so it shouldn’t be difficult.

Tonkatsu sauce (adapted from this recipe)

1/2 cup Worcestershire sauce (Lee & Perrins in the US is gluten-free)
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup Bragg’s amino (this was originally soy sauce- but most soy sauces aren’t gf. Bragg’s has a similar flavor profile and is also made from soy. It’s also a lot easier to find in stores than tamari or a gf soy sauce)
1/4 cup ketchup
1 Tablespoon smooth dijon mustard
1/2 teaspoon ground allspice

In a small saucepan, combine all ingredients but the dijon mustard and all-spice. Using a whisk, make sure the ingredients are combined well (make sure that the sugar dissolves and the ketchup seems to vanish into it). Stir it regularly until the sauce reduces by about 20%. Add the mustard and allspice and whisk until it’s well combined. Pour it into another container (it’ll help it cool faster) and set it aside.

Chicken Katsu (adapted from this recipe, All Recipes)

2 boneless skinless chicken breasts
salt and pepper to taste
2 tablespoons GF all-purpose flour (use your favorite mix)
1 egg, beaten
1 cup GF panko bread crumbs (or toast your favorite GF bread and make breadcrumbs)
vegetable oil

Now, the traditional dish is tonkatsu, which uses pork. But chicken is pretty common here in the states.

First, let your chicken breasts come a little closer to room temperature. I then got out a Ziploc freezer bag, which is important because you want the thicker plastic. Put a chicken breast half in the bag and flatten it out with a meat hammer (the flat side) or a heavy pan until it’s 1/2″ thick. If you thought half a chicken breast wouldn’t ever feed an adult, now you can see why- it flattens out to a pretty decent size.

Now, set up your dredging stations. You’ll need three dishes/plates that have some depth to them (pie pans work well). In one, put your gluten free flour. If you’re worried it isn’t enough, just put a little more in there. In another, crack in your egg and whisk it thoroughly. In the third, pour the breadcrumbs. Take some salt & pepper and season the breadcrumbs well. I use white pepper (if you do, use a little less than you’d use of black paper) so that you can’t see the pepper.

Get a cookie sheet and line it with paper towels, and get tongs ready. Now, fill your skillet (I use my cast iron pan for shallow frying) with about 1/4″ of oil and heat it on medium, medium-high heat… depending on how hot your range is. While the oil heats up, you can start with two of the chicken breast halves.

Making fried anything is easy. You just need to be smart about it. When dredging, try to use one hand for dipping in the flour, and the other hand for egg & breadcrumbs so that things don’t get too messy. First, coat the chicken in the flour- front, back and sides. Tap the chicken in the plate to get off any excess flour (the flour is necessary to make the egg stick). Then, put the floured chicken into the egg and coat it thoroughly. From there, put the eggy chicken into the breadcrumbs and make sure it’s covered. When you have two, gently slide them into the hot oil.

How will you know the oil is ready? If you look at it, it’ll have a slight shimmer to it. And as the original recipe mentioned, if you put a chopstick into it, bubbles will form around the chopstick.

Now, sliding. Don’t drop the breasts in, otherwise you’ll splatter yourself. So lead with one edge of the chicken breast and sort of push it across the pan, lowering the rest of the chicken breast into the oil. Repeat with the other chicken breast. It’ll take about 3-4 minutes per side- flip when its nicely golden (mine were a little bit more brown, which I expect was the breadcrumb- it didn’t taste burnt). Use a pair of tongs and remove the chicken to the paper towel lined cookie sheet and let it drain. Repeat with the other two pieces.

Serve with the tonkatsu sauce over rice.

A bit wordy, I know, but my recipe posts are for people like myself who are learning to cook from recipes and/or watching cooking shows. If you try this, let me know how it turns out!

Frying, my culinary true love.

I admit it. If it can be fried, odds are I’ll fry it. I’ve already promised my mom to draw the line at frying butter, so don’t worry people. I won’t be installing a deep fryer here either.

Saturday night, I was the lone adult in the house, and while I had food for the kidlets covered, I’d completely forgotten about dinner for myself. So I looked up a couple recipes and winged fried mozzarella sticks. I learned a valuable lesson- when they mention that you can use a skillet, but need the oil to be able to cover the sticks… there’s a reason why. Mine weren’t perfect, but they were good.

Also over the weekend, I’d been chatting with my friend Bryan about my upcoming trip to Vegas. He sent me a link to the Tropicana’s website, so that I could see their updated decor and that’s when I saw this beauty…

Lamb tacos, using fried eggplant for the shell! I have no real idea how big they are, but I was immediately thinking of making an Italian version, with a meat sauce inside the shell.

At the store today, we picked up an eggplant, but as soon as I started to slice into it I realized that those would be some tiny tiny tacos. So I decided to simply go with fried eggplant…


1 eggplant
2 eggs
1 1/2 cup breadcrumbs (I used gluten-free)
salt & pepper
1/2 tsp dried basil

vegetable oil

Before you even think of heating the oil, set up your dredging stations. You’ll need three pans, as well as a papertowel covered wire rack for your eggplant to wait before being fried.

In the first plate, pour out your cornstarch. I think it was about 1 cup. Spread it into a nice flat layer. In the second plate, crack your two eggs and whisk until they’re nicely mixed up. Season with a good pinch of salt. In the third plate, mix the breadcrumbs and dried basil, and season with pepper (and any other seasonings you want. Garlic powder? Cayenne pepper?).

Now, pour the oil into a heavy bottomed skillet (about 1″ deep) and heat the oil over medium until it gets up to about 375.

Slice the eggplant into 1/4 inch slices.

While you’re waiting for the oil to come to temperature, start dredging. Coat the eggplant first in the cornstarch, shaking off any excess. Then put it in the egg, and use a fork to flip it over to make sure it’s coated thoroughly in the egg. From there, drop it with one hand into the breadcrumbs and use another fork to make sure it gets covered in breadcrumbs. When a slice is done, put it on the paper towel lined wire rack and move on to the next one. (Tip: try to keep one hand for using the cornstarch plate and another for once it’s wet- it’ll make things a lot less gunky) Finish them all before you start frying.

Put 2 eggplant into the oil, and when the bottom is golden brown, flip it over using tongs (it won’t take very long, probably about a minute). Move to a paper towel lined plate when the second side is done, and repeat until done. Avoid the temptation to crowd the pan – any more than two pieces at a time, and it’ll cause your oil to drop in temperature and you’ll wind up with greasy eggplant. But really, it goes so quickly that it won’t take you long at all to work in batches of two.

You can have it as a meal or as an appetizer, topped/dipped with/in your favorite marinara sauce.

Disneyland and Bravery.

The Oldest Kidlet is a lot like me. Same drive, same short-temper (which I’ve learned to control). Same need to be the center of attention. He’s exhausting for that reason. Ever butt heads with a parent, only to wonder why because you’re so much alike? Sometimes it’s because you’re alike in the good and bad ways.

I honestly don’t remember what started it, but we were getting in the car yesterday after hitting up a coffee place on the way to Disneyland. I looked back at my boys and said, “You two are going to be the death of me.” He looked right back and said, “Don’t say that, Mommy.”

We went to Disneyland. TheBoy took some time off so that we could spend this weekend together, and realized that we could go to Disneyland during the day. So we went! Our big splurge was on annual passes this year since we don’t live too far from Anaheim (though I do miss our little apartment near Anaheim that we used to live in. You could hear the whistle from the Mark Twain sometimes, and see the fireworks). And it’s been a nice break from routine for us.

The Oldest Kidlet has been going to Disneyland fairly regularly since he was a baby. We had the nicest annual passes (the ones that let you go whenever you want- they weren’t so expensive 5 years ago), and it was free for him. My mom was watching him and used to take him once a week. It was a nice walk, and they both enjoyed it. He got bigger and bigger, and after his brother came along, we didn’t renew the passes. But he was a fearless kid who would try anything.

Of course, since we’d stopped going to Disneyland, he became more fearful. Crowded spaces, loud noises, unfamiliar terrain… he didn’t like any of it anymore. So we always worried about the Park, especially now that he’s getting into the height range of the “E-Ticket” attractions.

Not this trip, but the trip before… things started the way they usually do. We got on the train, by and large one of their favorite things to do. We got Fastpasses for Autopia, but the Oldest Kidlet just wasn’t understanding the concept. He refused to wait to go on the cars- unless it was in line. So we split up. I took the Little Kidlet on Buzz Lightyear (where he refused to shoot anything, and did not like a giant Zurg, but was all smiles about it), and TheBoy took the Oldest Kidlet on Autopia.

Afterwards, we met up and went off to go on the Casey Jr Circus Train (another favorite) and get some lunch from Village Haus (which has dedicated fryers for their fries, so I don’t have to worry about cross-contamination for the kidlet or I. And they have gluten-free buns for their burgers!). While we were there, the Oldest Kidlet mentioned that he saw the submarines and wanted to ride them. And I knew that disaster awaited us. I haven’t been able to get him on Haunted Mansion or Pirates of the Caribbean for the last two years. He sees the dark queues inside, puts on the brakes and insists he can’t go. I knew, deep in my heart, that the second the submarine went into the caverns… that he would freak out and be stuck on the submarine. So I explained that it would get dark. He said it was fine. I told him that he wouldn’t be able to get off once we left the dock. He promised he could wait.

So what happened? The second it got dark, he freaked out and I finished the ride holding his little brother on my lap (who was fine with the whole thing and appreciated the better view), with the Oldest Kidlet holding my other hand over his eyes, while I reassured him that it was all pretend. But I am proud of him. While it still scared him, and he admits this freely, he doesn’t regret going on it. He told both me and my mother in law, that now he can say he’s been on a submarine.

So why am I mentioning this? Yesterday’s trip to Disneyland had a lot of familiar visits. We went on Autopia, the Train, Casey Jr… and then we split up. The Little Kidlet and I were hungry, and so TheBoy took the Older Kidlet to ride the Mark Twain (they’d wanted to go on the Columbia, but just missed it). And passed Big Thunder Mountain. “It’s a train rollercoaster,” my son said. They discovered he was tall enough to go, but my son said no. We went on more rides- the Carrousel, played at the Pirates Lair on Tom Sawyer’s Island.

On the Island, my son became brave. He jumped on the pontoon bridge, ran through caves- and got lost. While in a cave, he decided that he wanted to go to the other cave we’d passed by, and turned a couple wrong ways. We found him… but it was one of the scariest moments of my life (though not quite as scary as when he cut his forehead and there was blood everywhere). As we were leaving the Island (angering the Little Kidlet, who decided he didn’t want to go in caves, but liked climbing on piles of treasure), the Oldest Kidlet announced that he wanted to ride the rollercoaster.

TheBoy got them Fastpasses, and they had their lunch while we waited (which in retrospect seems stupid since we didn’t know how he’d handle Big Thunder Mountain, but he was grumpy and hungry). And off the went. The Little Kidlet and I rode the sailing ship, and when we got off… they were waiting for us. They’d gone on! My brave little son was scared (both TheBoy and I had forgotten how noisy Big Thunder is), but didn’t completely freak out, and proudly told everyone that he’d ridden a real roller coaster- but he thought it went a little too fast for him.

We came home from Disneyland, and TheBoy and I packed up for a weekend away from the boys! As we were leaving, my son told me to have a great time. And to stay for three nights, but not four. Because he’d miss me too much if it were four.

I’m proud of my brave boy. Here’s to hoping he’s always willing to try something new. Maybe next time I can get him back on Pirates of the Caribbean.

People go gluten free that don’t have to?

In the month I’ve been gluten free, I’ve run into a lot of people asking me if I was doing it just for the sake of doing it. Apparently, there’s a large number of people who are going gluten free because they’ve heard people on gf diets say that they’re healthier and happier.

There’s a reason, but it isn’t exactly the gluten-free diet.

First of all, celiacs and the gluten intolerant are on gluten-free diets because we have to be. I don’t know of many that wouldn’t want to be able to eat wheat, barley or rye- I know I miss croissants, and being able to dine in any restaurant. Part of the reason that a lot of people on gluten-free diets talk about how healthy they are, is because they were sick while eating gluten. So of course, they feel much better afterwards.

I’ve known a fair number of people who talk about how healthy their gluten-free diet is anyways, but it isn’t because they’re eliminating gluten. It’s because when you’re on a gluten-free diet, you do have to change the way you eat. Even with all the great gluten-free products out there, it eliminates a lot of the convenience items out there- most frozen meals, side dishes that come in boxes, most cereals, beer, cookies, crackers… most of which are loaded with preservatives and sodium. Having to make some of those same items from scratch, you’re eliminating the junk ingredients in them, having something that’s far healthier for you. Not only that, I’ve found that I have to eat more vegetables to fill up, which has the added benefit of being healthy.

If you’re looking to spruce up your diet and are contemplating going gluten-free for the heck of it… don’t. Just dump the packaged foods, and make a little more food from scratch. Add in some more veggies… and you know what? You’ll feel a heck of a lot better too! Just don’t go gluten-free because it’s “trendy.” It isn’t. It’s just a more health issue that’s being accommodated by more and more companies.

Two weeks and I’m surviving!

So I’ve been on a gluten-free diet for two weeks now. Honestly, I didn’t expect a simple shift in my diet to change things quickly. Having been on plenty of forums for those with food allergies, I knew that it could take awhile to see changes.

But honestly, I’ve seen a lot of changes for the better. That said, it doesn’t mean it’s been easy. I’m still trying to figure out a balance in my meals to make them be more satisfying. While I’m getting enough food, I find that I’m hungry more often. Then there are the cravings.

I live in a house with lots of people who do include gluten in their diet. So there are boxes of Girl Scout Cookies I can’t eat, and loaves of sourdough bread I can’t have. It’s made things tricky.

Friday night is Pizza night. Without fail, there will be pizza. I bought a gluten-free pizza mix and used an egg substitute to make a crust that both the Little Kidlet and I could enjoy. I had already about Daiya, which is a spiffy vegan/allergen-free cheese. Having been a vegetarian, I can tell you that most fake cheeses are soy based (so definitely not what the kidlet could eat) and usually don’t melt. Thanks to some ingenuity… Daiya melts. And while the mozzarella tasted a bit cheddary, it had the right mouth feel for cheese and the melt factor.

And for the first time in his life, my son ate pizza. This sounds like nothing to most of you- but considering his diet has been limited to a handful of dishes that he loves, anything new is major. Especially since he’s been staring at the regular pizza for the last two weeks with longing in his eyes. He wasn’t too thrilled with it hot, but he did eat a cold slice the next day- and loved it. (I admit, I thought more about how the crust didn’t taste like regular crust to really enjoy it. Which is bad of me, and not the way to approach this at all)

Saturday night, TheBoy took me out to eat. His mother offered to watch the boys, and suddenly I realized that I had to find a restaurant that could accommodate me with more than a salad. I didn’t want to call a dozen restaurants and grill them on a Saturday night, so I started googling. Which led me to a list of chain restaurants in town.

I don’t want to seem like a snob. But chain restaurants don’t excite me any more. I love the town I live in, and TheBoy and I have been making a concerted effort to dine at independently owned restaurants to try to more directly support the local economy. We’ve discovered some wonderful restaurants- I just have to figure out which of them I can eat at now. So I chose Outback Steakhouse off the list, having discovered that they had an extensive gluten-free selection. Seriously. It’s impressive. Even more reassuring, the menu actually broke down how to ask for certain things like salads to be prepared. I downloaded the menu on my phone so that I knew I wouldn’t forget what exactly I was supposed to ask for with my salad.

I had a steak, mashed potatoes and a salad (no croutons and prepared in a separate bowl from other salads). While I believe the sudden revelation that I am on a gluten free diet scared our waitress (who I believe was expecting me to die if anything went wrong with the meal), we had a wonderful time. It certainly gave me the confidence boost for dining elsewhere, as well as asking local eateries what they have that’s gluten free. And asking them if they couldn’t try to make more of their items accessible for those on gluten-free diets.

(That picture up top? That was snapped at our dinner. So’s the one of TheBoy to the right)

Ch-Ch-Changes, part deux.

Recently, I posted something about changes going on in my life, talking about signing my kids up for school. The Oldest Kidlet at a new school for kindergarten, and the Little Kidlet for preschool.

Well, there’s a lot going on! This week I went to the doctor for some intestinal issues I’d been having. TMI, I know- but I’d had a gurgly stomach, cramping and obviously I’ve been fatigued. I put up with it for awhile, making sure that no organs were tender (I’m not an idiot). I’d had this pop up about a year ago, and my last doctor thought it might be IBS, and if it was stress-related, then there wasn’t much I could do about it.

Then, I was reading Wil Wheaton’s blog, which had a guest post from his mom. Talking about Celiac Disease. Being that I have a son with a wheat allergy and am part of a few communities where there are lots of people with CD, I dutifully went to google it because some of the commenters on the post sounded well… a lot like me. I wasn’t sure it was celiac disease, mostly because I wasn’t being hospitalized- but it certainly made me wonder if I was having gluten issues.

So I started documenting the timing of my cramps, and what I ate… and it seemed pretty clear cut to me. I went to the doctor, and he immediately ruled out IBS because of my notes about the timing (as well as the fact that I’d had some tuna salad, and nothing else, for lunch before the appointment. My bowels were dead quiet). I asked if they wanted to do a blood draw to confirm, and he said that because of my family history (Seester was allergic to wheat), my age, and my extremely thorough documentation he was comfortable having me try a gluten free diet to see if it solves my problem.

I’ve seen a lot of my friends go on gluten-free diets, and immediately become overwhelmed. Because my sister was allergic to wheat (though she could have rye and barley), and because I’m used to paring down the Little Kidlet’s diet… I’m pretty comfortable with what options are out there. I also knew that there are a lot of gluten-free options. Which I wouldn’t have any problem eating since gluten was my only restriction.

Luckily it coincided with our second shopping day. Yes, I shop for food twice a week. Living in a house with 8 people, there is a definite limit to how much food you can keep- even with two fridges. So I bought some supplies, and here I am.

Even already the cramps are gone. Hopefully, as time passes this will help fix some of the other problems that the doctor thinks is linked to this- my fatigue, and even my anemia. (Hard to get your iron when your body doesn’t want to absorb many nutrients)

I’m excited. Gluten-free brings a lot of new challenges, baking wise… and all this happens just as the Little Kidlet has decided that he wants baked goods. In the past, I’d slave on allergen-free cupcakes or pancakes only to have him snub them. But in the past week, he’s been decidedly sad that he couldn’t join in on pizza or have cookies.

And trust me, gluten-free feels like a piece of cake when you’re used to regularly making meals for someone who can’t have wheat, eggs, peanut and soy. So I’m sure I’ll share some successes and failures here.

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