Sunday, December 11, 2011

36 Fast, Frigid and Gluten Free Hours in Chicago & Hot Coconut Shrimp Soup Back Home!

Last night was the holiday dinner for the company Chris works for and since it was in Chicago it meant a quick flight and a weekend away together. We were really looking forward to going because while Chris had met several fellow employees on different projects there were many people he hadn't met yet. This was a great opportunity on many levels. We were also excited to have a mini family reunion with some of his family.

We flew in Friday night and visited with our personable young Kenyan cab driver while stuck in rush hour traffic before checking into our hotel.  It was fascinating hearing about his move from Kenya to Wisconsin to Chicago. We’d noticed that there was a Chipotle right across the street from the hotel so we scratched our plans for a cab and an unknown, but promising, meal across town for something quick, close and known.  As always, Chipotle was great. The customer right ahead of me had already asked the line to change their gloves for a gluten free bowl.  Our fast meal gave us an hour or so to wander up and down Michigan Avenue and experience the coldest shopping experience of my life.

Saturday morning we had breakfast at our hotel.  I brought a container of my sneaky chocolate peanut butter muffins along with and Chris brought coffee and fruit up to the room from the buffet.  It was a perfect start. We spent the morning shopping for a couple of items we forgot to pack and even found a few small Christmas gifts for our sons. The morning somehow felt even colder than the night before and the sidewalks were packed tightly with other shoppers.  This proved to be a very good thing as our fellow shoppers served as great windshields! 

Lunch was great fun.  Chris’ cousin Matt and his wife Alma picked us up at our hotel and took us to HUB 51 where we met our nephew John and his girlfriend Marina. That's all of us above. It had been seventeen years since I’d met Matt and Alma and about eleven since I’d seen John so there was a lot of catching up to do.  We all met Marina for the first time and really enjoyed the opportunity to get to know her. Reminiscing and sharing stories kept us laughing. HUB 51 has a separate gluten free menu and while everything sounded great; a sushi roll called my name.  It was fresh and perfect. I was glad I’d brought a couple of packets of gluten free soy sauce with me – it seemed silly to pack at the time but since they had run out I was really glad I had them. The dessert menu looked great but it is not gluten free friendly (they do have sorbet if you need something sweet).  Our waiter was helpful and patient and didn’t mind that we spent most of the afternoon at the table.

The party at Quartino was a brisk walk of three or four blocks from our hotel. Once there it was fun to finally put faces to the names I hear so much about and the turn out was great.  Crystal, who coordinated the event with Quartino, had made sure there were gluten free and vegetarian choices – and delicious ones at that.  The room was beautiful and dinner was just an amazing amount of wonderful food served family style.  As we sat to dinner there were plates of olives and cheeses and meats with a grape salad, a fennel salad and an apricot puree in the center of each table. All of them were very different and so tasty. Our waiter brought out a separate plate of without the bread for me and went over the night’s menu. He was very attentive to two of our vegetarian table mates as well as making sure everything was safe for me. The meal was served family style and the there were two salads coming, followed by two pastas, salmon, chicken and beef. It was no problem to skip the pasta with so many great choices. Dessert was Tiramisu but our sweet waiter brought out a little scoop of chocolate gelato for me.

Saturday was a blur.  A wonderful blur of a day. I took terrible pictures but have great memories.

This morning we had our coffee and muffins and hopped in a cab about 7:5 a.m.  We were home just after noon and in time for a quick lunch with Marc and then I was off to pick Joe up from church and shuttle him to work.  Since Marc is catching a cold and Joe’s cold is still hanging and because it's pretty cold here, too,  it seemed like a good night for a nourishing bowl of hot soup. It’s full of immune boosting and detoxifying ingredients and it’s just awesome.

This soup is loosely based on the coconut chicken soup from Nourishing Traditions. This quick and easy version is made with boxed organic chicken broth, coconut milk, garlic, ginger, shrimp and vegetables poured over a bowl of rice and garnished with cilantro, jalapeños and real fermented kimchee.  While there are a lot of healthy ingredients this soup goes together in no time at all.

Coconut Shrimp Soup 

The broth:
2 quarts Organic Chicken Broth
2 cans    Coconut Milk
1 T.         Minced Fresh Garlic
1 T.         Minced Fresh Ginger
1/4 t.       Fish Sauce (or 1 t. Gluten Free Soy Sauce)
1 lb.        Peeled and deveined shrimp - any size you like

Pour all ingredients except the shrimp into a large saucepan and bring to a simmer as you prepare the rest of the ingredients.  Hold the shrimp aside for now.

The rice:

2 cups Basmati rice washed and cooked according to package directions.

The vegtables:

1 lb     Mushrooms of your choice, sliced
1 cup Carrots, peeled and sliced
1         Shallot, minced
1 T     Coconut Oil
1 lb     Baby Spinach Leaves, washed

Saute the mushrooms, carrots and shallots together in a large saute pan until soft lightly browned.  Lower heat to warm.  Hold the spinach aside.

The garnish:

1 bunch of Cilantro, chopped fine
2 large  Jalapeños, seeded and sliced
1 cup naturally fermented kimchee, chopped fine

Use any or all of these to your taste.

Once the rice is cooked and the garnishes are ready add shrimp to broth and spinach to veggies. The spinach should just be wilted and the shrimp will turn pink when ready.

To serve spoon rice into bowl, top with veggies and broth and garnish as desired.  This recipe should serve about eight and can easily be cut in half for smaller appetites.



Anonymous said...

It was fun to hear about your trip to Chicago. It's been a balmy December for Illinois but you caught us on one of the cold days!

This soup looks so good. I've never cooked shrimp before. Is it hard to find approved for Feingold? The only kind I found here was frozen/already cooked.

chacha said...

That's what everyone else kept telling us - it was wildly cold on Saturday. Our cab driver Sunday morning told us it was going to be about 18 degrees warmer that day. Oh well - still a wonderful trip.

This soup is so easy. You just simmer the shrimp in the broth until they turn pink - it takes only minutes. I find shrimp both fresh and frozen pretty easily. Just make sure they don't have anything added. These were frozen and shelled so they were easy peasy. =D