Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Soup's on!

After living with celiacs disease for a few years, I had given up on any form of canned soup. A lot of them were watery, or had a strange after taste to them. Most of them were just simply pureed vegetables, and made me feel like I was eating baby food. The only way I found I was enjoying soup was by spending a day slow cooking soups from scratch. As satisfying as this is, it can be hard to accomplish with an 18 credit semester on top of a part time job.

My mother recently brought home a can of Progresso gluten free soup. I was hesitant at first, but was hopeful that there might be an easy dinner in this. I tried Progresso's Corn and Chicken Chowder with Bacon. It was so good. It was thick and creamy, and tasted just like I remember chowders tasting. The bowl of warm comfort was exactly what I needed this cold week. I tried the Clam Chowder today for lunch, and it was absolutely superb!

Things to keep in mind:
Make sure if you are trying any of the Progresso soups, that it has a gluten free label on it. The ones I have tried have a large golden gluten free label right on the front of the can.

Buy one can at first, then go back for others. Some of the soup is different styled than the original recipe so make sure you like it before you stock up.

I highly recommend this line of gluten free soups. The grocery store near me is having a sale on Progresso soups, so I am going to stock up for the cold months ahead!

Thursday, January 5, 2012

A Restaurant Review: The 99 Restaurant & Pub

Many of you have probably visited the 99 restaurant before, and are probably familiar with their slogan "The 99 restaurant has 99 reasons you'll always come back for more." Well after visiting recently, I have had trouble finding even 9 reasons to want to go back.

The Pros:

1. They have a rather large gluten free menu, compared to most chain restaurants.
2. Some of the dishes are rather creative, and a number of them are quite tasty!
3. Popcorn! Finally! A pre-dinner snack that is not bread!

The Cons:

1. NEVER order a burger from them. They use pre-packaged gluten free burger buns that are hard as rocks. I kid you not, I could not chew through the bun at one point. The waitress came over and asked how my burger was. I was able to take the top bun off the burger, and back it against the table. It barely cracked. The manager was very kind about it and comped my dinner, but I refuse to ever try a burger there again. It was like trying to eat a hockey puck. You could order the burger without the bun, but really, who wants to eat a ground beef patty when you can just as easily have a steak?
2. The three salads on their menu, are really two. The Cesar Salad, as tasty as it is, is just not that fulfilling without something besides lettuce. So since croutons are obviously out of the question, chicken is a great option. But then you are technically ordering a Chicken Cesar Salad. Tasty, but be careful. They often over cook the chicken so it is dry and burnt, and sometimes they don't cut it all the way, or into small enough strips.
3. The Prime Rib is pretty tasty. unfortunately with all the early birds, you have to have a dinner appetite around 4:30 if you want a decent chance at getting a good slice. Since I don't get back to the area from school/work till around 5 on most nights, that poses a bit of a problem. Also, at most locations it is only served Thursday-Sunday.
4. Stay on top of your waiter. I can't tell you the number of times I have had a salad with croutons served to me or a dinner plate with a piece of bread on it. If you pointed out to them that it needs to be gluten free, and you ordered it off a gluten free menu, there should be no excuse for it.
5. There was hair in my food. I went to dinner with a friend, and I ordered one of the salmon dishes. After only two bites of dinner, there was an unpleasant texture in my food. It turned out to be a hair in my food. Now, I can deal with having my rice slightly dry, or my meat a little overcooked, but having a piece of hair in my food is just not something I deal with well.

In sort, I would probably give the 99 Restaurant 2/5 stars, and I feel like I am being generous here.

It had its perks, but it was nothing very impressive with all the hassle. Quality can very by location however. The one I frequent is in Fitchburg, MA. Know of a better 99 Restaurant location? Let me know!!

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

From Apples to Apples

One thing I love about going food shopping after all the holidays is that EVERYTHING is on sale. Including a rather large bag of apples I picked up at the store! Now eating an apple here and there is always a tasty experience, but there are way too many apples in this bag to eat before they go bad. So what to do?

Apple Crisp!!

Here is my gluten free apple crisp recipe:

6 or 7 small apples, peeled and sliced (I prefer tart, but use your taste!)
3/4 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup gluten-free all purpose flour
1/2 cup quick cooking oats
1/3 cup butter or margarine, softened
3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
3/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 teaspoon vanilla

1. Heat oven to 375. Grease bottom and sides of pan. (I use an 8-in square pan)
2. Spread apples in pan.
3. In bowl, add remaining ingredients and mix well. Sprinkle over apples
4. Bake 30 minutes or until topping is golden and apples are tender when pierced with a fork.

Enjoy! I like to whip some fresh whipped cream when I serve mine! If you want to heat it up again the next day, place it in the oven at 350 and bake just till warm. (mine is about 3-5 minutes).

Best Dishes!! <3

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

It's not easy being green...

Because usually when you are green, it means you are ill. I unfortunately started out my year with the flu. Being sick for anyone sucks, but being sick and having to live a gluten free life, sucks more. Before I had to be on a gluten free diet, my mom would make me Campbell's Chicken Noodle Soup when I was sick. It was very bland, and was something I could keep down when I started eating after having a flu. Unfortunately, none of the soups made by Campbell's are gluten free. In fact, most canned soups contain some sort of preservative that includes gluten in it. So how do we cope? Here are a few ideas:

1. Find a gluten free soup. There are companies, such as Amy's that makes organic soup in a can, that are gluten free. However, I have found that I really don't have a taste for them. If you can find a soup that is gluten free, and in a can; GREAT! :D Enjoy it! And please let me know what it is so that I may try it as well!

2. Enjoy a warm cup of broth with ginger. Yes, it's not very filling, but honestly. who is ever really that hungry after a flu bug anyways? It will give you the nutrients you need, and it has a light, but enjoyable flavor. Simply add the desired amount of chicken broth to a sauce pan, and grate a small amount of ginger into the broth. I usually use 1 tsp of ginger to each cup of broth. Pacific makes a fantastic gluten free organic chicken broth, that I use quite often in my cooking.

3. Make your own broth. I always make my own chicken stock, and keep it in the freezer for occasions such as the flu where I would want some thing a little more hearty than the bland stuff on the shelf. It's quite simple to do ahead of time, and last for quite a while in the freezer. Here's what to do:

Cook up a chicken! Like a whole one! Go ahead and make it however you like. We eat a lot of chicken in my house, I usually cook a 10lb chicken about once a week, solely for the reason that it really does go so far. Enjoy your meal! And make sure to save the leftover meat for sandwiches and other tasty meals! DON'T THROW OUT ANY OF THE CARCASS!!! Wrap it up in some foil and pop it in the freezer for when you are ready to make your stock

One day that you have the time to be hanging around the house (I like to do this on a lazy Sunday) take the chicken carcass out of the freezer and put in in a decently sized soup pot. Fill the pot with water until the chicken is just covered in water. Roughly chop an onion, a few carrots, and a few pieces of celery, and toss it all into the pot. Bring the pot to a boil, then turn the heat down to a simmer, and cover. Let cook as long as desired. I usually let it cook for a good 4 hours at least so that it can soak up as much flavor from everything as it can. When your chicken stock has reached the point that you are happy with it, strain the stock into a container, making sure you strain out any scraps that might have tried to stay in there.

You now have your own homemade chicken stock!! You can then immediately use it to make soup, put it into the fridge for later use, or if you have no immediate plans for it, pop it in the freezer. Make sure you mark a date on the container so that you don't eat any bad stock.


Happy New Year!!

Happy New Year everyone!! It's 2012, and in a few weeks it will be the year of the Dragon. Being born in a Dragon year, this is supposedly going to be a good year for me. Here are my new years resolutions:

1. Improve my GPA to a 3.0 so I can get into a good education program.
2. Pass my General Education MTEL exam.
3. Graduate from MWCC and get accepted into a 4 year college.
4. Improve my writing skills by keeping up with a blog.

This blog will be mostly about cooking, but also there will be posts once in a while about life in general. mostly update on MTEL exams, and how my school is going. Here's to a good new year! *cheers!*