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food: eating out wheat-free

okay, confession time.  i’ve been kind of avoiding eating out while being wheat-free.
for one, i’m broke these days (ie – after hawaii) so it’s money that i don’t *need* to spend.  also, it’s tough.  it’s a similar situation to what i’ve dealt with before when restricting certain types of food; you just never know what’s going on in the kitchen.
the wait staff can swear up & down that something doesn’t contain whatever, but if the cook doesn’t give a shit, then you’re eating it anyways.
trust me.  i’ve been a cook in kitchens.

because i’m also still learning all the secret ways that wheat is snuck into our food, it’s a struggle on my end too.
so basically its been a lot of sushi.  because generally, what you see is what you get.  except i can’t eat soy sauce. or tempura.  sadness.
but i have learned to enjoy salmon nigiri with no soy sauce and it’s pretty much my go-to eat now.  also miso soup.  always miso soup.

anyways, a few pizza places have started offering gluten free crusts, which are hit or miss.
i ordered one from Me & Ed’s a few weeks ago, and while it technically allowed me to eat a delivered pizza, it was overcooked and basically a flat cardboard disk dripping through with oil.  so i ate a few pieces and ended up just eating the toppings with a fork. for the price, i definitely wouldn’t rush out to order it again.  which is a shame because i do love me & eds pizza.

when i do a google search, i see that boston pizza offers a gluten free crust… and while megabite shows up in my search, i can’t actually find a mention on their online menu of it.  so there’s a few other delivery options around my house to be checked out.  and i’ll definitely be sure to report back in.

for the most part, if its not sushi, its been burgers or salads.  yes, burgers.
i am one of those weird people that will happily eat a bun-less burger.  i actually have always been a fan of a burger patty on my plate with some ketchup or mayo for dipping.  so this one is no sacrifice to me.  i just have to remember to ask if they use fillers in their patties, but thankfully in this day & age of the gourmet burger, it’s not that common anymore.

most places have been very cool about the bun-less burger.  i had an absolutely killer burger at Vera’s (duh – they’re the BEST) and they wrapped it in tons of leaf lettuce for me and i scarfed that mo-fo down with my hands.  it was definitely on the messy side, but that’s not unusual for a burger.
and while i happily can knife & fork a burger, it is nice to do the handheld thing too. because let’s face it, it’s some of the appeal of eating a burger.
i’m also a big lettuce lover.  i’m always requesting extra lettuce on my burger (since it’s the only vegetable i get on it) and it never seems like enough.  so literally wrapping my meal in lettuce is a beautiful thing to me.

so last night i had a meat craving.  i really wanted a steak.  which is RARE for me to crave.  i eat steak like 2x a year.  if even.  i am not a steak girl.  but i kinda felt like a petit filet would treat me right last night.
unfortunately, while there are some excellent places by my house to get a steak (Onyx, the Keg, The Boathouse…) it would have meant a pretty pricy meal out.  and i’m on the budget.  so it was nixed.

next best suggestion is the burger.
we decided on red robin.  my husband worked there in his youth and so he loves eating there still.  old habits, you know.  and i, for one, would never speak ill of the red robin bacon cheeseburger.
i was all geared up to eat that burger out of the paper wrapper with my hands regardless, but then i spied at the bottom of their new menu “gluten free bun – $.99”
what the what?
the server told me they just started doing it and that the feedback had been great.

now, as i’ve said before, i’m not huge into the substitution products.  i would likely never buy gluten free buns, i’d just skip the bun.  but thats just me.  i don’t want to eat a faux version of something, i’d just rather not eat it at all.
and so, while i appreciated this option, i actually was planning on skipping it.
but my husband suggested i try it, just to try it.  and of course, there’s my blog to think about 😉
but his theory was that if the bun sucked, then i could tell the server, get the 99 cents back and eat it anyways with no bun.  which i would have done anyways.  it seemed like sound logic.

so i ordered up my usual… bacon cheeseburger with pepperjack, only lettuce and chipotle mayo instead of regular mayo.

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it was… okay.
here’s the caveat.  i haven’t eaten any gluten free bread products yet.  no buns, no sandwich bread, no muffins or cookies.  the closest i’ve come is the english muffins, but they were so cornmeal-y, they were nothing like the real thing and weren’t trying to be IMO.
so basically i have nothing to compare it to.

this certainly looked like the real thing.  it was browned all around and fluffy and white in the middle… but something was definitely amiss.
the texture.  it was spongy and made me think of undercooked yorkshire puddings.

all in all, it wasn’t bad.  i ate the whole thing and it got the burger to my mouth with less mess than the lettuce wrap does… but i’m not entirely sure i’d choose it every time.
i LOVE having the option, and will probably choose it from time to time, just to make sure it stays on the menu… but a good 50% of the time, i’ll probably just stick with the lettuce wrap.

this is what i’ve been finding to be true overall.  while these substitution products have their hearts in the right place, it’s really not necessarily what i want to eat.
and i feel like restaurants are still learning how to navigate the wave of gluten-free eating that’s so abundant right now.  and very few of them are getting it right IMO.

when i go out for a meal, what do i want?
essentially i want an option that doesn’t make me feel like i’m eating fake food.

i want a piece of meat.  steak, chicken, pork chop, sausage… whatever.
i want vegetables.  side dishes, salad, whatever.
i want a small amount of something else.  potato, rice, quinoa… nuts, hummus, beans… whatever.

it doesn’t seem like too much to ask, and i’m getting better at figuring our which restaurants can do these things for me.
and if worse comes to worse… there’s always sushi, lol.

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the comfort food chronicles: mac &cheese

ah snow days. is there anything that just makes you want to build a fort on your couch and nest in heaps of blankets like snow days?
not for me anyways. when its cold outside, that’s the hint from mother nature to stay the fuck in.

the past couple days i’ve had some fierce cheese cravings. and not necessarily like i want to eat a block of cheese… more that i want cheesy rich stuff.
i have a sneaking suspicion this is the byproduct of cutting my beloved kraft dinner out of my diet.

i’ve decided i have 3 options.
first, i could eat other packaged gluten free mac & cheese meals…
second, i could poach the cheese packet from a box of kraft dinner and make it with rice pasta…
or third, i can make my own version from scratch.

so, option 1. i bought this a few weeks ago at home sense. it was $5 and i figured, what the heck. the pasta is made with quinoa, which i love… so let’s give it a go.

i have a few notes on it… first and foremost, why this is packaged in a resealable bag is beyond me. this was basically one portion of food (or at least i ate the whole thing – don’t judge me). but that’s just kinda nit picky.

it was pretty decent. really salty tasting, but the pasta was nice and the cheese sauce nice and fake. so i ate it and it did the job on my hangover day.
i’m not sure i’d rush out to buy it again, but i wouldn’t say never. if i saw it on sale, i’d do it.

option 2: poaching the cheese package from a box of KD. ya, this might be the winning option. when you’re craving that awesome fake cheese sauce taste, there’s just no substitute.
i came to the conclusion years ago that it wasn’t necessarily “mac & cheese” that i loved, it was the crack cocaine that is kraft dinner.

which brings me to option 3. making my own from scratch.
for all the kraft dinner i’ve eaten in my life, i’ve maybe only made homemade mac & cheese 4 or 5 times.
generally, i don’t really care for it. it’s often too creamy and too greasy and the pasta is mushy and the cheese is grainy… and ya. i want to like it, but my tastebuds just scream THIS ISN’T KRAFT DINNER!

but damnit, i figured it was worth a go.
i bought a 12 month aged white cheddar from granville island and went from there…

roadblock one – pasta. easy fix; i used rice macaroni. this worked. well. rice pasta can sometimes be gummy and everything about mac & cheese is gummy anyways, so… it works.

roadblock two – the roux. everything delicious and creamy in the sauce world seems to start with a roux. since i’m still new to gluten free cooking, i decided to take the easy way out. i made the sauce and then i added a little cornstarch. i also used a little heavy cream, when normally i would have thickened a 2% milk. not low calorie, but hey… it works.

roadblock three – the crunchy topping. gluten free panko crumbs exist (i’ve seen them at safeway) but they’re expensive and i don’t think they’re mandatory. normally my fix would have been potato chips, but we didn’t have any of those either, so i went with just another layer of cheese. and black pepper. again, it works.

and voila! mac & cheese done gluten free.

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it was very good and my husband certainly dug in with no complaints… but here’s the funny thing… we both agreed that it was better the following day as leftovers. the cheese flavour seemed stronger and the texture was really nice.
also, we ate it with a hearty dose of hot sauce. because you have to with rich dishes.

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in addition to my usual addiction, i’ve been thinking about mac & cheese for a few months because of The Mac Shack that opened in Kerisdale. i was one of their first twitter followers and so they gave me a coupon for a free meal with them, but i forgot about it (and i’m NEVER in kerisdale) so it expired. and i was kicking myself thinking “now i can’t even eat their food”, but then i tweeted them to enquire and they responded with, yes, they do make a gluten free mac & cheese! so i’m back in. and if anyone is in the mood to make the trek, i am SO DOWN.