cooking up a shrimp storm

after taking stock of my pantry and my freezer, i decided to make another attempt at this recipe, making the few alterations i had suggested the last time i attempted to cook this.

I started out with my favorite kind of GF pasta shells -- the kind made with brown rice and rice bran.  I had read that stabilized rice bran has all sorts of health benefits and is packed with antioxidants and all that good stuff.  I'm not sure if the bran included in this pasta falls into that super-food realm, but the little extra fiber can't hurt, right?  plus it tastes good and the texture is pretty decent.
instead of just using shrimp as the recipe calls for, i went for a seafood mix that i had picked up at my all-time fav shopping spot - trader joe's.  this mix includes shrimp, scallops, and calamari (oh i am such a fan of the calamari rings!).  
in another attempt at mixing up the recipe, i cooked some thinly sliced onion in a pan with some olive oil and garlic, until the onion slivers became clear and caramel-colored.  i had to overdo them a little because my fiance will pick them out one by one if they don't blend in well enough, and since onions are healthy i want him to eat some!
i then followed the recipe as stated, removing the julienne potatoes and adding extra zucchini instead.  when it came to sautéing all the ingredients together, i added the onions and cooked everything until it was hot and sizzling.  two bowls were filled, topped with some crumbled goat cheese and we had a home-cooked dinner!
it was okay.  the changes i made didn't turn out to be improvements as much as i had hoped.  i also cut out a lot of the salt that the recipe calls for and i was sorry for doing that.  i tend to like things a little on the salty side.  i was too light on the onion, and i'm not quite sure that the seafood mix added to the flavors at all.  that fish mix would make an awfully good risotto though...  maybe next time.

oh, and i thought i'd mention that this time i learned my lesson and did not attempt to julienne zucchini with a cheese grater.  ha!  instead i used one of the new pairing knives i purchased when i was feeling brave and thought i could handle sharp utensils for a change.  i have since managed to cut myself on each of the 4 new knives on many separate occasions, but this night i managed to make it through unscathed.  ha!  

i am the master chef!  i can cook sub-par meals!  ha!

i made this dinner on friday night, and it was full of my favorite night-before-the-long-run food -- brown rice pasta.  on saturday dan and i set out for our 8-mile weekly long run.  if it weren't for the gale-force winds the run would have been fine.  but for the duration of the run i continued to find myself jogging along at an angle, just to stay upright when the psychotic breeze caught my shirt.  then the wind would suddenly run away, releasing its grip on me, sending me careening off the trail and making me appear as if i was one determined runner with a severe case of vertigo.  

the tsunami winds blew against us on the way out.  our eyes teared and we tipped our baseball caps over our eyes to protect our faces from the wind.  shorts blew about and shirts became wind sails working against us.  even downhill runs were a battle, and we were pushing our bodies sisyphus-style just to make it to the 1/2 way point.  but then we saw that glorious mile-marker on the trail and we were there!  basking in the sun we knew the wind would no longer be our enemy, as it would be at our backs for the run home.  after a quick stretch we turned and started the 4-mile trip back home.  that's when we realized...

the winds had changed.

oh man.  you've got to be kidding me.  we tipped our hats and trudged along again, wondering why chicago weather is so cruel.  first winter comes and lingers, reaching its fingers into every crevice of my window, staying much longer than it ever intended.  picking fights with spring and winning every one of them, beating the gentle season into submission and stomping on its attempts at warming the ground.  when spring finally gets the upper hand, the winds come.  a peak out the window shows sunshine, people roaming about without scowls on their faces and gloves on their hands.  thrilled at the sight, you sprint outdoors to join them, only to be scooped up by the horrible wind and tossed about.  seriously?  it's almost may, kids.  let's get the summer started!

well, that's all for now.  maybe.  we're on our way to the grocery store this afternoon and perhaps i'll grab some ingredients to make some seafood risotto tonight...


smoothie sailing

alright folks.  race day is edging ever nearer.  my new sneaks are breaking in nicely, and my knees are just short of breaking.  I had to dig out my trusty ol' knee braces, and man do i look smashing in them.  so far the longest run has logged in at 7 miles, with an 8-er waiting for us on saturday.  i have to admit...  the 7 miles felt good.  i get to explore new areas of the lakefront trail that i've never had the pleasure of seeing before, and as the weather gets nicer and nicer it just feels wonderful to get outside.  i'm something of an outdoor junkie, and watching seasons behind glass does not mix well with me.  i'll use any excuse to get out there, even if it's a knee-aching hour-plus run.  (hey, i said i ran it.  i never said i was fast.)

something i've learned during this whole physical experiment is that carbohydrates are my friends.  over the years i've become accustom to a fairly low-carb existence, getting most of my sugars from fruit and such.  i very rarely will eat refined sugars, don't have the patience to cook rice, don't like instant rice, and don't normally shop at a store that sells GF specialty items.  as a result, i would get exhausted quite easily on the longer runs.  my thighs would begin to feel like wooden blocks that were trying so desperately to lift a set of leaden feet.  that wasn't going to do, so i made a change.  i can't be a speed racer plodding around like that!

as simple as the physical act of running may be, the planning that goes into an hour+ run is something of a science.  but only you can solve that equation.  after testing week after week, what i found works best for me is to eat a meal of brown rice pasta the night before the long runs, a protein fruit shake (recipe below) the morning of, and then 1/2 an energy bar right before i leave.  making pizza from my favorite namaste dough mix didn't quite cut it in the energy department when that was consumed the night prior. i thought carbs were created equal, but apparently my body is not an equal-opportunity digester.

perhaps the most exhilarating thing about this whole running experience is how in-tune you become to your body.  you can feel that glass of wine you shouldn't have had the night before.  you know when your calorie intake isn't enough to support that 700 calorie burn on this afternoon's trip about the trail.  you feel your pace suddenly snap together with your breathing and miles go by and by.  sure... 7 miles isn't really a long run in the grand scheme of things, but for me, it's a little victory each time i get myself out there.  and i'm improving.  little by little but it's there and it just feels so good.  my body tells me so.

**my mostest favoritest breakfast smoothie**
put in a blender:
1/2 cup water
2 Tb plain lowfat yogurt (gotta get those probiotics in there!)
1 serving of GF, no-sugar protein powder (i like "natural vanilla" flavor)
1 small scoop GF powdered greens 
1 banana
frozen fruit of choice

blend it up!  add water or more frozen fruit/ice to get it at the consistency you like.  i love mine for breakfast when it's icy cold and super thick.  it's great to wash those GF vitamins down.  enjoy!


sprints and sprinkles

now onto the events in my life to which i eluded in my last post. let's start with the minor and move to the major.

my fiance and i are training for the soldier field 10 -- a 10-mile race that starts at the stadium and ends with me heaving and crawling across the grand 50-yard finish line, visually blown-up larger than life on the jumbo tron. exciting! my nerves are tweaked by this, however, because the revelation of running this race only hit about 7 weeks before race day, and so there is no room for slacking or injuries of any sort. and anyone that knows me and my meager hobby running, knows that i have a veritable gravitational pull for strains, sprains and splints of all sorts. i am a stellar and olympic-worthy bow-legged, orthotic- and stability shoe-wearing, inhaler sucking, snapping-hip syndrome individual who just choked terribly on her coffee as she attempted to write this. slick. just call me super fly as i sprint past 'ya...

my dogs are reveling in and are revolted by the latest antics brought on by this event.
--reveling because they get to accompany us on our shorter runs, and being athletes themselves they live for a few miles of good hard lunging followed by an icy dip in lake michigan. they're just little guys and so we max out their jaunts about town at 4 miles, and that means they can't tag along for our longer training runs which at this point have only reached 5 miles (6 this sunday!).
--they are revolted by this turn of events because the last time their "mom and dad" crept out early in the morning for a race, it was the winter-time "rudolph ramble" and we wound up coming home with these hilarious foam deer antlers which were handed out during the event. needless to say they wound up donning donner's headgear for many-a photographs and were none too pleased with me at the end.
i know. i torture them so. and now onto what tortures me...

wedding planning itself i do not find to be painful as of yet. i'm sure as time goes on, i will change my tune. at the moment, however, what i find to be rather painful is reaching my arm into my mailbox that is just a little too high for me to properly see into, and yanking down on top of my head pile after pile of wedding vendor advertisements, all worded as if they've been my friend for years with a twinge of momma-knows-best and we're-what's-best for you. i actually keep a planning binder with a section dedicated to the most obnoxious solicitations, and those are the folks that i will absolutely NOT consider even if it means having to hum my own songs at the reception. i especially hate the ones where it appears as if someone had a few too many happy hour beverages and lazily chucked a series of business cards into an envelope, then covered it with scratchy handwriting that is barely legible and smudged with fingerprints of, oh, i don't know... is that mayonnaise? take note, fellas.

anyway, my main point of pre-stress comes in the form of food and dessert. i haven't quite gone full-force into tackling this one yet, but it's a-comin'. obviously, i am a gluterini. my sister is also a gluterini and a sans-corn-erini. she's also the maid of honor. my fiance's sisters will be bridesmaids (pending formal asking by me and acceptance by them) and one of them has severe nut/peanut allergies and cannot come near anything that has grown on a tree. following, my cousin who will most likely be in attendance is nut/peanut allergic. take that caterers!! it's a one-two punch!! all prayers go towards one decent vendor being able to tackle all of this, and addressing it in such a way that i feel confident in them and their expertise.

but then comes the cake...

the wedding will take place in newport, rhode island. and i need to find a GF baker that is capable of making something that is both delish and decent to look at. i've been on some websites for specialty bakers in RI and MA and have to admit that their wedding cake photos are appalling at best, forcing me into a state of utter shock at the fact that they would post images of these disastrous, crooked monstrosities in the "portfolio" section of their website. out of desperation i joined a celiac yahoo! group in new england, and received a recommendation for celia cakes in MA. unfortunately, they do not have many images on their site, but from the feedback received on the group site people have been extremely pleased with their cakes. now... fingers crossed that they live up to these expectations, and will delivery to RI without doubling the cost of flour, water and frosting.

any advice or recommendations for the RI area? i beg of you... please let me know!

the wedding will be in the fall of 2009, so there's plenty of time for planning still. that's an extremely busy time of year for that location, so we need to get the major vendors booked soon, but after that we can sit back for a month or so. thus far the location is locked down, ready to go, and utterly fabulous in every way, shape and elegant form. the date is set and ready to go. two major items checked off my ever-expanding, allergy-friendly list.

and so the race begins in more ways than one. and i will keep you updated all the while. in the mean time, i will keep chugging along...


where have i been?

holy moly. i've been gone a long long time. sorry guys. but i have a good reason for this... sort of. i'm in the midst of job turmoil (thanks economy!) and wedding planning, all rolled into sunless days and tax due dates. fun fun! well, the sun has finally emerged from hibernation in chicago and thanks goodness for that.

i feel human again!

due to my absence i have much to say. let's start with some restaurant reviews. although i've been MIA lately, i've been paying a few GF restos a visit to test their wares and use myself as a gluternini guinea pig. here goes:

went here for dinner with the fiance and wound up with a waitress that seemed like she hit the woodstock party scene with a little too much gusto. the restaurant does not have a GF menu and so having a rather astute server would be of utmost importance in my opinion, and this chica just made me a tad nervous. i asked what was available GF and she said that i should pick something that looked good and she would talk to a chef and see if it was possible.

hmm... shrimp fra diavolo, please. and away she went.

seconds later a chef appeared dressed in his white and you all know how i feel about making a scene with chefs and loud talking and special treatment and all that stuff that is just so embarrassing. he scooted right next to me and crouched down at the table, staying out of the way of the bustling scene and also avoiding making one. fabulous. he went over options with me saying that they have GF pasta in stock, however, the spicy tomato sauce that puts the devil in diavolo is made with flour. but, if it's okay with me, he'll mix up a batch of something close but not quite. sure.

it was so good.

i haven't eaten pasta at a restaurant since my pre-gluterini days. this was certainly a special treat. i also haven't eaten anything fra diavolo due to the pastalessness, and i have no idea how close or far the sauce i ate is to the original, but it was so spicy and good there are no complaints. the portion was good and i wound up enjoying the rest as a late night snack and breakfast the next morning. i did not get sick. it indeed was truly gluten-free. the waitress was a space cadet but that chef was awesome and to him i give an "a-0k."

you've read many-a posts about bistro 110 lately, because they are hosting an allergy series here in chicago. well, when i saw that they were also hosting an easter brunch, i made reservations and off we went.

first off, the place is charming. really cute and it reminded me of my favorite brunch place in my old stomping grounds of austin, texas called chez zee. while not as quirky as chez zee, bistro 110 was not lacking in charm and the atmosphere was great. there was a live music performance for the occasion and the place was just filled to the brim with people dressed in spring attire... all turning their noses up at the snow patches still lurking in corners and icy breeze. we all thought "spring" even if mother nature wasn't ready to give into us just yet.

i thought that the "french quarter frittata" sounded just great ("baked in a cast iron dish in our wood-burning oven with roasted red and green peppers, onions, tomatoes, garlic, thyme and rosemary") but wanted to make sure that none of the fluff came from flour. the server we had was well-versed in gluterini and double-checked for me. nope. it was safe. so i enjoyed that with a nice little mimosa. it was delish.

i enjoyed the fact that the server seemed educated and comfortable with dealing with food allergies. i've read all about the chef and know that he's a cuisine-y expert in the matter. so of all the places i've been in chicago thus far i'd have to say that this one takes top rank in terms of GF comfort level. i trust them. that's hard to come by.

so those are my two new resto posts for now. plans are in the works to expand the reviews so stay tuned as time goes on. and i'll try to post more often. in fact, i already have my next post: planning a GF/nut-free/peanut-free wedding in rhode island while training for a 10-mile race in may.