Convenience in the Kitchen

I like easy. I inherited this trait from my mom, who loves kitchen shortcuts. They all seem to work for her. I have fond memories of homemade egg rolls, curries, and pasta sauces that she whipped up with seeming ease. The same shortcuts and gadgets that she used with such success seem to be lost on me. I can burn brownies, break blenders, and ruin meals like nobody’s business. Because of this unlucky characteristic, my mom and husband have spent the past two years building me a “kitchen for dummies.” It has gadgets even I can use, and meals I can make even when my POTS is flaring and I can barely stand. So, what’s in my kitchen?

1. Pre-cut everything

I’m the worst about dislocating my fingers. Whether it’s from rampant texting, picking up kittens, or chopping vegetables, my hands are in a constant state of pain and dislocation. Because of this, I buy as many things pre-chopped and pre-shredded as possible.

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At best, the pre-chopped and pre-shredded foods become ingredients for a simple meal. At worst, I dip them in hummus and call it brunch. Yeah, I’m paying more for convenience, but it saves money on ER visits to get things shoved back into socket.

2. Green juices and Meal Replacements

Sometimes you can’t stand long enough to make a meal without passing out. Especially when it’s hot outside and opossums have chewed through the air conditioner wiring. On days like that, or on days when we have to rush out the door, meal replacement shakes and green juices come in handy. They keep my blood sugar from crashing until I can find some real food!

3. A rice cooker

Two rice cookers, in fact, because Target wouldn’t update our registry after people bought from it. Not to worry though, rice cookers come in handy. Not only can you make some perfect rice, there are plenty of other recipes you can try in them too!

4. A Keurig

Guess how many coffee making gadgets we have in our kitchen. Go ahead. I’ll wait.

If you guessed 10+, you’re correct. My husband and grandpa are coffee addicts, and my husband has tried just about every way to brew coffee that he could find. Me? I stick to my Keurig. Since I can’t have too much caffeine, I mostly use it to make tea and hot chocolate.

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A hot drink in 90 seconds? That’s what I’m talking about. Even I can handle that. (My Keurig was a gift from my mom and is probably one of the best kitchen gifts I’ve ever gotten.)

5. A Filter Pitcher

Better for the environment than bottled water, this is also a lot more convenient. No more late night runs for bottled water because your tap water tastes gross. No more wishing you had remembered to put your glass water bottle in the fridge after filling it, instead of setting it beside you and forgetting about it.

I have a lot more gadgets in my kitchen, but these are my top five. What’s in your kitchen?

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Ted Drewe’s Frozen Custard, STL

One of my favorite things about St. Louis is the abundance of awesome chain restaurants. I’m not really into chains, but pre-celiac, I could really go to town on some Imo’s or Lion’s Choice. Although I’ll never see another Imo’s bacon pizza (unless they come out with a celiac medication. Can someone hurry up with that?), there is still one chain that I can enjoy…as long as I ask for a clean spindle.

Can you guess where it is? You should, because it’s up there in the title! Ted Drewe’s Frozen Custard, a St. Louis tradition, is gluten free. Obviously a lot of their toppings aren’t gluten free, but asking for a clean spindle isn’t too weird, because plenty of people not only ask for gluten reasons- you also need a clean spindle to take part in Ted Drewe’s if you’re kosher. This is apparently a big deal at some locations, because they have a huge list of kosher ingredients and combinations right on the window. Remember to tip well and be nice to employees for using a clean spindle! It is their job, but a little kindness goes a long way when you come back for yet another delicious concrete.

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Also remember, Ted Drewe’s is better enjoyed if you’re with a large group of friends. Nothing makes a concrete taste better than sharing it with friends and family. (Except maybe making them order their own and having one all to yourself.)

Meskerem, St. Louis

If there’s one thing that I love, it’s trying new food. I love finding new restaurants, dishes, and cuisines to taste. When on a trip to St. Louis this week, my husband and I could not think of anywhere to eat. We’d tried the tourist attractions, restaurants off the beaten path, and St. Louis traditions. But nothing looked good.

So while we were driving around near Tower Grove Park, we spotted an Ethiopian restaurant. Neither of us had tried Ethiopian food before, and the place we had planned to go was closed on Mondays. (Is everything in St. Louis closed on Mondays? It always seemed that way when I went to college there.)

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When we walked into Meskerem, there were about three other families there. The waitress took our drink order almost immediately, and brought out our waters quickly. I noticed that the menu (which was listed as gluten free friendly on Urbanspoon) offered gluten free injera, made entirely of teff. Much of the food is gluten free as well, but be sure to ask. We ordered a platter for two and it was out, hot and fresh, in only a few minutes.

Ethiopian cuisine is eaten with the hands and pieces of injera, which was a new experience for us. The food was flavorful, slightly spicy, and definitely interesting. The platter we ordered contained two beef dishes, a chicken dish, and two vegetarian dishes made with lentils. I really enjoyed all of it, but was especially fond of the lentil dishes. My husband preferred the chicken dish, but we finished all the food, which is pretty unusual for us.

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After the meal, I checked out the drink menu and ordered a glass of “Ethiopian Honey Wine.” The waitress said most people can’t drink more than one glass of it, and I can see why. It tastes nothing like any other wine I have ever tried. It’s very sweet, with a bitter aftertaste, which was really interesting. The wine was almost “earthy.” I probably won’t order it again, but I’m glad I tried it.

Next time we are in St. Louis, we plan to try the Somalian restaurant we saw down the street, but when we get a chance we will definitely check out Meskerem again.

Sweet Art, St. Louis.

We’re on a surprise trip to St. Louis for a family emergency. Although the reason for our trip is sad, we are trying to find joy in being with family and close friends. We have also taken this opportunity to share a few of our favorite places and their food with the family.

In an effort to cheer everyone up, we picked up some miniature gluten free cupcakes from Sweet Art St. Louis. It worked- as much as possible anyway.

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Sweet Art is one of the only places I’ve ever had gluten free cupcakes from that I have actually enjoyed. Today’s flavor was “Tickled Pink,” which appears to be vanilla cake with a pink icing.

No one could tell it’s not a normal cupcake, which was a great thing in the family’s book.

Sadly, we didn’t get to try any of the entrees from Sweet Art, although my husband tried a scone and said it was delicious.

All in all, if you’re gluten free in St. Louis, this place is worth checking out!

A Surprise Picnic

Sometimes the best laid plans go awry. That’s what happened today. My grandpa was admitted to the hospital yesterday, and everyone’s schedule has been off. I had plans with my friend, but we got delayed, and then the website we needed wasn’t working. Between me, my friend, and my husband, we were about to blow our tops.

However, a little ingenuity and a lot of homegrown tomatoes came to our rescue. We decided to have a picnic. My husband and friend did the cooking, and I did the decorating. I’ve inherited a talent for making photogenic place settings from my mother, who does it for a living on her lifestyle blog. Since my husband and I live with my grandpa, who can no longer live alone, I don’t get to use my talent often. He’s not appreciative of my efforts, and by the time we’ve listened to the local gossip channel blaring from the TV at full volume all day, I’m not feeling very creative.

Bouquet

Today, I picked some flowers from our yard and put them in an old spaghetti sauce jar, with it’s label removed.

Tea Cups

I pulled out the old tea cups I used to love to drink from.

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My husband made honey-limeade and I poured it into an old, giant mug I found.

Meal

I pulled out old plates and an old blanket, covered in whimsical florals. My husband made homemade spaghetti sauce and garlic bread- all gluten free, of course.

That sauce has housemade chorizo from a local Latino grocery!

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I even pulled out an old serving platter for our garlic bread and pesto.

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We all had a good time telling stories and de-stressing! It was nice to be able to spend time with my friend, who will be spending the next three weeks in Mexico for a class.

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Sometimes it’s the little things in life that make it good. Sometimes you just need to take a minute, do something spontaneous, and reduce those stress levels! Spending time outside in the beautiful weather with people I love, and good food, did just that.