Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Two Useful Taco Tools

Today is National Margarita Day*.  It's also Tuesday ergo Taco Tuesday.  What a delightful combination.

I feel like I have not been OUT for tacos in ages.  So I started scoping the interwebs for the latest and greatest NYC tacos.  The Infatuation sent me to Zagat's list of 38 delicious NY tacos (helpful tool #1) and after perusing their page, I clicked through to helpful tool #2.

Best NYC Tacos By Type

BY TYPE.  Brilliant.  Sometimes you're really craving that chicken taco and beef or pork won't cut it.  Alas, your problems are solved.  Have a nice life.

I also like this because most taco places offer multiple types of tacos and how can you really compare a veggie taco to a fish taco?  You're right, you cannot. So, keep things consistent and launch an adventure to eat all chorizo tacos next time you plan a taco tour.

Buen provecho.

*Where do people come up with these?  Who makes them "official"?  Why am I so obsessed with them?

Saturday, February 20, 2016

Morning Crunch

Granola is not "good for you".  I remember the pangs of disappointment and loss I felt when I learned that my high school go-to-breakfast of bowls filled with granola (a.k.a. Nature Valley Oats 'n Honey bars broken into pieces) was not the breakfast of champions.  Store bought granola is packed with sugar, not to mention all the processed grains, dried fruits etc.

Being gluten-free, I have a burning desire to try everything labeled as such and so have had my fair share of unhealthy granolas -- gluten free is not a euphemism for health -- pass through my kitchen (and into my mouth). The options have increased tremendously -- Udi's, Purely Elizabeth, Bare Naked, KIND -- and if you want to find gluten free granola, there is a spectrum of choices and health qualities you can choose from.

In an effort to minimize my grocery store spending and maximize the health benefits of my food but still enjoy the sweet delicious crunchy goodness of granola, I set out to make my own.

If you think there are a lot of options for store bought granola then beware of searching for recipes online.  Gluten-free, grain-free, paleo x 1,000,000.

Luckily, college BFF Emily has been cooking up homemade granola for ages.  I had tasted hers years ago and loved the crunchy, nutty, fruity, not-to-sweet blend her granola always had.  Her recipe is simple and adaptable depending on the exact flavor profile you are craving.  My favorite combination includes dried cherries & walnuts or figs, prunes & cashews.  Where will your granola take you?

Easy Homemade Granola 
(from "Baked: New Frontiers in Baking" by Matt Lewis and Renato Poliafito)

[Maddy's Note: One thing I absolutely love about this recipe is that I eyeball all of the measurements and it always yields tasty granola.]


2 cups rolled oats

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1 teaspoon salt

3 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon vegetable oil

1/4 cup honey [Maddy's Note: Sometime I do a blend of honey/maple syrup]

1/4 cup firmly packed light brown sugar [Maddy's Note: For my health-conscious granola, I typically leave this out.  Still plenty sweet.]

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1/3 cup whole almonds [Emily's Note: I used slivered almonds, and they worked fine.]

1/3 cup whole hazelnuts

1/3 cup golden raisins

1/3 cup dried cherries

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

In a large bowl, toss the oats with the cinnamon and salt.

In a medium bowl, stir together the oil, honey, brown sugar, and vanilla. Whisk until 

completely combined.

Pour the honey mixture over the oats mixture and use your hands to combine them: 

Gather up some of the mixture in each hand and make a fist. Repeat until all of the oats 

are coated with the honey mixture.

Pour the mixture onto the prepared baking sheet. Spread it out evenly, but leave a few 

clumps here and there for texture.

Bake for 10 minutes, then remove from the oven and use a metal spatula to lift and flip 

the granola. Sprinkle the almonds over the granola and return the baking sheet to the 


Bake for 5 minutes, then remove from the oven and use a metal spatula to lift and flip the 

granola. Sprinkle the hazelnuts over the granola and return the baking sheet to the oven.

Bake for 10 minutes, then remove from the oven. Let cool completely. Sprinkle the 

raisins and cherries over the granola...

and use your hands to transfer it to an airtight container.

The granola will keep for 1 week.

[Maddy's Note: If I'm feeling lazy, I don't separate the baking into 3 sections (10 minutes, 5 minutes, 10 minutes).  Flavor is still delicious and you can eyeball the baking/dryness to get the optimal crunch.]

Enjoy over thick greek yogurt or in a bowl with probiotic-filled kefir!

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Tuna Sandwich al Taco

As a kid I never ate seafood.  The smell and look of salmon, lobster, swordfish, or whatever ocean / river / fish tank dweller my mom brought home disgusted me.  I used to get bribes to taste the fish -- $1 for a bite of salmon, $5 for a lobster claw -- but nothing seemed to work.  Except mayonnaise, carrots, and celery.  I loved Bumble Bee Tuna out of a can and mixed up into the most delicious tuna salad in the world -- my mom's.

With years came maturity and adventurousness and I started eating seafood.  I took the $5 bribe and realized I liked lobster claws, but not the tails.  A tuna avocado roll doused in soy sauce (now gluten-free tamari) and loaded up with pickled ginger was quite delicious.

Two sticky situations led me to try shrimp and salmon* and my expected reactions -- immediate hurling -- was dwarfed by the pure enjoyment.

Tuna salad will always hold a dear place in my heart at my fish-eating gateway drug.  Combining tuna salad into a taco?  Now that's pure genius.

Saveur's Taco Truck Tuna Sandwich
Taco Truck Tuna Sandwich

The olive oil, avocado, and cilantro will certainly make this tuna sandwich uniquely delicious.  It reminds me a bit of my Tunacado on gluten free bread from Joe & The Juice (@ 67 Spring Street) that had some aioli or sauce that made my snowy day pure bliss.

Although I have not yet vetted this brilliant creation, I doubt it will lead me to turn away from seafood. Or tacos.

*The stories of trying these two seafoods are quite hilarious in my opinion, so I wanted to include them.
Shrimp: While in San Francisco visiting my best friend from freshman year of college we went out for Chinese food with his entire family.  Given the plethora of wheat-based soy sauce based dishes on the menu, I was already causing quite a headache so when they ordered "shrimp in the gluten free white sauce", I couldn't interject with my hatred of seafood.  I mainly ate rice and tried to fish (pun intended) my way around the baby crustaceans until I realized one had slipped past my dexterous fork skills and landed in my mouth.  Well, rather than spit into my napkin I chewed and swallowed.  It was delightful.  A bit lobstery, a bit new and different.  Later I found out that those were pretty terrible shrimp so I knew that I was on the up and up.

Salmon: My best friend from college, Emily, bought me a cooking demo class as my 22nd birthday present.  One Spring night we ventured into a new neighborhood of Chicago to watch, drink and eat.  As we sat down in the open kitchen ready to see chefs at work, I saw some serious issues with the menu.  The two main dishes were pasta salad and salmon.  Knowing they likely did not have a gluten free pasta option, I started sweating trying to figure out an escape plan.  When the salmon was served I figured I could power through one bite and push the food around so it looked like I ate more than I did or pass it off to Emily.  Once again, my expectations were shattered and I devoured the salmon in minutes.

Conclusion:  Had it not been for my gluten freedom, I could very well still be a fish hating idiot.