Monday, August 23, 2010

Our trip to the Latham Fresh Market

So, we checked out Fresh Market in Latham for the first time this weekend. I was extremely excited, as I'd heard wonderful things about it from my friends down South, and it's nice to have more competition and more choices for grocery stores in this area. We had to run some errands in Albany on Saturday morning and stopped there after a trip to Lowes up the road (off-topic: for a firepit! Yay to roasted marshmallows as soon as this rain clears up!).

The first thing that hit us was how nice everything looked. They're still doing construction on other stores in the plaza, but when we lived in the area everything was still under construction. The landscaping and main building were all done and absolutely beautiful. As soon as we entered the parking lot we were hit by the smell of something delicious on the grill, and we entered among a crowd of people.

The first stop was the produce department - one of the things I'd heard so much about. There was a ton of excitement in the store, and people were scooping up tons of produce into their carts. I put a couple of perfect-looking nectarines in my basket, and my next stop was the berries. Blackberries are a favorite of mine and they're only in season for a very short time. Examining the containers, I admired the big, plump berries, until I saw... fuzzy white mold.

Now, I know that berries get moldy very quickly and I always complain about this at Price Chopper. But, if you're a grocery store and it's your grand opening weekend, you should be on your A game and that's pretty inexcusable in my book.

I looked at some of the other produce, but I couldn't bring myself to spend money on it. $3.99/lb. for red peppers that are $1.99/lb. at Price Chopper (and bigger there!?) Now, I am all about shelling out for premium produce - I love the $6/lb. organic, hydroponically (and relatively locally) grown tomatoes that are just about perfection off-season. But I couldn't bring myself to spend that much per pound for peppers that I thought were better at a regular Price Chopper.

Next, onto the deli and butcher counters. They had some interesting cuts of meat, but there were so many people there that we didn't buy anything. We stayed around the perimeter of the store and saw a lot of the brands we liked, at a slight markup (example: Chobani yogurt for $1.59). The bakery smelled divine, but there were no gluten free baked goods (not that we were expecting any). The alcohol area was awesome - you could mix and match and create your own six pack! However, no Wood chuck or other gluten free options, so we passed on that. Still, it's nice for when we have company. My husband bought a bottle of Mexican Pepsi, but when we got home we realized that Mexican Pepsi is no longer like it was when we were on our honeymoon and is now made with HFCS just like American Pepsi.

When we made it into the aisles, we got a nice surprise: most of their gluten free items were labelled right on the shelves with a huge sign that said gluten free! Score! That got major points, right there. We picked up a couple of bags of Lundberg wild rice, and looked at some of the Thai and Indian sauces. Most of the stuff, though, we could find at Price Chopper, Hannaford, or natural food stores like the Green Grocer. There weren't a lot of NEW and INTERESTING items which I was a little disappointed by. If I'm going to pay a markup for these goods, I'll probably stick to buying locally.

The one interesting thing we saw was actually at the checkout. They had European sodas, 2/$6. My husband picked up a mandarin blood orange soda (he said it was OK, but he's more of an Orange Crush guy), and I bought a cranberry-lime soda. I'm planning on cracking it open when the girls are over for our monthly book club and adding some vodka - served with chocolate mice from Villa Italia. :-)

Overall? Mixed feelings about Fresh Market. I like that they bring more competition to the area, but I fear that after the novelty wears off they may not have what it takes to stick around. At least, not without upping their game.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Menu Plan Monday

I love the Menu Plan Monday theme that goes on - it's a great way to get ideas on what to make during the week. I've never really done it before because, well, I do my grocery shopping on Saturdays and tend to plan meals Saturday to Friday. (Weak excuse, I know.) However, I am trying to plan out a healthy "cleanse" week to look good in a cocktail dress over the weekend... either cutting out or limiting as much as possible all junk (desserts, chips, other processed foods), diet soda, vino, etc. Still allowing my non-negotiable cup of coffee every morning or I'd be unbearable to live/work with. :)

So without further ado, here's my "two-day-early" menu plan:

Saturday - We'll be doing sushi takeout this evening. I'll be ordering the following maki: tuna, salmon, shrimp, avocado and cucumber. Maybe with edamame or a salad (unfortunately most ginger dressing is not gluten free - when we go out to eat Japanese food we bring a little bottle of ranch!)

Sunday - Leftover night. I have some rice and beans in the freezer - brown rice, kidney beans, green pepper, red onion, kernel corn, and a jar of medium salsa. It's always better leftover because the flavors tend to mix well, and also freezes pretty well. My hubby mixes in mild taco sauce, I like to add a drop or to of habanero sauce to mine. Sprinkle with monterey jack cheese and you're golden. You can eat it with a spoon, wrap it up on corn tortillas, or even use Tostitos Scoops to eat it.

Monday - Grilling! Chicken marinated in Italian dressing, grilled veggies (white mushrooms, red peppers, sweet onions, maybe some other stuff if it looks good). A boiled yellow squash with salt and pepper for me, Lundberg Farms risotto for my hubby.

Tuesday - Fresh fish (TBD, I like to pick it up from the market that day and see what looks good). Served with broccolini and baby red potatoes.

Wednesday - Grilled shrimp skewers, and grilled veggies again (white mushrooms, red peppers, sweet onions, maybe some other stuff if it looks good). Another boiled yellow squash for me, and leftover risotto for my hubby.

Thursday - Grilled chicken again (what, there are 5 portions in those "Perfect Portions" bags!) Still marinated in Italian dressing. This time with corn on the cob and leftover baby red potatoes.

Friday - Thinking of picking up snow crab legs with baked potato and steamed broccoli. As long as it looks good and isn't exorbitant - plan B is sauteed shrimp with the same sides.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Recipe: Granola Bars Modified From Monster Cookies

Back around Christmas-cookie-season, I wrote about Monster cookies. My friend Liz made these for the girls' holiday cookie swap, and they were amazingly good - when she told me the basic ingredients (no wheat) I was even more intrigued.

The first time I made them, I was struck by how much they tasted like one of those Quaker granola bars (which while, unfortunately, are not gluten free, my husband LOVED in his gluten-eating days). He requested that the next time I make them I try to duplicate the granola bar recipe a little more, maybe with some additional flavors. Well, winter turned into spring, spring turned into summer, and between MBA classes, a new house, and a busy work schedule things kitchen experimentation sort of fell by the wayside for a little while there. (Shame, too, because I have a kitchen dedicated to gluten free baking now!)

Well, he's working all weekend on a huge project, and while they're getting pizza for all the other people, he's not expecting to have anyone accommodate him. :-( So he brought some dinner and decided to bring some snacks in to get him through a couple of 18-hour days. I figured, this is the best time to re-visit these Monster cookies!

I used pretty much the same recipe as last time, but cut down a little bit on the sugar and added different stuff:


* 3 eggs
* 1 1/4 cups packed light brown sugar
* 1/2 cup granulated sugar (halved from last recipe)
* 1/2 teaspoon salt
* 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
* 1 12-ounce jar creamy peanut butter (I had a 40 oz jar, so I approximated this with a cup and a half - could be a little more, or a little less)
* 1 stick butter, softened
* 2 teaspoons baking soda (I didn't have any baking soda, so I used 1 tsp. baking powder and 1 tsp. cream of tartar as a substitute)
* 4 1/2 cups quick-cooking oatmeal (not instant) (And of course, gluten free!)

Instead of the chocolate (which my husband hates) and raisins, I added almost an entire package of chopped up dried apple - if I had to estimate a little more than a cup - and a large handful of chopped walnuts.

By the way, a side note/tip: Using the Slap Chop on dried apple rings? Not a great idea. Manually chopping the apple rings with a knife worked leagues better.


Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line cookie sheets with parchment paper or nonstick baking mats.

In a very large mixing bowl, combine the eggs and sugars. Mix well. Add the salt, vanilla, peanut butter, and butter. Mix well. Stir in the chocolate candies, chocolate chips, raisins, if using, baking soda, and oatmeal. Drop by tablespoons 2 inches apart onto the prepared cookie sheets.

Bake for 8 to 10 minutes. Do not overbake. Let stand for about 3 minutes before transferring to wire racks to cool. When cool, store in large resealable plastic bags.

I started out trying triangles, but they came out kind of roundish-squarish. They taste REALLY good though! We're going to try to freeze some of them as well. I think next time I could probably get rid of the granulated sugar completely.

Thank you, Paula Dean and Food Network for the original recipe!

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Blue Smoke at the Saratoga Track

Yesterday we went to the track - it was a gorgeous day for it! Unfortunately neither of us won big, but we still had a very nice day. ;-)

While we were there we checked out the new Blue Smoke restaurant for lunch. They have a pretty limited menu - pulled pork sandwiches, ribs, wings, and fries. They also sell beer, soft drinks, and I think cookies for dessert.

After waiting in line for a little while, I asked the girl at the counter about gluten. She told me that the ribs and chicken wings were both gluten free and the only allergen was soy. Score! We ordered an order of ribs, and order of wings, and an order of fries to share. The total came to about $22. (We had brought our own drinks in a cooler).

Well, we waited for about 15 min, and got about half a dozen each of wings and ribs. The wings were absolutely amazing - tender, juicy, and they had a bit of a nice kick. The ribs, not so impressed - they were very dried out. The fries were amazing. Overall, it was a light meal/snack and a little pricey even for track food standards, and they definitely have some kinks to work out, but it was interesting to try.

Afterward we went to the Circus Cafe for dinner - I'd tried it with my mother in law but hadn't taken my husband there. He got a french dip sandwich on gluten free bread and I had a burger. Both of us had salads on the side and we ordered the cotton candy for dessert - WOW. Talk about huge! Thankfully they gave us a bag to take (most) of it home in. :-)

Thursday, August 5, 2010

What are your guilty pleasure foods?

I saw this article on CNN about guilty pleasure foods - this is a great topic because we all have a list of a few guilty pleasure foods - foods that we love but only indulge once in a great while, and foods that we love and have as often as possible on a regular basis. I thought this was a great, fun topic - so I'm going to list mine (gluten free for this blog of course, though I'll admit the occasional gluten-filled Chinese food run when I'm not with my husband). So here goes my top 10, in no particular order...

1. King Crab Legs. When done right, possibly one of the most decadent foods ever, and IMO better even than lobster. Done to perfection and steeped in hot melted butter, these are pure bliss. We splurge on them a couple of times a year, but we can easily eat five pounds between the two of us! We'll tend to save these for special occasions and chill some champagne as well.

2. Guacamole. Lately I've been buying Wholly Guacamole (spicy, of course) in Price Chopper, but it's so simple to make - avocados, red onion, tomatoes, garlic, cilantro, lime. Jalapeno peppers optional. Guac is the single. best. thing. about football season.

3. Hot Buffalo Wings. Actually, scratch that. Anything with buffalo sauce. I like marinating grilled chicken breasts in buffalo sauce and adding it to salads, buffalo wings (baked or deep fried), buffalo chicken pizza... It's amazing. I'll even buy the Blazin' Buffalo Doritos, even though they're a poor substitute.

4. Caprese salad. I only indulge in this in the summer (because it's just not as good when the ingredients aren't in season). But a ball of fresh mozzarella from the farmer's market, combined with fresh garden-picked basil and tomato, sprinkled with salt and pepper and drizzled with olive oil and balsamic vinegar, is just about the perfect summer meal. And, it pairs unbelievably well with white wine.

5. Yellow squash. Another summer-only indulgence (it's just not as good out of season), I boil it and load it up with butter, salt and pepper. Unbelievable.

6. Starbucks non-fat vanilla chai latte. 90% of the time that I go to Starbucks, this is my drink (the other 10% of the time it's the holidays and I'm all about the peppermint mochas). It's an indulgence because I feel a teensy bit guilty for spending $5 on a drink, but I also credit this drink for my 4.0 GPA in grad school. (So far at least.) :-)

7. Nutella. A decadent chocolately, hazelnut spread that goes so well on so many things. My favorite thing to enjoy Nutella with is fresh, grilled pineapple. Absolutely delicious.

8. Bleu Cheese. I know there's some debate about bleu cheese being gluten free since it's grown on wheat, but I have read studies that state there is no gluten when the cheese is independently tested. So let's assume for the sake of argument that it's gluten free. It's delicious, crumbly, and there's something about the sharp biting taste that is indescribable - but soooo good. Bleu cheese dressing is also good, but can't compare to a nice wedge of bleu.

9. Milk chocolate. I'm not that picky about it - I love Hershey's, Cadbury, M&Ms, anything. But milk chocolate is so wonderfully sweet and good with a delightfully creamy texture that I can eat about a pound of it if I let myself. And when I really want chocolate, the bitter dark chocolate that I'm supposed to like as a foodie, just doesn't do it for me. I LOVE milk chocolate. Add peanuts, almonds, hazelnuts, whatever to it, or just plain.

10. Scallops wrapped in bacon. I don't think I need to say anymore, but the saltiness of bacon combined with the texture of scallops... it's just about the best appetizer on the planet, and as a bonus you can eat it with a toothpick.

And for a bonus, the one thing I miss the most that does contain gluten:

11. Spinach dip in a rye bread bowl. I haven't found a way to duplicate that yet.

Those are mine. Now for fun, what are yours??

Monday, August 2, 2010

Gluten Free at a Mets Game in Citi Field!?!?

We go to Yankee Stadium (now Steinbrenner Stadium) every year, and we usually tailgate in the parking lot before the game. It’s a fun time, we bring a small grill and do burgers, hot dogs, and have a couple of beers before going into the Stadium and watching the game (where we’ll usually get snacks like Cracker Jacks, peanuts, etc.) However, since we’ve never been to a Mets game before and aren’t sure if/where tailgating is allowed, we were wondering what to do for food that day. It’s a long trip and we’ll definitely need something!

Well, good news for us – the Mets announced a gluten free stand at Citi Field this year. Yes, you can now go to the ball park and get gluten free beer, hot dogs, burgers, and the like. Um, YAY!

I did some digging around and apparently the gluten free stand is a stand-alone cart in the World’s Fare market, on the field level of the stadium in the right field corner, with a HUGE sign saying “gluten free.”

In the meantime, here are some links from people who have already written up about the gluten free stand. We’ll be sure to share our thoughts (but stash a couple of snacks just to be on the safe side).






So, tell me readers – have you been to see a Mets game at Citi Field yet this year? Have you visited the gluten free stand, and if so, what did you think? Any advice on what to get, or other options in the park??? Or do you tailgate?

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Gluten Free Bisquick!

Along with most of the other gluten free community, my husband and I were anxiously waiting for the arrival of Gluten Free Bisquick! When I read a comment on the Times Union Gluten Free blog that they were found in the East Greenbush Walmart, I went there on my lunch break to check it out, emerging victorious with not only a box of Gluten Free Bisquick, but also a box of Gluten Free "Asian Helper" Chicken fried rice mix. (We don't usually eat that stuff, but when my husband is on his own for dinner he always makes gluten free boxed mac and cheese - this might give a little more variety.)

This morning we decided to try the pancakes. (I'll admit, we were looking forward to Sunday breakfast for a few days, lol). I had read online something along the lines that you had to add shortening, but the box didn't call for it. So, off to Google I went.

First, I found a great blog review from Adventures of a Gluten Free Mom. This review called for 1 cup of shortening for every 8 cups of Bisquick. Since I only had 1 box (definitely not enough for 8 cups of mix), I didn't want to prepackage it but instead wanted to find out the "regular" box recipe to make pancakes. So my next stop was AllRecipes, where I found the Bisquick pancake recipe. However, all of the comments said to use the "Melt in your mouth" recipe instead. I trust their comments - and "melt in your mouth" sounds amazing, so that was the next recipe I looked for: Melt in your mouth Bisquick pancake recipe.

The final output was:
  • 2 cups Gluten Free Bisquick mix
  • 1/4 cup shortening
  • 1 cup milk*
  • 2 Tbsp lemon juice
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 eggs
First, whisk together the Bisquick mix and shortening until it's completely combined. Then add the other ingredients and mix until combined. We used 2% milk and had to add some more milk - a little at a time until the consistency was pourable. Griddle-cook them the usual way.

The melt-in-your mouth pancakes called for an additional Tbsp of sugar but we didn't use it and thought the pancakes turned out wonderful. I heated up some pure maple syrup to pour over them, and they tasted JUST like regular pancakes!

We'll definitely buy more of their pancake mix. I'm looking forward to trying it on chicken and also trying the gluten free coffee cake recipes I've seen floating around. Yum!