Thursday, February 8, 2018

Travel meals, last week.

This week's menu was all over the place because of travel.

I don't like to have a big meal before flying, so depending on my flight time I usually fast or eat very light. I always carry a snack in my carryon bag because usually after I get off the plane I'm hungry but I'm also trying to pick up a rental car or navigate somewhere.*

So this week's meals:

Monday- Travel day. Rx bar at the airport, then I headed back home after hours of cancelled flights. womp womp. I ate something that was in the freezer and went to bed early.

Tuesday- Travel day Part 2.
Lunch: Cafeteria salad bar with hummus and potato chips
Dinner: Amy's black bean tamale frozen dinner**

Lunch: Progresso GF soup and Crunchmaster crackers***
Dinner: Hotel restaurant had some GF options, yay!

Thursday- Oops another snowstorm was predicted so rather than get stranded over the weekend, we changed our flights and got the heck out of town. I grabbed an apple and a small thing of peanut butter from the hotel breakfast to snack on while waiting standby.

*Snacks: It's easy to go overboard and fill your bag with snacks. Typically an Rx bar and a baggie full of Snyder's GF pretzels will be enough.

**Dinner while traveling... sometimes I'll join a colleague for dinner and eat a plain salad just for the company, or if I'm lucky I will find a local GF place and convince them to join me.
Sometimes I'm tired and the local GF scene sucks so I hit up the nearest grocery store and grab something. Recently I discovered the Whole Foods hot bar. Game changer!

[Side note: This trip, after several canceled flights because of a snowstorm, I had woken up at 2am, worked all day, and at the end of the day Target was the nearest store.
Perfect, because I don't have a decent winter jacket... because I never needed one! Layers are necessary when you travel from 65-degree tepid Houston to 10-degree snowy Chicago. Turns out, I arrived hilariously under-prepared wearing a light sweater and ankle pants.
So I got food AND clothes. I love Target.]

***In addition to the frozen dinner and warmer clothes, I picked up some things for lunches: Progresso chicken and rice soup with Crunchmaster crackers. I like these in particular while traveling because the soup doesn't need a can opener, and the cracker bag seals with a ziplock.

Sometimes I plan my travel meals ahead and pack a tupperware container to heat up soup. This trip, there was a cafeteria with a microwave and I borrowed a bowl. So my lunch was warm and cheap and absolutely GF.

GF at Airports

Traveling can be stressful, especially when it comes to finding something that is absolutely gluten free. Being stuck on an airplane is not a good time to find out that you've been glutened.

For those and other turbulence-related reasons, I typically don't like to have a big meal before flying. I usually eat a small snack and carry something light in my carryon bag, like an Rx bar or Snyder's GF pretzels and peanut butter.

But, sometimes you gotta eat, even if it's overpriced airport food. So I've started compiling a rough guide based on my experiences. I usually fly United, so I'm not sure about other terminals but I assume they're all pretty similar within a specific airport.

A brief roundup of GF options at airports I've been to lately:

- IAH (2018) is the airport I visit the most. Terminal C has just been remodeled and is really nice. A lot of pre-packaged gluten free options at the little stores. I've seen little snack boxes, salads, bars, snacks, and I've even found GF sandwiches and cookies.
Some of the restaurants have GF menu options, but I have not tried anything. (I trust the pre-packaged stuff more than the restaurant dishes because of the potential for cross-contamination.)

- ORD (2018) pickings are pretty slim, so I usually try to have something with me. I like to grab an apple + a little thing of peanut butter from the hotel breakfast.

- RDU (2017) has a few restaurants that typically have GF options, like 5 Guys, but again I usually stick with a safe snack from one of the stores, or if time permits I'll eat before heading to the airport. Lots of GF stuff in the area.

- MSP (2017) has a French Meadow Bakery which has a really good GF selection. I've eaten there several times with no issues. At the very least I always grab a GF lemon bar for a special treat.

- LAX (2017)... I've only eaten at one place, but it was a really good hummus plate at a restaurant that was right next to my gate. They were happy to sub extra veggies in place of the crackers.

-SAN (2013)- The last time I was there, years ago, I found some of those GoPicnic boxes at a food court kiosk (some are GF, NOT ALL) and was happily satisfied with the assortment of snacks. Hopefully I get to travel to San Diego and update this soon.

Monday, January 22, 2018

menu with coffee spots

This morning started with oversleeping and a visit from the plumber. Sure, Monday.

(S: salmon + roasted veggies  M: BIG salad  T: crock pot beef  W: soup  R: leftovers  F: dinner out  S: still up in the air. sloppy joes sounds good)

I think every week's menu gets altered because life changes justlikethat. But it is nice to have a plan in case things don't go haywire.

After Wednesday I'll be avoiding one side when I chew so I don't disturb a temporary crown. I can't remember which tooth, but when you're trapped in that dentist chair... does that really matter?

Anyway, the whole thing may be scrapped for mashed potatoes and soup. Hey, I adapt.

Monday, January 15, 2018

Spaghetti squash, roasted vs steamed

I came across a different way to prepare spaghetti squash recently.

I've only made spaghetti squash a few times, but I've always taken the "steam with water in microwave" approach because it's quicker.

However I had a bit of time to meal prep today, so I roasted it in the oven.

Here's how you do it:

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
Cut the spaghetti squash in half and scoop out the guts. (Save the guts)*

One major difference with this approach was that it was harder to cut because it hadn't been softened in the microwave. So I scored the flesh where I wanted to cut and it made it a little easier.

Onto a baking sheet they went, with a little olive oil sprayed on top.

After an hour in the oven (I flipped them halfway), they were done.

A quick summary of the differences:

-Strand length: Definitely longer when cut into rings.
-Texture: About the same using either method, but the squash is "wetter" when steamed.
-Flavor: Steaming makes blander strands, while roasting creates a caramelized, almost sweet flavor.

What method will I use in the future? The differences are subtle so it will depend on how much time I have, and what I'm making.

*I save the guts so I can roast the seeds. To make separating the seeds easier, I loosen them from the guts and put it all in a bowl of water. The seeds float so they're easier to separate. Just skim them off the top of the water.

I roasted these for 20 minutes in the oven on the bottom rack, while the squash roasted on the top rack.

Sunday, January 14, 2018

Menu and wintry weather

Yesterday I was useless, but today I got it together enough to write down a menu. Small victories, y'all.

(S: pork stir fry.  M: pork carnitas bowl.  T: quick veggie soup.  W: salmon + roasted veggies  T: leftovers or travel?  F: salad  S: dinner out)

There is a chance of "wintry precipitation" on Tuesday, which is never a good thing in Houston because we are always totally unprepared. Of course I am scheduled to travel across town and also I'm trying to get to Louisiana at some point, so it should be an interesting week.

My plan is to go with the flow. At least I don't have to worry about what to cook for dinner!

Friday, January 12, 2018

Picnik Austin

My boss asked me to go to Austin last-minute for work this week. Of course I said yes.
My sister lives there, and she picked out a great restaurant for dinner. She even ventured into (gasp) NORTH Austin for me.

Picnik has a 100% gluten free kitchen and that pretty much is the best thing ever. The atmosphere was good, the staff was friendly, and the food was tasty. I'd go back.


The brussels sprouts appetizer was in that bowl. It was obviously so terrible that nobody licked the spoon or anything.

I ordered the chicken with a side of GF garlic bread. So. Good.

She got the pepper stuffed with duck (I don't remember the exact name). The cool thing was I got to try her dish, worry-free because IT'S ALL GLUTEN FREE.

Dessert was the blondie ice cream sandwich. I never get to eat stuff like this! Very happy.

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

Quick chili

I like chili. I think most folks like chili. Some have very strong opinions about chili, but I don't discriminate. I like all the kinds.

You know what else? I like beans in my chili. Yes, I live in Texas and I like beans in my chili. Get over it.

This simple, 6-ingredient basic chili is kind of my favorite.

Sautee in a pot: Chopped onion, a couple slices of chopped bacon, and some ground beef. I like frozen beef patties because they're already portioned out in small servings and they thaw quickly.

Halfway through cooking the meat, add in half a package of McCormick GF Chili seasoning. Making your own seasoning blend is great, and sometimes I mix some up to have on hand. But if run out, I like this kind.

When the meat is cooked, stir in a can (15 oz) of diced tomatoes and a can of kidney beans. Rinse the cans with a little water and add to the pot. Bring to a boil and let simmer for 20 minutes or so, until the consistency is right.

Feel free to add in things. Like leftover or sad vegetables. Or pumpkin puree. Or jalapenos.