Good For Me and Good For You: New Day Gluten-free Cafe STL

20170414_143528The first time we walked in to New Day Gluten Free, my daughter with Celiac took in a slow, long breath, pressed her face against the case and stared for a full two minutes. When a New Day worker approached and asked if she needed help, she looked awed and breathed, “I can eat anything I want here. My mom doesn’t have to ask the chef or anything.” Safe to say, it was a good day for her.

The baked goods include muffies (small muffins that are almost all top), cake pops, cookies, brookies (brownies + cookies), cupcakes, cakes, cheesecakes, and tarts. The kids’ favorite is an enormous Chipwich, two huge, flat chocolate chip cookies with buttercream and rainbow sprinkles between them. Mine was the chocolate chip muffie. Soft, plush muffins with melty chocolate chips and a sugar crust, I will be ordering them every time we go back.

There is an extensive breakfast menu full of biscuits and pancakes, which is great since Celiacs are usually relegated to eggs, bacon, and fruit at breakfast joints. We came at lunchtime and ordered breadsticks, cheesy garlic bread, cheese pizza with bacon, a meatball marinara sub, and grilled cheese and tomato soup. Clearly, we were feeling Italian that day.

The breadsticks were the highlight of the meal for me, but the pizza was a close second. They were warm and soft, perfectly seasonsed, and served with a marinara sauce that had just the right amount of herbed intensity. The pizza was foldable and chewy, a win-win in a world of crumbly gluten-free crusts. The garlic bread had a hint of grainy after-texture, but my parents and kids didn’t notice. The grilled cheese was buttery, crunch on the outside and gooey on the inside, with salty cheese spilling over the sides of the crust. The tomato soup was creamy, tasting of summer and winter both at the same time.

New Day gets extra points for serving local sodas from Excel Bottling. Next time we go, we’re going to be taking home a tray of cinnamon rolls. They have a case with take-and-bake breads, pastas, sweets, and soups. They also take orders for school-safe snacks and birthday cakes.

The food here made my parents (who always eat their Wheaties) and my gluten-free daugther happy. They’re putting out great products for everyone, not so-so products for people who can’t eat wheat. Feel free to suggest bringing your friends who eat gluten — they’ll happily enjoy New Day’s bread and baked goods. I’m grateful they’re here in St. Louis.

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Sweet & Savory Korean Noodles (잡채)

Simplified, Quick-and-Easy, Gluten-Free Japchae  

Have I mentioned that I am a fan of Korean dramas? No? I have a monthly subscription to both DramaFever and Viki, and when I am cooking, there is always a drama on in the background. My current favorite of late is Weightlifting Fairy but my top recommendations are It’s Okay, That’s Love, Signal, Coffee Prince, Jealousy Incarnate…wait. This is a food blog. Not a Kpop blog.

So, the point is that my love for Kdramas led to a love for Korean food, which isn’t easy to find in gluten-free form. Many of the fermented pastes used as the foundation in Korean food, which were traditionally gluten-free, are now made with wheat as a filler. I have found some great gf soybean or red pepper pastes online, however, and there are some naturally gf Korean ingredients that are unheard of to most Americans, like sweet potato noodles. These noodles have just one ingredient: sweet potato starch. They don’t taste like sweet potatoes, either (I can’t stand sweet potatoes). Top these puppies with some meat and veggies in a sweet-and-savory sauce, and this dish is a winner.

Japchae is a kid’s meal in Korea where many people prefer things nice and spicy, but it’s perfect for adult palates too. It tastes similar to teriyaki or pad Thai. I adapted this recipe from my favorite Korean food blogger, Holly at Beyond Kimchee. Hers is, I’m sure, a much more traditional recipe with deep layers of flavor, but it took me a long time to make it. My recipe is fast for a quick, family weeknight meal. Put the meat in the marinade in the morning, and you’ll be ready to whip the rest up after work.

Japchae

Serves 6 – 8

Takes 30- 40 mins to make

5 tablespoons of gluten-free soy sauce, divided

2 tablespoons Korean or Japanese sesame oil, divided

2 teaspoons minced garlic in olive oil, divided

3 teaspoons honey, divided

2 green onions, minced

2 large carrots

olive oil, as needed

1 small white onion

2 big handfuls of kale

1 box of cut field mushrooms

1.5 pounds boneless, cage-free chicken breasts

6 ounces of Korean sweet potato (glass) noodles

1/8 teaspoon ground ginger

1 tsp toasted sesame seeds

In the morning, place 3 Tbs soy sauce, 1 Tbs sesame oil, 1 tsp minced garlic, 1 tsp honey and the green onions in a large ziploc bag and shake to mix. Cut the chicken into strips and put in the bag. Stick it in your fridge until you’re ready to cook in the evening.

Fill your stock pot 2/3 with water and put it on to boil. Peel the carrots and cut into thick matchsticks. Place these into a fry pan with a drizzle of olive oil, and turn it on medium-high heat. While the carrots begin to cook, chop the onion into medium-sized chunks. Add these to the pot with the carrots and turn the heat to medium. Keep stirring occasionally as you…

When the water has come to a rolling boil, place two big handfuls of kale into it and blanch for 2 minutes. DON’T DUMP YOUR WATER OUT. Strain them out the water with a large slotted spoon, and place them into a colander set in a bowl, let drain. While the kale leaves cool a bit, blanch the mushrooms for 3 minutes. Wring the excess water out of the leaves and place them on a towel. Be careful, they’re hot. Fish the mushrooms out and drain them in the colander as well.

When the carrots and onions are halfway cooked, put the contents of the chicken bag in the pan with them, marinade and all. Cook for 5 minutes and turn strips over to cook the other side. When the strips are cooked through, stir the carrots and onions and chicken around together in the pan and cook another 2 -3 minutes.

As soon as your boiling water is free, put ½ the package of noodles into it and set a timer for 5 – 6 minutes. While the noodles are boiling, mix the rest of the soy sauce, sesame oil, garlic, and honey with the ginger and sesame seeds in a bowl and stir the kale and mushrooms into it. Drain the noodles and rinse them with lukewarm water. Put them in a serving bowl and top with the all the meat and vegetables and the sauces from the bowl and pan.

The noodles will be room temperature and the toppings hot. Enjoy!

Italian Stuffed Eggplant

When I was in college, I paid my for my tuition by serving diners at an upscale Northern Italian restaurant called Twilight’s Ristorante. The executive chef, John, served an appetizer he called Melanzane Rotella, or rolled eggplant. This thing was so addictive; the staff ordered it for dinner almost nightly. I learned from John that the secret to this dish is the same ingredient which makes tira misu so delectable — mascarpone cheese.

When my daughter was diagnosed with Celiac Disease, this was one of the few dishes I had in my arsenal that was gluten-free. It has always been one of my family’s go-to meals, and it’s the one that people request the recipe for most often.

Here it is, folks. No need to ask anymore. Andiamo a mangiare.

Italian Stuffed Eggplant

Serves 4 to 6

1 large purple eggplant, sliced lengthwise with a mandolin or sharp knife

olive oil, as needed

kosher salt, as needed

1 8-ounce package mascarpone cheese

1/2 cup frozen loose leaf spinach

2 teaspoons minced garlic*

white pepper, to taste

1 egg

1 32-ounce jar your favorite marinara sauce

1 – 1.5 cups shredded mozzarella

Preheat oven to 350F. Coat 2 cookie sheets with a thin coating of olive oil. Place eggplant slices on sheets; don’t overlap as much as possible. Sprinkle with kosher salt. Bake until soft and pliable, about 15 – 20 minutes (depends on thickness of slices).

While your slices are roasting, mix the cheese with one egg, 1/2 cup spinach, garlic, another big pinch of sea salt, and some white pepper.

Prepare a 9×13 pan by coating it lightly with olive oil. When the eggplant is soft, place one slice in the 9×13 pan. Spoon about 2 tablespoons of the cheese mixture onto one end of the slice, then roll it up, being careful not to burn your fingers. (I usually use a fork and spoon to roll the first half; the second half is usually cool enough to handle). Repeat this with each piece of eggplant until you have a tray full of stuffed, rolled eggplant.

Top the rolls with the full jar of marinara and sprinkle with cheese. Bake for 30 minutes. Serve immediately with a salad.

Writing this blog post is making my mouth water. 

*I used pre-packaged minced garlic packed in olive oil from Aldi. 

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