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Old loves

17 Apr

My ex was married yesterday.

And as I slogged through my Saturday chores of sweeping my floors, washing my towels, and dusting my furniture, I–for some masochistic reason–envisioned him straightening his bow tie, admiring his bride, and embarking on his honeymoon . . . .

And then I relived the honeymoon of our own relationship–ended just a little more than a year ago–as I recalled his first admiring gaze across a P.F. Chang’s dinner table, our third date to a favorite Chinese carryout spot with tofu and crab pot stickers, and his first time cooking grilled cheese sandwiches for me.

In fact, almost every one of my favorite dishes and restaurants evokes a memory of him.

But he wasn’t the one who came to mind yesterday as I made my favorite new breakfast . . . and brunch . . . and, sometimes, late-night dinner.

Instead, this dish evoked memories of cold nights spent cooking in my warm, cozy kitchen with my new boyfriend. He’d been the first person–since my father, who used to fry up the family’s Saturday morning breakfasts–to make me French toast.

The thick fluffy slices, dusted in powdered sugar and drenched in real maple syrup, proved even better than my father’s so long ago. And unlike his, these were gluten free.

Udi’s gluten-free breads, available in a white sandwich variety and a faux whole-wheat “whole-grain” version sold in nonspecialty local grocery stores such as Dominick’s, have given me back countless pre-Celiac bread-based meals, including breakfasts of toast and Welch’s grape jelly, lunches of imitation Quiznos veggie sandwiches (more on these later), and now, late-night dinners of omelets and French toast.

And during those late-night dinners, my boyfriend gave me–an egg-scrambling, omelet-frying failure–yet another gift: the recipe.

7 to 8 slices of Udi’s white sandwich gluten-free bread

3 eggs

about 1/4 cup of milk or cream

dash of vanilla

generous sprinkling of cinnamon

1 to 3 tablespoons of unsalted butter

various toppings (powdered sugar, maple syrup, sliced strawberries, oranges, and/or bananas)

If bread is frozen, microwave it until soft. Then whisk together eggs, milk or cream, vanilla, and cinnamon. Dip both sides of each bread slice in egg mixture and fry in unsalted butter until slices are browned on both sides.

Then top with sugar, syrup, or fruit, and share with a new–or old–love.


Sweet sorrow

30 Dec

“I just want to be friends.”

Those words startled me midway through a magical second date this past summer.

It had already become a season of endlessly empty encounters–from the rushed affair with the overly eager engineer to the coffee date with the already involved lawyer–but none of the inevitable endings had surprised me as much as this abrupt revelation.

“I felt as if I’d been sucker punched . . . in the stomach,” I told my mom the next morning as we crossed the quaint, sunshiney streets of downtown Hinsdale, Ill., and parked before a tiny new shop named Sweet Ali’s Gluten Free Bakery.

And because I leaned across one of their few small tables to recount the past night’s confusing particulars–the initial awkward conversing, the gradual lengthening of gazes, the midnight swinging . . . and touching at a deserted playground, and then the sudden shifting of his behavior–I will always associate Sweet Ali’s with sadness.

But what could soothe the sorrow of that summer infatuation–or my frustrating diet limitation–better than an impossibly light angel food cake paired with an equally airy whipped cream? And what could dissolve the stress of subsequent workdays better than a thick, chewy chocolate chip cookie delivered by my mom during lunch breaks?

For breakfasts at my desk toward the end of summer and then into fall, the flavors of carrot and pumpkin muffins proved as deep and complex as a kiss from a new man. He took me for magical dates filled with comfortable conversations, long gazes, midnight walks–and caresses–in secluded parks, and then a pledge of his commitment.

His consistent sweetness has lasted into the holiday season of red velvet cupcakes, iced sugar cookies, and m&m treats that have inspired my New Year’s Day dessert–to be compiled with the reasonably priced flour mix responsible for the enigmatic authenticity of Sweet Ali’s entire product line.

But its most delicious offering–the tomato focaccia–is the most anticipated element of my New Year’s Day meal. Expected to accompany the gluten-free lasagna, the inconceivably elastic dough of this cheesy roll rivals any pre-dinner bread ever enjoyed at Macaroni Grill during pointless past dates.

So to celebrate the sweetness of my next magical date–and erase the sorrowful memories of 2010–I might share a Sweet Ali’s focaccia . . . or cupcake . . . or cookie with my best friend: my boyfriend.

Chips ‘n’ Dilemmas

18 Aug

Every time I’m standing in the grocery store checkout line, I scan my items waiting on the conveyor belt for any “giveaways.”

Today, the three Betty Crocker dessert mix boxes (more on those later), proclaiming “Gluten free” in large, bold print, gave away my disease. But I noted proudly the anonymity of my other purchases—eggs, butter, tofu, broccoli, and Ruffles Cheddar and Sour Cream Flavored Potato Chips.

The increasing abundance of nonspecialty brands in my grocery basket is encouraging evidence of the growing willingness of major food companies to specify allergens in products’ ingredients.

I’ll never forget the joy of finding the online Frito-Lay list of Products Not Containing Gluten, with the Web page’s old forest green background, and realizing I could still devour my beloved Cheetos. Then I found the recently expanded list and discovered my old vending machine staple and tonight’s perfect (yes, Mom and Dad, perfect) Monday dinner—the Ruffle’s flavored potato chips.

While enjoying them from the lovely pink-and-purple bowl handmade for me by my boyfriend, however, I noticed a troubling disclaimer at the end of the wonderfully long Frito-Lay product list. The disclaimer, promising no gluten ingredients but warning of production on equipment shared with wheat, is disappointingly similar to the half-hearted assurances provided by the deceptive Trader Joe’s new g logo. “No gluten ingredients” is the only guarantee from both these companies.

I agonized over the decision of whether to allow such products into my diet after I came home from Trader Joe’s this past Friday with items for creating sundaes with my boyfriend. I’d purchased the company’s vanilla ice cream and Midnight Moo—both items included on the Trader Joe’s product list of No Gluten Ingredients Used, but both items warning of manufacturing on equipment shared with wheat.

That evening, I guiltily indulged in a potentially gluten-tinged sundae, for I knew I’d eaten numerous similarly labeled items and still passed the new, strict blood tests for the antibodies. Yet I did send the ice cream home with my boyfriend. The Midnight Moo, however, still lingers in my fridge and begs to be drizzled over my morning cereal. But I’m wary of giving in, for although the Trader Joe’s product list includes an assurance of good manufacturing practices to segregate allergens on shared equipment, these items’ lables, unlike many other of the company’s labels, did not bear such an assurance.

Frito-Lay, however, at the end of its product list, kindly provides a promise of washed equipment lines. And so, every couple of Mondays, I’ll continue to make a quick stop on my way home from work and place an incognito bag of chips on the checkout line conveyor belt.