Tuesday, February 25, 2014

MOVIE REVIEW: Jiro Dreams Of Sushi

I'm a huge fan of sushi, so I was instantly drawn to the title of this movie: Jiro Dreams of Sushi. On top of that, the title has sort of a whimsical food feel to it. I also choose this movie because of some friends rave reviews of it.

 Jiro Dreams Of Sushi is a 2011 American documentary about master sushi chef Jiro Ono who is the 85-year-old owner of Sukiyabashi Jiro, a three-Michelin star restaurant in Tokyo, Japan.

 The film starts slow, but draws you in with the vivid imagery of the sushi and the passion of Jiro for the sushi.  He has been making sushi for most of his life--it is his destiny. I was just drawn in by the amazing dedication to his craft and how much time and energy goes into each piece of sushi. His sushi is in essence very simple, yet so much preparation, time and energy goes into each piece. The people working for him (one of whom is his eldest son) work so hard to produce food that is to his liking. They work to please him more than anything.

It is a simple film and easy to follow. But it full of beautiful moments filled with unique music that helps to focus the simplicity and beauty of the sushi. The sushi, the fish is the main focus of the film, even though it is about Jiro.

As a chef, I am drawn to the amazing simplicity of his dishes and how completely delicious they taste and the amount of time it takes to prepare them. Each ingredient is poured over with skill, time, love and passion. In this film, less is truly more, both about the sushi and the man. He is great and small, but Jiro just works to make the sushi great.

Also, I am amazed at the age of this chef (85) and that he is still going and that it is his life to make sushi, to constantly make it better.  Jiro is always trying to improve his craft and he feels it is his duty to do so. This humbles me and inspires me to do more.I have done some work with sushi, but very little and I know it takes years and years to even perfect the making of sushi rice and more for the sushi preparation.

My personal first attempt at making sushi years ago.

For a meaningful, tasty, serious, and beautiful story about sushi and life you must watch Jiro Dreams Of Sushi. It is a movie that will change your life or your view of food, hopefully for the better. Also, it will leave you wanting to order sushi on grub hub or dash out to your favorite sushi restaurant immediately after the film.  

This film is available both on Netflix as a DVD or can be streamed online through both Netflix and Amazon Prime.  Happy watching!

Friday, February 21, 2014

Sandwiches: what's on the outside?

What do I miss most about my old life? Back in the days when I could eat gluten? Well, I have to say it must be sandwiches. 

I began to realize, when I started my lifestyle change, that I ate sandwiches often. And liked them.
That all came to a screeching halt when I reluctantly gave up gluten. But then I started missing them.

Oh, for sure, I found I could have a lettuce wrap with tuna salad or egg salad, as a sandwich substitute.  But I have to be honest. It's always a bit messier.

So I began looking for gluten-free bread that would make a good sandwich.

The first thing I noticed is that many of the loves were, shall we say, rather petite!  Small square loaves. And they didn't taste very good, even if I toasted them.

Well, and that's another thing I missed on occasion. A nice slice of toast to slather with my homemade apple butter.

So after experimenting with loaves by companies like Schar, Food for Life, EnerG, Kinnikinnick Food, and Glutino, I circled back to the company I highlight last post: Udi's.  And especially Udi's Whole Grain Bread.

And guess what?  I'm not the only one who thinks that.  A taste test by Huffington Post ended up with Udi's Whole Grain on top!

So that means I can still have a slice of toast or a sandwich on occasion--and enjoy it!

If you are exploring gluten-free breads, have you found one you thought was great?

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Who Needs the Girl Scouts: Sandwiches to Go Nuts About

IT’S COOKIE TIME! I love to find fun, warm baking projects in the winter to help warm the whole house up. On top of that, I was having a total sweet tooth moment. I looked in my pantry and there it was…peanut butter!

As you know, now is the time for those tempting and addicting Girl Scout cookies. My favorite cookies were the peanut butter sandwich cookies (of course).

So I decided to give myself a challenge. Why not try to make them both vegan and gluten- free, so all my friends could enjoy them? And they turned out awesome! 

They are soft and chewy and quite decadent. These are super easy to make and a perfect way to make a vegan/gluten intolerant friend very happy-- or just about anybody happy. I recommend enjoying these with a nice big frosty glass of almond milk, or your favorite milk. 

Makes about 12-15 cookies


1 cup creamy peanut butter
1 cup brown sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup oat flour (you can make this by pulsing oats in a food processor till it’s more flour-like)
1 tsp baking soda
teaspoon salt
¼ cup water

1.     Preheat oven to 350 F
2.     In a mixing bowl, cream together peanut butter and brown sugar till creamy (about 1 minute).
3.     Add in vanilla and beat for 1 more minute.
4.     In separate bowl combine oat flour, baking soda and salt.
5.     While mixing peanut butter mixture, slowly add in flour mixture till crumbly. Then add in the water and beat till combined. Do not overbeat the mixture.
6.     Line sheet pans with either silpat mats or parchment paper.
7.     Roll dough into round balls, about 1- 1 ½ tablespoon of dough each.
8.     Then taking a fork, do a criss cross pattern on top of each dough ball to flatten out and give it a neat pattern.
9.     Bake 8-10 minutes. Make sure to not over bake these.
10.  Once fully cooled, pipe or spread vegan peanut butter frosting on the bottom side of a cookie*
11.  Then place another cookie, bottom side down on top of the frosting to form the sandwich cookie.
12.  ENJOY!

*For best results, I recommend only adding the frosting right before you serve them. The unfrosted peanut butter cookies will last for about a week in the refrigerator and about a month in the freezer. But really, I don’t think they will ACTUALLY last that long without being gobbled up.


1 cup vegan margarine (I like to use Earth Balance)
½ cup creamy peanut butter
3 cups powdered sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla
3-4 tablespoons almond milk ( any non-dairy milk will work too)

1.     In mixing bowl, cream together the margarine and peanut butter till it’s nice and creamy.
2.     With the mixer going, slowly add in the powdered sugar.
3.     Then add in vanilla. Then add in the almond milk and mix till it has a nice soft whipped consistency.
4.     Now it’s ready to make the peanut butter sandwich cookies.

Monday, February 17, 2014

Three Reasons to Be Vegetarian

Alas, another grey and snowy winter day in Chicago. Ugh, I’m starting to feel like a guest at the Overlook Hotel from The Shining. Thank goodness I don’t have a hedge maze outside my apartment. I‘d probably freeze to death.

With spring on my mind, I continue to plow through my meatless voyage. Today, I was just thinking of some foods I’m thankful are vegetarian friendly. There are three in particular I have been relying on:

Hummus and Baba Ghanoush: I’m lumping these two delightful dips together because they pretty much go hand in hand. Hummus, as most of us know, is made up of pureed chickpeas with olive oil, spices and tahini. 

Baba ghanoush is essentially the same thing but is made with eggplant opposed to chickpea. Um, has anyone noticed baba ghanoush is like the redheaded stepchild compared to hummus? Everytime I go to a party or take a peek in a friend’s ‘fridge, there’s always hummus, but no baba g! Am I in the minority by thinking baba ghanoush is far superior in terms of taste? I think so. Ok, I get that pureed eggplant isn’t super appealing, especially if you’re not fond of the vegetable, but if you haven’t already, give it a go! It’s delightful.

Soup: I’m not talking about borsch, here. Russia can keep their cold, purple soup as far as I’m concerned. I’m talking about cream of mushroom/asparagus/broccoli, lentil, minestrone and good ‘ol tomato. They have really helped thaw me out after battling that icy bitch known as polar vortex. That’s just naming a few, too. Soup, there it is!

Grilled Cheese: What’s soup without grilled cheese, yo!? The five-year-old in me will always enjoy processed Kraft singles melted between white bread, but as my palate and love of cheese has evolved, adult versions have taken over. I mean, the possibilities are pretty much endless. I like to add a vegetable like tomato or avocado. I’ve been really diggin’ Havarti cheese lately, (Havarti Dill, in particular) it melts perfectly, and goes nicely on pumpernickel bread. Actually, there’s a nice recipe for adult grilled cheese and zesty tomato soup here.

Thanks to these three delights, being a vegetarian hasn’t been too rough so far this year. Do you have any vegetarian staples that keep you going? Share them with me, please. Knowing there are others out there keeps me from wandering outside in the snow with an ax. Heeeeeere’s Johnny!

Friday, February 14, 2014

Hot Buns

When I first decided to stop eating gluten, I decided I wasn’t just going to eat like I had been, with just substituting gluten-free products.  I decided to evaluate how much bread I was eating.  And I have to say—it was a bit.  I love good bread.

So I stopped eating bread and decided to slowly decide what gluten-free substitutes I might want to include in my diet.
One of the first things I missed was rolls.  I don’t eat meat, but my grilled salmon burger begged for a roll. As did my occasional tofu dog. (Yes, some are gluten free.)

It didn’t take me long to zero in on what I found fairly tasty.  And please note: I have discovered that trying to find a gluten-free substitute that seems exactly like what it is replacing, doesn’t seem quite possible. At least for me.

 So what I discovered was that Udi’s hot dog and hamburger rolls are pretty good.   I glanced at the ingredient list. My surprise? Tapioca is the second ingredient on the list.  And after I had decided I didn’t like products with tapioca starch (or tapioca flour) in them.

Finding them may be a little problem.  Not every grocery store has a gluten-free section in their frozen foods area.  But that’s where you’ll find the rolls.

Udi’s, by the way, is based in Denver and claims to the the number one gluten-free brand in America. Although they started in 1994, they didn’t experiment with gluten-free products until 2008.  And the hot dog and hamburger rolls were first brought to market in 2011.

Well, I guess I’ll need to stock up on these rolls, because spring is going to come.  (Yes, I’m an optimist.)  And maybe by then I’ll have found a gluten-free vegie burger that I like. 

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Oh Those Devilish Eggs

Here is a classic dish I love to VAMP up -- deviled eggs. Mmmm, nothing like a deviled egg to satisfy that snacking urge. Plus they make easy and delicious appetizers to bring to a party. They are great for one or great for a group, or for you and a special friend.  

 I like to make my devilish eggs a little different and add a little spice to them. I make mine with a curry and top them with some mango chutney. They have a little spice and a little sweetness, just enough to make you melt. Super yummy!

Makes 24 deviled eggs

1 dozen hard-boiled eggs
½ cup mayonnaise
1/8  teaspoon salt
dash fresh cracked pepper
½ teaspoon curry powder
1/8 teaspoon smoked paprika
dash cayenne pepper
½ teaspoon agave syrup
(optional) small pinch crushed saffron

For garnish
3-4 tablespoons mango chutney

1.     Cut hard-boiled eggs lengthwise and separate the yellow yolk from the white part. Put yellow yolk into a mixing bowl. Set aside the whites.
2.     In mixing bowl with the paddle attachment add all the ingredients (except the mango chutney) and mix on medium high till creamy and smooth.
3.     Using a rubber spatula, fill a piping bag with a star tip with the egg mixture and pipe into the egg white halves. If you have no piping bag and tip, you can use a plastic baggie and cut off the tip and fill the egg white halves.
4.     For the garnish, add a small dot of mango chutney on top of the deviled eggs.
5.     Serve right away or chill to serve later. Enjoy!

Monday, February 10, 2014

Just Tryin' to be Vegetarian

By Marlena Riddell

It’s been about six weeks since I’ve been on the no-meat express and although it’s been a little taxing, I feel it’s going along quite well. I’m not going to say that I don’t miss meat, I totally do. I just had a dream I was inhaling a massive steak while Bradley Cooper gazed upon me from across a table (This for real happened. Although, I did watch Silver Linings Playbook before going to bed).

Not ingesting meat has been a bit rough, yes, but the health benefits have been uncanny. It’s hard for me to explain but my body just has been working better. I don’t want to gross you out but my BM’s have been impressive. I give myself a gentle pat on the back when I give the ‘ol glance-and-flush. I also feel lighter if that makes any sense. You know, not as logy. Health benefits are a bonus but there has been one obstacle that’s been a bit irritating.

Cravings aside, one of the biggest challenges I’ve encountered so far is the reaction I get from peers and friends when I tell them I’m currently not eating meat. 
For starters, I never want to sound like an entitled asshole when I try to explain my reasoning for not eating meat. 

I don’t think that’s the goal of most vegetarians but unfortunately that’s how it comes across to some. I know all meat isn’t terrible and I’m aware that bacon is heavenly. I get it. I also get that this is my life and I’m just trying a new route for awhile. Stop judging me!

I could understand if I was one of those dicks who has a shame finger out when a friend orders a steak at dinner, but I’m not. Steak is delicious! Go nuts, I don’t really care what your diet consists of, just let me keep doing what I’m doing. Oh, and would you wipe that befuddled look off your face when I describe my diet to you? I’m not from Mars, for cryin’ out loud.

I’d be a fool if I didn’t think this wasn’t going to be tough. One day at a time, I guess.

Do any other vegetarians get similar reactions? Please let me know that I’m not the only one!

Marlena Riddell is a PR and social media specialist for Foodgasm.