Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Grillin' it up with Karen, of Gluten Free Sox

Welcome To February’s Hot Smokin’ Edition of:

Our Grill victim this month is Karen of Gluten Free Sox! We've caught Karen, just in time as she has switched her blog over to her new home at Wordpress. Her new address is at: http://www.glutenfreesoxfan.wordpress.com! Don't forget to update your favorites and readers!

February 2008

Karen, of Gluten Free Sox

Ginger Lemon Girl: How long have you been gluten free Karen?

Karen: I have been continuously gluten free since approximately May 20, 2007. Before that, I have been gluten free for a couple of months but then had to go back to eating it for testing. (Stupid thing to do, as the tests were still negative, but I’m sick when I eat it, healthy when I don’t.

How long have you been a Red Sox fan?

Since birth! LOL! That really isn’t a lie - when I was younger, I had a huge crush on Jim Rice, the left-fielder for the Sox from 1974-1989. In recent years (last 10 years, maybe) I’ve started following them more closely.

Do you have a favorite player right now?

I have several, but I love Big Papi (David Ortiz). Dustin Pedroia is on the list too.

Do you have a favorite international cuisine?

If I had to pick just one, I’d say Italian. My Mom is half Italian, and I learned to cook from her.

What foods can you make in that cuisine?

I make a mean linguine with white claim sauce. I’m slowly mastering gluten-free ravioli.

Are you the only person in your family who is gluten free?

As far as I know.

How well does your family accommodate for your diet?

Quite well. At home, it’s just me and my husband. I love to cook, so I do 99% of the cooking. And he’ll eat what I put in front of him. lol! When I visit my family, they are great about accommodating my diet.

Who taught you how to cook?

My mom. Although it was my Dad who taught me how to bake bread. I just remember helping out a lot in the kitchen when I was younger and picking it up that way. One of the first things I knew how the make was gravy. Weird, huh?

I am always amazed at the challenges you take in cooking dishes like homemade pasta, French bread, etc… what other big challenges are you planning to tackle in the kitchen soon?

I saw a really good Portuguese Sweet Bread recipe that I would love to try converting to gluten free. I’m still having some trouble with baking, so I’ll be working more on that in the future. My husband wants me to make Beef Wellington, so that will be attempted at some point too.

If you had to pick only 3 of your best recipes for someone new to the gluten free diet, which recipes would you choose and why?

It’s hard for me to say, because I don’t seem to have a lot of “basic” recipes up there. But I’m rather partial to my English Muffins because they actually toast up like real English Muffins. If you have the right kind of pan (which you can order), they are really quite easy. And they are also casein free. They also double as hamburger rolls. J Second, I would say the pizza crust. It took a little while to figure out how to spread it out right on the parchment paper, but you end up with three crusts that can be pre-baked and frozen for those nights when you really don’t have time to cook. Third, I’ll throw in my cookie recipe – the Forgotten Cookies, because they are naturally gluten free and very easy to make.

How many dogs and cats do you have?

I have one dog, a Great Pyrenees named Loki, and three cats, named Mercutio (orange short-hair), Tybalt (black long-hair), and Peeves (black short-hair).

Does your dog like your cats?

I think the dog likes the cats better than all the cats like each other. The breed of dog is one that protects herds of sheep or goats, so the cats are her little “herd.”

How many Red Sox games have you attended? Do you REALLY plan vacations around the games?

Probably 15-20, although only about 3 at Fenway. I’ve seen a lot in Atlanta and Baltimore. I’ve also been to Pittsburg to see a series (and to visit a college friend) and to Fort Meyers Florida for Spring Training. One summer they played a weekend series in Atlanta, so we got a hotel room down there and saw all 3 games. J So yes, we really have planned vacations around games! The spring training trip was actually a birthday present for my mom – my sisters and I flew her down there and met up with her for the week.

What is the most fun thing you have ever crocheted? When did you teach yourself? (I love to crochet too!)

I taught myself to crochet about eight years ago, starting with basic afghans. Family members keep getting blankets for all occasions, and any new baby gets a blanket. Eeyore was by far the coolest thing I’ve crocheted. Tigger and Pooh were fun too. These were stuffed animals that are about 14-18 inches tall.

Does your husband do much cooking? Does he still eat gluten?

He does a little cooking, but not much – maybe some grilling in the summer, or fixing a quick meal if I don’t feel well. He can cook fine, but since I like to cook and get home from work earlier, it makes sense for me to do most of it. He still eats some gluten. The few things we have in the house are bagels, beer, burger rolls, and maybe some pretzels or crackers from time to time. But we certainly don’t have separate dinner menus. And he does eat gluten if we eat out.

What was the biggest challenge for you when you first started a gluten free diet?

Eating out. We like to go out once a week with friends to the local brew pub for drinks, pool and a cheap meal. Fortunately, because we go there so often, I didn’t feel bad about educating the staff. And now we always get the same waitress, who knows how to place my order (and the kitchen knows how to cook it). But it really does limit choices of restaurants. I used to eat out at lunch time with my co-workers, and that has been cut back drastically.

What is your favorite gluten free dessert?

We really don’t eat dessert. I’m happy with a piece of really good dark chocolate. Lindt’s or something similar.

How do you like that new toy of yours? (your new car!)

It’s so much fun to drive! And it’s amazingly comfortable too. I love little cars – I’ve always had something small – my last car was a Honda Civic Hatchback (not quite as glamorous as my new car, but it was a good little car).

In your experience, what is the best restaurant that is most accommodating for gluten free patrons? What have you ordered there?

As far as chains go, I’ve had good luck both at P.F. Chang’s and Carrabba’s. At P.F. Chang’s, I’ve had Chang’s spicy chicken and the lemon scallops – both excellent. At Carrabba’s, I’ve had the Chicken Bryan, the Pollo Rosa Maria, and the Sirloin Marsala. Again, all very good.

Do you make most of your gluten free baked goods from mixes or from your favorite flours? What would you consider your favorite flours to be and why do you like them?

I bake from my own flours, not mixes. I haven’t settled on any particular blend of flours yet. I don’t do enough baking to really experiment. I hope to change that. We finally have a new store near us with more choices in fours. (I can finally buy good quality brown rice flour and find glutinous rice flour.) I like sorghum and brown rice flour in breads and muffins. I use a bean flour mix in my pasta – it seems to give it a good consistency and I don’t notice and weird taste. I’ve yet to try teff or millet.

What advice would you give to someone who has recently started a gluten free diet?

Read Danna Korn’s Living Gluten-Free for Dummies. It’s a great starting point, and makes you realize that 1) you are not alone, and 2) while there are a lot of things you can’t eat, there are even more things that you can eat. And learn to cook. You don’t have to be a gourmet chef, but you need to learn to do more than heat up pre-packaged meals. Food will actually start to taste better!

Are you part of a celiac or gluten free support group? Are there any in your area?

There is a very small support group in my town – I went once and was not all that impressed by it. It may have just been that I really didn’t like the speaker that they had, and it turned me off the group. I really ought to go back. I consider our little blogging community to be my support group! I love you guys!

What are your favorite cookbooks? Why?

I like cookbooks with pictures. Currently, I’ve been getting a lot of recipes from my Food and Wine Magazine. I finally have a couple of Bette Hagman’s books, and those are great, particularly for baking.

What is a recipe or dish that your husband LOVES for you to cook?

I make a chicken dish where I pound out the cutlets then wrap it around mushrooms and cheese. Very tasty.

How easy was it to eat gluten free in Australia?

It was a lot easier to eat gluten-free in Australia than it is in the U.S. A lot of restaurants there, even pubs, have gluten-free selections marked on the menu. The grocery stores also have a much better selection of foods. The labeling laws are also better.

What is your favorite Australian dish?

It used to be fish and chips. I did have an excellent dinner of seared tuna with a wasabi mayonnaise served with a side of fries. Lots of good seafood there. They also have a lot of good Asian food. Traveling through the middle of the country, though, I ended up eating a lot of steak and potatoes since that was safe and available.

Have you met any of Red Sox players?

Unfortunately not.

Do you play baseball yourself?

I’m way too uncoordinated! LOL! I’ve tried playing softball in the past with very little success. I play a little golf now, but that’s easier – the ball doesn’t move when you are trying to hit it.

What is your favorite baseball stadium food?

It used to be the Italian sausages sold at Fenway. I’m not sure what is gluten-free at stadiums – this past year I’ve just brought in snack bars.

What have you learned about yourself since being gluten free?

I need to take charge of my life and speak up for what I need. I know plenty of people who won’t go out to eat because they are afraid of being “too much trouble.” I was worried about that too, but I realize that there is a difference about asking for something to be altered a little to be safe and being a pain the in neck. If I’m worried about a place, I call in advance. I’ve had no trouble with places letting me talk to the chef or manager. (at least at nicer places) So basically, I’ve learned to look out for myself and be a little more assertive when necessary.

What is your favorite post so far on your wonderful site?

Probably my ravioli. Or my pizza.


Karen was also kind enough today to share her recipe for General Tso's Chicken!
I can't wait to try this! Make sure to check Karen's site later this week for a step by step guide on making this fabulous dinner!

Karen's General Tso's Chicken


3 lbs boneless skinless chicken breasts, cut into chunks

¼ cup gluten free soy sauce

1 egg, beaten

1 cup cornstarch

2 cups green onions, sliced

8 small dried chilies, seeds removed (chili pepuin, bird’s eye, etc.) (Adjust amount depending on taste and heat of particular chili used. And be careful handling chilies – use gloves and do not touch the seeds with your hands. I learned this the hard way.)


½ cup cornstarch

¼ cup water

1 ½ teaspoons fresh ginger, minced

1 ½ teaspoons fresh garlic, minced

¾ cup sugar

½ cup soy sauce

¼ cup white vinegar

¼ cup sherry or white wine

14 ½ ounces chicken broth (equals one can)

Place all sauce ingredients into a jar with a lid and shake to mix. Refrigerate until needed, shaking it again when you are ready to use it.


  1. Mix soy sauce, egg and cornstarch well and add chicken, tossing to coat.
  2. Deep fry chicken, 7 to 8 pieces at a time in hot (350 degree) oil until chicken is crispy. (I do this in the wok in about an inch of oil). Drain on paper towels. Repeat until all chicken is cooked.
  3. Placed a small amount of oil in wok or large skillet and heat to 400 degrees. (Just guess.)
  4. Add green onions and hot peppers and stir fry about 30 seconds.
  5. Stir sauce and add to pan with onions and peppers, cooking until thick. If the sauce gets too thick, simply add a little water.
  6. Add the chicken to the sauce in the wok and cook until it is hot and bubbly.
  7. Serve over rice.

Karen's Note: I tend to add a vegetable in when I add the chicken to the sauce, even though General Tso’s Chicken does not contain vegetables. It makes the meal a little healthier and saves me from dirtying another pan.


Karen, thank you so much for being a willing participant this month!!
We wish you the best of luck at your new blog home on Wordpress!!

For more information on the Monthly Gluten Free Grill, click here.

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