Wednesday, November 26, 2008

The Corner Office, Denver, CO

I've maintained for a long time that the Denver-Boulder area is one of the best places in the country to be gluten-free. From natural foods stores that carry GF products, to bakeries, pizzerias, and restaurants, it's all here at our fingertips. Now, The Corner Office restaurant and martini bar in downtown Denver gives me one more reason to love being gluten-free in the Mile High City.

The Corner Office isn't exactly new - it opened in 2007 to rave reviews - but it's gluten-free menu is hot off the presses. (TCO is part of the Sage Restaurant Group. I wrote about Second Home Kitchen and Bar, another Sage restaurant in Denver, for Cairn, an online magazine about all things Colorado. I won't rehash the background on SRG here...if you're interested, check out my article in Cairn here.)

TCO invited Kelli and me to sample the new gluten-free menu, and we were happy to accept the invitation this past Friday night. Here's what we found:

The Corner Office caters to three main crowds: the pre-theater crowd, the happy hour set, and dinner guests from the Curtis Hotel upstairs. Rapidly increasing demand from customers for gluten-free offerings prompted the restaurant to develop a GF menu, which at the moment is in its relative infancy. At present, choices are somewhat limited (just three entrees for dinner, for example). However, it is a GF menu, no matter how large or small, and it does nicely span the menu spectrum, including a selection of appetizers, entrees and desserts. In addition, Executive Chef Jeff Bolton mentioned that he's very interested in expanding the GF menu in the near future. "I didn't want people to come in looking for gluten-free entrees, and have the servers point to three items on our entire menu," he says. This is great news, and I expect that as TCO expands its GF menu, those increased offerings will pay dividends...both for the restaurant, and for the patrons (like me) seeking out GF dining options.

TCO's food is internationally-inspired, with a definite lean toward Asian cuisine. We started our meal with the lemon edamame appetizer. The edamame were served warm, with a sprinkling of salt and lemon juice. The flavors were clean and it was a great start to the meal. We also shared a caesar salad - it's not strictly part of the GF menu, but by discussing the ingredients with our knowledgeable server who was also very willing to head into the back and chat with the chef, we were able to confirm that it could be prepared gluten-free sans croutons. The caesar salad was also excellent. Kelli and I can both be picky when it comes to caesar salads... we don't like when the dressing comes from a bottle, or when the component ingredients are out of balance. TCO's caesar was spot-on.

The entrees are where TCO really shined. Kelli had the grilled filet. The centerpiece of the dish was a high-quality cut of juicy, perfectly-cooked steak. It was served with a mushroom demi glace, and a side of roasted fingerling potatoes and pattypan squash. Excellent. I had the crab pad thai. It was a genuinely enormous portion - after I finished my dinner, it didn't look like I even touched the meal, and the leftovers provided lunch for both Kelli and me the next day! The crab pad thai is served with a generous portion of rice noodles, shredded carrot, cilantro, whole peanuts, bean sprouts, egg, a wedge of lime, and lump crab meat on top. For my taste, there was a little too much carrot and the peanuts would have been better crushed rather than whole. Also, the delicate and subtle flavors of the crab tend to get lost in the dish once you mix it up into the noodles. However, these are very minor criticisms, and I'm being nit-picky. Overall, the crab pad thai is superb. The flavor of the sauce was bright, and I couldn't help eating more and more of this dish until I was overly full. And it was just as good reheated the next day for lunch.

In the end, Kelli and I both give The Corner Office very high marks. As the GF menu becomes more fully developed, and as more people find out about that menu, I'd expect TCO to earn a loyal following among the gluten-free dining crowd. Take it from me - I'll be one of the first in line.

- Pete

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Happy Birthday to Me

Well, it's official. On Sunday, November 23, I turned the big 3-0. I was born on Thanksgiving, and it seems like my birthday falls on the holiday once every eleven years or so. This year wasn't that year, and my birthday passed without too much ado. I do move into another competitive age bracket for Xterra, which I think will be a good thing (though I've also heard that the 30-34 age group is the most competitive). For the most part, turning 30 wasn't nearly as traumatic as people make it out to be. In the end, this birthday, like many others, passes by as just another day, and life goes on.

On Saturday night preceding my birthday, Kelli did throw me a wonderful party with close friends here at the house. We had a pretty good crowd of nearly 20 folks, and we all enjoyed a great buffet spread of pulled pork, roasted potatoes, homemade apple sauce, and salad. Thanks to everyone that brought libations...from an assortment of wines, to a great selection of GF beers, including RedBridge, New Grist, and especially Green's!

From a culinary point of view, the highlight of the night was definitely the cake. Kelli worked her usual magic. Growing up, my birthday cake was always (and by always, I really do mean "always") an ice cream cake from Carvel. If you're from New York, or other points east, you'll know exactly the kind of cake I'm talking about: a layer of vanilla ice cream on top, a layer of chocolate ice cream on the bottom, with a layer of Carvel's signature chocolate crunchies sandwiched in between.
Of course, such cakes are off-limits for me these days, thanks to the lactose in the ice cream, and the gluten in the crunchies. But that's where Kelli stepped in...

Using a carton of chocolate frozen yogurt and another of vanilla, plus a box of Pamela's Products Dark Chocolate, Chocolate Chunk cookies (time was tight and didn't permit baking our own cookies that night!), she recreated the Carvel ice cream cake of my youth. Kelli crushed the cookies to make crunchies, and softened the frozen yogurt until it was workable. Then, using a spring-form pan (if I'm remembering correctly), Kelli layered the cake and put it in the freezer to set up. And voila! Gluten-free, lactose-friendly birthday cake!
It seems that, with a little imagination and ingenuity, anything is possible in the gluten-free world!
- Pete

Monday, November 24, 2008

Mi Casa Mexican Restaurant and Cantina, Breckenridge, CO

Last Thursday I was up in Breckenridge at Mountain Outfitters, doing a signing of my new book, Powder Ghost Towns: Epic Backcountry Turns in Colorado's Lost Ski Resorts. My friend, Maury, was in town from Vermont with a group of skiers from the Green Mountain Valley School.

We met up at the end of the Mountain Outfitters event and planned to go out to dinner in Breck, Maury's old stomping grounds. She's a vegetarian, and I'm gluten-free, but we were able to find a place to eat with relative ease. Maury recommended Mi Casa, a great little Mexican place not far off Breck's Main Street. I'm always good for Mexican, and over time, I've generally found it pretty easy to eat gluten-free at Mexican restaurants.

As we sat down at our table, our server brought out a basket of tortilla chips with a trio of salsas. I started asking some detailed questions about the ingredients in the chips and how they were prepared, when the server said, "Is gluten a problem? We have a gluten-free menu."

Wonderful! It was an unexpected and very pleasant surprise. I hadn't even thought to ask, because I (wrongly) assumed they wouldn't have a GF menu in this small mountain town. At such times it's a pleasure to be wrong.

Mi Casa's gluten-free menu was extensive. They started by bringing out a separate basket of GF tortilla chips, along with my own set of salsas, to avoid cross-contamination. For dinner, I had a delicious chicken fajita. The chicken came out on a sizzling skillet of peppers and onions, a generous portion of steamed, 100% corn tortillas, and a plate of Spanish rice, refritos, pico de gallo, and guacamole. I ate until I couldn't eat anymore, and life was good.

If you're ever up in Breck, I wouldn't hesitate to recommend stopping in at Mi Casa. At a time when I've become increasingly wary of dining out at restaurants because of some recent problems with gluten contamination, Mi Casa proved a diamond in the rough.

- Pete

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

'Tis the season?

Well, it's official. For at least the last week, at least one Denver radio station (KOSI, "Denver's Home for the Holidays") has been playing holiday music! For the record, I object. I love Christmas and the holiday season as much as the next person. But please, please please...can we reach Thanksgiving first and enjoy that holiday without Christmas trumping it?

Of course, the arrival of the holiday season also means the arrival of some delicious seasonal goodies, including egg nog. Last year, our local stores carried a selection of gluten-free, lactose-free egg nogs. But alas, they sold out before I ever had a chance to taste a sip! This year, I would act fast... we picked up two versions of GF, LF egg nog.

The first is from the folks over at Silk Soymilk. Their seasonally available nog is delicious. It's on the less-sweet side of egg nog, but the texture is smooth and creamy, and the taste is remarkably like egg nog for a product that has neither egg nor milk.

The second is from the folks at Lactaid, the makers of lactose-free milk and my saving grace: Lactaid pills. It's very sweet (almost too much so), and it's thick, creamy, and has an unbelievably smooth texture. Of course, it also has real milk and egg, and hence also has about twice the fat, twice the calories (and, some would say, twice the goodness) of the Silk version.

Our favorite? A 50-50 blend of the Silk and Lactaid egg nogs. You can't beat it. Now make haste and get yours, before it sells out!

- Pete

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Recipe: Homemade Pasta

Elsewhere on this blog we've espoused the virtues of the Tinkyada brand GF pasta. In a word, it's great. You can find all sorts of GF pastas these days, made from brown rice flour, quinoa flour, corn flour, and other base ingredients. It'll be no surprise to our regular readers, though, that we think the best pasta is the fresh stuff made from scratch at home. Here, we'll show you how we do it.

First, a note: here, we've made a fettuccine-style noodle and paired it with fresh mussels in a white wine broth, but you can just as easily use this recipe to make linguine, lasagna, and other forms of pasta. Now, for the details...

For the flour, use equal parts tapioca flour and brown rice flour, mixed well together. Add 1 1/2 tsp of xanthan gum to every two cups of flour. As a rough estimate for how much flour and egg to use, ballpark between 3/4 cup and 1 cup flour to 1 egg, per dinner serving. For example, since in this recipe we were making dinner for two people, we used a little under 2 cups of flour, and 2 eggs.

Begin by forming your flour into a mound on the counter. Then, hollow out the center of the mound in order to make a "well." Place your eggs into the well, and also add a generous dash of salt. Begin to work the eggs into the flour. I find it most effective to use the index and middle finger of one hand, swirling the egg and slowly pulling in dry flour from the perimeter.

As the egg and flour incorporate, they'll form into a beautiful dough. It should have a smooth texture, and you've added enough flour when the dough looses its tackiness.

Make sure your counter is well floured (so the dough doesn't stick), and using a rolling pin, roll out the dough ball into a broad, thin sheet.

To cut the sheet of dough into pasta noodles, you can use a long chef's knife or a pizza cutter. Do not use a hand-cranked or other pasta machine. The GF dough won't cooperate the way a traditional pasta dough would. Let the noodles set on the counter for 5 or 10 minutes to firm up slightly.

Once the noodles have set up, you can transfer them to a plate or bowl where they'll be ready to cook.

Because we're dealing with fresh pasta, the cooking time is very brief. Usually, only three to five minutes (in boiling, salted water). In this instance, we made a thicker, wider noodle, so they cooked for closer to five minutes. A thinner, narrower noodle will take less time.
Once you become proficient at making pasta from scratch, it really doesn't take any longer than using storebought pasta. Instead of taking 30 seconds to open a package, and 20 minutes to boil the noodles, you'll need about 15 minutes to make the noodles, and 5 minutes to boil them. And you'll have delicious, homemade, fresh pasta to boot!

To make the fettuccine with mussels in a white wine broth, we first de-bearded and cleaned the mussels. In a pan, we sauteed several cloves of minced garlic in olive oil and butter. To that, add equal parts water and white wine, salt and pepper to taste, and the juice from half a lemon. Bring to a boil, add the mussels, and cover. The mussels should take about 5-7 minutes to cook. You don't want to overcook or undercook mussels. Remember: if they don't open naturally on their own during the cooking process, don't eat them!

Lastly, strain your pasta and dish it out into a bowl. Add the mussels, and pour the white wine broth over the bowl. (For a more intense flavor, further reduce the broth over the stove top after you've removed the cooked mussels.) Enjoy!
- Pete

Monday, November 17, 2008's what's for dinner

Kelli and I have long been big fans of diverse ethnic cuisines. There's good, old American comfort food, of course. And then there's the Italian, Belgian, Polish and English foods of our heritage. But we also have a love for Mexican, Japanese and many more I won't list individually here.

I did, however, want to focus on Thai. We keep a few staple ingredients regularly stocked in our kitchen, and Thai makes a regular appearance on our dinner menu. There's pad thai. And coconut-red curry sauces. And a variety of stir fries. And noodle bowls, with rice noodles, chicken or shrimp, sugar snap peas, peppers, scallions, and whatever else we think to toss into the mix.

One thing that's so great about Thai cooking (aside from the flavors!) is that the component ingredients of many of the dishes are gluten-free (or easy to make that way). In the Bronski household, two companies have earned spots on our shelves and in our fridge: A Taste of Thai, and Thai Kitchen.

A Taste of Thai makes a variety of noodles, sauces, coconut milk and other ingredients. We usually keep a box each of the Rice Noodles and Extra Thin Rice Noodles in our pantry, ready to go. Each product on the web page contains a convenient link to a nutrition facts and ingredients page, where you can quickly and easily see if a given product is gluten-free.

Thai Kitchen makes a similarly wide variety of products. We especially like their red curry paste, which we find has the perfect blend of flavor and heat (spiciness). Thai Kitchen also has a central allergy information page, which lists all the company's products in an easy-to-read grid that tells you if a given product is gluten-free, dairy-free, vegan, organic, etc.

Over the coming weeks and months, you can be sure we'll be posting some new Thai recipes, and when we do, you can be just as sure that when we make those recipes at home, we'll be using ingredients from A Taste of Thai and Thai Kitchen.

- Pete

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Spud Bros.

French fries. What does the term make you think of? McDonald's, Burger King and Wendy's? Perhaps. But french fries are so much more than fast food. They're so much more...respectable. And they go by many names - french fries, pommes frites, papas fritas, chips.

My earliest memories of french fries are not of a Happy Meal, but rather at home in my mom's kitchen. She, my younger brother, Mike, and I would hand cut the potatoes, fry them in a pot of oil on the stove, bake them briefly on a paper-covered tray in the oven, and then salt them. A basket of homemade french fries was the perfect side to any dinner we were having.

I had my share of fast food french fries over the years as well, primarily in my teens and college years. Now, I can't remember the last fast food fry I ate.

But I can remember some other notable french fry experiences. Like when Kelli and I went on a high altitude mountaineering expedition to Bolivia in 2007. Bolivia is a country that cultivates more than 200 varieties of potato, and boy do they know how to turn those potatoes into some delicious papas fritas!

Now, there's a new addition to the potato list, and it's much closer to home...right here in Boulder, CO. The name is Spud Bros., and it's located just off Pearl Street's West End. They specialize in making just one thing: french fries. Spud Bros. opened very recently - so recently, in fact, that their website doesn't yet have nutritional information. That page is still under construction.

Kelli and I stopped in recently, however, and were able to get the scoop from a surprisingly knowledgeable cashier. In short, the spuds are offered in three ways: fried, half-baked (partially fried and then baked to finish), or baked. You can order two types of potatoes: regular, or sweet potato. The sweet potatoes are breaded in flour, and are NOT gluten-free. However, the regular potatoes are perfectly safe (gluten-free), and Spud Bros. uses separate friers, mixing bowls, and serving utensils in order to eliminate cross-contamination.

You can also order a dizzying array of toppings and sauces for your fries, or order from a pre-set menu of options. I haven't confirmed that every topping and sauce is gluten-free, so check before ordering.

As for the fries themselves, we ordered a Naked small, fried basket (plain, old french fries). The potatoes were thick, but not too thick. Fried to a perfect golden color. And delicious!

A basket of french fries isn't exactly lunch or dinner (no matter how much you dress them up with toppings). But if you're in the neighborhood and craving a tasty snack, definitely stop by Spud Bros. They claim to make "just maybe the world's greatest fries." That's a pretty tall claim (and big shoes to fill), but the fries are fantastic, and you won't be disappointed.

- Pete

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Cider Chicken

It's more than halfway through the fall, which means that if you look in our fridge, there's a pretty good chance you'll find a jug of apple cider. In years past, we've used apple cider to make a phenomenal cider-bacon chicken. We were craving just that dish the other night, but discovered that the package that we thought was bacon in our fridge, turned out in fact to be a package of salmon! Salmon on our chicken didn't sound remotely as good as bacon on our chicken, so we switched our game plan...

Instead, we made a straight cider chicken, which involved two boneless, skinless chicken breasts, sauteed onions, and a sauce made from apple cider, chicken stock and a little barbeque sauce. When using chicken stock in gluten-free cooking, you have to be extremely wary. Unless you've made the chicken stock yourself, there's a good chance gluten has made its way into the product. Almost all chicken bouillon, and many chicken stocks, are not safe to eat.

One exception is the Pacific Natural Foods chicken broth. It's organic, free range, low sodium, and gluten-, wheat- and cassein-free. What's more, though you can buy it in large quantities, it's also sold in packages of four 8-ounce servings. We normally like to buy the larger volume of a product in order to decrease the garbage waste from excess packaging that comes with lots of smaller items of the same thing. But in this instance, we go for the four 8-ounce containers. We found that, with the larger size, we would use some of the chicken broth, but then have lots left over that we either had to use right away, or throw out because it went bad. With the smaller sizes, we use one at a time, and the rest stays fresh and good to go until it's needed. No wasted food/broth to throw away, and that's a good thing. So, we highly recommend the Pacific Natural Foods chicken broth.

We complemented our cider chicken with roasted potatoes and zucchini, and voila! Delicious dinner.

- Pete

Monday, November 10, 2008

Steamboat Springs, CO

This past weekend Kelli and I traveled up to Steamboat Springs to celebrate our five-year wedding anniversary, and to get some much needed rest and relaxation. Visiting Steamboat each fall has become something of an annual tradition for us. We moved to Colorado in September 2004, and that first November out West, we spent our one-year anniversary in Jackson, Wyoming. Since then, we've celebrated our anniversary in different ways and different places, but we've always made the three-hour drive from Boulder to Steamboat sometime thereabouts. This year, we were happy to be in Steamboat for the actual date of our anniversary.

From the outset, the trip had a little more adventure than we bargained for. As we were passing through the Kremmling area, I realized that the back left tire of the Jeep was running exceptionally low. Further inspection revealed a busted valve stem, and the tire couldn't hold pressure. But at the late hour we were passing through, no shops in Kremmling were open. I swapped out the tire for the spare donut, and then faced down a 50-plus mile drive from Kremmling to Steamboat, with not much but wild country in between. (Let's just say I'm finally going to put a full-size spare in the Jeep.)

We made it to Steamboat, and the next morning, had the Jeep's tire fixed. We went to the Big O Tires in Steamboat. They took great care of us. If you're in Steamboat, or just passing through, and have tire needs, please give them your business. I know we'll go back there in a heartbeat if there's ever a need.

On a previous visit to Steamboat, we had a wonderful anniversary dinner at Cafe Diva, a great restaurant at the base of the resort. They have an extensive wine collection, and while they don't have a gluten-free menu, by explaining my needs to an attentive and knowledgeable server, they were able to accomodate my gluten-free needs no problem. (I had a delicious elk tenderloin for my main entree.)

This time around, we opted to stay in and cook a romantic dinner for ourselves in the condo. After a quick shopping run to the local Safeway supermarket, we settled into our accomodations for the weekend. For dinner, we made a roasted whole chicken (with lemon and butter inserted under the skin to impart extra flavor to the meat), and roasted red potatoes and carrots. Dessert was a basic apple crisp, made with Granny Smith apples.

The rest of the weekend was spent lounging, watching movies, reading, doing crossword puzzles, walking around downtown and poking our head into shops, and taking a short hike to Fish Creek Falls, a popular local attraction just a few miles outside of town. Our downtown strolling included a visit to the Epilogue Book Company, where I'll be doing a slide show and book signing on December 2. My newest book, Powder Ghost Towns: Epic Backcountry Runs in Colorado's Lost Ski Resorts, is officially out, and I'll be traveling around Colorado doing a series of slide shows, signings, talks and other events. If you're in Colorado and interested in attending an event, I'm updating my website here with the latest info. If you're not local and/or want more information about the book, check out my website here.

But enough about that! Back to Steamboat... our stay was great, and Kelli and I are eagerly looking forward to the next five (gluten-free) years together. Oh, and did I mention that Steamboat was expecting eight inches of fresh snow last night through today? Ski season is upon us! Rejoice!

- Pete

Friday, November 7, 2008

Stuffed Peppers...without the peppers?

Don't you love it when inspiration strikes in the kitchen? You think up new recipes, and new combinations of flavors, and the result is fun and exciting. Or, maybe it just means that things didn't go exactly according to plan. The latter was our experience this week!

During our weekly shop, we had picked up a beautiful red bell pepper, and a package of chorizo, with the idea of making stuffed peppers for dinner one night this week. Then our plans took a turn. Earlier this week, we made tacos for dinner, with fresh corn tortillas made from scratch. But rather than use our usual ground turkey for the meat, we made a blend of about two thirds ground turkey, and one third chorizo. On top of that, we made an executive decision to sacrifice most of the red pepper for the sake of making peppers and onions to put on our tacos.

Last night, when it was time for dinner, our decision earlier in the week left us with some chorizo, and almost no pepper to speak of! It was stuffed pepper night, and there wasn't a pepper in the house. Undeterred, Kelli worked her magic in the kitchen. She cooked up some jasmine rice, chorizo, tomatoes (no salt added, diced, peeled), chopped onion, and a blend of herbs and spices. The result was delicious, and the picture above doesn't nearly do the flavor and texture of the dish justice. Stuffed in a pepper and baked in the oven, it's even better - the top gets a nice crunchy texture, while the inside stays nice and moist. Next time...

This weekend, we're off to Steamboat Springs for our fifth anniversary. Have a wonderful weekend! We'll see you next week!

- Pete

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Recipe: Strawberry Shortcake

If there's one thing we've learned over time, it's that gluten-free desserts can be just a delicious as their gluten-filled counterparts. And this strawberry shortcake recipe is the perfect example. Ours is based off the Better Homes & Gardens version, which we've modified to make GF.

2 cups GF flour
1/4 cup sugar
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 cup butter
1 beaten egg
2/3 cup milk

  • In a bowl, stir together sugar, flour and baking powder.
  • Cut in the butter until mixture resembles coarse crumbs.
  • Combine the egg and milk, and add it to the dry ingredients.
  • Stir just enough to fully moisten dough.
  • Spread batter into a greased eight-inch round baking pan.
  • Bake in preheated 450-degree oven for 18 minutes. (Check to make sure it's done by inserting a wooden toothpick. It should come out clean.)
To top off the dessert, slice strawberries and mix them in a bowl with a liberal sprinkling of sugar. Let them set for a bit before putting them over the top of a slice of shortcake. For an added bonus, make some fresh whipped cream for the ultimate dessert! Enjoy!

- Pete

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Come Out, Come Out, Wherever You Are

My recent fiasco with gluten contamination has got me thinking about hidden sources of gluten. Over time, Kelli and I have gotten pretty adept at knowing where gluten tends to hide, and how to find it and avoid. But there are times when it can be difficult, if not impossible, to sort out the truth in answering what should be a simple question: Is there gluten in this food or not? Chocolate provides a perfect case in point.

On the positive end of the spectrum, you have Oregon's Dagoba Organic Chocolate. In a word, it's gluten-free. Period. End of story. As an added bonus, the company is big on environmental and social responsibility, an initiative they call Full Circle Sustainability.

Moving across the spectrum, however, the gluten question becomes increasingly difficult to decipher. Take, for example, Ghirardelli Chocolate. Their informative, but potentially confusing, allergen information page lists literally twelve permutations of "these products contain x, y and z allergens, and are made on equipment that also processes a, b and c allergens." You have to read down through the list and search for wheat/gluten as both a primary ingredient, and also as a possible source of cross-contamination. It seems easy, however, to make a mistake in reading that complicated list, and with all those cross-contaminating permutations going on, how confident can you really be that a supposedly gluten-free chocolate truly is so?

Then there's the case of Lindt Switzerland Maitre Chocolatier. They have a very useful and seemingly straightforward list of gluten-free chocolates, available as a PDF. However, that PDF says the gluten-free information applies to products in the Swiss market only. Does this mean that Lindt products in the American market can't be assuredly gluten-free? What's more, the allergen portion of the Lindt website, in discussing nut and lactose allergies/intolerances, says: "all our products are produced at the same premises. Even after intensive cleaning, we are unable to completely rule out the risk of particles of milk and nuts being contained in products which do not contain these ingredients. In the event of severe allergic reactions, we recommend you consult your doctor." Wouldn't this same concern then apply to gluten?

Lastly, you have companies like Hershey's and Nestle. Hershey's allergen information says to check the labels on a given product, since their recipes and machinery and processes change often, and the labels will have the most up to date information. Can't they provide a centralized source of information? Just over a year ago, Gluten-free Steve got on the phone with Hershey's trying to track down an answer. He eventually got it, but who knows how many of those recipes Hershey's has changed since then! And with Nestle, the nutritional information for the popular Crunch bar is equally problematic. On the one hand, they say that it may (emphasis mine) contain gluten from barley malt, and is made on equipment that also processes wheat. But then, two paragraphs later, they definitively say that the Crunch bar uses rice crisps that have barley malt, so couldn't the gluten question be answered with nothing more than a "yes, it has gluten?"

Alas, one of my favorite chocolates - the Guylian seashells, a Belgian hazelnut chocolate truffle - is now off-limits for me. That bad news is right here on their website. One product contains gluten, and many others contain traces of gluten.

While I lament the off-limits nature of my beloved Guylian, and praise the wonderfully gluten-free and delicious chocolates of Dagoba, in the end, the whole "hidden sources of gluten" issue for me comes down to three things: disclosure, transparency, and clarity. All three things are inter-related. Quite simply, all I ask of companies is that they tell us what's in our food, do so openly and honestly, and say it in a way that is clear and understandable to the consumer. Nothing more, but certainly nothing less. The best companies do that admirably, and they earn my business for it (if they're gluten-free, of course! for the ones with gluten, I still respect you). The worst companies leave us mired in a sea of uncertainty, and uncertainty quite frankly equates to a risk I'm not willing to take. The consequences aren't worth it.

- Pete

Monday, November 3, 2008

Recipe: Coconut Macaroons

This recipe for coconut macaroons is great for two reasons: 1) it's delicious, and 2) it's naturally gluten-free. And with only four ingredients, it's delightfully simple!

2 egg whites
1 tsp vanilla
2/3 cup sugar
1-2 cups flaked/shredded, sweetened coconut

  • Whip the egg whites and vanilla in a mixer until soft peaks form
  • Add the sugar - 1 tbsp at a time - to the egg whites and vanilla while continuing to whip until stiff peaks form
  • Fold the coconut into the stiff egg whites (use more coconut if you like it, use less if you want more meringue)
  • Use a spoon or scoop to turn out small balls of the batter onto a cookie sheet
  • Bake in a 325-degree oven for 20 minutes until the tops are lightly brown
  • Enjoy!

A quick word of caution: to eliminate the possibility that gluten will find its way into this GF treat, make sure you're using a GF vanilla extract. We recommend Rodelle.

- Pete