Embracing Ethnic Food And Revisiting Old Favourites

Posted by Obake on Jul 10, 2011 in Advice/Tips, Gluten Free, Naturally Gluten Free, Shopping

One of the positive things about going gluten free is having to search for alternatives, and finding amazing things I never knew about. I have a real tenancy to reach out and try food that is unfamiliar. Before, it was adventurousness, now it is integral to widening my food choices. But it rekindled my love for trying new things and experimenting. I have the luck of living in Metro Detroit, and being surrounded by all kinds of cuisine from many countries with varying availability. In particular, there is a rather large population of people from Asia and the Middle East.

Don’t be afraid to go to these places for food. You’ll be amazed at the things you will find with a little bit of adventurousness. Also, a lot of things that are very expensive at a familiar market or a health food store are often very cheap at these markets, and it can save you serious money. If you have these places in the area you live, take advantage of it, even if it means a drive to the next closest city. It is actually worth the gas money to drive out of your way for this stuff.

Today, I went to Saigon Market and purchased 8 lbs of various gluten free flours and starches (rice, glutenous rice, tapioca, and potato) for about $10. I even found bags that already were mixed with starch so they were ready for baking! To get that same sort of thing elsewhere can cost as much as three or four times that much. I even found rice noodles in familiar and not so familiar shapes! And a sesame candy that I had to ask how it was commonly eaten. Fuji Market yielded shirataki noodles for $1 a package, which is a steal compared to the almost $4 the health-food store wanted for the same product. Tienda Mexicana had PAN, which I make arepas with (PAN is 5pts per million, which counts as gluten free). E-mart had brown rice, more rice noodles, and is one of the few places in the area that carries gluten free soy sauce.

Then there is the question of familiar shops like Aldi, Trader Joe’s, and Costco. If you have these in your area, its worth it to shop at them/get membership. Costco carries things like quinoa in huge bags for $7 for example, along with a large selection of naturally gluten free things in large supply. Their price for quinoa I’ve not seen matched anywhere in the area per pound. I am a somewhat uncommon shopper there in that I only get 5 very consistent items with a few impulse or “lets try this” items. I generally get my meat, cheese, soy milk, eggs, and mushrooms there.

Aldi and Trader Joe’s you should know are owned by the same corporate trust (the respective owners are brothers), and thus there is actually significant overlap of the same items with slightly different packaging. That isn’t to say that you shouldn’t shop at them both, you should, but for different reasons. Aldi is better to shop at first, for all of your staples, frozen, and canned food. It has less of a selection (though that is changing!), but you’ll see that on almost all their packaging, they do clearly label allergens, including gluten. Trader Joe’s also clearly labels gluten free items, and it appears to me from reading labels during all of my shopping that Aldi is actually stricter in it’s labeling. Trader Joe’s is great for selection, you’ll pay about $0.50 more for staples, but their selection of snacks, coffee, and specialty items is competitive. Some things are better than others however, and I advise you to stay away from the sorry bread, but they just got in gluten free rolled oats. Certified. Dedicated fields, everything. And at $4 for 2lbs that is absolutely the best deal I’ve ever seen for them! I can have oatmeal again without going broke!

That is a theme that will recur on this blog. Cost. While I believe in shopping locally, and the point of organic food, the reality is that I can’t afford those things all the time. I do what I can. Personally, I’m gutted that the farm stand didn’t return to its post this year, because that was where I got all my produce all summer last year. But the farm that it comes from is an hour and a half from here. That is not a reasonable drive for me. I do what I am able to, and please don’t think less of me that I can’t do it all. If I could afford it, I would buy locally sourced everything, organic things, all of that. But I can’t. It is very likely I will never be able to. I am not alone either, and I consider myself lucky to have so many options.

Also, I want to prove that gluten free totally IS doable on a small budget. It doesn’t have to be expensive! It does however take a bit of digging to find the best deal. And a willingness to cook. And well, a willingness to try new things. I am finding that rather than try to mimic things that I’m familiar with, I can find delicious alternatives to eat instead.

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Magic Coconut Curry!

Posted by Obake on Apr 29, 2010 in Uncategorized

I love my crockpot, and I love curry. I also love experimenting with food. Thus, this curry, borne of Crepes of Wrath’s curry recipe, is what happens when I make a recipe over and over. The fun thing about curry is that it is VERY forgiving in the crockpot, so its ripe for experimentation! This is an easy curry, and the heat of it can be adjusted to taste. It is not, despite having bananas and apples in it, a sweet curry however! This recipe is modified for a 5-7 quart crockpot, so if you are using a smaller one, you will need to adjust the ingredients accordingly.

Start out with two pounds of chicken. I used chicken thigh parts, because those turn out the most tender and do not require slicing after they’re cooked. Most of the time you can flake these apart with the tip of your spoon once the curry is done, it will fall apart on its own.

Next, apples! You can use any kind of apple you like, but the tarter the better.

You’ll need three.

Core the apples, or if you don’t have a coring implement like me, cut the cores out. Do not peel them.

Chop and toss into the pot!

This is me planning poorly. Imagine that is a tomato? No? I had these instead, and thought “Why not?” and they got included. They are delicious in it and I don’t miss the tomatoes at all!

Chop and toss into the pot!

Next, onions. These are just your smallish plain yellow onions. Chop and toss into the pot!

Russet potatoes, scrubbed. You can use any potato here, and reduce them to your liking. They serve a few purposes: 1) they soak up all the delicious curry goo, 2) they act as a neutral filler, and 3) they thicken the dish, which negates the need for Wondra or flour at the end of cooking.

Chop them into medium sized pieces and toss them in. At this point your pot should be nearly full, but it will cook down in the course of cooking by about half.

Ok, try to get your yuck and ew out of your system now, I can wait. …done? Ok good! Chop 3 bananas and add them in!

Now to apply some heat! Add Jalapeno peppers to the mix! I did not seed mine, because we like it hot around here, but feel free to reduce or add peppers to your heat preference. This amount, unseeded, results in a moderately high amount of heat. Not enough to sweat, but probably above those that don’t like spicy food.

Here is the curry powder I use, you can get these for about $6 at pretty much any Asian market. A 5oz can of the red curry paste also works in this recipe.

You need three heaping tablespoons. I would not put less than two tablespoons curry powder in this recipe, but again, adjust to your own personal heat tolerance!

Next Coconut milk! You can find this in any moderately sized market with an “International” aisle, or your local Asian market. You CAN use reduced fat coconut milk in this recipe, it does not affect the taste at all! Dump it all into the pot.

Next is wine. White wine. I don’t like cooking with red wine, but white seems to be perfectly versatile! You want a kind of wine that is above Two Buck Chuck, but not a wine so expensive that you wouldn’t mind putting it into food instead of drinking it. Despite not knowing anything about wine, I would never put “cooking wine” into a dish like this, and you shouldn’t either. You need 1 cup of this, and pour it over everything.

Lastly, put about 4-6 cloves in, minced. If they’re roasted like these are, just drop them in as is.

Cook for six hours, and somewhere in between, give it a good stir.

Enjoy! Serve by itself, with naan, or over rice!

Magic Coconut Curry!

2lbs chicken, frozen or thawed

3 medium apples, diced

1 red pepper, diced

3 small yellow onions, diced

6 medium sized potatoes, diced

3 bananas, sliced

4 jalapeno peppers, finely diced

3 heaping tablespoons curry powder

1 can (13.5 oz) coconut milk

1 cup white wine

4-6 cloves raw garlic, minced finely, or 4-6 cloves roasted whole

Combine ingredients in a 5-7 quart crockpot, and cook on high 6 hours, or on low for 9 hours. Stir halfway through. Serve plain, over rice.

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