GF Vegetarian Lunch Tiffin Bento Menu for the DH: Goat Cheese Quesadillas and Lemongrass Corn Recipe

August 13th, 2008 yum Posted in Bento, Corn, Corn Tortillas, Goat Cheese, South American, Thai, Vegetarian 5 Comments »

Just a few nights ago we had a lovely green vegetable curry, rice, and a lemongrass corn stir fry in the spirit of one of my favorite cuisines- Thai. For DH’s taste sensibilities (and sensitive stomach) I tamed the usually spicy green curry down to the spice level of, oh, let’s say a mild yellow curry. Oh, the things we do for love. But I also put all my favorite vegetables- eggplant AND red pepper- into the curry, and poor DH doesn’t care for them at all. To make it up to him I made a lovely lemongrass corn stir fry that I just knew he’d love- especially stripped of the spiciness called for in the original recipe. He liked the green curry well enough, eggplant aside, but he absolutely raved about the lemongrass corn stir fry. Do I know my DH’s taste buds or what?

When I found out he was going to have a short lunch break today (due to a little Comcast errand, sigh), I decided to do what any loving wife with ties to Japan or India might do- make my DH a very special tiffin/ bento lunch so even if he couldn’t eat it at home, he could have a real meal back at work. I didn’t count on his enthusiasm- I handed him his bento (Japanese word for boxed lunch) and he immediately pulled the thing apart and started chomping. Good thing it was all packed up.

As for the contents of aforementioned tiffin..

For some reason, the corn stir fry made me think of South American corn-salsa dishes, despite the more exotic lemongrass and thai basil notes in the dish. I couldn’t help myself- I reached into the fridge, took out some corn tortillas from the fridge, and turned them into tasty quesadillas. I used some pre-grated cheese from Trader Joe’s and added some drunken goat cheese (flavored with wine, silly- the goats weren’t actually tipsy) and suddenly had a much more gourmet quesadilla. Layer one of the tiffin held corn quesadilla triangles.

In layer two, I put a generous helping of lemongrass corn stir-fry and then added a corner of avocado sprinkled with salt and a little cup with yogurt.

Finally, in layer three I placed some fresh nectarine and peach cubes (from the farmer’s market this weekend) and freshened them up with a little fresh key lime juice.

This lunch was a great way to use up “leftovers” in an entirely new way. Amazingly, Thai and South American flavors CAN go together beautifully in a tiffin… or in a bento, for that matter. (Depending on if you want to give it an Indian or Japanese twist.) And of course, every element in the tiffin was completely gluten-free.

Now that school season is looming- what do you like to pack in YOUR (or your child’s-or your partner’s) lunch box? I’d love to hear your Lunchbox menus in the comments!

PS I picked up this beautiful little tiffin box on our last trip to India. Isn’t it great? I am getting quite a collection of tiffin boxes- they’re the handiest things ever.

Fusion South American Goat Cheese Quesadillas with Corn Saute
8 corn tortillas
1/3 bag of a Pre-grated low fat cheese like mozzarella
1 2 inch cube of a gourmet hard goat cheese, such as drunken goat cheese (with wine), cut into slivers or shredded

1/4 recipe of Lemongrass Corn Stir Fry (Recipe posted below)

1 Avocado
1 small heirloom tomato (optional), cubed
kosher salt, for sprinkling
1/2 lime or a few key limes

Low fat sour cream or plain low fat yogurt

Heat a cast iron pan on medium-high and place two corn tortillas so that as much surface as possible is touching the pan and lightly brown. Turn one over so that the remaining untoasted side is touching the pan surface and sprinkle some of your pre-shredded cheese on the browned top. Distribute a small amount of the gourmet goat cheese over the pre-shredded stuff and then cover it with the browned side of the second tortilla, leaving the untoasted side facing up. When the quesadilla is toasted on one side, carefully turn it over and brown the remaining side. (All four sides of the tortillas will have been lightly toasted.)

Remove quesadilla from pan, and make the rest of the quesadillas, following the same method. Meanwhile cube your avocado and heirloom tomato and sprinkle with salt. Squirt with a little fresh lime juice and reserve. To serve, cut each quesadilla into four triangles. Plate with lemongrass corn stir fry as a topping, and add your fresh avocado tomato “salad” on the side, along with a dollop of yogurt or sour cream. Enjoy!

Lemongrass Corn Stir Fry
1 1/2 tbsp. peanut or other flavorful oil
inner portion of 1 stalk lemongrass, chopped
2 tbsp. preserved chopped lemongrass
2 tsp. minced garlic
2 tsp. butter
1 medium onion, minced
3 cups corn kernels (about 3 ears of fresh corn)
3/4 cup gluten-free vegetarian broth (i use bullion)
2 tsp fresh lime zest
2 tbsp. fresh lime juice
[pescatarian variation: add 1 tbsp. fish sauce]

1-2 tbsp. freshly julienned thai basil

Heat oil in wok on high and toss in the lemongrass. Let it sizzle and start to brown and then add your garlic, butter, and onion. Cook until they brown and then add your corn, and stir fry until brown. Add your vegetable broth and stir constantly until broth has reduced and been absorbed into the corn.

Add your lime zest, lime juice, variation elements and heat. At the last minute stir in your fresh basil, taste, season with salt if necessary and serve.

You can add a spicy flavor element if desired, like hot sauce or cayenne pepper.

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Living Locally and Gluten-Free Tourism in Half Moon Bay, California- Oasis Foods and Harley Goat Farm

March 19th, 2008 yum Posted in Bay Area, California, Fellow Food Bloggers, Gluten Free On the Road, Goat Cheese, Half Moon Bay, Local Food Movement, Travel, cheese, yum of the week 3 Comments »

gfmuffin.jpgOne of the things DH and I most like to do in the Bay area is go on weekend adventures, especially ones involving agri-tourism. The Bay area has a lot going for it, actually, with unique local farms, wineries and food companies, shops and of course beautiful scenery. One place that DH and I have returned to over and over is a little coastal town called “Half Moon Bay,” maybe partly because it has such a charming name. It’s a bit of a pain to get there- you have to drive through a windy, single lane road through trees and it inevitably gets clogged with weekend traffic- but once you get there, there’s a picturesque shopping street with restaurants, cafes, and shops, as well as access to a (Very cold and windy) beach. I had heard rumors of a gluten-free friendly health-food store and wanted to go in, but every time I came, it was usually past closing time. This time we got up extra early (by noon! haha) and made it to:

oasisnatural.jpgOasis Natural Foods
523 Main Street
Half Moon Bay
(650) 726-7881

crackermuffin.jpgThis health food store was listed and reviewed positively by vegetarian sites and gluten-free lists, so I was hoping to pick up a few things for a gluten-free coastal picnic. It was a (small) thrill to actually be able to open the door and go in for the first time in four years. Quarters are cramped, but this little shop DOES have an excellent selection of Gluten-Free products, both mixes and prepared foods. A wide assortment of Pamela’s mixes, Kinnikinnick cookies, Gluten-free cookies and crackers are stored in this tiny place, and I was happy to pick up a box of Glutino round gourmet crackers for my picnic. Unfortunately, rents are high in Half Moon Bay and the prices reflect that- the crackers alone were over $5 and everything else was similarly priced for sticker shock. They offered hot rice and soups in the back, but the soup contained gluten (although it was vegetarian, yay!) so I had to pass. Probably the most interesting item was at the check out counter- a little basket of big gluten-free muffins, labeled accordingly and baked on site. There was only one left, so I snagged my very own almond poppyseed muffin made from Pamela’s Baking Mix. It was pricey, at $3, but I figured it was my only good freshly baked GF option for miles and I’d better take advantage of it.

Since one muffin and a box of crackers does not a picnic make, and DH was looking mopey and hungry, we went to some of the other spendy, spendy grocery stores on Main Street. Oh the prices made my eyes hurt. But, we managed to pick up tortilla chips and salsa. I was dying for guacamole but couldn’t bring myself to pay $6 for it. DH bought a loaf of french bread and some assorted fillings, and we went back on the road… because we had another destination in mind before we had our picnic. *Non-vegan review following*

The destination?

cheeseandwoman.jpgHarley Farms Goat Dairy
Pescadero, CA 94060

goatmilk.jpgbeautifulround.jpgWe first found out about this goat cheese farm from the Half Moon Bay Chamber of Commerce in response to our queries about local, small scale, family run dairies. I was very excited when I learned about the local goat dairy farm, Harley Farms, and the more I heard, the more I wanted to go and check out their operations and of course, taste their award-winning goat-cheeses. The farm is run by a British ex-pat named Dee Harley who started with six goats fourteen years ago and rebuilt and revitalized a 1910 cow dairy farm. Harley Farm is now the home of 200 some American Alpine goats and Harley Farm cheeses have won countless awards. Further, and perhaps coolest of all, Dee “was the first woman ever chosen by the Chamber of Commerce as Farmer of the Year in San Mateo county”. (source: I heart Farms) Harley Farms combines traditional methods with artistry and science, going that extra mile by using the traditional method of separating the curds and whey with cheesecloth bags and using (home grown) fresh flowers, dried nuts and dried fruits to create cheese that is as delicious as it is beautiful. The goats receive no antibiotics or hormones, and vegetarians will be happy to know that they only use vegetarian rennet. Harley Farms have also been recognized by the Slow Foods movement, and were invited to Italy “to represent one of 500 farmers that epitomize the group’s mission of . . .ecological food production, stewardship of the land and “the revival of the kitchen and table as centers of pleasure, culture and community.” (source: MetroActive) As if that wasn’t enough, Harley Goat Farms also recently won a Sustaneable San Mateo award for following “several environmentally-friendly practices by providing goats to the “Rent A Goat” program, where goats clear brush and grass. The farm won a four-year grant from the Natural Resource Conservation Service under the U.S. Department of Agriculture, for creek bank restoration and water conservation. The farm utilizes recycled water to cool the milk and offers free manure to its neighbors.” (source: Sustainable San Mateo)

oliveoilchevre.jpg minichevre.jpg chevrewhite.jpg cheesebasket.jpg

goatshopsign2.jpggoatornament.jpgIt is rare to come across a farm where artistry, environmental concerns, and care for animals is combined so dramatically, and it’s no surprise to me that Harley Farms has won so many awards and gained such recognition in their field. When you visit the farm, you definitely feel that you’ve come to a very special place that provides balm and respite from a world where most goods are mass-produced and soulless. You can visit the farm on weekends, and they hold tours (reservations required), or you can just wander out and peek at the goats and their babies in the field and watch the chickens and roosters bouncing freely around the yard. You can also visit a charming little shop featuring all their cheeses for tasting and purchase, including the glorious flower strewn variety, sundried tomato chevre, herbed chevre, and even goat cheese ricotta or herbed spread. One slightly disappointing feature of the cheese tasting area is that it is all served with bread, so us gluten-free folks can’t taste anything. (It’s possible if you ask nicely that you might be able to get them to open something fresh for you, but I didn’t go to the trouble.) DH and I enjoy saying saying hi to the goats and perusing the cheeses for some nice selections to take home with us (and enjoy in a picnic.) flowerschevre.jpgapricotchevre.jpgAnd now, perhaps, you see why I bought those spendy crackers! Our favorites are the sundried tomato topped goat cheese, the cranberry (with a walnut surprise filling) and apricot (with a gorgeous green pistachio filling). We also like the herbed cheese, but it’s more commonly available, so we stick to the unusual combinations that Harley Farms is famous for. You can buy local artichoke products at the shop, as well as super free-range chicken eggs. If you’re interested in purchasing some cheese but can’t visit the farm, you can find it in some California Whole Foods cheese cases (Los Altos etc.) or purchase it online through their web site. The price tends to be lower in their shop than in Whole Foods, but this kind of quality, painstakingly produced cheese isn’t inexpensive. In our current economy, business must be tough, but I hope that Harley Farms continues to succeed and receive well deserved accolades for their efforts. Beauty wherever you find it is special- and their cheeses and farm are very beautiful indeed. And did I mention that of course, the cheese itself is gluten-free and vegetarian?

a beautifully written piece on Harley Farms by I heart farms
a news article on the history of Harley Farms
Read Dee’s blog and experience life on the farm!

babygoat.jpg pluckyrooster.jpg goatlings.jpg
happy animals at Harley Goat Farm

If you’re wondering what else there is to do for Gluten-Free or agri-tourism in the Half Moon Bay, let me recommend some of my favorite stops. We love Cameron’s Pub, a ridiculously atmospheric British pub with double decker red buses parked outside (for smoking and games) and a mini “village shop” inside. I like their enormous baked potatoes (their mushroom and cheese topped potato has enough calories to get you through a 10 mile hike in the Cotswalds) and hard cider on tap. Apparently Pierce Brosnan and family stopped there for a pint and hearty meal once and everyone’s still excited about it. If you drive a bit farther you can go to Phipps Country Store and farm for a ka-jillion varieties of dried heirloom beans in bins available for purchase, fresh goose eggs, an aviary (for viewing pleasure), and the opportunity (in season) to pick strawberries, blackberries etc. And of course, once you’ve picked up some fresh fruit or veggies, fresh goat cheese, artichoke salsa or other local goodies- nothings more fun than having a picnic on the beach, or, if it’s terribly cold and windy, having a picnic in your car at some spot overlooking the ocean. Salty, creamy goat cheese and crackers, crisp apple slices and maybe a gluten-free muffin- no matter what you have, it’s better with the taste of salt water in the air and the sound of the ocean crashing around you.

If you enjoyed this article on gluten-free, foodie adventures in Half Moon Bay, you might also enjoy my article on

Heirloom Tomatoes in the Santa Cruz Mountains
a comprehensive list of all my Bay Area travel reviews

We also find our copy of “Weekend Adventures” to be an invaluable source of travel ideas around the Bay area.

*Note: Cynthia at the Heirloom Tomato heaven, Love Apple Farm has a beautiful blog you should check out. If you happen to be local, definitely pick up some of her heirloom tomato plants, on sale starting March 15th, only available at the farm. I plan on going early in April to pick up some new babies.

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