Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Risotteria and Gillian’s Foods Gluten Free Frozen Pizza Dough

One thing I really missed being celiac was good pizza. Any dough I tried to make just didn’t work. It had bad texture, weird taste or was soggy. So I just went without.

A few years ago, my husband and I went to New York to see a play and we went to a restaurant I had heard about in Greenwich Village. It’s called Risotteria (http://www.risotteria.com/) and it’s the first gluten free restaurant I’d ever been to.

There are tumblers filled with breadsticks on all of the tables. Not trusting that anything that looked so good could possibly be gluten free, I had my husband try one first. He took a bite, shook his head, and said no way were they gluten free. The waiter stepped up and told us they were indeed gluten free. I proceeded to eat the rest of them and asked for more.

As you can tell by their name, Risotteria’s specialty is risotto, but I have been making that at home for years so I didn’t order any. Instead, I had meatballs in sauce, Redbridge gluten free beer, a brownie and…pizza. All of it was delicious. Please check it out if you happen to be in NYC.

Here is what I discovered about the pizza. The crust was VERY thin so the flavor of the toppings really came through. Hmmm…maybe I could do this.

Around that time, Wild Harvest at my local Shaw’s Supermarket began carrying pizza dough made by Gillian’s Foods. It came as a frozen ball (about the size of a softball) in a plastic bag. I’d used it a couple of times, and liked the taste, but found it seemed soggy, like it wasn’t getting cooked through. After coming back from New York, I tried using half the ball. SUCCESS! It was fantastic. I serve it to friends and family and no one realizes it is gluten free (except for the fact that I am eating it).

Hints about rolling it out (thanks to my Sicilian friend Joe Lapiana for helping me out): Use two pieces of wax paper and dust them with a gluten free flour or flour mix. Roll the dough very thin.  Transfer to your pizza pan or stone. Then put on your toppings. I use fresh tomatoes as well as canned. I also do a white pizza that uses Ranch dressing as the base. I will include that recipe in a future blog.

Here is the website for locating the pizza crusts: 

http://www.glutenfreegilliansfoods.com/Store_Locations.html

Try it out and let me know if you have any questions.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Starting a New Business

The idea for Enjoy Life Gluten Free came to me about 2 years ago. The decision to get off my butt and do something about it came 5 months ago. Here was my plan:

1) Get a logo done (hey, I was a graphic designer for a long time). I actually had my friend Debi Gardiner design it and she also helped me come up with the business name.

2) Enroll in Culinary School at Boston University. 

3) Come up with the money to enroll in Culinary School at Boston University.

4) Buy a URL (or 3).

5) Have business cards made.

6) Join a BNI (Business Networking International – essential for small businesses).

7) Start a blog.

8) Money would come pouring in.

As you probably can guess, #8 is not happening yet. Since culinary school ended I have been busy figuring out what a gluten-free consultant should do.

I love to cook, so teaching gluten-free cooking and baking seems a no-brainer. The next question is: Where do I teach? How about in my own kitchen?  Did I mention we are doing construction and since I graduated from BU my kitchen has been torn up?  I am in the process of making sure my kitchen is board of health approved, but this is taking awhile.

How about group classes in a commercial kitchen? This is fairly costly but doable. The problem here is the time it would take to make sure the kitchen is gluten-free each and every time I used it. I would have to bring my own mixers, cutting boards, cookie sheets, and anything else that could be cross-contaminated by gluten ingredients.

So my final option is to cook in a client’s kitchen. THAT I think would work. We could start by making their kitchen safe and gluten-free. Then I could show them how to cook pizza, cookies, or bread in their kitchen with their equipment. I think that would be more comfortable in the long run.

I am following up on some suggestions I have gotten from friends, such as community education, church groups, and the farmer’s market here in Westford. Do any of you have any suggestions? I would love to hear from you.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Celiac Foodie

After many years spent as a self-employed newspaper publisher and graphic designer, and a few more working for a large corporation, I decided to pursue my passion — cooking! Inspired by an article I read in “Edible Boston” magazine, I quit my job, went to culinary school at Boston University and started a new business.

I have always loved cooking, entertaining friends and family, and going to new and different restaurants to eat. This has been complicated for the past 12 years by the fact that I have celiac disease, an auto-immune disease that makes it impossible to digest gluten, found in wheat, rye, barley (and sometimes oats). When you think about ALL the foods that contain those ingredients, it felt like my food options were pretty limited.

But it’s been awhile since I found out about my celiac. I am pretty comfortable with my diet. I don’t really miss anything (well, maybe Burger King Whoppers). I try to prepare good, healthy, fresh food. I have found a wide variety of prepared foods geared toward the gluten-free diet and through the years they have gotten better. I also have learned to bake using a variety of alternative flours made from grains such as rice, sorghum and potato. I have gotten pretty good at restaurants educating servers and chefs about what I can and cannot eat.

A few years ago, I was in a Whole Foods Grocery Store stocking up on their gluten-free line of baked goods when I noticed a woman about my age standing next to me crying. When I asked if she were okay, she informed me that she had been recently diagnosed with celiac disease. She was angry, freaked out, and her words, “feeling cheated!” I proceeded to give her a short tour of the store to show her the most palatable gluten-free food. A light bulb went off…I could do this for a living! The best way to put it is I want to make people “not freaked out” about the gluten-free diet. I want to teach them to shop and cook so they don’t feel cheated.

I just finished the certificate program at BU where I learned so many new things. I think I taught my instructors and fellow students a few things too! So now it is time to be concentrating full time on getting this business going.

I am looking for two different types of clients. Adults and children who are newly diagnosed with celiac disease or gluten intolerance are the first type. I would offer them my expertise at shopping, cupboard clearing, and providing good informational resources both written and on the Web. I will also be offering cooking lessons, both private and in groups. I will share my techniques for a great gluten free pizza with easy to find ingredients, good high-fiber bread, and some pretty good chocolate chip cookies.

The second category of client I am looking for is restaurants that want to cater to gluten-free patrons. I can do a kitchen evaluation, educate wait staff and management, and help a restaurant make their gluten-free clientele happy, comfortable, and safe.

So that’s my story (so far). I am planning on posting here at least a couple of times a week. I will share recipes, reminisce about culinary school (one of the best times of my life), share resources and links, and let you all know how the business is going. Let me know what you think.