Adventures in Gluten (and Sugar) Freedom from a southern blogger chick!

Sunday, August 30, 2009

In praise of the green pod

Quick, what's the first word that comes to mind when I say the word "okra"?

Yeah, I figured. I'd bet most of you out there would say "SLIME." But I'm here today to share with you a new recipe for the preparation of okra. And no, this isn't a joke.

There are three kinds of people in the world, you see. There are people who think okra should only be served fried. There are people who would rather eat ground glass than eat okra at all.

And then there are people like me, who love okra in all its incarnations.

Fried. Stewed. With corn and tomatoes. In a gumbo.

And now, roasted. Yep, I said roasted. You won't believe how good it can be!

Here's a little information on that wonderful veggie, courtesy of

Okra comes from a large vegetable plant thought to be of African origin, and it was brought to the United States three centuries ago by African slaves. The word, derived from the West African nkruma, was in use by the late 1700s. Grown in tropical and warm temperate climates, it is in the same plant family as hibiscus and cotton.

Okra is usually available fresh year-round in the South, and from May to October in many other areas. You can also find okra frozen, pickled, and canned, and in some regions you might find frozen breaded okra for deep frying. When buying fresh okra, look for young pods free of bruises, tender but not soft, and no more than 4 inches long. Okra may be stored in the refrigerator in a paper bag or wrapped in a paper towel in a perforated plastic bag for 2 to 3 days, or it may be frozen for up to 12 months after blanching whole for 2 minutes. Cooked okra can be stored (tightly covered) in the refrigerator for 3 to 4 days.

So here's the recipe for Roasted Okra

The recipe is simple: Wash, drain and sort okra, selecting small pinky-sized and medium pods from the big woody ones. If you're picking fresh okra at a market.

Lay the pods flat on a baking sheet so it doesn't overlap. Drizzle with olive oil (garlic flavored olive oil is great with this) and sprinkle with your best sea salt.

Bake at 400 degrees for 30-45 minutes until the pods are slightly collapsed and browned.

The outside is crunchy (like friend) and the inside is moist but not slimy. It's a delicious side dish!


I know, you'll either love it or hate it. You decided.

Much love, and try it!

Monday, August 24, 2009

This post has been moved.

At the polite request of the BlogHer network, this post has been moved to my class blog,
Bobcat PR.

If you're looking for the information on the special previously mentioned here, that's where it's now lives.

Much love,
John Peter Zenger

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Oh So Sweet Treats -- Oh so gluten free!

I subscribe to the "A picture is worth a thousand words" school of communication. Just look at this amazing basket I won this summer at a GF Twitter Party!

I've owed Oh So Sweet Treats owner Ebony Richardson Jackson this post for a while, actually, but now that her bakery is also up and running, there are several ways to acquire her delicious gluten free goodies. I shared the brownies, blondies and cookies in the basket with friends and family, and NO ONE knew the gluten-free items were gluten free.

Oh, the blondies...crunchy and moist. Oh the brownies...chocolatey and fudgy, Oh the, OK, you get the picture.

Ebony's goal is authentic, scratch-baked goods with the finest ingredients. She has some of the finest baked goods I've tasted, and as a non-baker, you readers know how much I love a good treat. The cupcakes look amazing...I may just have to order some of them!

Best of all, Ebony is hoping to have all the treats in the bakery prepared with a gluten-free alternative. And yes, sensitive diners, she is ULTRA careful with the CC issues.

So if you're in the Manassas, Virginia, area, drop buy and buy a treat!

Stop by for a sweet treat at:
9411 Battle Street
Manassas, VA 20110

Monday - Friday 9 a.m. - 6 p.m.
Saturday 10 a.m. - pm

Much love, and enjoy!

Monday, August 10, 2009

Lobstah forevah!

I had an exceptional experience getting gluten-free food on vacation this year. Several, actually.

We're back from our massive vacation, and suffice it to say, I've decided I'm too old to live out of a suitcase for 12 days. We took a train, a subway, a shuttle, a ship, a boat, several taxis, three trains, and a plane to have our respite.

I won't bore you with highlights of the cruise (because there weren't any? Disappointing to say the least) but will say I had a lot of success eating gluten free on the Carnival Triumph, our first stop. While a waiter did serve me fully glutened French toast (while insisting YES, Gluten Free for you! You SPECIAL!) most everything else worked just fine on the cruise. I still commend the chefs on Carnival -- they do make sure gluten free people eat well. I had gluten-free pizza, molten chocolate cake, and Tiramisu cheesecake, plus French toast (GF) and eggplant parmesan and bread galore.

But the focus of my vacation this year was to eat as MUCH lobster, plain, no butter when I could, as I could possibly afford. And dang it, I did! The cholesterol in lobster, by the way, is the good kind, as long as you're careful with the butter...

Because, as we know, plain seafood in its freshest form, is naturally gluten free!

First I had lobster tails on the ship (with tiger shrimp -- two orders!) And in St. John, New Brunswick, at the lovely Steamers Cafe, I had lobster and mussels (steamed in water, not ale). A wonderful gluten-free lunch, with great entertainment from a crazy guy named Tim.

We also had wonderful lobster salad in Halifax at McElveys. They knew a lot about gluten free, and their lobster roll (sans the roll, of course) was delicious. Alas, I could find no beer at the irish Pub called The Triangle across the street. I also took a photo of a deck chair from the Titanic. I understand they rearrange it every day.

We spent one day in New York City, where I had a beautiful sweet corn arepas on the street, stuffed with mozzarella. The stand I bought it from was entirely corn based. I could have had an empanada, a tart, or more. Lovely. I also had a stack of pastrami at the Stage Deli (also served gluten free) and later, a platter of hummus, feta, and olives.

We also saw HAIR on Broadway. AWESOME doesn't begin to describe it. This is me with Gavin Creel, who plays Claude and was nominated for a Tony this year.

The gluten-free seafood mecca was Boston, site of the 2009 AEJMC convention. I have three distinct gluten-free recommendations in Boston.

•Jasper White's Summer Shack, in both Back Bay and Cambridge.

The servers and staff know what gluten free means, but more importantly, their seafood is so fresh and pure, it is naturally gluten free. I had a twin chix lobster (recently molted lobster, small and succulent) and some wonderful shrimp, and on my second trip, I had a grilled calamari salad and some steamed clams. For dessert, try to resist the burnt sugar ice cream, or the fresh peaches and blueberries with whipped cream. Oh, that's me with Chef Jasper White. Nice, nice guy!

•Paddy O's Irish Pub, Union Street

After a glance into the Ye Olde Union Oyster House (and shock at the price) we walked back to Paddy O's pub where I had a great lobster lunch for $13 -- this included the cole slaw. Pictures say more than words do, but trust me when I say this area is the place to go for lobster at lunch. It was cheaper than the McDonalds on the corner!

But the piece de resistance, the creme de la creme, the BEST gluten free restaurant experience I had, was at a lovely Italian place called Nebo. Located at 90 N. Washington Street (about a 10 buck can ride from Back Bay,) Nebo had something we gluten-free folks don't get too often -- Misto Fritto, cooked in a dedicated fryer. It was a delicious combination of calamari, fresh shrimp and smelt, and crispy crunchy with a corn-meal batter.

You have to LOVE a place that has the words "all precautions are taken to prevent cross contamination." I loved it, and my non-GF buddies and hubby enjoyed it, too. For an entree (which I DID NOT need but had anyway,) I had gluten-free pasta with a rich scallop sauce. They were out of the gluten-free lemon tart (bummer) but I had a lovely, lovely panna cotta with a mango sauce.

I found out about Nebo when the owners wrote me an email about the place. They wrote:
"About 4 yrs ago my sister Christine and I opened nebo restaurant at 90 N. Washington St. in Boston’s North End. Nebo is a traditional Italian restaurant offering dishes based on recipes that were passed down from our mother and grandmother. After being open for about a year, two of our closest friends were told they had Celiac disease. We then realized just how many people this disease has affected and the need for an alternative for their dining restrictions. Determined to serve our friends their favorites, we set upon making our menu available in a gluten free form. We are thrilled to say that we have now produced 90 percent of our menu with the same great taste as our regular menu. We don't think there has been an accomplishment that has brought us more pleasure.:

If you would like them to forward you a copy of their Gluten free menu please send a menu request to They are proud of their gluten-free menu. They should be. It's terrific! I urge anyone gluten free or not to dine there.

That about sums up my gluten-free vacation. I have to say, Boston is one of the gluten-free friendliest cities I've visited. All I needed was a gluten-free cupcake...

Much love, and I'm back on the grid.