Friday, July 31, 2009

Imported Organic Italian Rice Pasta

I just happened to see a new gluten-free pasta at one of my favorite little grocery stores today, City Market in NW Portland. It's an imported Italian penne rigate pasta. It's made from white rice flour. Italians make the best pasta, of course. This is especially true when we're talking gluten-free pasta. There are a lot of celiacs living in Italy, and they are more aware of the condition in europe compared to the US. I'll try this pasta out for you and let you know if it lives up to my very high expectations, considering I spent $8 on an 8.8-oz package! I think this officially qualifies as the most expensive pasta I've ever bought at a store.

The brand name is Rustichella D'Abruzzo. It carries an organic farming seal as well as a gluten-free seal, neither of which I'm familiar with. They also had two types of corn pasta, one from the same company, also imported from Italy.

Has anyone else seen this or any other brand of imported Italian pasta in a local store?

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Sweet Pea Vegan Bakery Review

This is a sad review to write. So far, there have been very few gluten-free products that I've completely panned. Sometimes these things must be said. I want to promote good gluten-free options. Part of my job is to promote the fact that most gluten-free options are good. If I had eaten my first gluten-free pastry at Sweet Pea Baking Company in Portland I might have given up pastries for life.

I've bought three gluten-free baked goods there, and tried a sample of a fourth thing. One of those four items was passable.

Let me start with the good news. I asked the cashier about their methods for preventing cross-contamination. She told me that they make the gluten-free goods at a separate time than the regular products. They also double-sterilize their utensils and thoroughly clean all the counters before doing the GF stuff. However, they do not segregate the gluten-free products in their display case.

The GF coconut cookie I had there was pretty good for being vegan. It was light and a little flaky. I had an americano there that was great, but the server seemed a bit offended when I asked for regular milk - they are all vegan. I personally don't like any of the milk substitues I've ever had for coffee, so I had mine black. Perhaps I should have taken that opportunity to find a really good non-dairy milk, but I at least found out that they can pull a good espresso.

If you want to read more positive things about this bakery, visit my friends at Gluten-free Portland dot Org. They had a better experience. For me, here is where the good news ends.
I tried a sample of the gluten-free chocolate cookie at the counter. It was very crumbly and the flavor was sort of bland.

It gets worse.

I took home a cupcake and a brownie. I'm sad to report that between my boyfriend and me we took about three bites from the two items. After my boyfriend saw the look on my face as I spat out my bite of it, he was unwilling to sample the cupcake with me. This concoction would be more accurately named a savory bean cake with sugar frosting than a cupcake. The brownie wasn't as bad but it tasted a bit like carob (which I'm not a fan of) and was sort of falling apart. It also made my stomach feel funny to eat it - not in a gluteny way, but in a way that suggests I was eating something not meant for human consumption, like grass or bark.

My suggestion to those of you out there who are gluten-free and dairy-free is to go up the street to New Cascadia Traditional. They are a dedicated gluten-free bakery that has pretty good vegan options, including a great chocolate cupcake that comes in vegan and non-vegan form.

Do you have experience with Sweet Pea Baking Co? What did you think?

Monday, July 20, 2009

Sun Gold Tomato Salad - an Easy Recipe


Today I ate the first fruits of my garden. My Sun Gold tomatoes are ripening up quickly, and I just had to have a tomato salad with dinner. These orange tomatoes have a sweet and slightly tart flavor. The skins may be a bit tougher than other tomatoes, or that could be due to season or growing conditions.

In order for my salads to pair better with wine, I often leave out the vinegar. These tomatoes are flavorful enough without it.

Ingredients:

Sun Gold or other tomatoes, cut into pieces or sliced
Salt
Pepper
Pistou or other variety of basil from your garden
olive oil

Directions:

In the order that they are listed, place the ingredients on a plate. The olive oil should be drizzled or spritzed over the top of everything, but I accidentally dumped it all in one spot. It was still delicious!

Friday, July 17, 2009

Garden Flowers, Ripening Tomatoes, and Volunteers

I'm sure I have more recipes and gluten-free ideas to share, but lately I've mostly been thinking about my garden. I have tons of flowers now. This is my lemon cucumber:
My eggplants have been flowering nicely, but they don't seem to be getting fertilized. The flowers tend to just shrivel up and fall off. Do the bees find their downward-pointing flowers problematic? I'll start fertilizing them by hand soon using a small paintbrush. Last year this technique was responsible for granting me one whole eggplant! Perhaps this year I'll have better luck.My Sun Gold tomatoes are already starting to turn orange! This is really early for Portland.
Some of the cilantro I planted early has started to flower.I planted these calendula (marigold) flowers from seeds this year. I'm planning to harvest the seeds for planting next year.

I have several "volunteers" in my garden. They are either seeds blown in from a neighbor's yard, or seeds that were in my compost that sprang up. I'm not sure where this pansy came from, but I'm glad it's here. Did you know pansy flowers are edible? They are great in salad or as a striking garnish.

I'm not sure what these next voluteers are. I got the idea to post them to my blog from Jessie at Blog Schmog. Can you help me identify them? Perhaps this plant on the far left of the bed is a sunflower:



This one could be a pumpkin or squash. Any ideas?

If you have a good guess on my two mystery volunteers, please leave it in my comments!

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

What's For Dessert? Wednesday: Creme Caramel

Thanks to Linda from the Gluten-free Homemaker for hosting the What's for Dinner? Wednesday (Gluten-free Style) carnival blog. This week's theme is dessert, my favorite part of any meal.

Now, don't get me wrong; I don't really like sugary/sweet things. I like my desserts to taste like their ingredients, not like sugar. Cooking gluten-free can be hard for me because I often find that I can't cut out as much sugar from a recipe as I used to when I used wheat flour. Fortunately, there are still several recipes that I have always loved that I never had to change when I went gluten-free.

I already have a pretty good collection of recipes for sweets on this blog, but I thought I'd share my Creme Caramel Recipe today. It's naturally gluten-free, and there are some variations too. Most notably, there is a pumpkin variation. It's amazing!