So Many Options

Gluten-free, dairy-free, egg-free Cuban Sandwich

One thing you get used to when going out to eat with food allergies and intolerances is not having many options.  In my case, that is sometimes a good thing.  Like when I’m hangry.  I can’t make decisions when I’m hangry.  If I have too many options when hangry, I get hangrystrated.

A fellow blogger shared a pic from Hugo’s Restaurant this Summer when two of the locations started serving gluten-free pizza crust.  I wish I could give the fellow blogger credit for the share, but I can’t remember who it was.  I went back on several Facebook pages looking for it and couldn’t find it.  So, if you were the one who shared the picture and are reading this…THANK YOU!

Our first day on vacation in Los Angeles that we truly had no plans for was a much-needed rest day.   We were so unprepared to do anything that lunchtime hit and we had to make a decision fast where to go.  I suggested Hugo’s and since Dawn knew exactly where the Studio City location is and we didn’t have to look it up, we hopped in her vehicle and headed over.

New York Style Blueberry Cheesecake – gluten-free, vegan

Chaz and I had checked out the menu online before we even left Ohio, so I knew there would be options.  Looking at the physical menu put it in a different perspective.  I had a lot of options.  It’s not often that I go out to eat and have so many options, especially with the new-found egg allergy.  There were still lots of options even after quizzing our server.  I decided on the Cuban sandwich pictured.  That is gluten-free, dairy-free, egg-free bread.  Good stuff that sandwich.

This is where it got fun.  Okay.  Fun for me.  Not for Chaz and Dawn as they sat there waiting for me to figure it out.  I ordered dessert.  To go.  Dessert.  This is usually a no-option thing at restaurants.  It wasn’t a bowl of fruit either.  I’m not opposed to fruit for dessert, but sometimes you want something sinfully decadent.

I ordered the New York Style Blueberry Cheesecake and the Brownie Tort.  There are eight desserts on the menu.  Only one is not gluten-free.  Five of them are vegan.

Brownie Tort – gluten-free, vegan

We took off with my desserts in hand and ran to Ralph’s before going home so Dawn could pick up Little Obi Wan.

I tried the cheesecake first.  Thick.  Rich.  Just the right amount of sweetness.  You would never know the filling was made from white sweet potato and cashews.  Next time I’m there.  This will be a must.  Have I mentioned how much I love cheesecake?  I would take cheesecake over cake or pie any day.   Just let’s not mention that famous restaurant chain, shall we?  I’m still boycotting them for never responding to me.

The Brownie Tort was insane.  It’s made with pecans, but you can’t even taste them.  It is topped with a fudge frosting that is super thick and I suspect made with avocados.  It isn’t close to death by chocolate but completely is death by chocolate.  If you know what I mean.  I’m just glad I had a cup of coffee with it.  Oh, did I forget to tell you I ate it for breakfast?  It was vacation and it is full of whole foods.  Totally justifiable.





The Booker Award – My Five Favorite Books

My friend, Katie, decided to tag me with The Booker Award.  In Katie’s words, “The Booker is an award that’s passed from author to author (or blogger to blogger, or author to blogger, or… well, you get the idea), so that everyone can select and share their favorite five books.”  It was started by Amy Whelan of Youthful Yogini.

Katie is a Twitter friend and fellow writer.  You may have seen my tweets to her full of YouTube links.  We tend to share videos with each other of songs we love or great covers of songs we love, awesome collaborations, and exposing each other to music we haven’t heard before.  Then there are the video wars.  The wars where we share the most awful videos of the most dreadful songs.   You know the songs.  The ones that get stuck in your head despite your desire to forget the song ever existed.  Yes, those.  My tendency to give her the best of the worst has earned me the #evilwench title.  I wear it proud.

Aside from our tweeting antics, Katie is a very talented writer.  She does fabulous posts weekly that are either bits of life lessons, parts of the writing process, the role of books and characters in our lives, or a snippet of a story.  Her Little Blue Box story is great.  You know what they say about a woman scorned?  Exactly.  Okay, so the character isn’t over-the-top like you’d see on TV or the movies.  But it’s simple and gets the point across.  Fast.

What?  Enough about Katie and get to the books?

If I must.

This is truly a hard one for me.  I love books.  How do I pick just five of them to share with you as my favorite?  One of them was a no-brainer.  I’ve loved the book since I was in 7th grade and read it many times.  Can you spot it in the picture before I tell you about it?

My five favorite books

V by A.C. Crispin. There wasn’t really a “teen” genre when I was growing up.  I went from reading Judy Blume, Carolyn Keene, A.A. Milne, and Laura Ingalls Wilder straight to the likes of V, Shogun, and other adult novels.  This is where my love for sci-fi went from watching to reading.  I can’t tell you how many times I’ve read the book.  I lost count long ago.  In case you were wondering, I read it before watching the mini-series.

Kitchen by Banana Yoshimoto.  First off, Banana Yoshimoto’s books are all translated into English from Japanese.  That makes the poignancy of her writing even more sublime.  You can see how small the book is.  She is proof that you don’t need a lot of words to get your point across.  And she gets them across sharply on any subject.  With Kitchen it is all about death and loss.  Keep tissues nearby if you decide to read it.

Cinder by Marissa Meyer.  I picked up this book at Barnes & Noble on a lark.  I already had what I wanted in my hand and was wandering the store as I usually do.  Just to see what’s out.  And there Cinder was.  Out.  Alone on a table.  I checked out the synopsis on the dust jacket and thought, why not?  I honestly didn’t expect to like it as much as I turned out to love it.  I adore twists on fairy tales, legends, and stories.  Gregory Maguire?  Love him for what he’s done with all the old childhood favorites.  Marissa Meyer?  I’m in love with what she did with Cinderella.  And sci-fi.  Yes.  She blended Cinderella with sci-fi.  My favorite fairy tale with my favorite reading genre.  She has a sequel due next year.  I’m anxiously awaiting the release.

Taliesin by Stephen R. Lawhead.  This is the first book in the Pendragon Cycle.  I picked it up before starting college and slowly read it my first semester between all the studying and all the partying.  It is the book that triggered the love for spins on tales, especially spins on King Arthur.  This book goes back before Arthur was born.  Back before Merlin was born.  It ties the legend of Merlin and King Arthur to Atlantis in a marvelous tale of beginnings, love, and loss.

House by Frank Peretti & Ted Dekker.  Car breaks down in the backwoods of nowhere and all the characters can find is one lone house.  But what is with the house?  Is it haunted?  Is it alive?  Are the owners crazy?  These are the questions that you ask yourself while reading and you don’t want to put the book down until your questions are answered.  Frank Peretti & Ted Dekker are master wordsmiths in supernatural thrillers in which there is always the subtext of God (but not always in your face), his love for us, and how we exercise our free will.

I purposefully did not choose any food related books because I have too many friends with cookbooks.  Can’t let them think I like one more than the other, because  that wouldn’t be true!

Happy now, Katie?

I am tagging four of my blogging friends:

Dawn of This Side of Typical – My best friend in real the real world and mother of my adorable nephew, Little Obi-Wan.

Laura of LMD Studio – My silly sissy and fellow creative soul.  She’s so awesome she designed my header and logo for the blog.

Hannah of Wayfaring Chocolate – I love reading about Hannah’s travels, chocolate indulgences, and her take on life.  I also happen to know she loves Laura Ingalls Wilder.

jillsmo of Yeah. Good Times. – Always ready for a glass of wine and always ready to draw pictures for her readers and friends.

Adopt-A-Gluten-Free-Blogger: The Canary Files

It seems like a long time since I participated in the Adopt-A-Gluten-Free-Blogger event.  At least a year.  For those of you new to this event, AAGFB was started by Sea Maiden of Book of Yum.  This month, it is being hosted by Kate of Eat Recycle Repeat while Sea is still in Japan.  *waves to Sea from across the sea*  The event is a great way to learn about gluten-free bloggers you haven’t seen before or maybe keep hearing about but forget to check.

Saying I’ve been busy is accurate, yet not.  My busy-ness has been me keeping my feet on ice, elevated, and stretched out to help fight the inflammation from getting worse.  Most days it sucks the life right out of me and it’s all I can do to make dinner.

So, when I saw the adoptions for this month were open, I jumped in without thought of the extra work it would be.  I only needed one dish.  Surely I can manage one dish for dinner.  Right?  Right!

I adopted Jonathon of The Canary Files.  Have you heard of Jonathan?  No?  You have now.

I remember discovering Johnathan a while back and I started following him.  Then something happened and I stopped getting his posts on my Twitter and Facebook.  Plus, I had a hard time keeping up with all the email notifications of blog posts from everyone I was following.  In a fit of frustration I unsubscribed to almost every blog I follow.   Harsh?  Well, it was what I needed at the time.  No worries.  I’m subscribed again.  Still can’t keep up either.

Anyway.  One day this past Spring or Summer, a post of his popped up on my Facebook feed.  I did a, “Hey!  Long time no see his posts!”  Which was funny because I was thinking about him.  Since then we’ve gotten to know each other a bit better.  I feel like I found another brother and a kindred spirit.  He is one of the handful of male gluten-free bloggers in our blogosphere and he’s a fellow Filipino.  It’s like finding that sock that went missing in the laundry years ago and you kept the mate in hopes of finding the missing piece.  He recently was in the Philippines visiting family and I discovered he was in Ilocos Norte, the province just North of where my dad was born (Ilocos Sur).  Small world right?

I seriously get a big smile when I see he has a new post even if I can’t read it right away.   Then there are the moments when I read his post or see an Instagram photo and leave him a, “Get out of my head!” comment because it was something I was just thinking about making.  Or some variation of it.  One day, we will be able to cook in the same kitchen.  ONE DAY!  Until then, here’s a few things I made.  Yes, I managed to do more than one.  Go me!

A huge part of Filipino families is food.  Being in the kitchen together to fix the meal together and eating together.  You walk into a Filipino home and the first thing you are asked is if you are hungry or what you want to eat.  Something along those lines.  After my grandmother passed earlier this year, one of the stories being shared with the same theme going around our family was how kids in the family would go see my grandma and immediately go for the refrigerator or pantry.  No asking needed.  If another adult scolded them, my grandmother would just laugh because the kids knew there was no need to ask her.   When I’d fly over to visit for some weekends in college, she would always have my favorite dish of hers waiting for me.

The best I could get with the low light on the DSLR. Ginisang Munggo.

One of my big food memories is Grandma Cion’s (my grandfather’s sister) munggo beans (mung beans).  It seemed like every time I went to her house (we lived on the same island), she always had munggo beans.  Her munggo beans were mostly mashed with marungay leaves (small dark green leaves) mixed in.  We always ate them on top of rice.  Jonathan tweeted about making munggo beans a little over a month ago.  The food memories came back.  I knew he wasn’t making the same thing, but I anticipated the post.   What he came up with was akin to a Top Chef challenge when the judges ask for the cheftestants to cook for them based on a food memory.  His Ginisang Munggo (Sauteed Mung Beans) was the taste I remembered amped up to a whole new culinary level.

A food writer and friend, John Heckathorn, once described Filipino food as home cooking when trying to pin down why there aren’t more Filipino restaurants back home.  Hawai`i is full of Chinese, Japanese, Vietnamese, Korean, Thai, etc. restaurants.  But Filipino restaurants are few and far between.  We don’t go out to eat Filipino food.  We go home or we fix it ourselves.  It’s like Asia’s soul food.  It’s just not the same coming from a restaurant.  Yet there is a younger generation out there bringing Filipino food to the masses via food trucks on the West Coast.  I tell you all this because I’m betting most of you haven’t even heard of Filipino food unless you happened to catch one of my recipes as I posted it.  Jonathan took this simple “home cooked” dish and elevated it to the level of fine dining.  My picture doesn’t even do his dish justice. Just take a look at his picture.

Gluten-free Vegan Crepes with Dreamy Chocolate Hazelnut Spread

I made the next dish on a whim.  He tweeted a picture of his gluten-free vegan crepes the weekend before my birthday.  Forget pancakes on my birthday!  I’m going to make crepes!  Wait.  I’ve never made crepes before.  But, I’m an expert home chef.  I CAN DO THIS!   I’ll use the Dreamy Chocolate Hazelnut Spread I’ve been making and make a sauteed ginger apple concoction.  Best birthday breakfast ever!

My crepes were turning out gummy and messy and there was no way they were going to be blog worthy.  I thought I was going to take a picture of the gloppy mess and tell you, I tried.  I was fast running out of batter and was on my second pan.  I was frustrated and gave up on even trying to make the sauteed ginger apple concoction.  Finally, I got it.  I figured exactly when to turn the crepe.

They crepes were chewy, pliable, and just as Jonathan says, eggy.  I don’t get how either, but they were eggy.  I was in egg heaven without the accompanying itchiness it would have caused me.  They were still the same the next day after warming them, too.  I made sure to place parchment paper between each crepe before I put them in the refrigerator.

The gummy mess.  I put a mess of the Dreamy Chocolate Hazelnut Spread all over it and ate it.  It was just as good.  Just not as pretty.

Jonathan’s crepe recipe comes with his recipe for lumpia filling.  Lumpia is the Filipino spring roll.  Back home, it’s the first thing gone.  Get it while you can because it doesn’t last.  Even when I make it just for me and Chaz.  It never lasts.   His version is unfried, thus the use of the crepes as a wrapper.  My version is fried, which is why I don’t make it often.

Pancit Bihon

Lastly, I made Jonathan’s Pancit Bihon.  Pancit is a stir fry of noodles, vegetables, and depending on the cooking, chicken or pork.  This is another dish that everyone always had in the refrigerator.  Never underestimate a Filipino’s willingness to eat pancit with sticky rice.  It does happen.  I’ve done it.  I don’t do it anymore, but that’s how I grew up.  When I was doing all the cooking while still living with my parents, my father insisted that I make rice if I was making a pasta dish.  Rice was a must at every meal no matter what was being served.

There is something about pancit though.  There’s a flavor to it that you don’t find in other Asian dishes.  I goofed a little and didn’t use more broth even though I used more noodles so they were a bit sticky.  However, they had that flavor.  I’m not ashamed to say that I would make just the noodles to have that taste of home because while I was eating the dish, that flavor of the noodles was what I wanted.  To say I’m in love with this dish is an understatement.

I don’t have pictures of two other things I made of Jonathan’s before the AAGFB event for the month was posted.  His Curried Gluten-free Vegan Tortillas were just as pliable as he says and did not break the day after either.   I made his Cantaloupe Ginger Granita not long after he posted it.  It was one of those get-out-of-my-head moments.   It is based on a Filipino drink made from cantaloupe and calamansi (Filipino lime) I was thinking about making for the heat of Summer.  I had some frozen calamansi concentrate and used that in place of the lemon juice.  If you know you can find calamansi in your area, go for it.  Otherwise, just use lemon juice.  I can find some pretty difficult to find Asian foods here thanks to Jungle Jim that even the large Asian supermarket doesn’t carry, but calamansi and marungay leaves still remain evasive in Cincinnati.

Check out Jonathan and The Canary Files.  You won’t be sorry.   At all.  I mean it.  I’ll hunt you down if you don’t.

And now, I must get dinner together.

Mangantayon!  (Let’s eat!)