How many cookbooks are too many?

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So Your Doctor Says You Should Go Gluten Free

A friend emailed me, she’s going GF and wanted advice. This is something I have given many times before and just realized I should type it all up in one place so I can just refer to it.

How much do you know about Gluten? It is in wheat, barley, rye, and some heritage wheat grains like emmer. Soy sauce is brewed with wheat so you need to avoid it, and beer, too. Tamari is wheat free soy sauce, usually (there is a tamari brand that does have wheat so you have to read the ingredients). I keep a bottle at home and make homemade teriyaki sauce from it. Oh yes, did I mention you can no longer have hoisin, oyster, teriyaki sauces or chinese food in restaurants? Deep fried food is out. You should be careful having fried food that is fried in oil that they fry wheat-laden food in. Reading ingredients will become second hand. Be very careful of frozen foods, lots of hash browns and things you wouldn’t think have wheat in them, do (Pringles). Be prepared for long work meetings where they “feed” you by bringing a backup GF sandwich, or hard boiled egg, or salad. Reach out ahead of time if there is a work restaurant meal and let them know you can’t have gluten.

Oatmeal is technically gluten-free but is almost always grown or produced where there is cross contamination – look for GF brands. Bob’s Red Mill has a ton of GF flours and oatmeal and polenta. There are a couple of GF beers that are ok – although the farther away you are from beer, the better the GF beers taste. Mostly, I stick to wine and cider. Spirits are distilled, so unless some gluten flavoring gets added later (I can’t think of a single instance) you are safe. Same with vinegars, except malt vinegar, that flavoring gets added later. Malt! I totally forgot about that, malt is made from wheat, you can’t have it.

On the other hand, Mexican food in your friend! Potatoes and corn and rice are all starches you can eat. There is a brand of gluten-free bread called Udi’s, it is a total revelation. It changed how I felt about not eating wheat. The bread gets crispy when toasted and is awesome in sandwiches.

Wherever you spend the bulk of your day keep some things that are good snacks. I usually keep an apple and some almonds in the car. You can also make your own beef jerky (very difficult to find w/o wheat) and keep that around as a protein option. Pho is also a great go-to (you can’t have the hoisin sauce but everything else is fair game.)

There is tons of stuff on the web about going GF but here is a good starting point: I already knew a lot about gluten before I had my diagnosis, and I cook a ton so I started a bit ahead as far as cookbooks, recipes, and dealing with what has hidden wheat in it.

The hardest part is the mental part. I really went through some roller coaster emotions about going GF. Cravings and feelings of being left out of “the good stuff” especially when Kevin would eat pizza in front of me or I would go hiking with friends and they would have cookies. With so many options in Seattle, it makes it a lot easier but there will be times when you just want to eat phyllo pastry. These times pass, and it is good to have something to eat that makes you emotionally happy. Weird, I know. It is also very difficult to learn to ask about gluten free options in restaurants, but the more you do it, the easier it gets.

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Bob’s Spicy Vodka

Every year for Christmas I infuse vodka with spicy chilies for my father-in-law and make a new label. This is the one from last year. Must be just about time to make a new Christmas vodka.

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Post Kayak Dinner

We had a long kayak trip today. At least, longer than we’ve ever done before. Eight miles, full paddling, both ways. We were tired. This is the dinner we had.

Boneless, skinless chicken breast, rubbed with salt, pepper, and Chinese Five Spice, stuffed with feta cheese, pan-seared, then oven roasted. Also, blackened broccoli (roasted at 375 degrees with olive oil, salt, and pepper for 30 minutes) and a jus made from beef demi and sauteed onions.

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I Keep Forgetting

A photo from my 40th birthday. Hilarious (I am not in this photo).

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Poor Kitties

Took them to the vet today for a checkup and they are tired and kind of grumpy.

Oh well, let’s see a photo of Azul from when she was 6 months old, and likely the last time she went to the vet.

She looks a little different now!

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Wading In

Pork and Duck Paté

I haven’t made this in awhile but I do love it. A very classic paté done in mold. delicious with bread, pickles, Dijon, and jam.

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Low Tide Beach Walk

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Blandy’s Bicentenary

Blandy’s is spending the year celebrating their 200 year anniversary with special tastings in San Francisco, New York, London, and Madeira. The first of these special events was March 22, in San Francisco. The day started with a special tasting of 15 heritage, vintage Madeiras going back 200 years. This was an unprecedented opportunity to taste wines that spanned almost the entire history of the United States of America. I was lucky enough to be invited and I learned so much about Madeira and the history of Blandy’s.

Madeira is a small island off the coast of North Africa that is considered part of Portugal. Its products did well in the U.S. because it was the only port of call, at the time, which could access the United States that wasn’t British. As was the case for so many distinctive beverages that used to travel the world on boats, Madeira was fortified before leaving port to keep it from spoiling. The wine left the port in large casks called “pipes” and the heat and constant motion of the ships had a transformative effect. This was discovered when a shipment came back after a long voyage and it turned out the customer preferred the taste to the original. Today, that effect is duplicated by leaving the pipes up in the attics of the Madeira houses where the temperature routinely gets above 105 degrees in the summer. Because Madeira is both cooked and oxidized it maintains its flavors for many years, even after opening the bottle.

There are four major noble grapes of Madeira: Sercial, Verdelho, Bual, and Malmsey (in the order of driest to sweetest) and these are the grapes that are used to produce vintage, single-grape Madeira. Because the aging process takes so long these wines can be prohibitively expensive and Blandy’s was the first Madeira house to produce Colheita Madeira, a younger vintage. After this great success, Blandy’s created Alvada, a unique blend of Bual and Malmsey. Many Madeira houses have since followed suit with their own Colheitas and blends.

In addition to the amazing wines presented, both Mike Blandy, 6th generation and Chris Blandy, 7th generation were there to taste the wines, comment on flavors, and tell people about the history of the winery or world history at the time of the making of the wine. The most remarkable wine at the tasting was the Bual Solera 1811. In Madeira they used to practice a system similar to Sherry where occasionally 1/10th of the wine is siphoned off, bottled, and an equal portion of a younger Madeira is added. There were 10 total additions allowed, with the final bottling of all product at the last addition. This wine was bottled in 1900 but still contained a least 1/3rd of the vintage 1811. In 1811 an earthquake in Missouri caused the Mississippi to flow backwards. When Portugal joined the EU the Solera process ended and it is no longer legal to use either the Solera system, or sell any Solera. Tasting notes from the 1811 Solera Bual: Cinnamon and spice, like a great cookie. Vanilla, elegant, fresh orange, cutting acidity and a flat cola finish.

While there are only four noble grape varieties in use in Madeira currently, they have also used Terrantez and Bonarda in the past. Terrantez was discontinued because it was a weak variety that only grew well in one part of the island, where it was very susceptible to rot. In the tasting Blandy’s featured three different Terrantez and one Bonarda. The Terrantez stood out as having a distinct eucalyptus characteristic. I was astonished to learn that in addition to the coffee, toffee, orange, and sweet flavors I am used to, Madeiras take on many savory flavors as they age like mushroom, dates, and oyster shell. All fifteen wines were still very robust and exciting.

Here were some highlights:

Bual 1863 – my favorite Madeira of the day, made in the year that the Civil War started in the United States, this wine had flavors of smoky mushroom, peat, cola and dried porcini powder. Only a few bottles remain in the company private collection.

Verdelho 1822 – the oldest vintage we tasted. Dark tan with some light bricking. Peat, meaty and mushroom earth, with a distinct orange peel flavor. 1822 is the year that Brazil claimed its independence from Portugal.

Sercial 1910 – 100 year old Madeira, definitely the driest wine we tasted the entire day. 1910 was the year that George V becomes King of England upon the death of his father, Edward VI.

Bual 1920 – this is the oldest Madeira they still have in wood (or pipes) in Blandy’s lodge. Orangey, elegant toffee, very spicy. 1920 was the year the NFL was founded.

Bual 1948 – only 1,167 bottles made and this vintage was the first year Madeira resumed exporting wine after WWII. We currently have this wine in inventory! Very dark, spicy notes, toffee and eucalyptus.

Next time you want a vintage dated wine for a special event think of Madeira before you think of Portugal.

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