New York Times Well blog and my Autumn Quinoa

Two of my favorite things are the New York Times and my Autumn Quinoa recipe.  Yesterday, I had the opportunity to combine both in a piece written for the NYT Well blog’s Vegetarian Thanksgiving series.  Here it is, if you’d like to check it out:

http://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2014/11/20/vegetarian-thanksgiving-food-allergies-and-an-autumn-quinoa/?ref=health

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Electric tortilla press!

Okay everyone, I just have to share my latest exciting discovery: an electric tortilla press!

Several months ago I had an allergic reaction that was mild but still scary to encounter, and it was due to cross-contamination.  I found that my usual burrito/tortilla shells were now situated in the grocery store next to the brand new jalapeno shells, and I can only imagine that my new reaction might have been due to the shared equipment.  As a result, I started making my own tortillas.

I did not exactly have the knack for it.  I was covered in flour and perspiring a little from rolling out each tortilla.  And frustrated, with the delicate balance between undercooked and smoking tortillas.  After a few scorched attempts, I managed to get the process figured out, but even so it involved making the dough, rolling it out, carefully frying each one for the precise amount of time with a precise amount of oil on the stove… and this all before even making the stuffings for the burrito!  Since these burritos are a staple for travel and healthy lunches for me, I needed another solution.

And thanks to a little online searching and a wonderful birthday gift, the solution came my way.  The other night, I tried the electric tortilla press for the first time.  It was amazing.  Mix the dough: check.  Knead it a little and divide into equal, smaller balls of dough: check.  Place the dough in the center of the tortilla press and close the top to squish it out: check.  Hold it down until the escaping steam makes a funny-sounding squeal: check.  Raise the top lid to find a perfectly pressed tortilla ready to be filled with deliciousness: CHECK.

It was easy, quick and delicious!

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Breakfast is my favorite meal

I’ve never considered myself a big fan of the Bed and Breakfast experience.  Paying money to stay in someone else’s house, with (potentially) someone else’s pets that might make me sneeze, eating food directly from someone’s kitchen… the thought of it kind of weirded me out.  Why would I do that when I could stay in a standardized hotel, one maybe even with a pool?

Well, I’ve given it a try a couple of times now.  The first time was in the Irish countryside near Killarney and the Ring of Kerry.  That place was hard to beat, complete with Irish rain, tea, and owner John’s Irish brogue.  Short of an Irish B&B, I didn’t have plans to try another.

That being said, there is something romantic about staying in a B&B in the nearby Finger Lakes of upstate New York in autumn, with the leaves in full color.  I wanted to try an overnight without the stress of a big trip, to see if it would be possible to travel with food allergies and have a good time.  We stayed at the 1897 Beekman House in Dundee, NY, just off Seneca Lake.  I talked with the owner Chuck earlier in the week to discuss my complicated food situation with him, and he told me he might just plan to make the blueberry-stuffed French toast.  Yummmm.  A trained chef, I trusted that this home-made breakfast would be safe, and it turned out to be as delicious as it was safe.

My boyfriend, “A,” and I arrived on Friday night to the quietest town I have ever seen.  We explored the 1897 house with its several parlors, took a short walk (mostly to hear the leaves crunch and explore the one-block town), and settled in for the evening.  The next morning, we walked down the grand staircase bleary-eyed and looking forward to our breakfast.  I had seen the menu and faltered on the rum-caramelized pineapple (rum sometimes uses unsafe spices).  After a whispered conversation with “A,” I decided to say something.  Hesitantly, I spoke up to Gerry, clenching my hands with the nerves of a potentially awkward conversation.

“Gerry, I noticed that the menu says the pineapple is caramelized with rum.”

“Oh, yes, it’s delicious!”

“Well, I actually often stay away from rum, just because it sometimes has spices.  If you don’t mind, I think I’ll pass on the pineapple course.”

“Oh, well let me tell Chuck.  I think this rum is okay, but if you’re not comfortable, we can whip something else up…”

“I’m fine to just keep enjoying my cranberry-orange scones with honey butter, so don’t even worry about making something else!  Thank you so much.”

Gerry went back into the kitchen, and quickly Chuck appeared (in his chef’s coat) through the swinging door, holding the rum.  We repeated the conversation, and I assured them that I didn’t mind enjoying the (fabulous) home-made scones and tropical fruit smoothie with my coffee.  (Mind you, this is all before the main course of blueberry stuffed French toast had even arrived!).  They accepted my statement with ease and retreated back to the kitchen.

Minutes later Gerry came through holding two plates – one with the caramelized pineapple rum for “A,” and one with a fresh slice of pineapple for me.  The scoop of lime coconut sorbet sat clean in the middle of the pineapple, surrounded by thin slices of strawberry.  With a moment’s notice, they had found a way to accommodate my needs – and all without making me uncomfortable or feel at fault for my food allergies.  We finished the breakfast with the blueberry-stuffed French toast, our own stomachs stuffed to the brim with breakfast.

“A” and I then set out for the nearby craft market and to hike Watkins Glen.  Our bellies were full, my nerves over breakfast were easing, and the experience of Chuck and Gerry’s B&B set our adventure off on the right foot.

I knew that we would be home for dinner, and having only one real meal to worry about allowed me to enjoy the rest of the day.  Traveling by B&B allowed me to be a part of a mini-travel (and culinary) adventure, with the safety of trusted Chef Chuck’s home-made breakfast leading the day.

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