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Goodbye Gluten (For Now)

breadDoes a gluten-free diet have real health benefits or is it just a fad? For those with celiac disease, avoiding gluten is a matter of life and death. Consuming foods with gluten damages their small intestines, making it difficult for their bodies to absorb nutrients and maintain a healthy weight. I’ve been tested before and don’t have the disease, but recent articles on gluten sensitivity have me wondering how my body would react to a gluten-free diet. I’ve always had stomach issues, but would my symptoms improve if I cut out one of my food staples?

I’m putting a gluten-free diet to the test for the month of March and giving up foods with wheat, barley, and rye. I know a big problem with processed gluten-free foods is that they’re often higher in calories, fat, and sugar than their gluten-filled counterparts, so I’m not going to replace what I’m giving up (save for some gluten-free desserts). A few foods and drinks that I’ll miss:

  • Baked goods of all kinds, including cookies, cakes, and fancy pastries (flour)
  • Sandwiches on crusty baguettes (more flour)
  • Sixpoint Sweet Action beer (wheat and barley)
  • Gin and tonics (gin is distilled from a mix of grains that could include wheat, barley, and rye)
  • Soy sauce (made from fermented soybeans and grains)

So get ready for some gluten-free recipes and place your bets on when I’ll cave and eat a cookie.

 

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How To: Create an Apartment-Friendly Wedding Registry

weddingregistrylecruRamsey and I got married in the summer of 2011. Wedding planning was a fun (and stressful) process that let me unleash my inner project manager, resulting in dozens of spreadsheets and itineraries over a year of planning. I wrote a post about creating a registry for my apartment kitchen back then, but now that I’m over a year into my marriage and have had a chance to use gifts from our generous guests, I want to revisit it.

As I wrote back in 2011, when you’re strapped for space in an apartment, there are just so many things to want, but few items that will actually fit. Here’s my five-step plan to create an apartment kitchen wedding registry that won’t leave you needing a storage space downtown. Continue Reading →

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Roasted Vegetables with Caper Vinaigrette

roastedvegetables3I’m still working my way through a bag of lemons in the fridge. Lemon curd seemed like an obvious way to use all of them at once, but I’m trying to keep sweets out of the house. A cup of lemon curd would be gone in about 48 hours, spread on scones and spoons for breakfast and afternoon snacks. Using just one lemon for a pan of roasted vegetables was a better option, especially when it was for a recipe adapted (slightly) from Yotam Ottolenghi’s vegetarian cookbook, Plenty.

roastedvegetablesThe recipe roasts root vegetables and tomatoes in stages and then tops them all with a lemon caper vinaigrette.¬† Continue Reading →

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Arugula Salad with Shaved Parmesan

arugulasaladSimplify. That’s my mantra right now. After a busy weekend and big projects looming, I’m trying to maintain my calm with quiet nights at home filled with novels and Brian Eno’s Ambient 1: Music for Airports on repeat. The album was designed to bring calm to the chaos of an airport terminal, so imagine the wonders it does for my one-bedroom apartment.

I’m also trying to simplify meals. I want them fast, healthy, and full of bright flavors, so an arugula salad with Parmesan cheese and a lemon vinaigrette was a perfect dinner last night.

lemondressingIt takes about ten minutes to throw all of the ingredients together, giving you the rest of the evening to focus on more pressing things. Like ambient music. Or listening to spider plant leaves rustle by a drafty window. Continue Reading →

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Quiet and Explosions

guggenheimhangingI love exploring New York with friends, but every few weeks, I take a solo trip. Without anyone to talk to, the city becomes my focus for the day. Museums are one of my favorite solo stops, and on Saturday, I went to the Guggenheim to see two new exhibitions. The first was Gutai: Splendid Playground, a retrospective of the avant-guarde Gutai art collective in Japan. The rotunda was spanned by giant polyethylene tubes filled with colored water, with each tube climbing higher than the next until they reached the skylight at the center of the ceiling. The rest of the works had a similar playful feel; some were interactive and others were created during artist performances when they would paint with their feet or use small motorized cars to draw chaotic, Pollack-like sketches. Television screens showed recordings of the process by many of the works. The second exhibition was Zarina: Paper Like Skin, a retrospective of the artist’s minimalist prints and other works, including intricate woven paper strips and a huge piece of paper covered in gold leaf. It was the first exhibition I’ve been to where I thought, “I want to hang all of this in my house.” You can see a few examples here.

After the museum, I went to Cha-An Teahouse on the Lower East Side. If you’ve never treated yourself to a full afternoon tea, or just lingered over a meal in a peaceful restaurant on a Saturday afternoon, I highly recommend it. Their afternoon tea set started with two warm rolls made with dough that reminded me of a soft pretzel. One was filled with smoked salmon, cilantro, and mustard, and the other had a sweet strawberry butter spread.

cha-ansavoryOnce I finished the rolls, the sweets arrived. This was the moment I wished for a companion because there was no way I could finish five desserts between sips of my lemon verbena tea. There were two chocolate scones, a chocolate and walnut brownie, a muffin with apple puree and pecans (?), and a banana and/or earl gray sponge cake.

cha-answeetWhen I go back, I think I’ll skip the full tea set and just get tea and Cha-An’s fabled black sesame creme brulee. I completely missed it on the menu, but post-tea internet research suggests it’s amazing.

After a meditative Saturday, I woke up on Sunday with plans to celebrate the Lunar New Year. Things got a little crazy. Continue Reading →

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Chewy Granola Bars

granola1Did you know that a box of thirteen custom granola bars costs $38? $38! That’s enough for a reasonably fancy dinner with a cocktail. Or two paperback books. Or a cute blouse on ModCloth. Or anything on BuzzFeed’s list of “27 Way More Awesome Things To Buy With $38 Than Facebook¬†Stock.” In short, too much money for granola bars when making them from scratch takes ten minutes, not counting baking time. You can pick the dried fruit, nuts, and other ingredients you like in the amounts that you like without dropping a lot of money and sacrificing your tastes to a store-bought bar in a box.

But are they healthy? Well, not “healthy” per se, but they taste damn good. My recipe calls for brown sugar, honey, and even the dreaded corn syrup, but you can experiment with other sweeteners and food glues. For example, Mark Bittman uses nut butter and honey to sweeten his bars and hold them together.

granola4My bars do have plenty of dried fruit, oats, and nuts, so at least they have some fiber…right? Have my breakfasts all this week been at least somewhat healthy? Please say yes so that I can continue to eat them at my desk with a smug grin on my face that says, “Yes. I made this myself.” A grin that hides the amount of sugar and corn syrup I used and the fact that I packed the bar in a non-compostable piece of plastic wrap.

I don’t think I’m just talking about granola guilt anymore. Continue Reading →

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Lemon and Blood Orange Bars

citrusbars12I couldn’t eat citrus for most of last winter (ugh, health), but this year, I’m going all out. Cases of clementines last less than four days in my kitchen and grapefruit are my regular evening snack. Hell, I’m even drinking chamomile tea spiked with orange zest.

I’m also back to baking with citrus, and last weekend, I tried something different with standard lemon bars by adding a few tablespoons of blood orange juice. The blood orange toned down the lemon’s tart flavor and gave the custard a pink hue. I think these bars are a great gateway lemon dessert for young or sensitive palates.

citrusbars6Blood oranges are also gorgeous, so any excuse to bring these dark red jewels into your kitchen is a good one, even if they leave it looking like a crime scene. Continue Reading →

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Blizzard Brunch

snowday2After estimates ranging from four to thirty inches of snow, Nemo only left ten in Park Slope. The sun was out and the snow was beginning to melt when Ramsey and I woke up on Saturday morning, so we took a long walk through Prospect Park on our way to brunch. snowday8snowday1Prospect Park was overrun with sledders. There were lots of children, but a surprising number of twenty and thirty-something adults were there with plastic sleds and garbage can lids. There was also one adult just acting like a child. snowday3After our trek, we ordered frittatas and hot chocolate with extra foam at Provini. snowday4snowday5snowday6snowday7frittata

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Butterscotch Maple Oatmeal Cookies

oatmealbutterscotch6Have you ever wondered what a state would taste like? If you’ve been curious about the flavor of the state of Vermont, I present Butterscotch Maple Oatmeal Cookies. They’re a little rustic and rough, but they have pockets of sweetness like a quaint village you might find on one of the state’s many country roads. They don’t flatten out like a typical cookie, leaving them mountainous with jagged brown peaks. They’re also a bit unusual, because when I think of Vermont, I think offbeat.

My college summers lent themselves to weekend trips to cities throughout New England, and back in the summer between my junior and senior years, my friend Vince and I traveled to Vermont to visit our friend Allie. I remember it was perfect driving weather with blue skies stretching over rural highways. Every few miles, we passed a sign for local farms that listed the their names, logos, and distance from the main road. We saw signs for apple orchards and dairy farms, but when we spotted a sign with the silhouette of a long-legged bird, the words “EMU FARM,” and an arrow directing us a few miles to the west, we had to follow it. Ten minutes later we were face to face with a flock of giant brown beasts.

emus We didn’t dare lean over the fence to touch the birds, but a sign stapled to a post informed us that “emu products” were for sale at the white farmhouse a few hundred yards away. We’d already driven to an emu farm, so we wanted to leave with something to show for it. Continue Reading →

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Butternut Squash and Sweet Potato Soup

butternutsweetpotatosoup6I was gluttonous this weekend. Like the many other people in the US, I spent Sunday night watching TV and eating classic Super Bowl foods. I had a chicken finger sub, nachos with sour cream and guacamole, potato chips, and tall silver cans of Sixpoint Sweet Action. This would have been a fine exception to my usual diet, but on Friday, I had a meal at Do or Dine that involved deep-fried deviled eggs and a foie gras doughnut (a classic sugar doughnut from Dough filled with fruit preserves and foie gras).

The weekend was worth every bite, but my body is sluggish and swollen. I need to clean up my diet with home-cooked meals that cut down on dairy and bread, and I’m starting with a butternut squash and sweet potato soup that’s full of pureed vegetables. (Trust me, it tastes better than it sounds.) I made a big pot of it Sunday afternoon before Super Bowl festivities began for quick, healthy dinners this week.

butternutsweetpotatosoup1The squash and potatoes are naturally sweet, and once they combined with carrots, celery, onion, and a quart of low-sodium vegetable broth, they simmered into a rich, dairy-free soup. Continue Reading →