Herb & Cheese Soufflé

SOUFFLE

I can’t believe I have not posted on this blog in over a month. The time has gone by so quickly. There are so many items I have every intention to post about, so many recipes, but taking the half hour to sit down and do it is another matter. Apologies to my readers.

A quick update on my diet: Over the last month, I was doing fairly well at eating gluten free. I would stay away from all things gluten except maybe one item each day. This led to my hitting bottom again on the “feel good” scale. So this past weekend, I have started a 3-week cleanse and am 100% gluten free during this time. Once this is over, I have to be more conscious of what I’m putting in my mouth and how often I am doing so. The problem with being able to eat it occasionally, I need to make sure my occasionally is not equaling everyday as it was.

Last night, I was tired and not feeling like making anything too labor intensive or time consuming. After a quick search online, I found a recipe called Skillet Soufflé. What a great quick recipe that is extremely versatile! It has a chewy bottom layer, a light fluffy center and the top was crispy. The whole dinner took less than 20 minutes from beginning to end – and yes a real 20 minutes. Sometimes I find that the time on recipes doesn’t reflect how long it takes me to make them. I served it with a quick salad and it was perfect.

The recipe calls for goat cheese and I thought I had some but alas didn’t so I substituted Gruyère instead. I knew I did not have any fresh chives but that I had a much of other fresh herbs so purposefully substituted what I had on hand. I think this recipe could easily use a multitude of cheeses or herbs. I ended up using about 1 teaspoon chopped fresh marjoram, 1 teaspoon chopped fresh basil and 1/2 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme. The herb flavor was subtle, but I thought perfect.

Herb and Cheese Soufflé

Serves 4 (if you have big eaters, would say serves 3)

6 large eggs, separated

1 – 3 tablespoons chopped fresh herbs

1 teaspoon kosher salt

1/4 teaspoon black pepper

1 – 2 tablespoons unsalted butter

1/3 cup shredded cheese

Heat oven to 400° F.

In a large bowl, whisk together the egg yolks, chives, salt, and pepper.

In a separate bowl, with an electric mixer on medium-high speed, beat the egg whites until stiff peaks form. Using a spatula, gently fold the egg whites into the yolk mixture.

Meanwhile, melt the butter in a oven-safe skillet over medium-low heat and tilt to coat the sides. Add the soufflé mixture and crumble the cheese over the top. Bake until the eggs are puffed and golden, about 10 minutes.

NOTES: Fresh herbs that would go well – chives, thyme, basil, parsley, cilantro, oregano, marjoram. I think you could add a couple dashes of spices too that would compliment like curry, chili powder or fennel. Cheeses that would go well – Gruyère or any Swiss, goat, aged cheddar, asiago, fontina. I think something with a little bite to it would be better than a mild cheese.

Gluten-free takes the cake in snack food products

An interesting article from Drug Store News:

Gluten-free takes the cake in snack food products
By BARBARA WHITE-SAX

(Sep. 14) The market for gluten-free snacks is exploding. Once the exclusive arena of niche brands, now even mainstream manufacturers are getting on board. This summer, General Mills rolled out a line of gluten-free cookie, brownie and cake mixes under its Betty Crocker brand. In 2006, the company converted its Rice Chex cereal to a gluten-free product.

General Mills research showed that 12% of U.S. households want to eliminate or reduce their gluten intake. Part of the increased interest in gluten-free products is a spike in the number of patients diagnosed with Celiac disease. Incidence of the immune system disorder has increased dramatically in the last half century. Research from the Mayo Clinic suggested that young people today are 4.5 times as likely to have Celiac disease as were young people in the 1950s.

Even consumers without wheat allergies are showing an interest in eliminating or reducing the amount of wheat in their bodies. “We’re seeing a lot more interest from consumers who are opting to reduce their wheat intake,” said Christine Brown, marketing manager at Addison, Ill.-based Natural Snacks.

Nature’s Path Foods’ EnviroKidz line of crispy rice bars and animal cookies has performed well in the grocery channel.
Kari Ramsey, a spokeswoman for Nature’s Path Foods, agreed that the appeal of gluten-free foods isn’t limited to consumers with Celiac disease. Nature’s Path is one of the largest players in the category—the company’s EnviroKidz line of crispy rice bars and animal cookies has performed well in the grocery channel. “For some people, opting for gluten-free foods is a lifestyle choice rather than a health-motivated choice,” Ramsey said.

Consumers should have no problem finding an array of foods to fit their needs. More than 1,000 new gluten-free products were launched in 2008, according to Mintel Global New Products Database. Another 552 products were introduced through July 20. Cereal bars, snacks and sweets saw the most new product introductions.

Gluten-free cereals are one of the most rapidly growing segments in the health-and-wellness cereal category, according to Kent Spaulding, VP marketing for San Francisco-based Barbara’s Bakery. Spaulding said his company’s gluten-free products are growing at a rate of more than 30% annually.

A recent report from Packaged Facts estimated that gluten-free products had a compound annual growth of 28% between 2004 and 2008, with sales reaching $1.56 billion. Supermarkets accounted for 30% of sales, and health food and specialty stores accounted for another 30% of sales. Drug stores largely have stayed away from the business, but maybe it’s time to rethink the strategy. “Consumers go to a drug store for products that make them feel healthier,” Brown said. Gluten-free snacks certainly fit that profile for a growing number of customers. Natural Snacks’ gluten-free business grew 78% last year, according to Brown.

Natural Snacks, which is expanding its offerings, is adding single-serves of its most popular baked flavors to its lineup. The 100-calorie, .75-oz. bags will retail for 99 cents.

GL Mac & Cheese

Last night, I made gluten-free macaroni & cheese for dinner. I used quinoa flour pasta, rice flour to thicken the sauce and gluten-free breadcrumbs for the crunchy topping. Over all the taste was great! My sister joined us and she and my husband didn’t like the “grainy texture” from the breadcrumbs I used on top. Well, let them eat wheat!

 

Products I used:

 

Ancient Harvest Quinoa SuperGrain Pasta ($2.88 / 8 ounce box at Foods for Living)

quinoa pastaThis may be my new favorite pasta (wheat or no wheat). It has a great clean taste and not at all like the gummy taste that I was finding in rice flour pasta. I’m looking forward to trying this again.

 

 

 

Bob’s Red Mill Brown Rice Flour ($3.79 / 24 ounce bag at Meijer)

I have just been using straight rice flour substituting it for all-purpose flour, brown-rice-flourbut I need to experiment more with this. I find that rice flour has a bit of graininess to it that I don’t always enjoy. I see that most gluten-free products are a mixture of flours and often use potato starch. My next project is to start playing around with ratios to find what I like best.

 

Gillian’s Foods Bread Crumbs ($5.65 / 12 ounce container at Foods for Living)

breadcrumbsThese were the deal breaker for my family. I didn’t mind them, but agree a better substitute can be found. Cooks Illustrated never likes commercial breadcrumbs and always recommends making your own from “good quality white bread” in the food processor. I will try this next time.

 

 

Now you are probably interested in my recipe. I don’t have one, but this is how I make my mac & cheese:

 

I cook the pasta in salted water according to the package directions. I usually cook 16 ounces dry pasta. Drain.

 

I melt a stick of butter in a large pot (I usually use the one I cooked the pasta in). When melted, I whisk in about 1/2 cup of flour. Allow that to cook a few minutes, whisking frequently to cook out the flour taste. I then slowly whisk in milk until I make the amount of sauce I want and cook until it is the right consistency (no longer thin). I probably use about 3 – 4 cups of milk. I prefer to have a really saucy mac & cheese, so make a large amount of sauce.

 

Salt and pepper the sauce and add about 1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg. Once this is well blended, I add about 2 – 4 cups of grated cheese, one handful at a time. I like to grate my own versus purchasing pre-shredded cheeses. Depending on my mood, I will use a variety of types. My favorite old standby is sharp cheddar. I like the sharper, stronger flavored cheeses because milder cheeses tend to fade against the pasta.

 

Once all the cheese is incorporated, I turn this mixture out into a greased baking dish. Melt about 4 tablespoons butter and mix in 1/2 cup or so of breadcrumbs. Sprinkle this over the top of the casserole. (This step can be omitted, I like the crunch.)

 

Bake 30 minutes in a preheated 350°F oven until hot and bubbly. If the top hasn’t browned, I turn on the broiler just for about 1 minute, watching to make sure it doesn’t burn.

 

This casserole will serve 8 and freezes beautifully. Bon Appetit!

Where to Eat??

The last few weeks have been fairly gluten-free. I have felt pretty good and seem to mostly eat products with gluten over the weekend. I think it is partly that my weekends are less structured. It is easy to pack a lunch and plan dinner as part of my weekly routine. But weekends tend to be more laid back, groceries are slim by the end of the week and my husband and I usually eat out more on weekends.

That brings me to my question: Where do celiac eat when looking for a quick fast-casual meal? My husband and I prefer the deli style restaurants to a traditional chain fast food restaurant, but it is hard. We grab Asian food (I know soy sauce can contain gluten). I am a bit of a salad snob, so I don’t enjoy the iceberg lettuce salads you usually receive at these types of restaurants and from what I can tell are my only option.

Most sandwich shops are a no-no if I’m trying to be good. I did find gluten-free pizza at Guido’s in Okemos. It was fairly good, it is definitely made with rice flour and has the gummy consistency that I associate with it. I’m still adjusting to the taste difference in gluten-free bread products. But there has to be more alternatives? What am I missing? Does anyone have any suggestions?

And we are off and running….

This weekend went fairly well. I was 99% gluten free, I started working out again and am already feeling better (maybe it is the placebo effect?!).  My crowning moment was Saturday evening when out with friends, I skipped on pizza. I did have one bite of Leo’s cheesy bread, but just one bite. I ate before I left the house because I knew everyone would be eating pizza. And pizza is one of my FAVORITE foods, so it was a big triumph for me to pass it by.

 

I tried two gluten free products this weekend that I really enjoyed:

 

Glutino Gluten Free Pretzel Sticks

GlutinoPretselsYum! These tasted exactly like regular pretzel sticks with a great buttery flavor.

Purchased at Lake Lansing Meijer ($4.99/14 oz bag)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Redbridge Gluten Free Beer by Anheuser-Busch

redbridgeI was surprised by this beer. I was expecting a light, taste-less beer much like the typical light beer. But I was pleasantly surprised. It was mellow, but had a nice hoppy taste. It is made from sorghum instead of wheat or barely. According to their website, there are 17 establishments in the Lansing area that carry it.

Purchased at Goodrich’s Shop-Rite ($7.39/6-pack + tax & deposit)

 

I know there are other gluten-free beers available and am excited to try others. If you have any GF beer favorites, I would be very interested to hear about them.

Take Two

So after my mid-July birthday, I went gluten free and sugar free. It wasn’t hard, I know from a culinary standpoint what to do, it just takes planning and pre-thought for our meals. I am great at this for my clients but for some reason I am horrible about for myself. My amazing husband is a great cook and shopper, but he needs inspiration from me or else we get meat and starch – veggies are only an afterthought for him.

{Let me explain my definition of sugar-free. To me, for this phase of my wellness experiment, it means cutting out items with refined white sugar – desserts, soda and the like. I’m not cutting out items like fruit, yogurt and wine, which I know have sugar.}

So the first few days weren’t too bad. I struggled with what to eat for breakfast, had a salad for lunch, fruit and yogurt where needed as snacks and dinner usually consisted of meat and vegetable with rice or lentils. I craved sweets, but avoided them completely. At the end of the first week, I didn’t feel any different but no longer cared about sweets. I had attended several events that I either didn’t eat at or brought dishes I knew I could eat while there. It wasn’t hard and I was successful – better than I thought I could be.

By the 9th day of my experiment I started feeling better. I had energy and was working out regularly. I didn’t want to jinx it, so I didn’t mention it to anyone until the 12th day. But I really felt great! However, at the end of July I attended, as I do every year, the Munger Potato Festival. This is a weekend where I get together with my old college roommates, laugh a lot, eat and drink too much and really recharge my soul. Most people have never heard of Munger (pop. 1,500). It sits about 5 miles south of the Saginaw Bay, just east of Bay City.  The annual festival brings thousands and consists mainly of fried food and beer. I tried to be good and brought gluten-free bread for breakfast and rice crackers and fruit for snacks. But overall I was pretty naughty.

Monday came and I was back home and back at it again. I was back to eating better and I felt pretty good overall. Over the next few weeks, it was a slow transgression back to my old habits. It started with an occasional regular bread sandwich when I was out of my GF bread or a cookie when visiting a friend. I slowly started feeling more tired and didn’t work out as much. I wasn’t planning as well and my husband is still having a hard time wrapping his brain around what I can and can not eat. So eventually we get ourselves to this week when my bones ache again and I am eating so much junk I feel miserable.

Today is the beginning of a new day – I feel lousy and am ready to feel better. I am gluten-free and sugar-free again!

Change in Focus

Originally I had wanted to start a blog about the world of personal cheffing (as you can see from my one and only post in February 2008). Obviously I never got around to that. I wanted to start a more personal blog, my other blog is by choice informational only. But after reading so many incredible blogs out there, I felt inspired. I am not insinuating that my blog will be inspiring; I am just inspired to do more.

The last few years have been both exciting and exhausting. When I decided to start my own business, I had no idea how much work and energy it would take. Being a personal chef is so much more than cooking for clients. It includes marketing, networking, bookkeeping along with the menu planning and general office work, grocery shopping and schlepping food and equipment. Needless to say, I don’t take enough time for myself and have had periods of exhaustion.

Being around food and working with clients who have food allergies and insensitivities, I have often wondered about how my diet plays into my physically well being. I have however, never taken the time to experiment with how specific food effects how I feel and my general energy level. I want to also add that I suffer regular headaches (I don’t think actual migraines although they can be very severe) and keeping a journal of food and activities is another one of those items on my to-do list that I never quite get around to doing. The headaches are Riebow things – most with the Riebow bloodline get them. We all have varying degrees of them and my sister spent several years with doctors and neurologists trying to find a cause – they never did. I find that overcast days are my worst, but have always wondering if food doesn’t play a role as well.

The last year has been a roller coaster for me. Last summer (actually 1 year and 5 days ago) I got married. We were engaged in the spring and planned an August wedding, so last year was a blur of planning and parties. I worked out to be in the best shape I could be for the big day. It was honestly the best day of my life (so far) but afterward I was beat! I didn’t have the energy to workout, I didn’t have the energy to care what I ate (and it didn’t matter since I wasn’t trying to squeeze into a dress – ha ha).

By spring, I had gained back the 15 pounds I had lost and my poor body ached. My bones ached every day and I would come home at the end of the day too exhausted to make dinner or care about it. Thank goodness my husband is a saint and he takes great care of me! Also for the last year or so, I have been looking for a general care practitioner who I liked, who had similar wellness philosophies as I did and who didn’t wipe out the prescription paid within 2 minutes of seeing me and offer me a pill to cure my ailments.

Early this summer, I finally found a Nurse Practitioner that I love!  She is amazing and exactly what I have been looking for. She ran lots of tests and I am fit as a fiddle. She did recommend I cut gluten and sugar from my diet for one month. She explained that these can be stressful on our adrenal glands and that when the glands are stressed, it can cause fatigue. It was early July when we had this discussion and with my birthday two short weeks away, I decided to wait until after my birthday to start a gluten-free and sugar-free ride.

And so I am changing the focus of this blog to reflect on what it is like for me to be gluten-free, my day-to-day struggles and triumphs.