Sunday, August 23, 2015

When you eat out, can you trust the Chef?

When we eat out, our health depends on the honesty of the chef in the kitchen.
Estuary Soup Chef
Even a cutie like this one. 

We hope that our chef will cook us a meal that satisfies our hunger and our health.
Sometimes, individuals will lie.
And we have to let the world know about them.
This chef decided to talk about his opinion of gluten free clients on Facebook.

Here is his post, just cut and pasted since I think the original will be taken down just as soon as he realizes how horrible this is. and I was correct, it vanished within an hour. 

I'm going to be kind and take his name off of the post. Many months have passed since this event. So perhaps he has changed his tune and attitude

"Gluten free is bullXXX!! Flour and bread have been a staple of life for thousands, THOUSANDS of years. People who claim to be gluten intolorent dont realize that its all in there disturbed liitle heads. People ask me for gluten free pasta in my restaurant all the time, I tell em sure, Then I serve serve em our pasta, Which I make from scratch with high gluten flour. And you know what? nothing, NOTHING! ever happens! People leave talking about how good they feel gluten free and guess what, They just had a full dose! Idiots!"
Here's his info on his profile...
Chef has apprienticed under Swiss, Master Chef ****.
Chef was the Executive Chef at the S*** Chalet Restaurant. Executive Banquet Chef at the Tavern on the Green N.Y.C.
He is currently unemployed.

With folks like this in the kitchen, being scared to go out to eat makes some sense.

When I'm making the decision to eat out, I have process to determine if I'm in the right place BEFORE I eat.  So many times, eating out is all about visiting with friends or a business opportunity.  Don't want to miss those at all.
First, I choose a restaurant that serves at least one of these three choices-Fried Eggs, Steak or Salad. I know, given no other options, I could make a meal of one of those choices, without sauces or dressings. Might not be the most amazing meal of my travels, but I wouldn't get sick.
Dedicated French Fry Potatoes from the County Fair
Dedicated French Fry Potatoes from the County Fair

Looking at the menu, I scan for known gluten-full items:
Anything covered in Breading,
Anything deep fried,
Anything Stuffed
Any creamy sauce,
Any gravy,
Sushi-especially California Rolls due to surimi (that kinda icky fake crab)
Any Asian Sauce due to soy sauce. Yes, I know that Thai food shouldn't have soy sauce but frequently enough it gets used.
Processed meat products like hot dogs, sausages.
Pancakes/Waffles etc
Bread bowls
Leaving me with .... Sometimes not much but my "safe" foods.
Salad- Gluten-Free

Then comes the first conversation with the service staff.
In Asian restaurants, "Is there any gluten-free soy sauce?"
And I WATCH their face for hesitation, or quick response.  Hopefully, they say YES! but if they hesitate, then I know that gluten free education is NOT a priority for the restaurant.  I choose one of my safe foods and enjoy that.
In a sushi restaurant, that means sushi rice, fresh fish, steamed vegetables and edamame plain. No dipping sauces, no prepared sushi rolls since many are seasoned with soy sauce or use the surimi (fake crab).
If I'm truly prepared, I have some packets of gluten-free soy sauce in my purse to season.

In fast food restaurants the question is simple,  "is all your food fried in the same fryer?"
Yes, means that nothing fried is safe for me. So no french fries. I already know the burger line has a possibility of cross contamination.
Back to safe foods. Even the grilled chicken is likely floured. Sometimes I ask for a bunless burger but personally, I love Wendy's baked potato with sour cream (no margarine) and side salad for a quick meal on the go.

Breakfast restaurants-First question is asking about the meats, "Is the bacon/sausage/ham gluten-free?"
Any hesitation means the staff hasn't been trained well enough for me to keep it truly safe.
My meal is Easy Over Eggs with fruit. Never assume that scrambled eggs are safe. Especially in mass market restaurants, the eggs can be stabilized with the addition of some flour or pancake batter.

Fancier restaurants- I ask to see if there is a gluten-free menu.
Once again, hesitation means I choose one of my safe choices.

See the pattern?  I ask the Servers, not the chef.
Why?  I've been the chef who gets interrupted in the midst of service.  If the restaurant hasn't trained their front of house to answer those questions, then the kitchen won't take a request seriously.

My ideal answer from a server is something like this.

Yes, we have a gluten-free menu and will happily cook your gluten-free pasta in fresh water, but we could cook ours as well. We use ______ brand of gluten free pasta.  These items are prepared in a separate area of the kitchen with dedicated tools.  We source our breads from a dedicated gluten-free facility and store them in the Gluten-Free area of the kitchen.
We have gluten-free soy sauce.

The front of house needs to know, cause if only the kitchen staff is aware of the needs of a gluten-free consumer, then I'm likely to get croutons on my salad.

Now, when that kind of thing happens, I'm polite but adamant.
The mis-made dish needs to be replaced BEFORE I let the incorrect one leave my table.  I've had too many incidents of finding a crouton or scraped off sauce when I've requested new food.
They can't reserve the incorrect food anyway.

How do you handle getting a gluten-free meal when you eat out?

Friday, August 21, 2015

10 Hand Tools Every Kitchen Should Have

When I was teaching my teenage cooking class at the Coop this month, several of my students asked for a list of hand tools that they NEED to have in their kitchen.

Honey Lemon Curd Tart with Fresh Raspberries
Honey Lemon Curd Tart with Fresh Raspberries
One of the dishes we made at class. 

The requests got me to thinking.
As I'm considering a move to a tiny home,

What are my essentials?

Everything should have a couple of jobs, not just one.
They should be durable, healthy-no toxic no-stick for me, and preferably made in the USA.
So how lean can I get and still be able to turn out the meals and baking I love?
I'm going to assume that everyone has a wonderful pot and pan set to begin the setup.
Cutco knives are made in the USA and come with a lifetime guarantee. Even better, they let you send the knives off to Olean NY and send them back SHARPENED! for life.
You have to have a good cutting board. These are big enough to chop everything for stirfry. Love the colors and have 3 so one can be vegetables, one meat and the 3rd is my baking board. These are restaurant quality and durability.
Bench knives are used to move food into pans, clean up counters, cut doughs. I use mine daily.
You have to have a grater to make macoroni & cheese or zucchini bread. This one has 4 different grating sides and folds flat for storage.
But using a huge grater for just a bit of lemon peel is overkill. This flat Microplane works perfectly and comes with a plastic cover for safe storage.  This is the professional version with metal sides.
Now that we have saved a bit of space, let's use it all up with these colanders. I know, they are a bit big, but you can't steam Thai Sticky Rice in a silicone colander. I store room temperature produce on the counter in the unused ones.
Stainless steel bowls are essential for all cooking, this nested set gives lots of options.
Got to have a way to grab things from the oven or stove.
Silicone spatulas and spoonulas are my favorite mixing tool
Ok, so this one is a bit of a cheat, gathering the spoons, spatula, pizza cutter, whisk, can opener, tongs and turner into one convenient holder, but it is so cute for the counter. And it is OXO so you know the quality is there.
This is my list of the ten hand tools I couldn't live without.
What's on your list of tools?

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Bug Out Bag

I'm not much of a ''Prepper", but have always lived by the motto of Be Prepared.
My Dad and Mom were scout leaders my entire childhood, that's what comes from being the 5th of 6 kids.
Some of my earliest memories are of Boy Scouts bandaging my ankles, while I acted as if I had sprained it, and getting splinted when my Dad changed the scenario.
I followed in their footsteps, leading my twins Girl Scout troop for 7 years. Dr. Jean Layton in a very different role as Girl Scout Leader

Be prepared is essential for all of us. You never know when a fire, earthquake or chemical spill could occur, necessitating escape with little or no preparation.

Monday, August 17, 2015

Essential Oil Safety

When I spoke at La Leche League last week I was asked again about Essential Oil Safety. With the vast conversational chatter about Young Living, doTerra and Organic essential oils, it is complicated for a consumer to understand what an essential oil truly is and how someone can best use them medically.

As a physician, I happily explain to my patients about the choices, what to look for as quality indicators and indications for use.
This post will help you to make these decisions for yourself and your family.

Curious about Essential Oils? Learn about their production and safety from @DrJeanLayton

What are Essential Oils?

An essential oil is a concentrated hydrophobic (doesn't like water) liquid containing volatile aroma compounds from plants.  An oil is "essential" in the sense that it contains the "essence of" the plant's fragrance—the characteristic fragrance of the plant from which it is derived.

Essential oils are generally extracted by distillation using steam or solvent extraction. They are used in perfumes, cosmetics, soaps and other products, for flavoring food and drink, and for adding scents to incense and household cleaning products.

How are they made?

Emergency Preparation

Not to get you worried, but the folks in Texas dealing with the big flood didn't have much time to get out of the way.
Forest fires break through to new areas with a good stiff breeze,
Home fires wake people up at 2 am as a siren blares.
Tornados, hurricanes and earthquakes occur with regularity.

Catastrophe strikes without warning, or without enough time to stop and gather.
When the proverbial *hit hits the fan (SHTF) happens, Are you ready?

My followers likely are a bit more aware but let's make sure, shall we?