Gluten Free in Bean Town

March 23rd, 2011

While visiting Boston I discovered this town has really stepped up to serving Gluten Free. Wahoo!

A number of local eateries offered delicious Gluten Free meals, but first-visits to two “chain” restaurants, Bertucci’s and Wagamama, were especially worth repeating.

I understand that the greater Washington, DC area can look forward to Wagamama coming to our area soon. This restaurant has, apparently,  long catered internationally to those with food allergies. Their motto “positive eating + positive living” says it all.

Our meal at Bertucci’s was only topped by our waiter, Alex, who sent us on our way with a complimentary Gluten Free chocolate mouse-type dessert. I’m not usually fond of mouse type desserts, but this one was excellent! This waiter insured that I will be re-visiting Bertucci’s time and time again.

Lastly, as we walked the Freedom Trail on Hanover Street, this sign caught my eye in a bakery window. Once inside, I asked which was better, the muffins or the whoopie pies, and was told the Gluten Free Whoopie Pies were even better than the store’s non-Glute

n-Free version. One Bite was all it took to confirm that these treats are par excellence!

Gluten Free at Boston Modern Pastry

Gluten Free at Boston Modern Pastry

Boston Modern Pastry Shop

Boston Modern Pastry Shop

Boston Whoopie Pie

Boston Whoopie Pie

Read the rest of this entry »

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I had long given up breads and rolls. Even before discovering my issues were related to Gluten my body was telling me these were not my friends. There were, however, a few favorites that I had been longing for, namely French and Sourdough breads and rolls to accompany certain dinners and Cinnamon Raisin Bread toasted and buttered with breakfast.

Udi's Gluten Free BreadsCinnamon Raisin Bread, French and Sourdough breads are simply fabulous when lightly toasted and buttered! There is nothing like their aroma and sweet buttery crunch… or so I thought. Then, I discovered Udi’s Gluten Free Foods.( I found these at our Wegmans, but imagine you will find them in other local stores. I absolutely love Udi’s Guten Free Whole Grain Bread and Cinnamon Raisin Bread. These are not crumbly, as can be the case with many other G-Free breads I have tried. They have the same texture and similar taste to my ole’  favorites, so much so that these will be the only breads bought for my whole household from now on.

Schar G-Free Cibatta Parbaked Rolls

For those special occasions when I want a G-Free roll with diner, I highly recommend the Schar Gluten-Free Ciabatta Parbaked Rolls. Served warm from the oven, these break open beautifully for buttering and are oh, so tasty.

I am tempted to laugh out loud when others express sympathy for my “having” to eat Gluten-Free. I don’t feel I am “suffering” at all. I eat better than ever and feel simply wonderful. What more could we ask of our food that they fuel our needs deliciously.

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The Good: Of course P. F. Chang’s fits in this category when eating out (see previous posting about P. F. Chang’s). When eating at home, a new personal favorite is Udi’s G-Free baked goods.  Udi’s delicious Gluten Free Cinnamon Rolls had the following right on the side of their package:

“We’re old-school artisan bakers – we bake for taste and that special joy that comes fresh from our ovens. Our wish is to share that satisfying, made-with-love happiness with others. We hope you enjoy the results. All of our gluten-free baked goods are made in our Colorado gluten-free bakery alongside breads, granolas, bagels and other goodies. All just part of our mission to make gluten-free delicious.”

How cool is that??? Imagine – foods made to be both nutritious and delicious and Gluten Free, too. Yes!!! That is good, really good!!!

Another “really good” is when dear friends and family honor me by recognizing my dietary restriction when planning for a shared meal or event. That makes me feel truly loved!!!

The Bad: All those restaurants that “say” they serve Gluten Free foods, but neglect to mention that their G-Free menu consists only of regular menu items minus the gluten-filled “tasty” part. No thanks!

Another “bad”, in my book, is when I pay to attend an event that includes a meal and the organizers or hosting facility cannot assure me that a Gluten Free meal will be provided for me. When I have paid like every other guest, my meal should be given the same consideration. Just like those who eat vegetarian or kosher, my meal should be delicious and still meet my dietary restrictions.

The Ugly: I was recently treated to a dinner out at a nearby Olive Garden. I had heard they had Gluten Free offerings and looked forward to enjoying their Gluten Free pasta. To say I was disappointed would be an understatement. First of all, it took them about 10 minutes to find “the” Gluten Free menu from which I could make a selection. There were six different selections to choose from. One included G-Free pasta and the others were basically meat and vegetables with  little or no seasonings and olive oil. They were “ok”, but at the bottom of the menu was the following statement that just irritated me to no end. It showed how little Olive Garden really care for those of us who must eat Gluten Free. It said,

“Olive Garden created this menu for our gluten intolerant guests. Please be aware that the handcrafted nature of our menu items, variety of procedures in our kitchen, cross-contamination with ingredients containing gluten and our reliance on suppliers may result in variations in the ingredients of these menu items. We therefore make no guarantees regarding the gluten content of these items.”

This sounds to me like they really don’t care enough to establish connections with reliable suppliers or good kitchen procedures such that they can guarantee that I don’t get sick eating their foods, or they are merely trying to “CYA” ;)  in case “something” bad happens.  Aren’t they required by law to guarantee that they will cook meats, for example, to the proper temperature to not make the masses ill?  Why can’t they also guarantee I can dine safely and not suffer horribly for days after eating a meal that was “supposed to be” G-Free? P.F. Chang’s, Uno Chicago Grill, Boston Market, McCormick & Schmick’s, The Palm, and Bone Fish Grill are but a few of the places where I have thoroughly enjoyed a Gluten Free meal without worry whether I would be taking a risk, like at Olive Garden. If these other establishments can do it, Olive Garden could too… if they really wanted to, if they really cared enough about serving well their Gluten Free customers.

Clearly Gluten Free living still requires us to be vigilant in our ever checking labels and making wise choices – for our good health. Just like the bakers at Udi’s, we know eating should be a pleasurable experience both during and following a meal. Gluten Free can be both safe and delicious. I think more restaurants and venues will eventually “get it”; they will understand our dietary restrictions and work to provide us healthy and tasty choices. Some won’t. Those we have the freedom to avoid.

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Last week, an occasion arose for me to take a Gluten Free “munchie” to a holiday party. What fun! As I glanced through my pantry, my eyes fell upon a large box of Corn and Rice Chex cereal from Costco marked Gluten Free. Well… my mouth began to water for an ole’ favorite, Chex Party Mix. I thought, “Why not?”

Obviously, I could use only the Rice and Corn CHEX cereals, both naturally Gluten Free, and I left out the pretzels. Thankfully, I always have Gluten Free Worcestershire Sauce in my refrigerator. The other traditional ingredient that needed a substitute was the “Seasoning Salt”. With a little experimentation, I arrived at the following recipe and it was enjoyed by all, those who delight in only eating Gluten Free and those who are not limited thusly.

Gluten Free CHEX Party MixChex Party Mix - Gluten Free

Preheat the oven to 250 degrees.

Mix the following:
2 1/4 tsp Gluten Free Worcestershire Sauce
1/4 Cup melted salted Butter
1 tsp Salt
Dash Paprika
Dash Onion Powder

Toss the above mixture with:
1 Cup Salted Cashews
2 Cups Corn CHEX
2 Cups Rice CHEX

Double or triple this basic recipe based on the number of anticipated guests.
Place mix in a roasting pan and bake in the oven for 1 hour. Stir frequently.
Cool. Store in an airtight container.

This mix has become a traditional “comfort food” enjoyed by many not only through the Holidays, but any time of year.   Enjoy!!!

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Gluten impacts oral health?

November 10th, 2010

For about 30 years I’ve been aware of issues with Oral Lichen Planus on the gums of my mouth. The first dentist to call it to my attention explained that it had nothing to do with oral hygiene and there was really nothing that could be done for it. At the time he said the prevailing thought was that it was linked to stress. Over the years my experience was that times of extreme stress (I’ve honestly had my fair share) made it worse, though there was always some evidence of it visible during  routine dental check-ups.

On my first visit to see my dental hygienist after going Gluten Free it was noted that  my gums were doing really well. It think it was on the second visit that we talked about what changes in my life might have had a positive impact on the condition and I thought of my dietary changes. Yesterday, I had a temporary crown put on a tooth and, since I’ve had some serious stresses these past few months, I asked how my gums looked. For the first time in my adult life my dentist said my gums actually looked normal and healthy.

Hmmm. Could it be that gluten caused or contributed to this condition in my gums all these years and that at previous times of stress the traditional “comfort foods” (typically full of Gluten), not the stress itself, caused the flare-ups? Who knows… I am just glad to be G-Free and Healthy!!!

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Food – Medicine or Poison?

September 3rd, 2010

I loved this quote… thought you would, too. It says so much about our daily dietary choices!

The food you eat can be either the safest and most powerful form of medicine or the slowest form of poison.
~Dr. Ann Wigmore

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Gluten Free at Ben & Jerry’s

August 27th, 2010

Yes… in a perfect world Ben & Jerry’s would publish their own list of Gluten Free flavors (see my last post)… but since they hesitate to do that, I am listing here the Gluten Free flavors  shared with me by the “nearby” Ben & Jerry’s shop.
Mind you, this list is not comprehensive and could change without warning since they could change the recipe.
Therefore, be diligent to ask the shop owner where you buy to verify a selection is Gluten Free or look on the carton’s label if you make your purchase in a grocery store.

Butter Cream,
Cherry Garcia,
Chocolate Fair Trade,
Chocolate Macadamia,
Chocolate Peanut Butter Swirl,
Chunky Monkey,
Coffee Fair Trade,
Coffee Coffee Buzz Buzz Buzz,
Crème Brulee,
Mint Chocolate Chunk,
Orange & Cream,
Phish Food,
Triple Caramel Chunk,
Vanilla Fair Trade,
Vanilla Heath Bar Crunch

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Will “they” ever “get it”???

Network news broadcasts report that the number of us who eat Gluten Free is growing, yet there remain “food establishments” who still prefer to ignore our existence.

Many months ago I had to leave a “Potbelly’s” restaurant because there simply was nothing on the menu board that I could eat. One would think that salads would be a safe bet, but they didn’t even have simple oil and vinegar anywhere in the kitchen that could be used as a salad dressing.

This week I visited a TGI Friday’s for dinner. I asked the hostess if they had Gluten Free offerings and the Manager answered, “Yes, their salads would be a safe bet.” I did order a (non-marinated) steak seasoned with only salt and pepper and it was delicious. The mashed potatoes I ordered as a side were likewise quite tasty, but the side salad came with croûtons (not too big a problem… I simply removed them) and a balsamic vinaigrette dressing. It appeared to be “thickened” (not merely balsamic vinegar and oil) so I asked the manager to check the ingredient list… which he did. Unfortunately, this dressing contained wheat based ingredients and they did not have any oil and vinegar in the kitchen. My only option was to eat the salad ingredients without dressing. It is a real shame that this popular restaurant cannot take a page from the PF Chang’s “playbook” by providing Gluten Free offerings. I won’t go back to a TGI Friday’s until they do.

On a positive note, upon request, a local Ben & Jerry’s was all too happy to show me their extensive list of Gluten Free flavors. I thoroughly enjoyed a cup of Cherry Garcia and New York Super Fudge Chunk. (Yeah, D-E-L-I-C-I-O-U-S!!!) I asked them if I could get a copy of their list. They replied that it was available online.
This is where the situation became disappointing. Not only did the website not provide a list of Gluten free flavors, but in speaking with a customer service rep I was told Ben & Jerry’s corporate would not “step out on a limb” and declare a flavor Gluten Free in case the ingredients changed in the future.

I had been prepared to sing their praises for having a Gluten Free list and an extensive one, at that. Apparently the management of the one store I visited deserves the credit, in this case. I will visit this store at least one more time so I can write down their list of Gluten Free flavors.
I will continue to visit Ben & Jerry’s (when I can find them – there isn’t one near my home) and will always ask for a Gluten Free list. When one is not available, I will ask to check the ingredient list of the flavors I want to try… just in case “corporate” changes the recipe in the future.

I do look forward to a time when all restaurants and other food establishments fully understand our Gluten concerns and provide Gluten Free among their offerings.  Then it will truly be a “Wonderful World”!

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Grandma Corbi's Chocolate Chip Cookies

Grandma Corbi's Chocolate Chip Cookies

If you are like me, every now and again you get a craving for old fashioned chocolate chip cookies. ;)

This spring a friend gave me a tub of frozen chocolate chip cookie dough… it was such a thoughtful gift! One never knows about these things if they will really be tasty or not… but this one was scrumptious!!!

The company sells mainly through “fund-raising” programs, but they will take online orders.

I like mine warm and soft, hot out of the oven, but these do get crispy as they cool.
One tub lasted quite awhile since I was only baking a few cookies at a time, but when I re-ordered online, I purchased 3 tubs to save on shipping.

Interestingly, these Grandma Corbi Gluten Free Chocolate Chip cookies are the only Gluten Free item that the Joe Corbi company sells… but you will love them! You can order them for yourself here.

Grandma Corbi's GlutenFree ChocolateChip Cookie Dough

Grandma Corbi's GlutenFree ChocolateChip Cookie Dough

"Homemade" G-Free Chocolate Chip Ice Cream Sandwiches

"Homemade" G-Free Chocolate Chip Ice Cream Sandwiches

If eating them hot from the oven were not enough… my daughter-in-law showed me how to make my own “ice cream sandwiches” by putting a scoop of plain (gluten free) vanilla ice cream between two cooled cookies, wrapping them up, and placing them in the freezer for a special cool summer treat. Tasty!!!

Baking is easy! You can defrost the tub and scoop out what you want and then re-freeze them repeatedly… however, since I most often want these on impulse, I have begun to simply “dig out” the right amount of the frozen dough and bake the cookies just a bit longer than the package recommends.

However you enjoy them, it is wonderful to know that eating Gluten Free does not mean the elimination of all “comfort foods”.

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At long last, I made it to this charming Italian restaurant in Harrisonburg, VA… home of James Madison University (Go Dukes!).

In addition to the “locals”… all who travel north and south on Interstate 81 and all who attend (or visit students of) James Madison University will be thrilled to know this establishment takes Gluten Free Pizza to a whole new level… ultra delicious! :)

L'Italia's Vito with my G-Free Pizza

L'Italia's Vito with my G-Free Pizza

Calling about an hour before arriving will give Vito time to custom prepare Gluten Free dough in an area of the kitchen dedicated to their G-Free preparations.

The “topping” list is extensive and one must choose carefully for Gluten Free. I can highly recommend “Banana Peppers, Mushrooms, and FRESH Basil” Oh my goodness did my taste buds rejoice!!! The fresh Basil made all the difference!

Most G-Free Pizzas I have ordered are “personal-sized”, but this “pie” was definitely a large! I enjoyed a few slices and took the rest home and enjoyed the remains for a few days.  :)  Note – This Gluten-Free pizza was also so delicious, that it would be enjoyed by all who dine with you, whether they eat Gluten-Free or not.

Please pass the word about this wonderful little “taste of Italy” that truly cares about making a memorable Gluten Free dining experience!

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