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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Guests show there's life after wheat, dairy


By Wanda A. Adams

We have house guests who are proving both a culinary challenge and an inspiration. The two young women are both gluten- and dairy-intolerant and one of them also can't do soy.

To attain relief from migraines and other problems, both have had to change their lives completely, pretty much giving up eating out and many foods they enjoyed.

Think about it. The diet that they have had to adopt cuts out all wheat products (and you would not believe how many ingredients contain wheat, including, for example, shoyu). It means no milk or yogurt or cheese. It means, for the soy-sensitive, no tofu.

What do you cook? What do they eat? I was obsessing about it for days before they arrived.

I had to come up with something for dinner the night they flew in. They were arriving at dinnertime, probably hungry, definitely jet-lagged and maybe a little tummy-sensitive.

I thought first of making a pot roast with a tomato base, potatoes and veggies. But then I found out that one of our guests doesn't do beef.

Hmmmm. OK, fish. Fish seemed safe. Husband and I headed to Tamashiro Market, me hoping for monchong (a meltingly tender, mild, white-fleshed fish). If there had been no monchong, or good-looking mahi, I would have gotten one of those sides of salmon from Costco, where we were headed next, but since our guests were coming from Alaska, salmon seemed like a dumb choice. Coals to Newcastle.

Score! Got the monchong. Did a meal of monchong, cut into small squares, dredged in cornstarch seasoned with salt and pepper; green beans drizzled with olive oil; mashed potatoes (riced, blended with chicken stock no butter or cream or milk).

BTW: If you've never used a ricer for potatoes, you should try it. It's a rather intimidating-looking instrument in which the food is placed in a sort of basket then mashed through a series of tiny holes. But it produces the fluffiest potatoes possible not "smashed," but airy. Mine is an expensive, old, stainless steel one but they make them in plastic now and they're quite reasonably priced.

The potatoes I made for our young guests were a revelation for me: They were delicious without all the added fat; just keep them rather creamy soft and serve them piping hot. (I made them ahead and kept them warm in a double boiler.) Think of them, perhaps, as more a puree than a mash.

And, come to think of it, many starchy vegetables and tubers (sweet potatoes, yams, carrots, sunchokes, taro) could be treated the same way. You could add minced onions or green onions, spices or fresh herbs or give them an Asian take with finely grated fresh ginger. You could also roast the vegetable, rather than boiling it, with olive or peanut or flavored oils, before you mashed it. One thing I would not do is puree the veg in a food processor; ricing or hand-mashing doesn't overwork the starches the way that mixing or food-processings can. Overworking the starches produces a glutinous, nasty texture.

The next day, the girls went to Whole Foods and came back with some really delish corn chips, hummous, fruit and vegetables, gluten-free waffles and pancake mix and lots of other good stuff.

That night, we attended a family party where the hostess (a great cook) served grilled meat and fish, a yummy fresh green salad, brown rice, another salad made with wheat-free pasta, veggies and a vinaigrette, two desserts (a spice cake and an apple crisp) made with alternative flours. The apple crisp was so good that, after we got home and when I should have been in bed sleeping, I found myself, head in the fridge, snacking on it. It was a wonderful meal, served outdoors at our relative's Kailua home just a hop and a skip from the sea.

My point is this: There is life after wheat. Life after dairy foods (thanks to many substitutes offered by local health food stores and outlets such as Whole Foods). Life after soy. Even after sugar!

If you have to make changes in your diet due to allergies or health problems, you can do it. It's far from rocket science. If these two young women can do it, you can, too. Love yourself enough to do what needs to be done.