AKA: My Grocery Store Meltdown: The Overwhelming Sadness of Cross-Contamination
Two years after I was diagnosed with celiac disease, I thought I had everything under control. I’d finally figured out how to find all the hidden gluten on ingredient and packaging labels, and I was well aware of cross-contamination risks of whole and processed foods.
Or so I thought, until one morning when I went grocery shopping for a brunch I had planned for friends. I’d done careful recipe planning and, list in hand, set off into the aisles. Picking up a bag of almonds, I checked the packaging (as I always do) to make sure they were safe for me to cook with, and I saw on the back of the bag: “Processed in a facility that also handles wheat, tree nuts, soy and dairy products.”
I sighed and tossed them back onto the shelf, wheeling my cart over to the deli section for the ham I needed. Then I saw that they’d used the same slicer to cut my ham that they had just used to slice a meat I knew had gluten in its casing. Scratch that. First no almonds, now no ham. Tears welled up immediately.
Not being able to buy those two ingredients triggered one of the biggest emotional meltdowns I’ve ever had. I abandoned my full shopping cart and ran to my car, horrified at making a big deal out of what should be NOT A BIG DEAL. I was choking back tears before I slammed the car door — over almonds and ham. I know.
In hindsight, it had been a rough week, having to turn down invitations to a pasta feast, a dim sum dinner and a beer tasting with co-workers. It’s a snowball effect. Things like that trigger all sorts of frustration with the ways I’ve had to change my life — and the isolation that can come from this if you let it.
The day after Almondgate, I went back to the grocery store with a completely different shopping list and a much sunnier disposition. Out of it came this comforting, delicious breakfast casserole. It’s eggy, cheesy and packed full of Swiss chard, and it’s a dish my friends love and can’t even tell is gluten-free. It’s like eating a hug, and it reminds me that, big picture, everything’s gonna be OK.
Cheesy Swiss Chard Breakfast Bake
Total Time: 1 hour, 10 minutes
Prep: 15 minutes
Cook: 50 minutes
Yield: Serves 4
This breakfast casserole is a morning star. You can make it the day before and warm it in the oven. It’s extra great with a squirt or two of Sriracha on top. You can also go a little heavier on the cheese, if you want. I never say no to more cheese.
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 small yellow onion, diced
8 cups Swiss chard, leaves and stems chopped (1 bunch of 6 stalks, about 12 ounces)
Freshly ground black pepper
5 large eggs
1 1/2 cups milk
1 cup (8 ounces) shredded cheddar cheese
2 cups gluten-free breadcrumbs
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
- Grease an 8-by-8-inch baking dish with butter or baking spray and set aside.
- Heat olive oil in saute pan over medium-high heat for 1 minute. Add onion, and saute until slightly golden (about 3 to 4 minutes). Toss in Swiss chard, season with salt and pepper to taste, and saute for 2 minutes until leaves are slightly wilted. Remove from heat.
- In a mixing bowl, whisk together eggs and milk.
- Cover bottom of baking dish with half the chard mixture, then cover with half the cheddar cheese. Repeat with remaining chard mixture and cheese, and top with breadcrumbs. Salt and pepper breadcrumbs to your liking.
- Pour egg and milk mixture over casserole evenly. Cover with aluminum foil.
- (Here, you can refrigerate overnight and bake the next morning. If refrigerating, allow casserole to sit at room temperature 15 minutes before baking.)
- Bake covered for 30 minutes. Remove foil, and bake an additional 20 minutes until breadcrumbs are browned and the egg mixture is set.
- Let rest for 5 minutes before serving.