Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Date Night & Gluten-Free Cooking

You made it past Date #1.

(A small victory)

And, you were creative enough (and listened on date one) to think of a non-dinner, spontaneous Date #2.

(Nice Work)

And now, you've mustered up enough balls to cook for her.


"Sure...but, I'm gluten-free"


Living in the days of gluten-free, vegan, vegetarian, raw, paleo, whole, or organic, it's easy to become inundated with cooking restrictions. But in reality, those words shouldn't be taboo - it's actually easier than you think.  If you can confidently cook a gluten-free meal, in the words of Vince Vaughn, "you're money baby."

I have a cookbook that contains "1,000 gluten free recipes" and there are hundreds of people sharing thousands of gluten-free recipes online. But I want to keep it simple, besides you're probably stressing about too many other things:

The Basics:
  • Gluten is found in wheat, barley, rye
  • Gluten is not synonymous with carbs (potatoes do not contain gluten)
  • It's easy to eat and cook gluten-free

The Guidelines:
  • Vegetables, fruit, quinoa, rice, beef, pork, seafood are all safe
  • Beef and pork can naturally be difficult to digest, if you both like seafood, try fish
  • If you want a theme, focus on other cultures - Mexican (primarily corn-based) or Asian (primarily rice-based)
  • Since she'll be cooking with you or watching, she'll say something if you misstep
  • Most packaged food will say if it's gluten-free or not

From Experience:
  • If you want to cook pasta, buy the blended gluten-free pasta (made with a combination of rice, buckwheat, and potato flours). Rice flour is too grainy by itself and surprisingly companies have done a pretty good job at perfecting the ratios
  • New Grist and Bard's are both pretty good gluten-free beers
  • Wine is fine
  • Gluten-free bread or english muffins may look and feel like solid, indestructible miniature frisbees but you just need to microwave them

The Nitty Gritty:
  • If she's extremely sensitive to gluten, watch cross-contaminating cutting boards and knives
  • Many sauces contain gluten as a binding agent (check labels!)
  • Regular soy sauce, BBQ sauce, and most salad dressings have gluten
  • Some commercial soups use gluten products to thicken the soup

Some Pretty Fool-Proof (Personally-Tested) Ideas:
  • Appetizers (while she watches you cook): Wine, Hummus, Cucumbers, Rice Crackers, Olives, Cheese
  • American: Cast-iron, grass-fed rib-eye steak + Sauteed Portabella Mushrooms & Sweet Onions + Quinoa (the easiest thing to cook in the world)
  • Seafood: One pot - Salmon/tilapia/haddock sauteed with chives, tomatoes, and green squash in gluten-free soy sauce + Rice/Quinoa
  • Quick Seafood: Seared tuna steaks (with some dry cajun spices) + Sauteed okra or green beans in olive oil
  • Mexican: Make your own fajitas - Thinly sliced skirt steak + Red onions, Avocado, Shredded Cheese, Tomatoes, Salsa + Corn tortillas
  • Quick Asian: Stir-fried vegetables + Shrimp + Jasmine rice
  • Italian: Gluten-free spiral pasta + Homemade sauce (mushrooms, onions, sausage/ground beef (watch the casing), basil) + Fresh green salad with Oil & Vinegar
  • Breakfast: Yogurt + Fruit. More Fruit. Scrambled Eggs + Gluten-Free Toast + Tomatoes. Gluten-Free English Muffins + Laughing Cow + Smoked Salmon + Capers. Cinnamon Chex (I know...a sugar-laden carb...and not sexy...but God did I love Cinnamon Chex went I was gluten-free)

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Competitive Skee-Ball

Now, your mind may jump to the many spinoff leagues in the DC area that are cashing in on the kickball play/party/flipcup/hookup/regret model but that's really not competitive skee-ball.  Or, your mind may jump to you and your buddies making bets on lowest score gets a rail tequila shot, but that's really not competitive skee-ball either.  And soon, you'll arrive to the conclusion that we all eventually reach....THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS F-ING COMPETITIVE SKEE-BALL!


Here I was.

Listening to a young guy berate his date about her pitiful skee-ball playing abilities.  Now, I don't care if she was worse than a President throwing out the first pitch at a ball game, the bottom line is that it doesn't matter.  And being meaner than an in-love, awkward, Third grader at Recess is going to piss her off faster than forgetting her birthday (well, maybe not that bad).  The night will end poorly.  Every time.

But take cues from competitive skee-ball when you're cooking with your date.  There is no competition.  When she's your sous chef (Tip of the Day #1), don't criticize her chopping abilities.  Don't give her that condescending look when she adds 3x times as much salt as you would've expected.  It's like buying flowers, it's the thought that matters (you're actually fucking cooking so she's impressed).

Cooking should not be serious. It should be fun. Accept spontaneity. Accept hiccups. Don't live by the recipe.  It'll be alright, she probably ate beforehand anyways.