The Great Chicago Gluten Free Challenge

There are a few facts I know about my dearest friend Jon Beebe when I’m cooking for him.

  1. No beef or pork.  Side note: Not a fan of cutting meat off the bone.
  2. Allergies to bananas, mushrooms, and shellfish.
  3. Dairy sensitivity

Late last year he had to add this to the list.

4. Gluten Free

Knowing very little about this diet I found myself roaming the Whole Foods Gluten Free aisle.  I gave him a bag worth of random products over the holidays with the message…

Merry Christmas my dear friend.

Now eat something.

Cooking for Jon has always been a healthy challenge, but Gluten Free? This felt out of my comfort zone. So when he visited me this month, I wanted to commit to making some meals at home.  I bought a cookbook called “Cooking For Isaiah” to help me through the weekend.

 

What a culinary savor.

Seriously.

I made some of the easiest recipes to play it as safe as possible.  Here is the quick overview:

Cinnamon-Toasted Belgian Waffles

“I wouldn’t haven known it was gluten free.” – Jon

 I doubled the recipe, and in my massive Kitchen Aid waffle maker, it only made 5. But it was enough. I like my waffles a tad bit crispy, so I would up the cooking by 45 seconds.

Puffy Peach Pancake Pie with Caramel Maple Syrup

“Peaches compliment this perfectly.” – Jon

I was worried that these would be too sugary, but they weren’t.

Penny’s Apple-Brown Sugar Coffee Cake

“I loved them all, but this this one is my favorite.” – Jon

I kept thinking that there wasn’t enough batter, but it turned out beautifully. It came together in a snap.

Asparagus Risotto Casserole

“MmmMmm!” – My hubby who’s not even Gluten Free

I marinated and grilled some chicken to compliment this recipe. It was filling and full of flavor. Next time I would cut the asparagus smaller or work different veggies in the mix.

We also went out to a few new places:

Ranalli’s:

Jon raved it’s the best gluten free pizza crust he’s had so far– even more than Buddy’s GF version. Which caught my husband’s attention: he likes Buddy’s GF crust as much as their regular crust.

Mity Nice:

Gluten Free Cheese Puffs? OMGeeeeeee! We loved these. Jon also happily consumed these with his club sandwich.

Tank Noodle:

Tank Noodle doesn’t have a Gluten Free menu like the others, but Jon was dreaming about dish number V154 from his last trip.

Rice noodle curry tofu with taro, onion, cilantro, coconut milk. Nom! Instead of the noodles he ordered it with rice. Just as magical for the taste buds as he hoped it would be.

Bistro 110:

Gluten Free Squash Soup? Yum. Gluten Free drinking options? Yes, you have our attention. Just when this feast was looking up, Jon bit into his trout dish and had to send it back. He ended up getting the ½ of chicken and he was pleased with that.  I also would like to note that our non-gluten free dishes were delicious.  I haven’t found a bolognese that matched my grandmothers so closely.

With that, it looks like Bistro 110 is undergoing some changes. Hope their new chapter continues to show love for the Gluten Free folks.

Mia Francecsa

Jon had the Linguine Aglio Olio… The Quinoa gluten-free linguine was much different in texture than he expected, but he did enjoy it.

Until Jon visits again, I’ll have to keep my eye out for the next must-eat places.

I know The Peninsula will be on our list. Look at that view!

The Chicago Food[ie] Tour[ist]

I have a minor confession.

My knowledge on where to eat in Chicago, outside my neighborhood, is extremely limited. We’re talking a minor step above tourist-status. Instead of putting on a fanny pack and heading to the Cheesecake Factory I realized it was time to admit something. *sigh*

I needed help.

Foodie support.

For Pete’s sake, I’ve been living here for 2 ½ years already.

At first, I thought that I could do this on my own.

I gathered Ms. Worthy and Ms. Quinn and created an unofficial grilled cheese tour.*

I made up two tours after researching for a couple of hours. We picked one and went on our cheese-filled adventure.  It was an excellent and delicious afternoon.

But we did it wrong. We only made it to two places because we were so full. I came home, after I consumed my daily calories in 3 hours, feeling like I could scratch the surface better.

I needed some professional help. I turned to the Chicago Planet Food Tours to show me how it’s done right.

The DH and I went on the Buck Town/Wicker Park tour.

We’re still talking about:

1.  My husband added celery salt to the grocery list after going to George’s Hot Dogs.

2.  Brewpub? Okay Piece, you have our attention. We’ll be back [very] soon.

3.  We’ve had plenty of Falafel since we’ve been here, but Sultan’s Market is by far the best we’ve had.

4.  I am so impressed by the use of Kitchen Aids in iCream. I love that it’s a build your own combo place. I like that flavor challenge.

5. How soon can we do the new Chinatown tour?

 

*Unofficial Grilled Cheese Tour
1. Birchwood Kitchen: Amazing sandwich. Best part? They split our grilled cheese in three. Now that’s service.

2. Hot Chocolate: Oh. My. Yum.  On all levels.

3. The Handlebar: We didn’t make it here… but I hope to try it out soon.

On a budget? I know we are. Which reminds me to check out http://daycations.co/ very, very soon.

Bonus: Currently they are promoting a free South Loop Tour.

Salt N Pepa – S(ho)oup

Cold Days… Hot Soups… Soup, baby, soup! :oP

Heh.

Goal: I need to re-fall in love with my slow cooker again.

 And I think I found some new inspiration.

http://crockpot365.blogspot.com/2008/06/crockpot-broccoli-and-three-cheese-soup.html

CrockPot Broccoli and Three-Cheese Soup Recipe

Thank you Stephanie!  Ahhhmazing.  Made it for the rents when they were in town and everyone was a member of the clean plate club. (It made great leftovers for lunch also. Bought enough cheese to make it twice.)  Picked up a fresh loaf of bread from Swedish Bakery in Andersonville for $1.80.

http://www.swedishbakery.com/

I’ll tell you why this place is absolutely fantastic. We decided to pick up about six beautiful pastries to go with our Starbucks coffee- and a loaf of bread- and it cost us under 12 dollars. I thought they made a mistake at the cash register. No. It’s just that amazing and that cheap.  I wish the place were big enough to sit down and enjoy.

 

Are you... um... going to finish that?

Are you... um... going to finish that?

Another new meal last week:

Soba Soup with Spinach (From this month’s Martha Stewart, Everyday Food)

 

) Thank you Martha!

Dinner in 30ish minutes 🙂 Thank you Martha!

2 tablespoons of vegetable oil

12 ounces of shitake mushrooms (stems removed) & caps thinly sliced

4 scallions, white and green (parts separated and thinly sliced)

1 garlic clove, minced (you know I minced like 4 though…)

1 tablespoon peeled and minced fresh ginger

coarse salt (I used sea salt)

2 cans (14.5 ounces each) of reduced sodium chicken broth. (But me being veggie friendly, I used veggie broth)

½ package (4.4 ounces) soba noodles (Japanese buckwheat noodles)

Couple handfuls of flat leaf spinach, torn

2 tablespoons fresh lime juice

1 tablespoon soy sauces (realized we didn’t have any yet in the house- so we used teriyaki sauce

 

Directions:

1.     In large saucepan, heat oil over medium. Add mushrooms, scallions (whites) garlic and ginger. Season with salt. Cook, stirring occasionally, until mushrooms are tender. Around 6 minutes.

Add broth and 3 cups of water; bring to a boil. Add soba; reduce to a simmer, and cook 5 minutes. Add spinach; cook until tender- about a minute. Add lime juice and soy sauce.  Serve topped with scallion green.

Enjoy!

The hubby said he would of loved some shrimp in it. May do that next time. I thought left overs were fantastic! 🙂 Another winner! 

Unpacking my Spoons

I have a new kitchen.

Well, to expand on that – we have a new place, and a new city to call home- Chicago. We moved here last week for a job opportunity. I will always be a Detroiter at heart, but I have to say so far, being “Chicagoan” is pretty fun. My new job allows me to surround myself with cooking and baking. So, to say the least, I’m pretty excited. 🙂  The hubby and I are getting our little flat in Andersonville (In North Chicago) looking like “home”.  I hope to be entertaining family and close friends by next weekend.

Hmmm, so what have I have I made lately? Oh! Last night- the hubby and I were both exhausted after long days- so I threw a can of drained black beans, garlic salt, onion powder and some olive oil in a skillet for three minutes.  Then I added small can of drained and pre-sliced black olives, a couple handfuls of shredded cheese and about 5 oz salsa. Serve with tortilla chips. Yum! Dinner in 5 minutes.

Beautiful!

Beautiful!

Today one of my coworkers and I went to the Carnivale- a fantastic and lively Latino restaurant in the West Loop. Even on a cold Chicago day- this place feels like perfect summer gathering. The use of bright colors and the lively music- my oh my- it made want to dance in my seat!
I felt a little limited in my vegetarian friendly meal choices but eh, I realize I feel like that everywhere I go.
I had the fish tacos, which were excellent. And the guacamole is a must have appetizer. And I couldn’t get over how delicious my Arnie Palmer was- honestly it was the BEST I think I ever had. Portions were a good size- plan to have leftovers. Service was friendly. Ask them about the story behind their short ties.

Actually, while we were there we were able to meet Jerry Kleiner, the owner the place. It was fun chatting it up with him.  Being from Detroit, I didn’t realize he actually owns multiple restaurants.  Hmmm- J and I might need to go on some field trips. After trying Carnivale, I would dine at any of Kleiner’s establishments.

http://www.carnivalechicago.com/