Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Safe and Sound Dinner goes Latin at Carnivale !

The tables are set, the music is hot, and the fragrance of Latin goodness is wafting out of the kitchen at Carnivale, a Nuevo Latino restaurant that’s taken Chicago by storm.

The Safe and Sound Dinner at CARNIVALE drew 40 allergenistas who enjoyed Chef Mark Mendez’s allergen free menu that omitted the top 8 allergens and gluten.

Lisa Williams of Lisa Cooks Allergen Free at the Safe and Sound Dinner at Carnivale - June 29, 2009

The feast included:

Guacamole and Chips
Ropa Vieja - Sweet Plantains and Braised Beef

Entrée Served Family Style
Arrachera - Grilled Marinated Skirt Steak, Black Beans and Rice, Sweet Onion Chimichurri

Pollo - Guatemalan-Style Chicken, Jalapeno-Parsley Mojo, Potatoes,
Olives and Green Beans

Pernil - Rum Glazed Pork Shoulder, Puerto Rican Rice and Beans, Fried Plantains

Luscious Chocolate Cinnamon and Vanilla Caramel cupcakes provided by Pam Rose of SWIRLZ CUPCAKES were the perfect compliment to the Latin flavors of the first courses.

Lisa reviews the menu with Chef David to make sure the dinner is Safe and Sound.
Pam Rose of SWIRLZ CUPCAKES with her chocolate cinnamon and vanilla caramel cupcakes

Deluxe gift bags included samples, discounts and information from:

  • Peanut Free Planet
  • Bob’s Red Mill
  • Ener-G
  • Go Dairy Free
  • Tinkyada
  • Ian’s
  • Cherrybrook Kitchens
  • Authentic Foods
  • Allergic Living
Click here to view all the pictures from this event

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Put your sunscreen on allergenistas, we’re going to the Taste!

Heading to the Taste of Chicago? Well you are in luck, I called each restaurant to inquire about the allergens in their foods at the Taste of Chicago. Questions I asked included:
  • Does the oil you cook with contain soy?
  • When you deep fry items do you use the same oil for items that contain flour or wheat?
  • I also went over the 8 major allergens and gluten as the main allergens for the purposes of this guide.
I have listed each food item for sale per booth along with what allergens they contain. This list is growing as I connect with restaurants, make sure you download your copy right before you go to the Taste, I will be updating daily. Any restaurants not listed have not provided information.

Bear in mind that the Taste is an incredibly busy event and the staff is hired especially for the Taste so training in regards to food allergies is less than what you would find in restaurants. There are also cross contamination issues that are present in this open air event. Please use great care when choosing where to eat. Watch how the food is prepared, if you have any reservations, it is always best to avoid a possible threat. This list is to be used as a starting point; your safety is ultimately up to you! Enjoy!

Don’t forget to come and see my cooking demonstration at 4:00 p.m. on Wednesday, July 1st at the Dominick’s Cooking Stage.

Click here for my Taste of Chicago - Allergen Guide
Print it and bring it to the Taste!

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Dad, it’s your turn with Pork Loin Chops and Cabbage your Kids will Eat!

My dad - where do I begin? As you already know, I was adopted by the Williams family when I was 15. There have always been questions as to who my biological father was, but not for me, my only father is Dick Williams.

My dad is wonderfully wacky, creative and devoutly loyal, but mostly I love him for his desire to protect me from things in my life that were painful to me when I was a child. My biological mother had issues with seeing me in a happy family even when she couldn’t provide one for my brothers and me. When my great grandmother (gram) died, I went to live with a family that knew my gram. My biological mother went to them and threatened that if anything were to happen to me, that she would sue them for their business and everything they had. Terrible I know, but I promise there is a happy ending. Anyway, this family had children of their own so they asked me to leave. I went to live with my teenage brothers. When the Williams family asked me to move in with them, my biological mother thought it was time to pay a visit to them with the same threat, what she didn’t know is my dad wasn’t the type to be threatened.

She strolled up to the door, knocked on it and proceeded to tell my dad that it would be a shame if they lost everything if anything were to happen to me. Well instead of being concerned for himself, he made it crystal clear to her that her threats weren’t going to work and that I was a Williams to stay. Well, this abrupt, and as I understand it, stern reply, scared her so much she ran away and never tried to interfere in my life in a negative way again. I know it sounds weird, but no one had ever stood up for me that way, it made me so loved to know my dad was there for me in this very meaningful way. I am sooooo blessed. I love you Dad!

On to the eats!
This cabbage is nice and sweet with the pork, so even your kids will eat it, you can leave out the red pepper flakes if you don’t like the heat. This recipe was adapted from a recipe given to me by one of my chefs, Chef Mike Riley. Chef Riley has been in the business for over 20 years and is one of my favorites… Enjoy!

Sweetened Cabbage
Serves 4

1 slice of bacon, diced
2 tablespoons of sweet onions (Vidalia if in season), minced
1 clove garlic, minced
2 cups cabbage cut into strips
2 tablespoons white balsamic vinegar
2 tablespoons white wine
½ cup chicken stock (Chef Riley uses veal stock, its better if you can find it)
2 tablespoons of sugar

Take bacon and cook in sauté pan over medium heat, remove bacon from pan when done.
Sweat onions in pant until translucent and add garlic.
Add cabbage and cook until it starts to soften.
You will notice specs on the bottom of your pan where food has stuck, we call this suc.
We are going to add the vinegar and wine to deglaze the pan and add the flavor from the suc to the cabbage.
Mix the chicken stock and sugar in a separate bowl.
Once the vinegar/wine mixture is cooked away add the chicken stock mixture and reduce the heat to low and simmer the cabbage until soft.
Add bacon and red pepper flakes for bites of kick throughout your dish.

4 boneless pork chops cut from a loin, cut thin, about 3/8”
2 tablespoons white balsamic vinegar
2 tablespoons white wine
2 tablespoons brown sugar
½ cup chicken stock

Take pork and lightly pound to about ¼” thickness.
Sprinkle pork with Kosher salt and black pepper.
In a sauté pan over high heat, add canola oil and allow oil to heat for one minute.
Add pork and sauté on both sides until the pork browns, by browning the pork you are adding flavor to the meat. Remove pork from pan and reserve.
The pork will have left suc at the bottom of the pan to build the flavors in the sauce.
Mix together the white balsamic vinegar and white wine and add to pan, if you swirl with a spatula you will start to see the suc release from the bottom of the pan.
Mix brown sugar and chicken stock in a separate bowl.
Once the vinegar/wine mixture cooks away, add the chicken stock mixture and reduce until the sauce is nappe. This means that when you take a spoon with sauce on it, and run your finger thru the sauce, the sauce holds form.
Add the sauce around your dish for easy dipping.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

A Look Back …and What’s on Tap for the Summer

It was nine months ago that I stepped up to the challenge to help fellow food-allergen sufferers learn to cook, shop and dine their way around Chicagoland.

Have we come a long way in making the windy city Safe and Sound!

We launched the first Safe and Sound Dinner in March at the Cooking and Hospitality Institute of Chicago. Fifty allergenistas sampled dishes-- free of the 8 major allergens and gluten--from my recipe collection and heard cooking and nutrition tips from well-known chefs and health experts.

In April, the first Thrive Allergy Expo at McCormick Place took place. I served as a consultant and helped develop a concession stand free of the 8 major allergens and gluten; they even included my Chicken Vesuvio recipe! Since the Expo, Chicago Restaurant Partners have expanded their allergen-free offerings and now regularly order from Rose’s Wheatfree Bakery for their box lunches.

Meanwhile, I have partnered with Whole Foods Market and other venues to design cooking classes and demos that will teach you to make delicious, allergen-free meals at home for your friends and family!

Finally, I’ve published more than 50 product reviews, recipes, and recommendations on restaurants to try in the Chicagoland area.

Yet, the best is yet to come.

We’re going mainstream! On July 1st, for the very first time, the Taste of Chicago will offer a food- allergy cooking demonstration, led by yours truly. I am also compiling a list of foods safe for allergenistas so make sure you download it from my Web site before you head to the Taste.

Don’t miss our second Safe and Sound Dinner on July 29th at Carnivale, Chicago’s hottest Nuevo Latino restaurant. Swirlz is even bringing vegan, gluten-free cupcakes so wear your stretchy pants!

My complete list of engagements is below.

June 27, 2009 - Cooking Demo2 p.m. to 4 p.m.
Bloomingdale's Home & Furniture Store
600 North Wabash Avenue
Chicago, Illinois

June 29, 2009 - Safe & Sound Dinner
6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m.
702 West Fulton Market Street
Chicago, Illinois
$50, advance reservation required

July 1, 2009 - Cooking Demo
4 p.m.
Taste of Chicago
Grant Park
Chicago, Illinois

July 3, 2009 -- Cooking Demo
11:30 a.m.
Museum of Science and Industry
Smart Home: Green + Wired
57th Street and Lake Shore Drive
Chicago, Illinois

July 7, 2009 - In-Depth Allergen-Free Cooking Class
6:00 p.m. to 8:30 p.m.
Chopping Block
Merchandise Mart Plaza
Chicago, Illinois
$40, advance reservation required

Finally, I’d like to add that I got into this business because I wanted to share my story and help others. So I’d love to meet you at one of my engagements or send me an email at info@lisacooksallergenfree.com. Perhaps you have a special recipe you’d like to see adapted to meet your food-allergy needs. Or maybe you have advice and guidance you can give me. Remember, we can all learn together!

Here’s to a wonderful first nine months and to many, many more!

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Pack Your Bags Allergenistas: We’re Headed to Greece!

Nothing says Greek food more than gyros. And who says you can’t enjoy this Greek delight when you have food allergies? Certainly not me!

Though the recipe is quite easy, there are two snags:

First - where do I get the pita bread? Problem solved. Evanston’s Rose’s Wheatfree Bakery will sell you the most wonderful gluten-free, dairy-free pita bread! Sorry, they don’t ship yet, but it’s worth the trip up North if you are in the Chicagoland area.

Second - which is a bit more difficult, making the cucumber sauce, or what Athenians would call Tzatziki sauce. Traditional Tzatziki sauce contains cucumber (peeled, seeded and diced), ½ cup yogurt, ¼ cup sour cream, one garlic clove (minced) and one tablespoon of fresh dill (minced).

Depending on your allergies, you have a few options:
  • Tofutti makes a product, Sour Supreme, though please note it contains soy and maltodextrin (waiting to hear back from the manufacturer on the source of the maltodextrin);
  • Nasoya’s tofu silken can be used as a substitute for sour cream;
  • And for a tasty alternative to yogurt, try Turtle Mountain’s So Delicious Dairy Free Yogurt that’s made with coconut milk (not sure about this one, I am looking for it on the shelves)

Ok, now for the main event: the meat. And make sure to slice some onions and tomatoes to accompany this new version of an ancient Greek classic!

Serves 4

1 pound ground lamb
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
1½ teaspoons garlic powder
1½ teaspoons Kosher salt
2 teaspoons dried oregano
1 tablespoon corn or potato starch

Mix all ingredients thoroughly in a large bowl.
Pack meat into a loaf pan lined with Saran wrap.
Press meat down with a weight and refrigerate for one hour.
Preheat oven to 300°F.
Remove saran and bake gyros meat until it reaches an internal temperature of 145°F.
Slice thinly and serve with tomatoes and onions.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Food: The Other Pathway to Calcium

My apologies, allergenistas, for not posting any new recipes this week but I’ve been on the mend, nursing a sprained ankle. But don’t worry; I’ll be up and running this week! I’d like to recommend you visit godairyfree.org, a one-stop resource for those with dairy allergies or dairy intolerances. The site’s mastermind is Alisa Fleming, who recently published Go Dairy Free: The Guide and Cookbook for Milk Allergies, Lactose Intolerance, and Casein-Free Living. Alisa also blogs at One Frugal Foodie and tweets at Go Dairy Free. Along with recipes, tons of health information, and a challenge to eliminate dairy from your diet in just ten days, godairyfree.org also features a table that demonstrates how we don’t need to rely exclusively on supplements to ensure we’re getting enough calcium. Rather, we can feast from a variety of calcium-rich foods, including vegetables, beans, grains, nuts, soy products, and even molasses!

Alisa kindly gave me permission to share this table with my readers. Thanks, Alisa!

You can access the table here. I’d love to know your thoughts!

For more information on Alisa and dairy-free living, please visit godairyfree.org.