Monday, April 30, 2012

Idahoan instant potatoes

I know, the title of of this blog is "learning how to cook..." and I haven't actually posted anything that I've cooked recently. File this under "other kitchen adventures."

I've always been a mashed potato purist. Instant mashed potatoes were the devil at my house. They did not reside in my family's pantry, ever. I've had the instant kind of potatoes in school lunches, and I remember them being sticky, yet with a gritty mouth feel. Compared to the only other kind of mashed potatoes I've had, my mom's, they were nothing I'd ever consider bringing into my kitchen.

Then, I had an persistent cranky wisdom tooth get infected and eating became even more challenging. Soft foods were the only thing on the menu for a while. Soup and yogurt got real old, real quick. I needed comfort food that was going to make me feel full. The solution? Mashed potatoes.

I don't know if you've ever had an infected wisdom tooth, but they are darn painful. The only worse pain I've been in was tonsillitis, and this was pretty up there on the pain scale. There was no way, in my misery, that I was going to chop and peel potatoes, boil them, then mash them. I wanted to sit on my butt and zonk out on pain meds, which ironically, I was too scared to take. I'm such a weenie.

Anyway, desperate times call for desperate measures. I reluctantly picked up a package of instant mashed potatoes. The only ones in the store that said "gluten free" on the package were Idahoan potatoes.

I took them, home, grumbled at my own traitor-ism, and in about 5 minutes I sat down with a bowl. To my great surprise, they were really good! Maybe because I hadn't eaten anything substantial in a few days, but they were delicious. Some of the flavors are a little on the salty side, but honestly I expect that in a processed, instant type of dish. I don't plan on making them a regular thing, but in a pinch, they do just fine. I just had to post, because I was so surprised that they were tasty.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012


Want to get on my nerves real quick?

Say this phrase. "Oh, you're skinny because you don't eat gluten."

I hear it all the time, sometimes from the same people, over and over. No matter how many times I explain it.

I'm not thin because I don't eat gluten. I'm thin because I'm blessed with very good skinny-genes, I'm fairly active, and I dish out small portion sizes of generally healthy food. If I ate gluten, I'm pretty sure I'd lose weight because I would become malnourished. The truth is, I'm the same weight as I was before I was diagnosed. Only now I feel better.

I can see how the logic goes. Avoiding gluten forces you to choose food that is less processed. Many of the easiest gluten free choices are simple, whole foods: vegetables, meat, fruits, beans, etc. Naturally, making the switch could lead to weight loss. It's not about the gluten. It's about caloric intake and nutritional differences.

I try to tell people that most gluten-free foods are higher in calories and lower in nutritional content than their gluten-full equivalents, but that's usually the point where their eyes gloss over and I know I've lost them.

And I'm forever reminded of 'how lucky I am that I can't eat gluten because it keeps me thin.' And it drives me bonkers.

I know I can't be the only one.

I guess my point is, the weight doesn't really matter, most of us are just so happy to not feel like crapola all the time.

Sunday, April 8, 2012


Last night I helped celebrate a friend's birthday. At an Italian place. Which, mentally, for me, that meant salad. As a celiac, I have become familiar with the restaurant salad. Ridiculously overpriced, generally mediocre, and rarely satisfying. I'm not a salad-loving kind of girl. But, most of the time, it means more to be surrounded by good company than devouring an exceptional meal.

However, it turns out that we went to Maggiano's. And my knock-me-over awesome friends checked it out beforehand on their smartphones. So when I walked in the door, they said, "They have gluten free!"

They mention gluten free pasta substitutions on the menu, but recommend that you let the server know so that a chef can come talk to you. A chef came and talked to me! That was certainly a first. In an effort to not be difficult, I chose the simplest dish that came to mind: chicken alfredo. He then reminded me that the creme brulee is also gluten free, so I could also have dessert. I could have kissed him.

For a place that offers gluten free options, they seemed much more knowledgeable than a few places I've been to. Usually the waiters are clueless, while the chefs are more gluten-savvy. Here, everyone seemed on the ball. I was not offered bread (don't you love it when you tell them you have celiac disease and then they plop a bread basket in front of you?), and she made a point to tell me that she could mix up a salad without croutons if I wanted one. I chose the spinach salad, which was so good that I practically licked the bowl clean. I said practically- I remembered my manners, haha.

When it arrived, the server said, "gluten free pasta," when she handed it to me.

I have to tell you, even though it was confirmed by the chef and the waitress, I was skeptical of the gluten-free-ness. I felt like there might have been a mistake in the kitchen. It was too good. I've always been able to tell gluten free pasta from regular pasta. In the end, I took faith and ate it. It was really delicious. The creme brulee was equally delicious, and by the end of the night I was stuffed. I walked out with a serious food baby.

And to put the icing on the cake, they gave me an extra portion of gluten free chicken alfredo to go. On the house. That's also never happened before.

So, was the pasta really gluten free? I had some discomfort last night, but I think that may have been due to stuffing my face rather than gluten. I figure if I had eaten that much gluten, I'd really be hurting.

It was a tad bit pricier than normal- For a glass of wine, a salad, entreee, dessert, and capuccino, it was about 45 dollars before tip. You know it's a good meal when the gluten free pasta is so good you are skeptical of it's authenticity. And creme brulee to boot? Maggiano's is a win in my book.