Monday, May 17, 2010

Gluten-free Seattle ~

I had not been to Seattle in almost two years to visit with my dear Aunt who lives there. Time flies - so when she asked me to fly up for a weekend to spend time together and talk a little PR business, I jumped for joy and on a plane headed north. Though I've never lived in Seattle (at least not yet!) I have spent many wonderful weekends there during the past 10 years with my Aunt, as she was transitioning her life to that new I've been blessed to share in her interesting and creative journey that for now, ends in the Emerald City.

I'm an ocean person, no question. I grew up in San Francisco and the Bay Area where I have spent most all of my life and I can honestly say that there's a true energy, calling, power, (insert your adjective here) that I connect with when it comes to being near an ocean. Therefore, Seattle calls to me in that moisture-filled, close to the water, artistic-creative, gluten-free kind of way that it, in it's entirety, offers to me. Did I mention the lush green foliage everywhere, as well? Sigh.....

When I'm in Seattle it's fun to observe how Celiac/gluten-free-friendly the city or area is, in general. They have always been a step ahead the Bay Area, no doubt when it comes to gluten-free knowledge and restaurant preparation...and far ahead most other cities and towns on the west coast, so it's exciting and interesting to eat out in Seattle. This last trip certainly lived up to that last statement...oh, and the views from almost any vantage point aren't bad, either!

When I'm with my Aunt the days fly by and we are always viewing beautiful art, sharing amazing conversation, sipping aromatic teas, and eating delicious's what we do when we are together. Isn't that nice. So after she picked me at the new(ish) Light Rail station at Mt. Baker, it was off to brunch at Hi-Spot Cafe in at quaint and cozy little spot in her Madrona neighborhood that offers a plate of gluten-free huevos rancheros that make your mouth water - delicious!

The next stop was dangerous...I mean it. Have you ever been to a Glassybaby shop? Enter one of their shops or web site at your own risk because I'm telling you, once you've seen these "babys" in person, watched the glass blowers in action behind the glassed garage doors and squinted your eyes in the direction of 20 illuminated Glassybaby's, all in varying shades of beauty, you are done for...just like I was. I'll take three please! And the names...they are pretty magical and well...go visit and see for yourself. They are wonderful and the story behind the warm glow is really special. So if you crave the glow of candles as I do, this is the place for you.

We also had to make our usual museum if you're a modern art fan, don't miss the Bellevue Arts Museum. There are some really amazing exhibits being shown right now...and I love their gift shop. Really great gifts and collectibles that won't break the bank. Very well done.

My taste bud's favorite part of my first day in Seattle was the much-anticipated dinner reservation at Tilth. I had heard about this restaurant for two years and was so excited to experience what it was all about...owned by Maria Hines, a James Beard Award winner for Best Chef of the Northwest, as well as one of Food & Wine Magazine’s 10 Best New Chefs of 2005.

Tilth's angle is featuring New American cuisine prepared with certified-organic or wild ingredients sourced from as many local farmers as they are able to support. Pretty great philosophy, right? Yeah, so ordering gluten-free wasn't really an issue at Tilth...wink. They rock.

Let's start with my aperitif...Dark & Stormy Goslings Rum, Fresh Lime Ginger Ale. They are like mixologists...quite the cocktail menu.

Starter plate - French Breakfast Radish Salad mache, hazelnut, red wine vinaigrette

Chilled Local Asparagus truffle dressing, chive blossom, asparagus peeling

Pan Seared Wild Alaskan Halibut artichoke barigoule, preserve lemon, fregola
Carrot Carnaroli Risotto thumbelina carrot, parmesan, stinging nettle

Seared Broccoli extra virgin olive oil, garlic, chili flake

Avocado Mousse candied ginger, cilantro syrup, lime...Amazing!

So, it's all gluten-free - hungry yet? It's a must-visit restaurant the next time you are in Seattle, or better yet, plan a weekend to Seattle just to eat at Tilth.

You would think that being hungry the next day wouldn't have been possible after a meal like that right? Think was time to get back to my Basque roots so we headed to Harvest Vine Basque Restaurant. I really like this restaurant and it was the first Sunday they started serving brunch, so lucky us.

Tortilla Espanola is my favorite food - seriously. When I'm in the Basque Country I basically exist on this one food item! Harvest Vine's version was very authentic and delicious.

Okay, we non-wheat eaters can't have these little buns, but I just had to show them to you...not fair not fair!

Last stop that Celiacs and gluten-free eaters will not want to miss is a vegan, gluten-free, wheat-free bakery I've written about a while ago, the Flying Apron. They have a new cookbook now that I noticed on display in the bakery, but really my eyes were immediately drawn to the beautifully-prepared and numerous gluten-free baked goods. It's always a little overwhelming as a Celiac, to have that many choices for dessert, considering that it's such a treat and doesn't happen that often. So I stood at the counter for what seemed like an eternity to the bakery's employee I'm sure, as I debated just what to choose!

But we can eat this! Yummy PBJ cupcake...don't let the interesting name fool you.

Eating in Seattle for Celiacs is really gratifying and reassuring. You can enjoy so many different foods, prepared by many different chefs and be safe and healthy.

If you have a favorite Seattle eatery that you want to share, please send it over. I would love to collect the names of more great restaurants to share and learn about.

Eat well ~

Friday, May 7, 2010

Cook for Mom ~ Asparagus

As Mother's Day approaches (It's Sunday - don't forget), I wanted to share a couple of delicious and healthy recipes that can be easily whipped up this weekend and served for brunch, lunch or dinner. Both dishes are full of fresh asparagus, the veggie of choice this week, and ingredients that are all gluten-free, of course and would please even Mom.

This Mother's Day, I'll be running in a 10K race sponsored by Mom's on the Run, that benefits Breast Cancer awareness. I've also convinced my own mom and dad to participate in the 5K walk-n-talk event - it's all about getting out there and staying fit and active, no matter your age. It will be a fun way to celebrate the gift of health and exercise with my parents and a sweet way to honor our mom, who is so special.

I've been thinking a lot this week about how fortunate and blessed my brother and I are to still have our parents in our lives and to have parents who are so young-acting, looking and so vibrant. I can only hope for their energy when I'm in my 60's! It's also a great time to stop and reflect on the sacrifices that mothers make, day in and out, for all the important people and children in their lives. I've been taking into consideration lately, just how much our beautiful mother did sacrifice or "give up" in the name of love for her husband and children...and it's a lot. I am sure she would respond with some words or thoughts similar to, "but the gift of having you all in my life makes everything worth it"...and she would sincerely and selflessly mean it. I'm also learning the value of the many lessons that mothers in days past and even now, I'm sure, were not able to know or recognize in themselves; The value of making choices for yourself and choosing a life that is the best life for you. This is a lesson not passed down or on to many young women. So as I mature and continue to grow in the direction of my authentic self, I am bundling up the valuable gifts and information and lessons I see, feel and have found along the way, and therefore want to say thank my amazing mother, to her mother and my dad's mother and to all of the exceptional women in my life before me, who have set such powerful examples for me to appreciate. And appreciate, I do.

With this baby-stepping into my new found present awareness, I decided a few months back to begin training for a half-marathon in June, purposely choosing a race in one of the most beautiful and spiritual least for me, Sun Valley, ID. The training is going well, as well as intense, but I am so loving this commitment I've made to "self" and to my body. Last year was so rough, filled with gluten poisoning and illness. I set new intentions in 2010 for renewed health and so this race is simply part of that intention and me.

In addition to having sore legs every day, my appetite has spiked and I'm craving really healthy, fresh foods that serve a purpose. Sugar doesn't mean much to me, though Kettle chips do! We'll save those for after the race. Well tonight, maybe just a few!

Creating wonderful food is truly a gift that's intended to be shared with others - so on Sunday, Mother's Day, I really look forward to cooking for my mom and letting her know how much I love her through the little things that I can share with her, through heart and stomach. Food is one of those things. I also have my grandmother to thank. You see...the woman could flat out cook ...and BAKE! She was truly gifted and looking back, I so wish she could have created the right opportunity for her own catering business or restaurant. Instead, she whipped up outstanding holiday meals in her tiny kitchen for her entire family each year, creating a dessert table that was fit for the Four Seasons' finest of restaurants. Alice Waters would have even been proud. I draw on my Nani's creative juices when I'm in the kitchen and if there's such a thing as a genetic "cooking gene"...then I can thank her on Mother's Day for that blessing, as well.

We celebrate mother's all over the world and in our country this weekend - but truly, the gifts that our mothers have been bestowed upon each and every one of us are alive each and every day within us. I look forward to the day when I'm a mother and can finally experience what that perspective is like; to look at my child and know that I will have such a profound influence upon his or her life, causing me to feel the true weight of being responsible for what I share and teach that little person.

Happy Mother's Day to all moms and many blessings ~

Pasta with Asparagus and Toasted Walnuts:
Serves 4

- 1 Bag of Tinkyada brown rice elbows

- 1 Bunch of fresh asparagus

- 10 Medium size fresh shrimp with tails

- 2 Small fresh onions

- 1 Meyer lemon

- 2 Tbsp. fresh chopped dill

- 3-4 Tbsp. Semi-chopped walnuts

- Sea salt to taste

- Extra-virgin olive oil

Start cooking the pasta, which usually takes about 12-13 minutes. Clean the asparagus and cut off the woody parts of the stalks before cutting them into pieces. If you want to speed up the cooking, you can chop them now instead of later, then chop the onions finely and start sauteing the asparagus gently in a skillet with the olive oil. After 5 minutes, add the marinated shrimp, add salt and cook until the asparagus is soft but still got a bite to them and the shrimp have turned pink and are cooked through.

After you finish sauteing the veggies, remove and place them in the serving bowl you will use, then toast the walnuts in the same hot skillet until they are warm. As soon as the pasta is ready, mix it with the asparagus and shrimp, and sprinkle the walnuts over before serving. Then top off with your favorite graded parmigiana cheese.

**The shrimp marinate is easy - in a small bowl mix 2 tbsp of olive oil, squeezed lemon juice, dab of mayonnaise, chopped dill and salt/pepper to taste. Whisk together and brush over both sides of the shrimp. Allow to marinate in fridge for one hour before cooking.

Continuing with Asparagus and its bone-building vitamin K, immune-boosting vitamin C, and heart-healthy folic acid...this pizza is fantastic and great for those of us searching for some healthy carbs to support our long runs, or anyone wanting a meal that's good for you and tastes as pretty as the picture.

Serves 4

- 1 Nature's Hilights brown rice pizza crust

- 1/3 Cup part-skim ricotta cheese

- 1/4 Cub prepared pesto

- 8 Asparagus spears (bottom ends snapped off and discarded) Cut into 1 1/2-inch lengths

- 1 Tsp. extra-virgin olive oil

- Salt and ground black pepper to taste

- 3 Slices Canadian bacon/ham, cut into thin strips

- 2/3 cup (or about 2 oz) grated fontina cheese

Adjust oven rack to lower-middle position and heat over to 450 degrees F
After thawing out your pizza crust for 30 minutes, brush lightly with olive oil and bake for 5 minutes or until it becomes lightly crisp. Then pull out of oven allow to cool while preparing toppings.

Mix ricotta and pesto and dollop evenly onto the crust. Toss asparagus with oil and a light sprinkling of salt and pepper. Evenly distribute asparagus spears, along with Canadian ham, over the crust. Bake for 15 minutes or until the asparagus is bright green. Remove from oven; divide the fontina equally over the pizza. Return pizza to the oven and continue to bake until crust is crisp and cheese has melted, about 5-10 minutes longer. Cut the pizza into quarters, serving each person with two slices.