A Sketch That’s Funny For The Wrong [IMO] Reasons, A Podcast, and Other Thoughts

It’s a stream of consciousness type of day, so don’t expect any order to this post. Order’s overrated anyway. Not overrated? David Wain and Michael Showalter’s new romantic comedy spoof “They Came Together” starring Paul Rudd and Amy Poehler, available in limited theaters and on demand. God, they are comedy geniuses. No, that has nothing to do with allergies. Except maybe it does. There’s a scene

[SPOILER ALERT]

in which Amy’s character gives her order to Paul’s character at a coffee shop and it’s completely wacky and overdone and impossible to remember except he totally remembers it and it’s definitely love, and I feel that way sometimes when I order food. She was being spoofy, but I completely related because I’m a completely awkward food orderer, and any man who can remember the random nuances of my diet is AOK in my book. Or a keeper, as they say. (Speaking of, did you guys hear about the travesty that is muggle quidditch players getting too cool for Harry Potter?)

[END SPOILER ALERT]

Sort of related to Harry Potter — well, very related to Harry Potter — I do this podcast called Common Room, where all things pop culture (especially “geek” pop culture, like HP) and food, fitness, and fashion converge. First of all, totally listen to it! Second of all, one of our segments is called “Customizable Cooking” where the group of us — a bunch of girls all around the world, from New York to Australia and inbetween — make the same recipe but tweak it in our own unique ways. In a recent episode, we recreated my gluten-free vegan pumpkin oat muffin recipe, which as you may know, has absolutely saved my life. Listen to the episode here (and discover the importance of giving the correct measurements when telling people a recipe).

I recently also made the original cookie recipe the muffins are based on, but as a sheet cake. They came out delicious, if not ugly.

Pumpkin Cookie Cake

One giant cookie!

It’s hard to believe that I invented that pumpkin recipe more than two years ago. Also two years ago? I learned that generic Benedryl doesn’t work as well as the real thing. Today, I dug into the pocket of the blazer I was wearing and discovered some generic Benedryl. I don’t think I wear that blazer very often.

Another thing I don’t do often is eat at communal dinner parties. Much like the characters in this Fourth of July sketch (watch below). In the interest of not spoiling the punchline, if you are a loyal follower of my allergies — or just know the basics, leafy greens, fish, horseradish — you should get why I think the ending is ironic for exactly the wrong reasons. PSA: people are allergic to more than just the popular things, people.

I’m pretty sure I’m still scared of eating spinach. One week from right now, I’ll know if I can eat spinach, and more importantly, how this Xolair thing is working. Last night I had a dream where the vegetables from Veggie Tales attacked me. Like verbally and emotionally. Mostly the tomato. Which is weird, because I can eat tomatoes. I’m not 100% sure if it’s anxiety about spinach or if I’m just reliving my senior thesis about Evangelicals in pop culture because The Leftovers premiered this week.

Which is another thing you should watch.

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Cooking for Sukkot Part 3

Tonight, I finished the pre-holiday cooking. It was pretty uneventful, which is good, because I’m hella tired. 

Curry Chicken

Curry Chicken – I sprinkled on cumin, turmeric, coriander, ginger and some canola oil. I couldn’t tell you how long I cooked it for if I tried. I was seriously thisclose to falling asleep when I put it in the oven, did a bunch of things around the house anyway, prepared the upcoming carrot cake and then eventually checked on the chicken and it was done. Maybe 40 minutes on 350? Maybe more? Seriously, who knows?

Carrot Cake

Carrot Cake – followed this recipe minus the walnuts: http://www.bettycrocker.com/recipes/carrot-cake/64acd01e-14ad-4e03-9fe1-b62b03ff4667. Can’t remember the last time I baked following a recipe exactly. Hope it came out good.

The good news is, with all the cooking, I still fixed a sukkah, ate dinner (for reals!) and watched Fox’s new comedy block minus The Mindy Project. God, I missed New Girl. 

Still to cook (but won’t blog because it’ll be sukkot already):

grilled asparagus, peppers, zuchinni, eggplant

corn on the cob

green beans (sauteed with garlic)

lentils

pineapple fritters (fried pineapple coated in garlic, cayenne pepper, paprika…you can also bread it if you want but I’ll likely be lazy).

roasted pears (seasoned with tarragon, ginger, and brown sugar; might not do the tarragon this go-round)

roasted carrots (seasoned with salt, pepper, and rosemary)

Grill pans are the greatest invention of all time. If you don’t have one, buy one. Best gift I ever got. Except maybe an M&M dispenser filled with M&Ms in the exact color order I wanted without my knowledge. That was a good gift, too. 

Less good gift? The hives that keep appearing on my neck sporadically. Kind of think they’re exhaustion related since I’m not eating. Are exhaustion hives a thing?

No matter. Grill pans, chicken, carrot cake, and half my cooking done means I can rest happy.

Cooking for Sukkot Part 2

The cooking saga continues…but tonight’s dishes were a little less intense. Which may be why I decided to make beef ribs at 11:30pm for lunch tomorrow?

I’ve been to three different grocery stores this week so far – Whole Foods (per usual), the kosher market (also usual, though less frequent than WF, which I’m now calling WF, so get on board), and Ralph’s which I go to almost never.

And I have suspicious feeling I’ll need to go again. Because three zuchinnis does not feed 8 people. Though, I also have about a hundred peppers (or three packages) for one meal of 8 and one meal of me, and two unnecessary circle boxes (what is the word for those yellow containers?) of tomatoes, so maybe I’ll make a medley of sorts. Even though veggie medleys with tomatoes remind me of ratatouille at Brandeis which was/is the bane of my existence because it was a)gross and b)full of hidden mushrooms which meant that c)it made my allergies worse. But anyway. I digress.

Tonight, I cooked:

White Rice

White rice. Now don’t get excited. It’s plain white rice with a little salt. For instructions, see a package of rice. I believe this is Indian Basmati if we want to get really specific.

Curried Sweet Potatoes

 

Curried sweet potatoes –

thinly slice sweet potatoes. Place in pan that’s coated with oil (I used safflower). Sprinkle with salt, pepper, turmeric, cumin, coriander, and parsley to taste.  Drizzle on more oil til moist. Mix. Cook until potatoes are soft. This totally depends on your oven. Usually it takes me 30 min at 400, but this time it too me 50 on 350. So whatever works for you. Bottom line is these taste like chicken and are awesome. And also I stole this recipe from a friend, so thanks, Al.

Lentils

 

Lentils – self explanatory. Follow the instructions on the bag. I use red lentils. I just added salt, pepper, and garlic to the water. Not sure I made enough though, so may have to revisit this tomorrow, too. We’ll see.

Potatoes with Rosemary

Potatoes – slice thinly. I liked to halve and quarter the slices, too. Coat the pan in oil. Again, I used safflower. Any will do. (Like Joseph’s dreams. Damn, I’m tired). Sprinkle on rosemary, garlic, and salt to taste. Then a teensy bit more oil, mix, and cook. See sweet potatoes re: timing, as in oven times may vary, etc. but these take about 20 min on 400. These should be soft yet crunchy. So like not mushy but not raw. You know a cooked potato when you see one because it takes all your willpower not to eat it.

And for funsies, my lunch for tomorrow — beef ribs and tomatoes: put on grill pan. Add rosemary. Cook until desired tenderness. I like them well done but also I’m tired so I can’t care much.

Grilled Beef Ribs with Tomato

Did I mention I also have the lofty plans of watching Sleepy Hollow and The Newsroom tonight? Oh, but it’s midnight. This is that other kind of Cinderella story, where midnight comes and screws things up.

 

Cooking for Sukkot: Part 1

It’s holiday season in Jewish land! Which means a TON of feasting. And a ton of cooking.

This time of year has been scary for me the past few years, because I have to figure out how to cram multiple feasts into my lifestyle, keeping in mind my three times a week rule and the everything homemade rule.

First of all, I need to give a shoutout to my mom and sister who made Rosh Hashana so much easier than it would have been. They slaved for a while to make sure I could eat well.

And now, it’s up to me to finish off the season with Sukkot. Luckily, I’m not cooking ALL six meals (Wed dinner – Sat lunch, not including breakfasts). Just 3 large ones, contributing one dish to a potluck, and having small meals that are just for me. Still, this kind of task can be daunting. For anyone, but especially when it comes to specific dietary needs.

But I am proof that it’s doable!

Here’s night one of cooking — recipes are either stolen or from my gut, or a combo. My apologies for the low quality pictures. Just go back in time to when Blackberries were the bomb diggity, and you’ll be like, WOAH, your phone took that picture???

Also, these are for two separate meals. More sides for each of these meals to come…

Herbed Chicken

Herbed chicken:

chicken , canola oil, garlic, oregano, thyme, black pepper. Cook at 400 until the juices run dry, anywhere from 30-45 minutes

Butternut Squash Kugel

Butternut Squash Pie/Kugel

http://www.joyofkosher.com/recipe/butternut-squash-souffl/

In the above recipe, I use frozen butternut squash cubes that I stick in the food processor. It’s also AMAZING with oat flour, but use 3/4 cups instead. This is my first time making it with maple syrup and cinnamon. Substituted ginger for nutmeg.

Eggplant Parmesan

Eggplant Parmesan

Sauce: tomato puree, garlic, oregano, thyme, parsley, cayenne pepper, salt, pepper

Cook in layers: sauce, small pieces of eggplant, pizza cheese, sauce, eggplant, pizza cheese, sauce, eggplant, cheddar cheese, sauce, parmesan cheese. Cook at 400 for 30 min covered, then 10 uncovered.

 

Gnocchi in maple butter sauce

 

Gnocchi in maple butter sauce

Gnocchi: http://allrecipes.com/recipe/gnocchi-i/ (make sure to follow this recipe. I recently tried to make this while I was exhausted, and wound up reading the instructions wrong and mixing the flour without the sweet potato. And then I had this whole to-do where I burned my fingers. And then the gnocchis wouldn’t stick. I wound up with what I call inside out ravioli casserole. It was DELECTABLE. But ugly. Not that these gnocchi are gorgeous, but they are at least a shape.

Sauce: http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/giada-de-laurentiis/sweet-potato-gnocchi-with-maple-cinnamon-sage-brown-butter-recipe/index.html – I substituted parsley and garlic for cinnamon, pepper, and sage. We’ll see how it goes!

Tons more to cook before Wednesday. But I’m happy and proud. I can eat really interesting, fun dishes. No need to be bland just because there are foods I can’t eat!

The Best Home Cooks in America, Anthony Anderson-Style

Ok, so this is really not about allergies at all, but it is about episodes, and that’s half this blog, right? Plus, it involves cooking. So you might get some recipe help from it…

Check out Anthony Eats America, a new webseries we produced at work, starring comedian Anthony Anderson (from the beloved and cancelled-too-soon Guys with Kids). Basically, Anthony goes around America and learns how to cook with some of the best home chefs around. It’s a really funny show that’s part how-to and part plain ol’ silly irreverence.

And as a budding home chef myself, I definitely try to have this much fun in my own kitchen!

Shameless self plug ends here…now back to our regularly scheduled allergy programming…

Anthony Eats America

 

Oh My God, I Just Made Gnocchi

There are some foods you don’t think you can make yourself. Foods that you associate with dining out. And once you stop eating out, you think, “Ok, I will live the rest of my life without this food, and that’s just how it is.” It’s sad, but it’s really a waste of time to be sad about food.

For me, gnocchi was that food. I’m not sure why. I guess I just always loved ordering it in restaurants, so I just associated it as a special restaurant treat.

It’s not so! Gnocchi is totally an easy home food. And – spoiler alert- made a fantastic dinner tonight.

I decided to make the dish because we’re editing a cooking show at work, and in the episode currently in edit, the chef is making gnocchi. I found it utterly impossible to spend the day hearing about gnocchi without developing a serious craving. I couldn’t think of any other food that was worth eating. I needed gnocchi.

I figured since the chef on the show could make gnocchi in her home, I could, too. I googled it, and turns out it’s ridiculously easy. I followed a simple recipe from All Recipes (though I used 2 eggs to get the consistency I needed, and made the balls with my hands instead of rolling the dough out), made homemade sauce, melted on string cheese, and had a delightful restaurant-esque dinner from the comfort of my couch.

More importantly, I learned something: there is no reason people will food allergies who have to restrict their dining out can’t have restaurant food. Cooking is easier than we think it is. Sure, some things have serious prep time, but a lot of that can be done while multitasking — I washed dishes that were long overdue while my potatoes boiled, for example. This morning I roasted chicken and pears while I got ready for work. Yes, the dish takes 40 minutes to prep. Luckily, it takes me 40 minutes to get ready in the morning, if I decide to eat breakfast. Cooking doesn’t have to be a whole “to-do.” But there’s no reason you can’t do it.

I was totally empowered by my gnocchi experience. Plus, I made a few servings worth, and now I have lunch and then some. And all it took was some googling and half an hour of my time (including letting the potatoes boil for longer than they needed to). It would have taken the restaurant that long to bring me the food, plus it would have cost more and I wouldn’t have had leftovers. (Or dishes, but hey. You can’t win them all). While restaurants are nice — I am going out to dinner tomorrow — a home-cooked meal that’s outside the box is somehow more satisfying.

Gnocchi boiling in my pot. Who knew mashed potatoes rolled into flour and eggs and boiled for 5 minutes could be so darn delicious?

Gnocchi boiling in my pot. Who knew mashed potatoes rolled into flour and eggs and boiled for 5 minutes could be so darn delicious?

Gnocchi, tomato sauce, and cheese. The best dinner ever.

Gnocchi, tomato sauce, and cheese. The best dinner ever.

 

Celebratory Shabbat: Lots of Recipes!

This past Shabbat, I celebrated my one year anniversary of my scratch test by serving some of the foods that have been returned to my life since they were taken away in that test. It was delicious, so why not share the recipes?

It was all pretty simple — the menu was London Broil, tri-colored carrots with rosemary, pepper steak and baby corn stir fry, majadra (made by friend N who has a delicious blog of her own!), roasted tomato/pear/apples, and roasted potatoes. At the last minute I also threw in some eggplant and zucchini but that’s old news in my diet. Then, chocolate chip cookies for dessert, from my friend’s delicious home bakery. So here are the seriously easy recipes for the foods I cooked.

Majadra -- for great Syrian recipes, visit http://twistongrandmasrecipes.blogspot.com/p/recipes.html

Majadra — for great Syrian recipes, visit http://twistongrandmasrecipes.blogspot.com/p/recipes.html

London Broil:

spice a london broil with a pinch of garlic, pepper, and salt, and cook at about 400 for like 30 minutes, less if you like the meat rare (but I’m a well done sort of a girl).

Carrots:

buy a bunch of purple, white, and orange carrots. peel and chop. drizzle on or spray oil. Toss on salt, pepper, and rosemary. Cook at 350 or 400 (depends how fast you want them done) for 20-30 minutes

Pepper Steak:

stir fry pepper steak and cut up baby corn. Add in garlic and salt

Tomato/Pear/Apples

Cut up a few tomatoes, pears, and apples (2 of each for 8 people)? throw on tarragon, ginger, and basil. drizzle on or spray oil. Cook for 20 minutes at like 375ish.

Potatoes:

Cut up potatoes. Sprinkle on cayenne pepper, paprika, salt, pepper, garlic. Drizzle on oil. Roast at 400is for 30 minutes.

Simple and delicious. And quite the celebration of garlic, beef, tomatoes, basil, rice, lentils, wheat, and chocolate, which were all out of my diet this time last year. Plus, a shoutout to pears, apples, and carrots, three foods I ate as a kid that I rediscovered when my diet went all wonky.

Enjoy!

London Broil and Carrots

London Broil and Carrots

Goodbye, Squash Aversion (and a recipe, too boot!)

There’s a difference between a food overdose that makes you sick and a food overdose that makes you just averse to the food. The first is something reserved for those among us with serious allergies and escalated food sensitivities, and the second is, well, pretty normal.

But I gotta say, it’s terribly inconvenient to experience a food aversion when you’ve got a billion food allergies. So it hasn’t been great that I’ve been distancing myself from squash these last few months.

Over the spring/summer, when I could eat basically squash, zucchini  beans, eggplant, sweet potatoes, green beans, carrots, non-green peppers, corn, quinoa, millet, pumpkin, oats, lamb, chicken, turkey, and bison, and all of the above only three times a week, I ate a ton of squash. Like squash at every meal, because every squash counted as a different food. But once my diet opened up, I just couldn’t bring myself to eat squash that regularly. Sure it was in season. And I did buy it a lot, just in case. But I could never bring myself to cook it. Maybe some bottleneck or zucchini here and there, but acorn? Dumpling? Kabocha? Not so often.

This shabbat, I decided it was time. Mostly because I’d bought the cutest little kabocha squash and didn’t feel like going to the grocery store. Oh. My. God. Can we say DELICIOUS? I felt like I’d travelled back in time. Friday night dinner, complete with reading and sleeping and resting, mixed with a challah and a matzah (didn’t want to buy two when I can only eat a handful of bread anyway), chicken, green beans, and kabocha squash. And pumpkin oat muffins (that had flour and eggs, but let’s not unnecessarily torture ourselves, esp. when baking ten minutes before Shabbat starts).

It was like being transported back in time. It was lovely. I realized how far I’ve come, how many new foods I can eat, and how I don’t need to eat literally everything I am not allergic to, even if I don’t like it. I thought about how lucky I am that I get to have more foods and say things like “sometimes I don’t like squash.” I thought about eating kitniyot on Pesach and whether I really have to this year (the answer is yes, because a potato and tomato don’t replace millet, beans, green beans, lentils and corn). But I thought about how I WILL get to eat karpas (the ritual potato). How I had wine. And real wheat matzah. And how much has changed since last March. And how it’s all so good.

And tonight, as I dogsit for my quasi-aunt and uncle’s dog Roxie, I think about how I used to spend every Shabbat here in 2008 when I was at USC for the summer. How I live in LA for real now. How then, they didn’t have a dog, and now their dog is a family member. How I spent those Saturday nights watching movies on their couch, and how now I go to the theater with friends.

How a year ago, I didn’t know why I was getting sick every day when I ate lunch. How I gchatted T every day saying “tell me to take benedryl bc I’m sick but I don’t want to be.” How I had finally got test results back that said I was allergic to nuts, sort of, and fish sort of, and cabbage not at all, and how I thought that was it, but still got sick. How now, I get sick randomly once a week max (usually less), or when I have a bad challenge. Which has happened exactly 5 times. My list is getting “back to normal” every day. Soon I can say “I’m allergic to leafy greens, mushrooms, broccoli, cauliflower, nuts, fish, horseradish, some onions, avocado, artichokes, hearts of palm, and pasta.” Which isn’t a big deal at all.

So bring it on, squash. We’re not averse anymore.

We're back, baby.

We’re back, baby.

The recipe, in case you’re curious:

One Kabocha squash, cut into manageable pieces (depends on size of squash), with the seeds and guts removed

Some kind of oil. I use safflower, grapeseed, or canola, but use whatever. Oil is oil. It works.

A sprinkling of salt and pepper

Some ginger

Some nutmeg

Coat the pan in oil. Season the squash. Drizzle a little more oil on if desired. Roast in the oven for 30-50 minutes at around 400 (or 350, just check it), depending on the size of the piece. When it’s soft and smells good it’s done.

Homemade Ketchup, Onion, Horseradish, and Fish Free BBQ Sauce

You’d think it would be easy to find a BBQ sauce recipe that doesn’t include ketchup, onion, horseradish, or fish (damn you worcestershire sauce!). You’d be wrong.

So, since all I wanted for dinner was some BBQ wings, I had to go invent a sauce myself. And it’s DELICIOUS. Bookmark this one for Superbowl Sunday, folks.

As always, I don’t measure my ingredients with things like measuring tools and whatnot. I use my eyes. And it works. The below measurements are what I think the things I dumped in would measure out to, but please, please, pleasure trust your gut and eyes.

14ish oz can Tomato sauce/paste

1/2 cup beer (Heineken!)

a little oil to prevent from sticking (I used canola, anything should work)

2 tsp honey

1 tsp salt

1 tsp ginger

1 tsp garlic

sprinkle of parsley

sprinkle of paprika

sprinkle of cayenne pepper

salt and pepper to taste

Heat and mix in the saucepan until it just about boils. Pour on to wings, ribs, etc.

Eat.

Emmys! (and some hives)

It’s the superbowl of TV…the Emmy Awards! Only, there’s no typical food for this major American holiday, which is a shame. It’s my turn to host the Emmy’s “party” this year (read: a few friends in sweatpants sitting on a couch watching the show), and I decided to cook what will maybe become an Emmy’s staple menu.

Main Dish:

Homemade pizza — for recipe, see here.

Side:

Fried zucchini — essentially, zucchinni fried with garlic, salt, and pepper.

Dessert:

Strawberry chocolate oat muffins – a twist on my pumpkin oat muffins (vegan! gluten free! nut-free! woo-hoo!) only with pureed strawberry and some chocolate powder instead of pumpkin…or cherries

It all would have been an absolutely SUPERB dinner to accompany a really incredible Emmy show (Homeland! Homeland! Homeland!) but I erupted into hives for a reason I simply can’t understand.

Or maybe I can understand it. Last Monday, on the second night of Rosh Hashana, we had the traditional new fruits to make a blessing for the new year. I am allergic to most fruits, certainly exotic fruits, so I didn’t eat them. No one anticipated an airborne reaction, because there was no horseradish involved. And yet, I broke out into hives for a few days following that meal. My guess right now is that I had an apple that was right next to the fruits, and as with the horseradish incident of Passover, I think the apple absorbed some of the other fruits’ essences. Apples are pretty absorbent — they’re known to absorb most of the pesticides sprayed on them, for instance — and since I had definitely not overdosed on apples and that’s what I was eating when the hives began, I can only imagine they are the culprit. It’s been under a week, and I haven’t been strict about my Benadryl usage, but these sorts of hives can reappear for days. So I’m betting it’s that. Or I overdosed on wheat, with it being in the pizza, and having challah pretty regularly as part of all the ritual meals. Not that I’ve been eating a ton of challah, but I’ve had less wheat over more time than in most weeks (most weeks I eat wheat only on the weekends, in huge amounts. This week, I’ve had bread at many meals, but in small amounts).

Either way, my traditional Emmys meal was slightly marred, but very delicious, so here’s to hoping that next year:

a) I’m closer to winning an Emmy

b) my allergies are in check enough to eat the above foods totally 100% safely