Soup Swap 2016

After a brief disappearance last year, I decided I couldn’t let another year pass without soup swap.  I think this was the fourth one I’ve hosted in California, and the fifth overall (including my Chicago one.) Or was this my third Californian swap? I can’t keep track. Previously I’d attended two or three that my friend Renee held in Albany. And frankly, it’s an event I look forward to every year. I just felt overwhelmed last year, but I decided I needed to bring it back for 2016.

(Fortunately, it appears that someone else did keep the Soup Swap vibe alive in Santa Cruz in 2015.)

There was a pretty good turnout. I think Jon and Jules have now been to every California Soup Swap I’ve had (including the first one in 2012.) I stupidly forgot to photograph 2013 and 2014.

This year’s soups included:

  • “More butter than nut” butternut squash
  • Borscht
  • Curried lentil
  • Potato leek
  • Red pepper-coconut
  • Cheesy broccoli
  • Tomato and cheese
  • Syrian-style red lentil (my contribution)
  • Chicken tortilla
  • Moroccan-style chicken
Roasted red pepper soup “shooters” garnished with cilantro and greek yogurt
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A return, of sorts

I’m sitting here enjoying some much needed

California rain, roasting veggies, sipping a

French wine and listening to Kate Bush. I’m trying to figure out why I let this blog lapse.

Part of it is that when I started this blog,

there weren’t a lot of gluten-free resources out there. But now it’s blown up. Everybody is talking gluten-free. Every major restaurant chain seems to offer some sort of gluten-free option now. It’s become a buzzword and a punchline, an adjective largely considered synonymous with the Whole Foods-shopping, beard-wearing, overeducated, tight pants-clad, urban farmer Brooklyn residents that the New York Times loves to dedicate trend piece after trend piece to its in Style section.

It’s not just that, though.

Truth be told, I’ve been experiencing a complete creative block for the past several months or more, and it’s meant that the primary thing that always gave me solace and energy — writing – has been rather elusive. And another — cooking and food – has been almost equally elusive.

See, a little over a year ago, I left my career in full-time journalism. Technically, it was my choice but it didn’t feel like it at the time. California living isn’t cheap, and the 55-minute commute to my news job that didn’t pay me enough to afford my bills – or even the gas to get to said job – was wearing dangerously thin on my mental state. So when a friend asked me to submit my resume for the opening at her public relations firm, I did it. It was a decision that wasn’t lightly made. I cried, I agonized, I obsessed. For the most part, I think it was the best decision for me at the time. I feel less overwhelmed mentally, I work fewer hours, I am fairly compensated — I even work out regularly now, something I’d never been able to do. I miss being a full-time journalist every single day. I have tried to do some freelancing here and there but I  am having difficulty with the time balance – trying to make calls on my lunch break isn’t always easy.

While I feel a huge loss of self still, slowly I am rediscovering who I am outside of journalism. For so long, that wasn’t just my career but my identity and leaving that has been more difficult than I could ever imagined. When it comes down to it though, none of us are really defined by our careers — and by careers, I mean our primary source of income. At heart I am still me and I still think of myself as a journalist and a teller of other people’s stories. I’ve just been on a hiatus.But I think the hiatus has been long enough. It’s time to get back to writing, back to the kitchen, back to discovering.

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Gluten-free Reubens and more at Santa Cruz Aleworks

I’m becoming increasingly convinced that the deli/cafe at Santa Cruz Ale Works is one of the city’s best hidden gems.

The brewery opened a cozy little restaurant at their digs in the Harvey West area about a year and a half ago, and it’s not to be missed. There’s also a tasting room, natch.

There’s a full menu of gourmet sandwiches made with house-made smoked meats, krauts, pickles and sauces.  There are also salads, soups and sides, all made with high-end ingredients.

Of course, for someone who has been on a strict gluten-free diet for a decade (not by choice,) the appeal of beer and sandwiches is usually lost on me.

Imagine my surprise at finding out that Ale Works actually bakes their own gluten-free bread and offers hard cider.

A recent trip for lunch had me salivating over the Reuben Time on GF bread, made with house-cured corned beef, Swiss cheese, homemade sauerkraut and 1000 island dressing. Add a homemade pickle on the side and I was one happy camper.

My gluten-eating compatriot went for the Buena Vista Cubano,  made with oasted pork loin, smoked ham, homemade pickles, Swiss cheese, spicy giardiniera, and Dijon-cilantro aioli. If you’re daring, ask for their specialty “death paste,” but be warned,  the name is no euphemism — it’s seriously hot.

As a bonus, these sandwiches are also a pretty good deal at about $8 a pop.

The spot is open daily from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Santa Cruz Ale Works is located at 150 Dubois St. in Santa Cruz.

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Thanksgiving and Fakesgiving

I completely forgot to post for Thanksgiving this year.

It’s funny – when I started this blog, gluten-free was still not that well-known. And now it’s seeming to be everywhere. Maybe that’s part of why my posting has fallen to the wayside. Lately, it just doesn’t seem as necessary.

Anyways, this year I celebrated Thanksgiving with my roommate and his family. His sister hosted, and she was sweet enough to make a GF pumpkin pie and cornbread stuffing for me. I brought what has quickly become my new favorite quinoa pilaf – one that combines the hearty grain with pomegranate arils, butternut squash and pistachios.

I brought the same pilaf to a friend’s Fakesgiving party held the weekend before Thanksgiving.

The full “Fakesgiving” spread

My gluten-free and autumnal-inspired cheese plate, which included homemade persimmon chutney, pickled cranberries and pumpkin preserves.

GF cornbread stuffing


Persimmons from neighbors!


Post-Thanksgiving turkey soup a-simmering