Surprising gluten free foods


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We all miss our favorite foods since going gluten and dairy free.  But did you know that some of those foods that you thought you might never eat again are available in gluten and dairy free versions?

Since the explosion of the gluten free craze partnered with the internet, you can get just about anything in a gluten and/or dairy-free version.

This list is not going to include the usual products.  Listed below are gluten free foods that really surprised me with their availability.  I have not tried all of these products.  I have tried those with an asterisk.  I also have to admit that I placed an order while writing this post……

Gluten free Pennsylvania dutch pretzels*

If you are missing out on the office pretzel day, you need not miss out any longer.  These were pretty good.  You can microwave them which means you can bring them to work with you.

Gluten free puff pastry

These do contain dairy, but it’s pretty great that you can get these.

Gluten and dairy free ice cream cones

These would be great with dairy free ice cream

Gluten and dairy free frozen apple pie

This would be a great time saver on Thanksgiving.  There is a pumpkin version too.

Whoopie pies

Who would have thought?

Chinese dumplings*

Ordering from the link above there is no minimum.  If you order from feel good foods, there is a 6 box minimum.  Believe me, these are worth every penny.  See my review here.

Gluten free french fried onions*

It took a lot of searching to find these.  They are exactly like Durkee french fried onions.

There you have it.  Have you found surprising gluten free foods?  Please share!

 

Take my advice…or don’t


 

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I often get emails from people all over the world asking for my advice.  This is one of the great things about writing a blog about gluten free living.  I feel confident that I have been gluten and dairy free long enough to help others overcome their struggle.  But there is one aspect of this give and take that puzzles me.

People often tell me they have signs of celiac disease.  Yet when I tell them is they need to get tested, they brush me off.  Celiac disease is an immune disease.  It’s not just gluten intolerance.  It can destroy your intestines if not treated.   I tell people not to do an elimination diet before getting tested, or it will skew the results.  Yet I go ignored.

I have been at this for a long time.  I do my research and my due diligence.  When I try to advise people to do the same, they want a quick fix.  Just give me the recipes.  Just tell me what to eat and what not to eat.  It just boggles my mind.

There is a local group that goes to “gluten-free” restaurants in Nashville.  I thought about joining them.  Wouldn’t it be great to go out to dinner with people in a similar situation? Then I thought about it.  How careful are they really?  Are they taking the restaurant’s word for it?  Do they know enough how to read menus and what to look for?  I highly doubt it.  Knowing it would just frustrate me, I gave up on the idea.

I was once a member of a couple of Facebook groups on being gluten free.  One lady kept posting that she was having shortness of breath and chest pain.  Everyone put their two cents in, saying that she had “gluten intolerance” or “gluten allergies”.  I said she might be having a heart attack.  Turns out I was right.  Luckily she survived.  People can’t see the forest for the trees.  I no longer belong to any of those groups.

Everyone is an expert.  Everyone thinks they know better.  But they often don’t.  And it can end badly.

Don’t get me wrong; I am happy to help in any way I can.  But why ask me if you are just going to do what you want anyway?

I have some tips for those who have gluten intolerance symptoms and need help:

  • Consider your source
  • Do your homework
  • learn how to read labels
  • Don’t rely on just one opinion
  • Work with a nutritionist or your doctor
  • get tested for celiac disease
  • No one is right all of the time
  • You don’t know better than the person you are asking for advice

I will continue to help those who ask me.  But I hope that they will go beyond asking for recipes and perhaps take the advice that is given to them into consideration.  It comes from the heart.

Sorry for the theme confusion!


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You might have noticed that I have been changing my theme quite a bit the last week or so.  I wanted to explain why and apologize for any confusion.

This all started with a notion to move my blog to the self-hosted wordpress.org site.  This is the second time I chickened out before the move was completed. Not only would it entail more work and more self-maintenance, it would cost a whole lot more.  I made the mistake of misreading an error message I received that my theme couldn’t be moved and I had to change it.  Unfortunately, I am unable to get my theme back to the way it was before I blundered, thus the theme confusion.

My apologies if my craziness is catching; I just can’t seem to settle on a theme at the moment.  The aborted move, along with a free email course on branding has led me down the path of self-doubt.  I suppose I should let the numbers speak for themselves.

In the future, if I want to move my blog, I will slap my own hand.  I will also try to leave well enough alone for a while by sticking to the current theme.

Thank you all for your loyalty and for sticking around through my growing pains!

 

 

Is it safe? Review of Smashburger, Murfreesboro


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The other day, my husband and I took a drive to Murfreesboro.  Anytime we take a day trip, it becomes a challenge to find a place to stop for lunch that won’t make me deathly sick.

Smashburger is one of the places that is utilizing online allergen menus that you can customize depending on what foods, spices, seeds, fruits, vegetables and additives you want to avoid.  It then gives options based on these choices.

I think this is wonderful, however, how does it translate to reality?  Anytime you choose to dine out with a food allergy or intolerance, it can become a literal crap shoot.  This is the main reason I have mostly stopped dining out.  It simply is not worth the hassle to me to have to be a detective to find a safe meal, and to be chained to my bathroom for several days.  If we are doing an activity after that meal, it becomes an embarrassment when I have to use a public bathroom, especially when it is in a location that is anywhere near a crowd of people.

That said, I have to say that the staff at Smashburger seems to follow that allergen menu pretty carefully.  They have everything in their register so that it can be put right on the order.  But then there is the ‘cover our ass” disclaimer:

In preparing results displayed by our Interactive Allergen Menu and other nutritional disclosures, we have relied on information provided to us by third party food suppliers.

Accordingly, we can make no guarantees regarding the allergen content of these items.

All Smashburger menu items are prepared on shared equipment and cross-contact with any allergens you wish avoid may occur during preparation.

The allergen and nutritional information on this website applies with respect to the United States only.

After carefully selecting gluten, wheat, dairy, nuts and tree nuts products to avoid, I was given several options.  I decided on the classic smashburger and the sweet potato fries. They have just rolled out gluten-free buns as well.   I read the ingredients and there were none of the allergens I had selected.  Yet, I still got sick.

There could be several culprits:

  • The burger was really greasy.  Having IBS and no gall bladder, this could have done it due to the high amount of fat.
  • I had a large glass of Dr. Pepper.  High fructose corn syrup is another irritant
  • The fries were cross contaminated.  They do not have a dedicated fryer.  Although this is not usually a problem for me.  But the fries should not be labeled gluten free
  • The bun was buttered.  This is usually done automatically without a thought from the kitchen staff, although I was assured there was no dairy on my order

These are all things that could be avoided.  I am willing to give them another chance because the food was really, really good.  Next time I will skip the fries, and drink water.

Anytime we choose to dine out, it is a game of Russian roulette.  Is it worth it?  That depends on you and how adventurous you are.  You can peruse menus til you turn blue, but I am convinced there is no such thing as a safe meal out, unless the restaurant is dedicated to serving only allergen free food.  And that is a rare thing these days.

So to Smashburger I say,  you are on the right track, and thank you for the effort.  It is much appreciated.  But please know that if foods are prepared on shared equipment, they are NOT allergen free and should not be labeled as such.

Order at your own risk!

 

Common ingredients and their substitutions


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If you cook or bake regularly like I do, you find a lot of common ingredients that you will need to substitute for gluten or dairy free ingredients.

Here are substitutions that I use almost on a daily basis, and some I have never tried out, but others have.  I do not have any endorsement deals with these products.  I just love the results they provide.

Wheat flour

In baking, I use King Arthur Measure for Measure flour almost exclusively.  I have never had an issue using this flour, in fact, I am amazed at its versatility and resemblance to wheat flour.

Substituting wheat flour can be tricky, since every recipe calls for a different blend. My advice is to stay away from recipes that use multiple flours as you cannot possibly have space for all of them, plus the recipe will have to be tweaked as far as liquids.   Find recipes that use wheat flour and use a measure for measure or cup for cup flour instead.  You will need no other recipe changes.

Baking mixes

I used Gluten free Bisquick almost exclusively.  But if a recipe calls for a specific baking mix, I generally use it because ratios of leavening can vary.  But in a pinch, I have used another brand and the recipe was fine.

Butter

I use Smart Balance spread in pretty much every recipe that calls for butter, including baking.  You can also substitute grapeseed oil in baking with good results.  You could also use coconut oil.

Buttermilk

Add 1 tablespoon of vinegar or lemon juice to dairy free milk and let stand at least five minutes.

Cheddar Cheese

Since I started getting away from soy, I use Daiya cheese cheddar block and slices.
I do not care for their shreds, so I buy the block and shred my own.

Parmesan Cheese

I use Go Veggie Parmesan substitute.  It does contain soy, but I don’t use it that often.  Tastes like the real thing.

Heavy cream

I have been advised by several bakers that they use coconut cream, shaken and stirred together, not chilled, with good results. I use plain coconut milk and have had no problems.

Thickening Sauces/Gravies

I make a roux of 1 tablespoon rice flour with one tablespoon fat for each cup of liquid.  You do have to whisk it thoroughly, but it comes together nicely with no grit.

These are just some of the common ingredients that often need substituting.  Please share your tips on what ingredients you use.

Review of 88 Acres Gluten free Bars


 

It makes me really happy when I find something that is not only gluten and allergen free, but tastes really good.  These things don’t always go together, and that really bums me out.  These bars are free of peanuts, tree nuts, gluten, dairy, eggs and soy.  This is hard to come by.

The folks at 88 acres were nice enough to send me a 3 pack sample of their gluten and allergen free seed bars.  When I opened the box, I was greeted with a really nice note, thanking me for my interest and hoping that I liked them.

Yesterday, I tried the Chocolate and Sea salt. I was skeptical at first, but after my first bite, I was sold.  Chewy but soft, with a good mix of seeds and dairy free chocolate chips, this really hit the spot.  I will be ordering more of these!

The Apple Ginger bar has a nice appley, gingery flavor.  I don’t like this one as much, but that’s just my taste.  It wasn’t as sweet, and I don’t care for the ginger.

The Triple Berry is very good, with a nice hint of fruit.  I enjoyed these as well.

My favorite, hands down, is the Chocolate and Sea salt-no surprise there!

Aside from the bars, they offer seed butter and gift packs.  I will be ordering samples of their seed butter to try out.

If you are looking for an allergen-free snack bar, look no further!  I would definitely recommend these.

Back to basics


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Over the past year or so, my husband and I have slowly gotten away from healthier eating.  Actually, my husband has pretty much stuck to his healthier diet. I am the one that has fallen off the health wagon straight onto the dessert wagon.

Last year, when my husband was diagnosed with heart disease, we were all gung ho about healthy eating. We read labels, we did most of our shopping in the fresh produce aisle, and I made sure that all the recipes I made were heart healthy.

As happens when you start any new diet, at the beginning you are excited and committed. As time goes on you get less and less strict and tend to make more exceptions. This is what happened with me. Even though I do not have  heart disease, it was easier for me to eat the same diet as my husband. He has always shared my gluten and dairy free meals. I just took a little bit of adjustment to make those meals heart healthy.

After about six or seven months, I slowly gave up eating salads and fruits. Maybe it was the fact that summer was over and we could no longer get fresh vegetables and fruits from our local farmers market. Supermarket fruits and vegetables have always left a lot to be desired in my opinion. There is nothing like a fresh, locally grown tomato or ear of corn. But I’ve noticed that since I stopped eating these things, I do not feel as good as I did then.

I have been baking cakes every week since then. These are not the healthy desserts I was making over the summer. As you have seen in recent posts, I  have been baking a lot of chocolate cakes and cakes with a good amount of sugar. I have been pretty much consuming these on my own.  My husband wisely avoids desserts. Even though his heart is now almost 100% healthy, he continues to eat relatively healthy.

After making pineapple upside down cake last week, I took a good hard look at myself, and I have decided to go back to eating fruits and vegetables and  less baked goods. I think that reducing my baking to once a month is reasonable. This will allow me to indulge my sweet tooth without going crazy. I don’t think that I could completely give up sugar.

I thought about doing the whole 30 diet, where you give up sugar,  carbs, alcohol, dairy and some other things to reset your body. But I don’t think I could do it. It would be a real challenge if I had to add gluten and dairy free to that mix. Although I have already given up  wheat and dairy, I don’t know if I could totally give up carbs. It would only be for 30 days, and maybe I would feel better. Perhaps that’s something to ponder.  If any of you have tried the whole 30 diet, please comment your thoughts and experience.

When I first went gluten free, I thought I could never do it. Having many gluten-free options and choices helps.  Of course,  there are those who say it’s really easy if you just stick to protein and vegetables. But if you are a carb addict like myself, it is nearly impossible to stick to that. I like my Pasta, rice, noodles, and bread (Just like Oprah!) Plus the fact that I write this blog on gluten-free and dairy free recipes and options. Most people, I  believe, do not just want to eat protein and vegetables, at least not all the time. I think it would get pretty boring pretty quickly.

So I am easing myself back into healthy eating. How long it will last I don’t know, but I am sure it can’t hurt.

 

 

Cooking gluten free when you’re incapacitated


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I am still struggling with this bursitis/tendonitis in my right hand.  It seems to get better, then it flares up again.  So this will be a short post today…

I am wearing a soft brace which limits my mobility somewhat.  That makes it quite a challenge to do my usual cooking and baking.

Luckily, I have my husband to open jars.  But let’s just say it’s better that he doesn’t try to help me cook…

I have so far been able to make almost everything with just a bit of inconvenience, but I think using my heavy steel frying pan is a thing of the past.  I’m afraid that’s what started this in the first place.

What modifications have you had to make that interfered with your ability to cook gluten free?

 

 

 

 

 

A lesson in getting glutened


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The other day we were in the Nashville area running errands, and we decided to stop for lunch at Ruby Tuesday. I had found that they have an allergen menu online. I thought this was great since most restaurants do not have this feature. I was able to look over my options ahead of time, thus saving time and aggravation.

The online options allow you to select what allergens or intolerances you need to avoid and then you are given options based on the selections.  They were actually quite a few selections in each category such as chicken, seafood, salads, etc. Based on the choices I decided on grilled salmon with a side of a baked potato.

The errands that we had to run lead us to have lunch around 11 AM.   This turned out to be a perfect time as they had just opened. Once we sat down I asked if there was an actual allergen menu available. I was told that it was only available online.  I wondered how the staff would know about food choices available to those with allergens if they did not have an actual allergen menu to refer to.   I also was concerned that those avoiding those allergens would not be able to order safe options if they did not check out the allergen options on the restaurant website.

After we were seated we received regular menus. I noticed that they offered gluten-free hamburger rolls. I was not originally going to get a burger, but after seeing that I could get a gluten-free hamburger roll, I got so excited that it clouded my judgment. Instead of following the allergen menu I ordered the burger. That would turn out to be a mistake.

I ordered a burger with the gluten free roll emphasizing that it be gluten-free to the waiter, which he wrote down. I did not order fries as I had noticed that they were not safe due to cross contamination.

The burger arrived on a toasted bun. This should have been a red flag but I ignored it. I ate the bottom half of the bun along with part of the top half. The burger was actually very good.

We finished up our lunch just as it began to get crowded. We left  and proceeded to finish our errands and visit a local antique shop. Within about half an hour of finishing lunch I got that familiar glutened feeling. I began to feel sick and luckily there was a bathroom in the antique shop.

We all make mistakes and eat things that we shouldn’t. Sometimes we can’t see the forest for the trees. When we find that a restaurant has something that is actually gluten-free sometimes we forget where we are.

There are some things you can do to prevent this happening to you:

  • Go to the website of the restaurant you will be going to see if they have an allergen menu
  • If you don’t find an allergen menu  on their website try googling the restaurant name plus allergen menu
  • Another option is to contact the restaurant directly and ask them  to email the allergen menu to you
  • Look for reviews on Tripadvisor and Yelp to see if the restaurant caters to those with allergens and how  well they accommodate those that have allergens
  • Ask the waiter to check ingredients with the kitchen- “I’m not sure” is not a good answer
  • Always make sure you do your homework, and no matter how excited you become over something on the regular menu DO  NOT order anything from the regular menu unless you are absolutely sure it is safe

It is imperative that you do your research ahead of time. Do not go in blind or uninformed.  Learn a lesson from me! Don’t get so excited about a gluten-free item on the regular menu that you forget the consequences.

I hope that you all have many safe and delicious meals whenever you dine out!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Review of Rodizio Grill, Nashville


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This year for my birthday/anniversary, we thought we would try something a little bit different for our celebration dinner.

Rodizio grill is a Brazilian steakhouse.  This is not your ordinary steakhouse, but a true dining experience.  They have restaurants all over the United States.

Meats are spit roasted, and served by “gauchos” at tableside.  You have a red and green little doohicky on your table, and you flip it green when you want more meat, and red when you want to stop.  You can flip it as much as you like through the course of the evening.  They also have an extensive hot and cold salad and sides bar.  The cost for the salad bar and meats was $36.99 per person.  The price for just the sides bar is $19.99.  With drinks the bill came to over $100.00 for the two of us.

We went on a Monday night, which might have not have been the best night to go.  It was not crowded at all, which might have affected the outcome of our dinner.

I had requested a copy of their gluten and dairy allergen lists about a week before we were to go.  I received both by email from the Assistant General Manager.

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Having these lists ahead of time, I was able to plan what was safe and what wasn’t for me to eat.  There were a couple of meats that were basted with butter, and some that had gluten.   I double checked the list with what was listed on their menu.   There were a few things that were overlooked, but I was able to catch them.   But someone who does not do their due diligence might not have.

There are a few things I think could be improved on:

  • Salad bar option is offered by itself, but the meat part of the meal is not.  If you fill up on the salad bar, there is no room for the meats, which is where you will get your money’s worth
  • Salad bar gluten free options are marked, so are menu options.  Dairy free is not.
  • “Gaucho” servers have no idea what has gluten or dairy in it
  • We had three different servers during our meal due to it being a “slow night”.  The second and third servers had no idea what my dietary restrictions were
  • A manager was supposed to come to our table but he never materialized
  • We were never given all of our sides
  • Not a good variety of meats-mostly beef
  • we had to ask for certain items
  • some of the meats were really salty

But there were good things as well:

  • Our initial server was really attentive
  • what meats we did try were really good
  • a fish dish was made especially for me to be dairy free
  • servers were very polite and accommodating
  • we ate our fill of meats

I was happy that they wanted to make the fish especially for me, but it was toward the end of our dinner, and I was quite full by this point.  I only took one small piece and I fear the rest was discarded.   I didn’t want to say no since they went ahead and prepared it without really asking me after I asked if the fish was dairy free.  I felt obligated to try it.

The staff was friendly and attentive.  But since it was a slow night, we were a bit disappointed with the selection of meats.

Most of the salad bar items are off limits if you can ‘t eat dairy.  They should be marked.

This would be a nice place to go if you have friends visiting from out of town.  It was overall a nice and different experience, and I would recommend it.  And yes, I would return.