Cooking for Easter, GF of course….

eggsEaster: holidays will be a major test of eating GF in and out of the house.

First off, this Easter I had company, my two sisters came to visit. A major test as they have never eaten GF and they can be a tough sell at meals sometimes. On Friday I made GF pasta for shrimp cannelloni with a saffron cream sauce which is a favorite recipe of mine, a good test choice…. I made the pasta sheets too thick to easily roll up with filling inside. It was pretty tricky to roll out in my Atlas pasta machine because of it’s sticky texture and I quit the rolling thinner process too soon. I think I will flour the dough a bit more as I run it through the tighter settings on the machine. It was pretty close in taste to wheat homemade pasta. Check off the pasta on my bucket list of things to try making GF!

I made a GF French bread Friday that was almost as good as any you could buy. You just glop the messy bowl of dough onto a French bread curved sheet and it rises and bakes to look pretty darn good! Check. One of my sisters asked for the recipe as she wants to eat less wheat. That is a major recommendation when Elaine asks for a GF recipe as she is pretty picky about her French bread! I made a meatloaf on Saturday night with GF bread crumbs inside it which were created in my blender from dried up GF bread slices. As good as ever…and not even a slice left for a sandwich today….check! We had a pear clafouti Saturday night – a sort of pear custard in a big tart pan, tasty and GF! Every scrap of it was eaten, Check! I made gravy Sunday to go with the pork tenderloin. Check. And for Sunday dessert I made a yogurt tart covered with fresh slices of orange. My crust was lauded by my mom; had ground almonds in it and almost like a shortbread cookie. I promised to make it again in May with local strawberries sliced on top….check, Check!

So I successfully fed my family three GF meals this holiday weekend and I was no more stressed out than normal visits in the past. The GF thing is getting easier. I find that if a recipe has flour in it I just use white rice flour and that is a really good substitution – gravies, white sauces, thickeners. And my go-to cook book is Gluten Free Baking Classics by Annalise G. Roberts. It has not failed me yet! What I love about the recipes is that they are the foods I grew up eating and like to make for company but now GF. If you are trying to go wheat free it is an absolute must buy. I have read that if you want to be GF as a permanent change you can’t give up bread and pasta, you just need to eat the same foods but with no wheat. This cookbook makes that eminently doable! Have a great week and try something GF if it is offered to you. You might be surprised at how good it is.

So…eating out…I happened to go to two different Panara Breads this past week. At the counter of the first one we happened to be waited on by the manager. I asked her for the GF menu. She said they had none. She said “What do you want to have?” This was a bit hard to respond to when she just told me she couldn’t give me even a paper with GF menu items on it. I said how about the Mediterranean Salmon Salad thinking this would be GF. She went and got a big ring binder. She paged through it and read off the long list of ingredients in the salad. She would not let me read it for myself! So… as I thought, it was GF, and therefore I enjoyed the salad down to the last sliver of almond! I averted my eyes as my man ate his baguette along with his boring chicken Caesar. He was openly envious of my lush salad full of a variety of tasty ingredients, all GF.

A few days later my family went to a different Panara for lunch on Easter Saturday. I asked again for the GF menu. I was told there was none. This server did not offer any suggestions or get out the big binder! I went for my fall back position and got another Mediterranean Salmon Salad. I found they had used the romaine they use in the regular Caesar so it wasn’t nearly as tasty as the one I had earlier the same week.

The thing that gets me is I could swear I read on line that Panara has a “secret GF menu” that you can ask for! It is so secret even the managers don’t know about it! How tough would it be to type up a two page menu showing how certain things could be GF; leave off the croutons, baguette gone, etc. And really, I have a few excellent GF bread recipes I could share with their research chefs. Panara could lead the industry by putting GF on their main menu; just set aside a couple of pans for GF and make a few loaves a day! Easy peasy. Would be a winner for Panara and their customers who surely have family members trying to eat less wheat. Listening Panara??
Have a great healthy eating week!! I know I will….

Originally published in early April 2013.

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