Sunday, March 31, 2013

Cauliflower Soup

I recently went to lunch with a client at Atlantic Grill near the Lincoln Center. While peering over at Regis Philbin (seriously!) our waiter brought us each a sample of cauliflower soup. I didn't know such soup existed so I was interested to taste. Before taking a sip, I imagined it to be awful but to my surprise it was delicious!

A few weeks later while catching up with my neighbor, Hillery, she mentioned she made a cauliflower soup at a cooking class the night before. Naturally, I had to steal the recipe and try it out for myself.

2 leeks, including two inches of green, roots trimmed
2 tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp butter
1 celery stalk, with leaves, coarsely chopped
2 tbsp garlic, minced
2 tsp curry powder
2 tsp ground ginger
6 cups vegetable stock
juice of one half lemon
1 head cauliflower, cored and broken into florettes
1 cup half-and-half

1) Cut leeks lengthwise and slice thin. Transfer to a bowl and soak in cold water. Swish the leeks around allowing any dirt to tall to the bottom of the bowl -the sliced leeks will float to the top. Lift out the leeks into a strainer. Allow to drain and then pat dry with paper towel­.
2) Heat the oil and the butter in a dutch oven over low heat. Wilt the leeks and celery with leaves until softened, 10 minutes; add garlic and cook 1 minute more. Add the curry powder and ginger, and cook 1 minute more over low heat so that the vegetables are fragrant.
3) Add the stock, lemon juice, and florettes. Bring to a boil then reduce the heat to a simmer. Cover partially and continue to oook until the cauliflower is very tender, about 15 minutes. Cool slightly.
4) Puree in a blender until very smooth. Add the half-and-half, and blend to mix. You will probably have to do this in batches. Add additional stock if desired to achieve a desired consistency. Season to taste with salt and freshly ground black pepper.
5) Serve immediately or reheat for later time.

CHEFS NOTE:  Be very very careful when blending the soup!! I made a horrible mistake and pushed too hard on the lid of my blender. The plastic knob that covers the whole in the lid fell into the soup, spraying scalding hot soup all over me. It was not fun, not to mention, it ground up the lid. Needless to say, I had dump that batch of soup.

Friday, March 29, 2013

Gluten Free Shrimp and Brown Rice with Tomato, Roasted Red Pepper and Feta

For my first post-declaration meal, I had a craving for something Greek. I've been doing a pretty good job of keeping my pantries stocked so it took me seconds to plan out the meal, plus I just bought a TON of Feta cheese and had to use it STAT! Who doesn't love shrimp cooked in onion, garlic and a little butter? Toss some sauteed tomatoes, roasted red pepper and feta in with brown rice and you've got yourself a meal! The only thing that would have been better are the olives that I meant to put in, but forgot all about since I have far more than enough canned goods in my cupboard. Regardless, it was pretty dang tasty and ready to eat in less than 20 minutes. Check out the full recipe below.

1 tbsp butter
1/2 lb raw shrimp, tails removed
1/2 pint cherry tomatoes, halved
1/4 cup roasted red pepper, diced
1/2 onion, diced
2 cloves garlic
1 cup uncooked brown rice
1/4 cup feta, plus more for topping

1) Add butter to a saute pan over medium high heat. Add in onion and tomato and cook until softened, about 5-8 minutes. Toss in garlic and stir until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add roasted red pepper and stir for about 2 minutes until heated through.
2) Meanwhile, cook rice as directed on package. For brown rice, typically you add twice the amount of water to rice, in this case 1 cup rice with 2 cups water. Bring to a boil, then simmer until water has disolved.
3) Once rice is cooked, toss into saute pan and stir with rice and veggie mixture. Add 1/4 cup of feta and stir to combine. Top with extra feta, if you choose.

That's it! The rice took the longest so I got that started while I was cutting tomato and onions and by the time the shrimp mixture was cooked it was time to add the rice. Like I said, I meant to add black olives but I clearly didn't miss them until after the fact.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

True Life: I was diagnosed with Celiac Disease

It was a normal Wednesday morning. After a three day weekend, in honor of Dr. Martin Luther King, I was back in the swing of things at work when it hit me. Monday, my doctor's office had emailed to let me know my allergy results were ready to view online. I couldn't remember my password for the life of me so I gave up trying on Monday and completely forgot about it on Tuesday. What reminded me that Wednesday was the left-over pains of the night before. Tuesday's diet consisted of barley and rye oatmeal, whole wheat pasta, crackers and pizza. If you have any background knowledge about Celiac, you know that EVERYTHING I ate that day was bad bad badddd for my body. And by Wednesday, it had revolted against me with all it's might, thus reminding me to check my test results.

Low and behold, I had tested extremely positive for Celiac Disease. Never had it crossed my mind that Celiac was an explanation for the pain and discomfort I had been feeling for so many months (and years without noticing.) I actually thought I had a lactose intolerance which seemed like the end of the world for me because I love cheese. Nope... it was worse!

I instantly went into panic mode... texting all my friends and complaining about it profusely to my coworkers.  No more pizza, pasta, bread or beer?? HOW WAS I EVER GOING TO SURVIVE!? This was basically a five alarm fire (in my eyes.)

As you can see, it's been over two months and guess what!? I'm alive. The dust settled and I'm starting to understand what's going on with my body. I began a gluten free diet and started researching what food was safe and what to avoid. I've had wonderful help from colleagues and friends who also have Celiac so that had made the transition easier.

It was inevitable that dining out would be a challenge. It felt like every time I went out to eat the first few weeks after diagnosis I got sick. Like, horrible uncomfortable sharp pains in my stomach, pounding headaches, bloating and gas (TMI but get over it! This is my health declaration!) All of these signs were always present in my past but ignored because I thought "Hey, that's just how my body reacts to food. No big deal." But it was a big deal. A very big deal!! One that now explains why I get 10 colds a year, why I passed out and ended up in the hospital on a visit to Michigan two years ago, why I had been so incredibly tired in the fall and why two beers use to give me a pounding headache.

I spent a large chunk of today at the Celiac Disease center at Columbia university medical center. I talked with my new G.I., shared my symptoms, previous medical results and how I've been feeling. She urged me to get an endoscopy to check on the damage already done so I'll be doing that next Wednesday. Next, I met with a nutritionist and learned that, to my surprise, I've been eating pretty well since diagnosed. The only major thing missing from my diet is calcium which is easy to fix. More cheese please! ;)  I rounded out the two hour visit with a quick bone density scan to see if I'm developing osteoporosis. I was impressed to accomplish this much in one visit but they cater to Celiac patients so this type of service is standard and I was beyond pleased!

I now have  answers. I can finally understand what has been going on with my body all my life and now take the right precautions to bring myself back to health, avoiding long term side effects of Celiac like trouble baring children or in some rare cases, lymphoma. Thankfully, I'll have even more answers after the endoscopy next week.

I now hold the keys to a brighter, healthier future and I couldn't be happier! I'm eating delicious meals and avoiding junk food like burgers, chicken tenders and fries. More so because I have no choice but I'll take it as a win since I use to attempt to avoid them and failed miserably. I'm more aware of what I put into my body and have found a new love for meals packed with protein and veggies. Celiac has also forced me to be more diligent in cooking at home, which I love.

I will now get off my soap box and back to blogging! Watch out for more posts geared towards gluten free living along with some restaurant reviews. It's been an interesting couple of months but I can't wait to share my experiences with you all.