The Story of Cross Contamination

Hello Everybody!

It’s been a while since I posted anything on here, however I did just have a guest blog go live over on gfyyc.com. I’ve reposted it below, however please go over to the original post to show your support!

The Story of Cross Contamination

Cross contamination is the transfer of allergens or bacteria from one food or surface to another. This is something every cook deals with on a daily basis via hand washing and the constant cleaning that comes with kitchen life. People will and do get sick when cross contamination occurs.

Doctors recommend that persons diagnosed with Celiac or gluten sensitivity practice complete avoidance of gluten. It is very difficult for you to be able to do this if you are not aware of the dangers of cross contamination. Little things like a knife in a drawer could be a source of stomach pain, or perhaps it’s the double dipped jar of peanut butter in the cupboard. Before the explosion in gluten free foods, a lot of people with Celiac would refer to dining out as dying out. The chance of getting “glutened” at a careless restaurant is very high–but with a little effort you can tell if it is worth taking the chance with that location.

People who are gluten free by choice do not worry about cross contamination. It does not impact them the same way, as they will not get sick (or sick in the same way) after experiencing it. The explosion of people requesting gluten free meals is therefore a double edged sword. Restaurants are encouraged to offer more gluten-free options due to the increase in demand, however being that a certain percentage of their customers requesting them are not diagnosed Celiac, they do not need to be as careful with cross contamination to satisfy this population. Whereas for diagnosed Celiac or those with a high level of sensitivity to this allergen, these “gluten sensitive” menus may not offer any real options. This isn’t all bad news, though! By educating yourself you are able to lower the risk of getting sick while experiencing some really delicious food.

Here are a few things to keep an eye out for when dining out as a Celiac:
1.The Deep Fryer: If the restaurant does not have a dedicated deep fryer, food can be contaminated by using one that is shared with items containing gluten. Be sure to ask if the deep fryer is shared with other items before eating anything that is cooked in it.
2.The Quick Service line: Examples would be restaurants such as Subway or Quizno’s. While places like this would seem to be a good place to get a salad, every time items are placed on the sandwich there is a risk that crumbs have been transferred. You should only partake if they are willing to prepare your salad with the extra prepped vegetables they keep under the line.
3.The Buffet: While the large array of foods looks delicious, it only takes one person to contaminate everything. It would be best to avoid buffets completely – and I would if it were not for the Christmas party season. Those few times where I am forced to eat at a buffet, I will ask the staff what items are safe and try to get there first.
4.The Observation: You have to be the advocate for your health – and if you do not feel safe, you need to act on this. There have been plenty of meals out where I have decided NOT to eat as I was not sure the wait staff was listening to me, or I had doubts about the cleanliness of the restaurant. Take a peek at the food preparation areas you can see, and don’t be afraid to leave if you are worried.
5.The Flat Grill Top: The flat top that is used to cook diner-style or for breakfast cooking is usually one large heated surface that is often also used to toast bread. I usually ask for my eggs or hash browns to be cooked in a frying pan. If they aren’t willing, I order an omelette because they always are.
6.The Bakery: Gluten free baked goods are usually made at a separate time than the regular items or in a different bakery entirely, which is good. The risk with baking is that flour can escape into the air and slowly fall down over everything in the room if it is disturbed. If a bakery or donut restaurant has both gluten free and regular items, ask them what precautions they take. You may be surprised to find out that the delicious donut you are eating is not recommended for a Celiac!

Despite this list of risks, it is very possible to eat out as a Celiac. Be aware of your surroundings and your stomach will thank you. When you find restaurants that go out of the way to ensure you have a great time, reward them with return visits and positive reviews! (Tweet at the girls of GFYYC!) Build relationships with the people that feed you, and most importantly–enjoy.

Hopefully I was able to provide you with some information to help you keep healthy, and gluten free.

Thanks for listening!

Sean Emerson

Categories: Recipes | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

The Final Day

[Sorry that I don't have an update for everyone with a recipe! Here is an old story I wrote. I'll be back next year to my recipes, really exhausted and just NEEDED a break after everything that has happened lately. Don't worry, I'll be back!]

Even though we all claim to be innocent, the man sent with our food crossed himself quickly after delivering each tray. This was not the large, sweeping motion of a priest or a bishop, but the quick unconscious movement of one who believes his soul to be in jeopardy. He is in the room no longer than is absolutely necessary, moving down the damp hallway quickly to deposit meals with every occupant. His fear was very evident, but this was one day where he did not come across obscenities, pleading, or flying objects to hideous to describe. The power of a day long awaited caused a blanket of calm to fall over those who usually dissented.

To celebrate the occasion, the meal today was larger than usual. A chunk of rock hard bread the size of two fists clenched together sat beside the usual bowl of broth, promising more than it truly offered. It would not come as a surprise if one was to break a tooth off on the bread that usually arrives here, and a larger piece did not guarantee any difference at all. The broth, usually no better than cabbage flavored water, was different this time. A lonely piece of meat floated in the corner, glistening with fat and gristle. It did not tempt the taste buds, but appeared merely to have been missed by others greedy for anything they could take on its way to us. It became a truly momentous occasion when it was discovered that a leaf of the cabbage itself remained in the bowl, hidden under broth that was only murky from contamination, not from nutrients or protein. This was savoured wrapped around the piece of meat, prior to the broth being given over to its true purpose- rendering the bread edible.

The final meal was barely delivered before a commotion broke out again. People could be heard massing in the streets, in anticipation of the celebrations to come. A familiar creaking echoed through the streets, as conveyance arrived for those to be held up high. This caused the calm that had fallen over the room to break briefly, a low and mournful sob coming from one corner, and a high pitched insane cackle from the other.

Some hope may be found in the fact that despite every indication that life is at a low point, not everyone broke down in anticipation of the future. Some remained calm and dignified, pulling themselves together so as to look as presentable as possible. This does not go without notice, and jeering rings out towards those that are more obsessed with presentation than with the facts at hand. This does not cause any harm, as any of the occupants are at this point used to ignoring comments from those that may be more worthy of fate than themselves.

In a departure from what is usually expected, they did not come for all the guests, but merely a handful. It was not those who sobbed, or cried, and not those that filled the room with laughter that they came for. The ones that had prepared were the ones to be taken, as if they had known the fateful moment had arrived. This was not coincidental, however the remaining occupants of the room were not aware of this fact, and counted them lucky that they had been able to escape attention they did not want.

In dignity, they are marched through dim halls filled with guttering torches and a thick smoke that hovers over the room like a fog. Before they are are allowed to exit, the group is separated. Hands are held behind backs like polite students waiting in queue, to ease the application of woven bracelets made without the comfort of the wearers in mind. Standing side by side, those that came to get them confer quietly, waiting the perfect moment for things to begin. Ropes are brought, tightened, and threaded in between the arms of individuals attempting to maintain a straight back, a sense of dignity, a God given right to be what they are.

From outside, the creaking stops. Silence ensues, settling down like a blanket over the world. Not even a baby cries, the crowd waiting for something, some sign that things were to start.

Then, like the beating of a giant, rotten heart a drum starts up. A loud, rhythmic boom that rattles the soul and jars the bones. Doors are flung open ahead of the group, and the ones leading are forced to hold back the crowd as they advance into the blinding sunlight, heat hitting people who had not seen the sun in quite a while like a wall. The crowd surges, noise roaring up again as the news travels quickly through them all. It was time.

With a crash the drum bangs again in the distance, getting faster now as the crowd parts like the red sea ahead of our group. They advance to a large cart and are brought up to a platform on the rear of it. Everyone is standing now, staring out over the crowd that has arrived to greet them.

The drum echoes once more. The beat is louder now, building to a crescendo as the cart starts moving. The creaking fills the air again, vying with the crowd that is now starting to roil and boil. The gap they walked through is closed now, but this does not matter as they will not be leaving this cart at any moment close to the present.

Man made thunder smashes it’s note, now deafening. The beats are quick, and filled with hate. Some cower and lose the dignity they are trying to maintain, but anticipation of what is to come breaks them, and they are unable to maintain the hope that has kept them going this far.

Reverberations are felt through the bones and skulls of all that are around as the drum tolls it’s bell. It is almost time, justice is at hand, the cart comes to a stop quickly and violently, throwing the passengers around. A path is pushed through the crowd, opening a clear avenue to a tall platform in the center of the square. There is a Drummer on the platform, hitting a giant ancient drum with all his strength, keeping up the beat that has brought us this far.

In time to the smashing the group is hustled off the cart, and towards the platform. They are helped up quickly, not allowed to stumble or break pace with the others. Nobody is listening to the pleas they make, or to the questions they pose. They are lined up, one by one. The view of the spitting hissing crowd is blanked, replaced by canvas that does nothing to stop the noise, merely making it worse as they are now unable to see those that create it. One tries to break from the group, and is forced back quickly with a hit to his legs. He is brought to the ground, and barely has the strength to stand up, but is forced to. Someone attends him, holding on to ensure this does not happen again.

To the tune of the drum beats each is fitted with a custom made necklace, tightened individually to ensure the perfect fit. Final questions are not met with any response, and when a voice tries to break free from the group and question

“Why, Why should this be?”

But it is silenced, for the crowd does not care and is only eager to see that what they came for.

A final beat of the drum and it goes silent. The drummer steps aside, his face covered much like the guests as he goes about his job. One again tries to take advantage of the silence, and cries out to the crowd “Please, Please come to our aid! For we are no different!”

But this is again silenced with a hard blow.

A hush settles over the crowd, the final moment approaches. A man more dignified than any yet to be seen steps forward from the rear of the platform and raises his arms. He speaks loudly of things that have happened, and things that must be, false words that fall upon false ears, his crime greater than those he claims to despise.

Then, he steps back.

Still as blind as those that mock them, the group awaits what they know is coming. This moment hangs upon the world as if the universe itself has stopped, the giant pendulum that keeps the world on time pausing for one brief moment before swinging quickly quickly to the other side… and then the moment is over, peace is broken, and they fall.

The crowd cheers, but it now falls on deaf ears.

Categories: Random | Leave a comment

Thai spiced Buffalo and Mushroom Soup

IMG_20130603_193707

I did it again. I made a soup. I really do try to tell myself that I’m not going to end up making another soup for my blog but I seem to do it again and again. No wonder that, I love soup and I would like to think that I’ve gotten fairly good at making them from any of the odds and ends I get ahold of.

This soup was directly caused by a trip to Old School Emporium, a green grocer in downtown Calgary that I have become quite fond of. Located Just off 17 Ave and 8 St in the corner of Mount Royal Village, they have a lot of local produce and product. With stock that includes gluten free products and locally made corn tortillas, they really do make me a happy celiac.

Now enough about the store – though they do have a part in this story. When last I was checking them out I noticed they have a table of “shabby produce”, things that while they may be past prime are still quite edible.. and really, why would I say no to a table full of bananas and vegetables at half off? It just SCREAMS soup to me! I was also pleased to find a special on frozen meat, getting myself the vacpac of bison stewing meat that I used in this dish.

IMG_20130603_195447 Close up on the finished soup

Ingredients:
1 large pot of stock
2 sticks of lemon grass,
chilli’s fresh or dried, to taste
cumin
5 cardamom
2 clove
1 inchginger,
4 garlic,
small piece of dried galangal – it’ll still be good without
turmeric
curry leaf – same with this, great with, still good without.
pepper
salt
coconut oil
Bison stewing meat
Mushrooms – I had shitake and oyster
Copious amount of carrot
large onion
Turnip

Steps:
1. Add the spices to your stock after crushing them. Let this boil on the stove while you do prep
2. chop the carrots into 2 inch sticks ( allumette/matchstick), cut onion, and turnip to match.
3. rough chop the mushrooms, only if they are large
4. add a bit of coconut oil, turmeric, pepper, salt, cumin, chilli powder, rice flour to the bison meat and mix with hands until coated.
5. heat pot on stove with a small amount of coconut oil in it.
6. when hot, sear meat. deglaze with some of the stock after setting meat to the side.
7. sauté the vegetables in the pan immediately after deglazing. Once they start to soften add the meat back in and stir. It should all get juicy and delicious ( technical term of course)
IMG_20130603_193707 both juicy AND delicious.

8. add your mushrooms and give them a very quick stir
9. add the stock, pouring through a sieve to catch the spices as you do not want those in the finished soup.
10. Cook until delicious and eat. Soup is ready when the vegetables are soft and the meat is cooked through, it really did not take long at all to get delicious, mostly due to the spices being boiled in the soup beforehand.

I served my soup in a bowl. I was hungry, there was no side.

IMG_20130603_201059

Hopefully you are able to recreate this soup, and enjoy it as much as I did!

Until next time,

Sean.

Oh – and don’t forget, coming up Saturday June 8 is “Eat Real YYC”, one of Calgary’s newest food festivals. Click the link below if interested, I’ll be volunteering and hope to see you there!

Categories: Recipes | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

Cauliflower chicken curry

image

I made a curry today, and I made it quickly.  Thats the perk when you keep a cupboard of whole spices, and I took full advantage.

Because I did not portion my meat last time I shopped, I had to thaw more chicken than usual. No loss! It was delicious.

The players:
12 Boneless skinless chicken thighs
Half a head of Cauliflower
1 Onion
4 cloves of Garlic
2 carrots
about an inch of Ginger, grated
2 stalks of Celery
796ml can crushed tomato
2tbsp coconut oil
Large mixing bowl
Casserole dish

The spices:
5 cloves
10 all spice
2 Tbsp fenugreek seed (methi)
Seeds of 2 cardamom pods
Dried Galangal – a thai root spice, about 2 tsp of it was grated over the chicken.
2 bay leafs
Salt
Pepper
Liberal amount of sriracha
1.5 tbsp sambal oelek chilli paste
2 tbsp tamari gluten free soy sauce

There were a lot of ingredients in this, but it comes together quickly.

Preheat oven to 400f. Start by putting everything in the bowl. Grate galangal over chicken, grind the other spices in a pestle after toasting and add them too.

Mix everything thoroughly together,  I suggest you use your hands to ensure an even coat on the  chicken. When done, pour it all in a casserole dish and bake uncovered in the oven. It took an hour and a half at 375f in my convection oven, 400f in a regular oven. Cook until the chicken reaches an internal temperature of 180f.

This dish turned out great for me, and I hope it works out for everyone else too. I was not planning on blogging it but after eating I had to share it! We had ours with rice, I added turmeric, cumin, tarragon, and a very small amount of rehydrated galangal to flavour the rice.

Until next time,

Sean

Categories: Recipes | Tags: , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Cauliflower Rice – or is it cous-cous?

It’s been a while since I posted last, I missed my update last week ( for shame!). No real excuse this time either… well, unless you count a garden. Being lucky enough to have a friend with an extensive garden that happened to have empty space, we were able to plant loads of vegetables. After some care and patience, I hope to have radishes, lettuce, peas, beans, carrots, swiss chard, raspberries, nankin cherries, corn, pumpkin, Tomato, and cucumber. It was a lot of work, but quite worth it! I look forward to seeing everything grow, and sharing the harvest that we get in the end.

There is a recipe to go with this post, not just a bunch of chatter. When visiting my mother she pulled this one out on me and I was quite surprised with it! She calls it “Cauliflower Rice” but I call it

Cauliflower Cous-cous.

    Ingredients:

Blender/Food processor
Cauliflower, chopped into heads that will fit in a blender.
Onion, to taste
garlic, to taste
Salt and pepper, to taste
Oil – enough to fry your cauliflower.

Not many ingredients in this, but that is the key to a great side.

Step 1:

BlendCauliflower
Get your cauliflower to da choppa. Add his friends, onion, garlic and dash’a oil.

Blend to the consistency of cous-cous, small grains the size of rock salt. I suppose it is possible to do this without a blender by mincing the cauliflower with a knife, however that would take a lot of prep work and I have a food processor. so. hah. I used it.

Step 2:
cauliflowerrice
Fry.

Fry the cauliflower in a pan until it gets a toasty golden, a good fry is the key to this recipe. At this point you would add in spices, salt, pepper etc.

Step 3:

Cauliflowercouscous
Eat.

When the cauliflower cous-cous is crispy, serve hot as a side dish. Ours was paired with a grilled trout fillet, as well as an avocado tomato salad with basil and balsamic vinegar. Hopefully someone out there gives this one a try, it’s really worth it! I hadn’t had cous-cous in years because it’s a gluteny arse – and I’m willing to take this as a replacement.

On another subject, I’ve decided to volunteer at a local food festival that is coming up!

Eat Real YYC is a small food festival celebrating local fresh food! The promenade is going to be lined with food trucks, farmers, local business, community organizations and some non profits. I’m not sure what I’m going to be doing as a volunteer, but it sounds like a great way for me to get out and get involved!

The event is on Sat,June 8, 2013 10am – 3pm at Casel Marche on the intersection of 17th ave and 24th street sw, Calgary Alberta. I’m going to be there for the whole of it, and I’m sure it is going to be a lot of fun.

Anyway, this is it for now. Until another time!

Sean

Categories: Recipes | Tags: , , , , , , | Leave a comment