Happy Halloween! Am I dressing up? I’m not dressing up. I’m continuing in the grand tradition of exempting myself from holidays and social interaction by drinking cider, eating candy, and watching Twin Peaks in bed. Compare this to last year’s Bobcat Goldthwait/pumpkin crêpe and 2011’s Kubrick/leftover slices of cake marathon and you’ve got yourself a trend.
Womp womp, when was the last time I did one of these awesome round-ups? Probably around the same time Pandora thought it was appropriate to play ‘Hey There Delilah,’ which it’s doing right now. This time, it’s a little different- I have a mix of gluten-free products that I’ll give numerical ratings to, just like my big features, but…smaller. Think of it as the specialty food equivalent of GrubGrade’s First Looks or TIB’s Quick Reviews. Interspersed through this will be some recipes I’ve recently made that I’m particularly proud of.
Spam comments are friendly. They’re weird, but they’re friendly. Certainly better than the weird shit I get from real people, ranging from complaints directed to a specific branch of a multinational corporation or disturbingly specific health issues, or personal attacks. Even the one that just said, ‘ass this is my website ass’ entertained me more than the diarrheic diatribe on…diarrhea. They keep me entertained during my long days, especially when I’ve caught up on work and have little to do but bake gluten-free muffins and dance with animatronic birds.
I miss McDonald’s. They tweeted me the other day and I didn’t have the heart to tell them how much I loved them and wanted them back. I’ve been pulling up to the local franchise on North Beacon, standing outside with my trusty Sounddock cued up to ‘In Your Eyes.’ The neighbors really didn’t like that, but it’s for love, y’know?
I have also scared The Bedfellow on two occasions when she was eating a McDouble, the first culminating in the screamed repetition of ‘BREEEAAAADDDDDD’ along with an accusatory finger point, and the second was a little more subtle, the silent but ever-powerful ‘Hungry Dog’ look.
Please note that this also happens with real cupcakes. But I’m getting help. I’m looking for solutions. One of those may or may not be the scarily reasonably-priced chicken nuggets from Applegate Farms. I get them from the Stop and Shop that has all of the gluten-free things, and then go to the Stop and Shop with the wide array of tortillas and better sauces. For a mere $5, I have the power of 16 chicken nuggets. They’re about 75% smaller than Mickey D’s, almost closer to popcorn chicken, and come with a selection of zero dipping sauces, but work out pretty well in the price department.
In fact, they actually remind me of my own homemade nuggets, may their recipe rest in peace. Rest in pie. Ress in pee. I give up, there’s no joke there. They are coated in a mixture of corn starch and rice flour, which could be pretty easy to replicate. I dipped them in hot mustard. Because the breading is somewhat yellowed to begin with, it’s difficult to tell when they are finished. I tested one for quality assurance and found that the breading was somewhat sticky when they were undercooked, but eventually crisped up with no trouble at all. And while I’m happy to flip over the nuggets to ensure maximum crunch, doing so with such delicate breading is frustrating.
Despite the slight fumbles, though, these are an amazing substitute for nuggets or any breaded chicken, if you’re patient and can get the breading very crispy. The chicken is tender and moist, with a thick, crispy coating, heavy on the black pepper. Dipped in hot mustard, there’s nothing better.
Also, because I’m an adult, I ate them on top of my recently paid insurance bills, hashtag classy, like a boss, or comparable bill-paying figure. I’m curious to see how these would be if I fried them, too. Ultimately, it’s something I would buy again. It’s easy to eat a box as a meal when you’re not in the mood to cook.
Happy government shutdown! It’s okay, we have plenty to talk about on Foodette. Sometimes I feel like a pet seal- what can I say? I perform better when I have a small treat, and I need lots of little bites of energy to keep me through the day. I’m lucky that I live close enough to school that I don’t have to resort to buying my own lunch, but I like to keep a stash of goodies in my car and briefcase, too, for days when one class goes slightly over the schedule or when I just feel low on energy. Lately, I’ve been eating organic candy chews from Lovely Candy Co- these were sent to me over the summer, but I recently found the pack I’d been saving for school: superfruit!
They come in three flavors- blueberry, raspberry, and cranberry, and come individually wrapped. They are quite the faithful homage to Starburst- same creamy, chewy texture and shape, but are all natural, gluten-free, GMO-free, and fruity as hell, despite being somewhat stickier. I haven’t been able to put them down, and I’m not typically a candy person.
Where these succeed outside of their commercial counterparts is their flavor. They have sizable chunks of freeze-dried fruit, and some of the flavors have herbaceous notes to them. I am unsure if that’s from the fruit itself or an additional flavoring, but it makes for a very good foil to the sweet fruit and sugary base.
The only area where these fall short is packaging- the predictability of Starburst makes them easy to eat and parcel out. Everybody has a favorite flavor. With these, there are more to the package- approximately 30, but the flavor discrepancy was a little ridiculous. In my package, I had 17 blueberry candies, 10 cranberries, and 3 precious raspberries, which happened to be my favorite flavor. A more even adjustment would behoove the brand.
Like a slow blink, time has just slipped through my fingers. I still can’t believe that it’s the one-year anniversary of my grandmother’s death, that I turned 23 two days ago, that I’m six thousand miles replaced, rerooted, sprouting slowly. It doesn’t consume like it used to, all these changes, but it still feels like a firm punch in the gut sometimes. A soundless reverberation. I’m celebrating in small ways- a reconciliation dinner with Miss Love, another with K, and many beautiful meals with The Bedfellow keep me constantly curious and sociable.
But amidst the stress, there’s been celebration aplenty. I thought I’d keep the verbiage to a rare minimum and share some photos of the birthday pie and macarons I enjoyed- all gluten-free. The macarons were a gift from Miss Love, and the pie was a scheme of my own design, plotted over for months, and finally conceived over a few days in between notes and briefs. It was beautiful- Mi-Del gingersnap and Vermont Creamery maple butter crust, with a filling of Cortland apples, Vermont Creamery vanilla creme fraiche, Nielsen-Massey bourbon vanilla, Korintje cinnamon, Niman Ranch bacon, and Yancey’s maple-bacon cheddar cheese. Absolutely insane.
Modernist apple core sculptures.
The seasonal Laduree was pink peppercorn-flavored- and grey! Easily the strangest pastry I’ve had in a while- pure, undiluted pepper-infused cookie with no sugar to speak of. The sole deviation from a savory route came from the buttercream, offering a creamy, thick texture similar to frosting, but also very spicy.
I baked the pie deep-dish style, in the base of my new Le Creuset.
The inaugural slice, augmented with a scoop of creme fraiche.
More macarons! Salted caramel, vanilla, raspberry, peppercorn, pistachio, and more.
The Bedfellow and I shared this sweet dark chocolate and honeycomb bee bar, a gift from Savannah Bee at the Fancy Food Show, on the first chilly, smoky day of autumn. I hope you enjoyed this miniature birthday tour!
I am probably not the best person to be marketed toward. Like you, my Google search terms can best be described as ‘erratic and occasionally emotionally disturbing.’ An evening may start on the NY Times, clicking around various op-ed articles about death, and then abruptly switch to sixteen different pasta recipes. From there, Bloomberg and Cracked are visited in equal amounts, and I typically culminate the evening with a two-hour jag of Corgi-hunting, crying, and pointing on Petfinder. Also, porn.
So whenever I see ads in my mailbox for food or Kleenex or caskets, I laugh because it’s all very obtuse. Google doesn’t know me much better than your average Facebook stalker does. Do I mind it? In the sense that I don’t want it to happen, yes. I’m entitled to my privacy in dog and carb-lusting, but the ads are so ridiculous that to an extent, I don’t even care. The spot-on precision of the recent Udi’s package, though, that’s an accuracy in espionage that I don’t mind at all. I received a box of products from Udi’s today that makes me want to lobby for the Foodette Inbetween Nourishment and Enrichment Bill of 2013, which exists solely for the purpose of me being able to eat all the muffins in one day. One of the included items was something I’d been ogling at each visit to Whole Foods, shaking my head every time I passed them. Soft-baked salted caramel and cashew cookies. Holy bane of my existence, Batman. Did they film me? Did they gauge the sweat on my palms through my implanted social media machine? I don’t know.
That is, until I got a box of Udi’s treats today, including these wonder-cookies. They’re beautiful. They are chewy and soft, and have the texture and homey raw flour tinge of a fresh sugar cookie. I had an ex who used to make killer cookies, and these are the closest thing I have to them. The cashews add a nice salty, nuttiness, which offsets the more protein bar-esque flavor of the cookie base. I liked that the caramel element wasn’t in the form of a saccharine filling or sticky sauce on top, but felt more incorporated into the cookie, and gave it a rich, brown butter flavor.
TL;DR: I ate four, thus negating the mega-power-ultra workout I did the other day. Oh, the timing of it all.
What have I been eating? You mean, outside of the trail mix I’m eating out of the bag, like some eco-friendly, organic trough? Plenty of good food, despite my long nights and early mornings.
Starting with a refreshing cocktail from the new bar, made with the last (sob!) of the Rhubarb liquor from Root, a splash of Fever Tree tonic, and Owl’s Brew Pink and Black tea-infused cocktail mixer. Much better than my last attempt, a drink that tried to mix cognac, coffee, and ginger libation. Not great.
These sweet citrus sodas from Q, the makers of my favorite tonic, are also great in cocktails, although lately, I’ve just been drinking them out of the bottle after school. They’re slightly bitter, like they’ve been steeped with the fruit rind, and are not too sweet.
Dinners have been, with the exception of my bangin’ tacos, fairly lackluster, and chiefly consist of whatever combination of meat + beans/rice + cheese/sauce I can inhale before the gym or before I pass out in bed. This is one of them, but I think it’s a clever one. Kraft mac and cheese is not gluten-free or friendly, but, as I have discovered, the cheese powder is okay for those with gluten sensitivity. Behold, Easy Quack. Replace the noodles with tri-color quinoa, add some creme fraiche, hot sauce, salt, and pepper to the cheese powder mix, and voila! It was awesome underneath grilled chicken.
This was another late-afternoon supper, a very easy cheese pizza, courtesy of the kind folks at Amy’s, who sent me a coupon. For the price, a heartbreaking $11 and change, it’s a relatively small pizza, and personally, I prefer the Trader Joe’s version, with a thinner crust and cost. But this had a really comforting, nostalgic flavor, like an amped-up Ellio’s with a thick, dense crust and a pervasive sourdough flavor, which I loved.
In fact, lately, tons of gluten-free treats have been coming in the mail! This all-purpose baking mix was from Glutino, and I used it to make some really delicious pretzel buns. It made quite a lot, too- eight baby slider rolls, six regular burger rolls, and two hot dog buns, which I used for…
These! It’s basically my rebuttal to the Red Robin Oktoberfest burger, which I cannot eat. Expect a post later. The sausages were especially unique, as they were made from buffalo.
These are the last of the Sugarfina gummies, the chili-ginger hearts, that I ate as a treat for finishing up some CivPro cases. These were very, very clever- a sweet, chewy gummy shell surrounding a spicy, jammy center. Really strong flavors.
This chocolate and almond tart from Hail Merry was also a treat for finishing assignments. I’m like a dog, I need incentive to do tricks or file memos. It was very, very rich, and I ended up taking two and a half days to finish it. Please, admire my bite.
Also, I swear this isn’t some sort of implicit ad from Crate and Barrel, advertising their adorable square plates. It’s just an indication that I need to get new plates. Unless you’re really into this one. These cookies are from a sweet company called Keep It Real Food Co, and all their products are gluten-free and vegan, which is also awesome. I’ve been eating their granola in oatmeal, on pancakes, and in cereal, too.
Fridge oatmeal, easy for early and fast breakfasts, in a multitude of flavors.
And finally, the FRCP, my new best friend for a million years, or until comfortably retire at the ripe, old age of 26, and my second best friend, CVS Gold Emblem blueberry-flavored cranberries with chocolate. They’re weird. I’m weird. We work it out.
Sometimes, treats come in that I’d just love to share. Whenever popcorn comes in, I know it’s time to give my Dad a call, and when anything with meat or cheese arrives at the door, the Bedfellow is mysteriously present. Gummies are a tough one, though. Nobody I know really enjoys them like I do, so when they come in, I typically have to eat them myself or coerce a willing participant into enjoying them with me. I swear, the fringe benefits of being my friend are ridiculous, if you’re not a total asshole.
Recently, Sugarfina sent a gorgeous box filled to the brim with gummy and chocolate candies, sourced from France and Germany. These are unique because they’re impossible to get unless you’ve got ties to the gummy mafia or are in the candy industry yourself, as they’re made for the company under different names. So in a sense, they’re gummy curators. They sent over a very Foodette-ish selection, the bulk of which I’ll present in candy pornalicious fashion here.
The Belgian Ale gummies were my favorite, by far, although from the convincing taste, I’m still not quite sure if they were gluten-free. The flavor was fantastic, with a very fruity, malty bite right at the start, very tangy, with a yeast-flavored edge. I don’t know how they did it, outside of actually infusing the candy with beer. Not only does it taste like a beer, it tastes like a good beer, one I’d actually drink. It only adds points to the fact that each gummy is shaped like a foamy beer stein, with a marshmallow cap at the top. Likely one of the most unique products I’ve had all year.
They sent a boozy chocolate, too, the Absinthe Cordials. The construction of these was interesting. From what I discerned, the absinthe syrup center was coated in a mint sugar candy, surrounded by milk chocolate, and yet another hard, green candy shell. A crispier candy than one might expect, with a very convincing mint flavor, though as a former frequenter of absinthe and its friends in Parisian bars, I’d liken this to more of a pastis flavor, as the licorice doesn’t come out as much as I’d like, but could also argue for the absinthe as it is bright green and does have a grainy crunch reminiscent of a sugar cube in absinthe. So clever.
The final cocktail candy came out a little squished in appearance, but are ridiculously fun to eat. The Cuba Libre gummies are firm and jellied pyramids of alternating cola gummy and rum gummy, with a semi-liquid gel center of rum. The rum renders them piquant, the cola makes them sweet. There’s a spiced tang to them that really evokes drinking a cold, icy cocktail, and each gummy is perfectly bite-sized. I love them. These would be the coolest party favor.
Bacon white chocolate pretzel bites were next, which I did admittedly eat despite the better judgment of my stomach. It wasn’t worth the headache, unfortunately. While white chocolate is a unique base for a bacon-based treat, it was the predominant flavor and lent a dysfunctional sweetness to the candy that even the salty bacon couldn’t balance out.
The sugar peach sweethearts were next, and were the perfect treat to eat while studying intentional infliction of emotional distress and celebrating the end of summer. They mimicked everything fun about a ripe peach- a little fizzy fuzziness in the sour sugar coating and center, and a very perfumy, floral, yet honeyed flavor. Cybele at CandyBlog reviewed these, and said they were like “little miracle pieces” in how deftly they encapsulated the fruit, which I found quite apt.
I only had enough in me to try these five, but I still have five more to go through! I’m all sugared out. More tomorrow!
Three weeks off gluten, and only one transgression so far. But life isn’t all neatly highlighted casebooks, amaranth flour, and health clubs. There’s the extremely important matter of dessert, which I confess I wasn’t too concerned with until 90% of it was off-limits. It’s gotten to a point where I’m shipping the Cookie Monster hardcore and clicking through the Betty Crocker product page before I go to bed, restless, dissatisfied.
Speaking of Betty Crocker, she now has a new line of gluten-free desserts that are not only anointed by the gods of Putting Things on Shelves I can reach, but are actually tasty, too. At $4.79 for a box of rice flour and chocolate chips, the thought of paying mid-2008 gas prices for cookies was irritating, but intriguing. The cookies are easy to prepare and even easier to screw up- unless you use a few good tricks.
I read reports of these that were ridiculously varying- from crispy, flat cookies that had to be scraped off the pan to puffy, barely baked dough, so I tried to be preemptive. I didn’t change any of the ingredients, but did chill the dough for about two hours before baking.
Baked, the cookies range in size from penny to pasty, and are soft enough to cover a stripper’s nipple. They’re gorgeous and came out exactly like they did on the box. It seemed that despite the light color on top, the flour cooked much more quickly on the bottom, and didn’t absorb as much butter as regular cookies do. They left the pan greasy– personal injury greasy. I’d advise you use a non-stick pan in addition to butter, though, as they were inexplicably sticky after and were difficult to remove from the pan.
The flavor is extremely buttery. Combined with the very toasty, salty flavor of the rice flour, it almost tastes like a thick, more crumbly pancake, like Bisquick. With milk, the nutty flavor comes out even more, the resulting sips after each dunk tasting like the bottom of a bowl of cereal. I realized later that they reminded me of Rice Chex because they’re effectively made with the same base. They aren’t really viable for dunking. They hold together well enough, but the milk just gets absorbed into the cookie and makes it unpleasantly soggy. All in all, I really liked them. They weren’t spectacular, and they are still really expensive, at approximately 30 cents for a very small cookie, compared to those giant $2 buckets of chocolate chip cookies at the store for about 8 cents a cookie, but are much more pleasant of an alternative than I thought possible.