Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Lovely Fall

Well, I haven't written for quite awhile. I have been traveling for my job a lot and volunteering a lot and something had to suffer apparently. So I guess it was my blog. I am back on track now and I have some observations to share with you. Since I have been traveling frequently, it was hard not to notice the complete and total lack of gluten-free food in airports. Trust me it is non-existent............nada, nothing! It is like looking for the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow! A person could starve to death at an airport. Yes, I can hear you wondering....why don't you pack food to take with you? Well, because I have no way to keep things cold and you are really limited as to what you can take on an airplane these days. Yes, I pack some fruit, gluten-free bars and some nuts.......but strangely when you are traveling those delightful items loose their charm fairly quickly. I managed to find a few things but it took a long time and some super sleuth skills. Then there is the whole cross-contamination issues.........people working at airports are not really interested in the fact that if you ingest untoward items that you will probably get sick on the airplane and that brings up all kinds of lovely issues. I managed to eat fairly safely when I was in actual towns because I had done a little research before embarking on my journeys. It made me want to start talking to the airport powers that be and lobbying for gluten-free food! Anyway, maybe in my next life:)

So I have also been out to eat a lot lately with friends and relatives (What else does anyone do in Omaha, Ne, but eat out?) and that is also a slippery slope.......not to mention very frustrating when your friends want to go somewhere that you know is dangerous for you and has very few redeeming qualities for anyone with celiac. Note: Carlos O'Kellys now has a gluten-free menu. Kona Grill's gluten-free menu is top notch and their passion fruit creme' brulee is a small slice of heaven! Chili's has a gluten-free menu, as well as Red Robin. (I have never gotten glutenized in any of these establishments.) I really like Biaggis gluten-free menu and their pizza is magnificent!

So I went out to lunch today with my Mom and I became somewhat agitated at all the baked goods they offered at the cafe (Summer Kitchen) so I came home and made some kick-ass pumpkin bars with cream cheese frosting. Here is the recipe:

1 Betty Crocker Gluten-free yellow cake mix.
1 Box Vanilla Instant Pudding
3 eggs
1 stick of butter
2 generous teaspoons of vanilla
1 & 1/2 cup canned pumpkin
1 & 1/2 teaspoons of cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon of nutmeg
1/2 cup chopped pecans
1/2 cup milk

Mix it all together and then beat with mixer for 2 minutes. Pour into oblong pan (9X12) that you have greased and bake at 350 for about 20 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean. Cool bars and then frost with cream cheese frosting........and enjoy the heck out of them and share them with your friends....they won't know that they are gluten-free! Happy Fall to All!

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Summer Stuff

Hello, everyone! It has been awhile since I have written! I have been traveling and my computer blew up so I have been very busy and remiss in writing. I want to mention a few new things. First of all, Bisquick now makes a gluten-free version of their original Bisquick mix. I made biscuits and a coffee cake with it and they both turned out well. Before celiac, I was a religious user of Bisquick so this was very good news to me! I have only seen it at the 108th HyVee, but I know it will be showing up soon everywhere.

I don't think the Cheesecake Factory Gluten-free menu is ready yet......maybe this fall.

I have been sampling some other gluten-free menus and I have been pleasantly and happily surprised. The Bone Fish Grill has a delightful gluten-free menu. Many offerings and not just your typical...........don't order this with a bun nonsense. On their appetizer offerings, their edamame is beyond delicious! I could eat that stuff by the pound! Their fish items are very tasty and the staff is very captivating and extremely accommodating. And, it is not as expensive as you might think! It is a winner to me. And their creme brule makes me dance in happiness!!

Biaggis has quite a lovely gluten-free menu too! Lots of pasta dishes and their pizza was so good I had to use all my willpower not to gobble it all down like a pizza deprived crazy woman! They even have gluten-free bread for dipping..........what a concept, right? Very lovely options and again they were extremely accommodating and more than happy to make suggestions and speak with the chef...........that is all we really want, right?

Keep an eye out for HyVee Health Market bag sales. The store on 156th and Maple is now carrying Udi's cinnamon rolls.............they are excellent when heated and they even come with frosting! I have already raved on previously about how much I like Udi's muffins and pizza crust!

LaCasa has terrific gluten-free pizza and there is something very comforting about going back to places that never change and that is a good thing.

I must run, but will no longer take so long between posts.......enjoy the end of summer and keep stopping at those wonderful fruit and vegetable stands around town...........local produce.....the best!!!

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Just Some Random Thoughts

Well, I have been extremely busy and then went to Colorado. I am now back and have been playing "catch-up" for a few days. And let me just say that is always the hardest part of coming back from vacation..........that and trying to get back into your old routine!

So whenever I travel, I always go with a certain amount of anxiety and trepidation. New places, new restaurants..........new ways to become glutenized and taken unaware! But anxiety does not seem to be beneficial in my world any longer, so it takes some strategy and common sense to try and navigate through the unrelenting pitfalls of being a stranger in a strange land. When I travel I rarely bring much of my own food.........too much of an inconvenience, a big hassle, possibly no refrigerator available and it is just basically a big pain in the butt!! But I do my homework before I leave on my journey and that makes things much easier. There are so many places that offer gluten-free alternatives now that it is reasonably safe if you know what you are doing. Do some research on line and then call ahead to restaurants that claim they have a gluten-free menu to verify that fact. Make a list and keep it with you when you travel. I had some happy surprises while I was in Colorado. Places like zoos and museums (which I thought would only offer junk food), had wonderful healthy selections. Delightful salad bars, gluten-free pizza, fresh fruit, and many other "safe" choices. Let's just say I never went hungry and that my options were many and varied. Also, as many of you probably already know, Mexican restaurants have many gluten-free options. Just stay away from anything made with or near a flour tortilla! I am still having problems with Oriental restaurants and the wheat-laden soy sauce. I solved that by getting some little to go paks of soy sauce and carrying some with me all the time. One never knows when one could get a mad craving for Oriental food and I am always prepared. They are always more than happy to make the dish you order without soy sauce. And believe this or not some restaurants actually use gluten-free soy sauce.........not many, but a few.

I feel like my trip was successful on several levels including the choices that are now available to us. And just as an aside............I think Colorado is way more cognizent of gluten-free living than Nebraska............I'm just saying...........

HyVee Stores are now carrying Udi's Gluten-free Bagels. They are really good and they make the best sandwiches ever! I am trying to get them to carry Udi's Cinnamon Rolls.........I have heard they are very lovely.

Have you ever been in the grocery store and walked by the bakery section and looked at all the Artisian breads and rolls as the fragrant aroma of their wonderfulness surrounds you with a dizzing sense of longing? Me too...............once and awhile I even get a little crazy mad about it and then I think about people with real problems and keep moving right past the bakery! Then the feeling of being deprived passes and I move on to the gluten-free section! And how often have you ever had someone say to you.............."it must be so hard to try and eat anything good". Most of the time I correct them and say "not as hard as you might think", but sometimes
I just nod my head and say yes, you wouldn't believe the difficulty......sigh.....and then I realize again that some people have real problems that can't be solved by not eating wheat and I just keep smiling.

Have a safe and stupendous 4th of July and keep smiling! Linda

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Gluten-free products and where to get them

Well, summer is upon us and what a welcome relief it is! I have been painfully busy with too much work and precious little time to devote to the blog site. However, I am still madly dashing around going to gluten-free samplings, visiting Hy-Vees and Health Markets and eating a continuing stream of cupcakes and other tempting goodies. When I say madly dashing, I should say sprinting in an effort to keep any extra poundage from clinging to my hips and other applicable body parts. It is a daunting challenge believe me..........but, in my attempt to find real quality gluten-free products, I must persevere and march on.

And so first I must give a much needed thumbs-up to Bakers Supermarket at 132nd & Maple. They are starting to feature many more gluten-free products in their health market section......YAY!! They are now carrying Kinnikinnick bagels, English muffins, hot dog & hamburger buns, donuts and pizza crusts. They also carry Amy's gluten-free frozen cakes and some French Meadow gluten-free cookie dough (also frozen). They have acquired a fantastic selection of various mixes and they really seem to be seeking to increase the variety and availability of stuff......good for them!!

One item that Bakers is carrying (in their regular ice cream section) is Graeter's Ice Cream. Now this may not mean much to some, but being an ice cream lover I had heard "stories" of Graeter's and their amazing ice cream. Graeter's started out as a beloved family institution in Cincinnati, OH in 1870. One family started the busines and several generations later, the family is still running the business. They use a very interesting process to make their ice cream called French Pot process. And they make it in very small batches. People have literally been flocking to their ice cream stores for decades. They also ship their delectable pints of ectasy anywhere in the US. So imagine my surprise and delight when I saw the pleasing little pints sitting on the shelves in the ice cream section at Bakers! I bought my first pint and took it home with palpable anticipation. I chose Blackraspberry Chocolate Chip..........how could I not? As I took my first spoonful, I was initially taken with the creaminess and richness of the ice cream. Then the bursting flavors of the blackraspberry and deep rich chocolate combined to make the happiest of explosions in my mouth. This stuff is outlandishly good. One spoiler.........I think you could become easily addicted to the quality and deliciousness of this treat and it may cause you to turn your nose up at other brands of ice cream. OK, two spoilers.........it could also cause you to spend extra time on the treadmill, but it would be sooooo worth it!

Since it is Summer, I am going to talk about another ice cream treat. Remember ice cream sandwiches?? Yes, well I do, and of course that is all they were to me............a memory. But, alas and take heart, I found a gluten-free ice cream sandwich and it is surprisingly good! It is made by Julie's and it is organic and also goes under the guise of GlutenFreeda's. They too are at Baker's now in the health section. They are a divine and a delightful treat that does not eat up your calorie allowance for the day, but offers you a very satisfying respite of momentary pleasure and decadence. How can argue you with that..........and why would you?? As Rachel Ray says........YUM-O!

OK, and now five minutes to indulge me on the gluten-free soapbox. I have been sampling various offerings at several stores lately and I must say I am not that impressed with many of the new products they are getting in. The mixes are dry and not all that exciting. I have written here before about the fact that you need to jazz up gluten-free mixes and definitely add more butter fat. But, it makes me sad to think that many people settle for ho-hum products just because it is easier or they don't know where really good stuff is hiding. They accept that their new lot in life is to eat semi-yucky stuff if they want anything that resembles bread, cake or muffins. Remember, that is not the case and there are good, quality products out there, but you have to find your voice and you have to speak up. Most stores are only too happy to order in things BUT you have to ask them and you may have to ask them more than once. And restaurants are getting better with gluten-free menus (more show up all the time)..........I understand the Cheesecake Factory will have a gluten-free menu in July. But, we still need to speak up and we need to speak up loudly..........you can make a difference!

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

For The Love Of Cupcakes

OK, I will admit it freely and with no hesitation..............I adore cupcakes! Cupcakes are festive, cupcakes are irresistable and cupcakes are just plain fun to eat! Cupcakes look like a tiny celebration all deliciously encased in a paper liner with sweet, decadent frosting spilling over the top. Everyone loves cupcakes! Cupcakes are a happy indulgence that we can all afford to splurge on from time to time. They make the end of a long day considerably brighter, and they make children squeal with delight and clap their hands in anticipation of the first gooey mouthful. You want to make someone smile...............give them a cupcake. When I was growing up my Mother knew of my fascination with cupcakes and would often send homemade ones in my lunch for school. Ahhh, the amazing buttercream frosting adorning each cake in various shades of pink, mint green and creamy yellow! Trust me, I became hooked at an early age, they were the best!

Now my love of cupcakes had taken quite a sabbatical because I could no longer eat them........sigh! To say I have been underwhelmed with gluten-free cake mixes would be an understatement. They always turn out grainy and there is that yucky aftertaste that always seems to accompany them. Well no more........I have found an awesome gluten-free bakery in Denver and they just happen to specilize in cupcakes! Mermaids Bakery is divine! Now they cannot ship baked cupcakes but they can ship their mixes. I spent a pleasurable part of my weekend baking several of their mixes and they were way beyond my expectations! I was so pleased with the results of my efforts. I made the chocolate mix and the red velvet mix. I frosted the red velvet cupcakes with cream cheese frosting and chopped walnuts. I frosted the chocolate ones with a sinful chocolate buttercream. To my surprise and delight these cupcakes are heavenly! The texture is identical to gluten-laden cake and there is no trace of graininess or that weird aftertaste that we all know and dislike. I think I may have actually moaned and swooned out loud when I tried the first red velvet cupcake. I couldn't believe how good it was. And the chocolate is a very deep, rich, dark chocolate flavor that makes you feel extremely decadent as you devour every morsel. Now Mermaids Bakery has a shop in downtown Denver and you can bet I am going to make it there sooner than later. I will be trying the spice mix and the vanilla mix this weekend if time allows. And low and behold, these freeze very well too! But the best part is that I gave some to my gluten-loving, non-celiac friends (the final test) and they loved them and gobbled them up. Check out their website: http://www.mermaidsbakery.com. The photos alone will make you drool with longing.

I will keep you posted on the next flavors I make and I also have a recipe for a great yellow cake which I will post next time. More to come.....and remember to celebrate the little things in life.....like fantastic cupcakes from Mermaids Bakery........and no one will ever guess they are gluten-free!

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

The Fantastic Hy-Vee Stores

You all know how I periodically sing the praises of Hy-Vee and their endeavors to bring their customers the best choices in gluten-free products. Well, they are at again, folks! They are expanding their gluten-free items tremendously and I couldn't be happier! The store on 156th & Maple has polished up their new and improved area in their Health Market and some of their new items look very enticing. It is my understandint that most of the Hy-Vee stores are expanding their gluten-free offerings, but below is a list of new gluten-free items that I know are now at the 156th & Maple Store.

Against the Grain Gourmet Baguettes (frozen)
Schar Classic White Bread (frozen)
Udi's Vanilla, Cranberry, Original and Au Natural Granola (So far I like Udi's products!)
Bob's Red Mill Whole Grain Kasha
Back to Nature White Cheddar Crackers
Hodgson Mill Apple Cinnamon Muffin Mix
New Nut Thin Flavors - Barbeque and Hint of Salt
Schar Products:
Penne Pasta
Fusilli Pasta
Hazelnut Wafers
Vanilla Wafers (These intrigue me.....I could make Southern Banana Pudding with them)
Cocoa Wafers
Chocolate Dipped Wafers
Vanilla Sandwich Creams
Chocolate Sandwich Creams
Table Crackers
Bread Crumbs
These are just some of the new products and they have many more! Now I must be honest and tell you that I have not tried any of the products listed yet, but of course I will certainly make that a priority now. I have heard good things about Schar Brand Products and I love Udi's stuff, so we will see how it goes. You must go visit the Health Markets at the Hy-Vee Stores! They improve their inventory every time I visit one. Now the Hy-Vee at 132nd & Dodge is being remodled so that is kind of a mess right now, but when they are done it is going to be fantastic! Also, the Oakview Hy-Vee is moving or they may have moved already.........I will check on that....but it looks like it is going to be an awesome store.

The Hy-Vee at 156th & Maple is having another Sack Sale on May 21st through May 23rd, so this would be a good time to stock up! Last month I posted some other dates for Hy-Vee happenings so check them out.

I have been busy testing recipes for gluten-free cupcakes! Actually I am baking as I write this. I am seeking the best gluten-free cupcake ever, so if you have a suggestion, let me know. Stay tuned and I will have some reviews shortly!

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Mariposa Bakery & Kristy's Kitchen

Greetings and salutations! For two years I have lamented the loss of rye bread to my celiac diet. How can you have an inspiring reuben sandwich without it? (Truthfully, you cannot!) How can you have a ham and swiss on rye? (Again, you cannot! It is just not the same with gluten-free white bread.) Just too "white bready"......ugh! But send up a flare and alert the media kids, because Mariposa Bakery in Oakland now has rye bread! Now you probably know that celiacs cannot have "true" rye bread. However, much to my delight and amazement, Mariposa has worked their magic once again & created a very good "imposter" if you will, of rye bread. It comes in nice little round loaves and looks somewhat "artisian" to me. Ahhh, but the taste, that is what truly matters. And it strikes a home run! It is the lighter version of rye bread, not the deep dark kind, but it is pleasingly good and it tastes like rye bread!! It has excellent texture. It makes very satisfying toast and I made an awesome ham and swiss sandwich today for lunch! Woo-hoo, it was just what I had been craving. All I can say is; thank you Mariposa.......now I need to go find some good corned beef.

They also now offer a very nicely textured multi-grain bread. It is quite dense with lots of seeds and great nutty stuff. It reminds me of a lovely multi-grain bread I used to enjoy in my pre-celiac days. I would be remiss if I didn't point out that it comes with some actual nutritional value too! I love it straight out of the toaster with a generous dollup of butter (of course). I feel healthier when I eat this as opposed to say white rice bread. Sandwiches are also good and hearty with this bread. Remember, you can order this stuff on line. I really like this company and their attitude and I would love to pay them a visit in the future.

Now onward to Kristy's Kitchen. Kristy and Mike Johnson (lovely people, by the way), are from Tecamah and created gluten-free mixes after Kristy was diagnosed, hence Kristy's Kitchen was born! They seem to be doing very well, I must say! They offer various mixes from crackers to biscuits to scones. I had to take my time baking and reviewing their products because they offer so much that I had to really keep my waistline in check (alas, an ongoing hazard).

First I made their Gourmet Cherry Sour Cream Muffin Mix/Coffee Cake Mix. I made it into coffee cake. I loved the texture and the way the cake rose in the oven. It comes with a streusel topping to which I added 3/4 cup of pecans, because I put nuts in everything (nutrition, don't you know). I have to admit this coffee cake really surprised me. I think it is hard to find a good gluten-free mix but this turned out delicious. I would not hesitate to serve it to non-celiacs, of course never mentioning the lack of wheat........You need sour cream of course and it also called for some water. I always substitute buttermilk or cream when a mix calls for water. I just think the extra butterfat gives it more richness and depth. This is good stuff and it freezes very well. Hats off to you, Kristy and Mike.

Next I made their White Chocolate Raspberry scones. Now I consider myself somewhat of a "scone snob" or scone afficianado. Scones are either really good or rather dreary and boring. (Basically I haven't met that many scones that I didn't like, but they aren't all good). I am happy to report these are excellent and I was really surprised again at how good they were. They are not accompanied by any weird aftertaste that gluten-free baked goods sometimes come equipped with. They have a great flavor and the raspberry and white chocolate added a nice touch without overpowering the lovliness of the scone. There is a Devonshire Cream recipe on the package back that you should serve with these warm scones. It becomes a delicious, festive and somewhat decadent treat all at the same time. What more could you ask for??

I have also sampled their Artisian Graham Cracker Mix and had a lovely cheesecake that boasted a crust made from the graham crackers. I have heard (on good authority) that their Savory Thin & Crispy Cracker mix is quite good, but I have not made them yet. Soon, I will though, soon! And last but not least is Grandma's Sunday Best Baking Power Biscuits. Again I substitued buttermilk for the water it called for. I made an old fashioned strawberry shortcake with them and it was a home run. These mixes can be found at No Name Nutrition, Hy-Vee and Super Foods in Blair, just to name a few places. I think that it is a smashing idea to support local people who take the plunge and start their own business. Give them a try http://www.kristyskitchen.com

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Nature's Gluten-free Bounty

Spring has sprung, gardens are sprouting, flowers are peeking up out of the ground to greet the warm sunshine, and the great American past time of lawn mowing has officially begun!

Having said that, this blog cannot always be about bread and rolls and cakes and pies. Above all else, I want to promote a healthy balanced diet for all. So, lets talk about some of nature's bounty that is now available for our enjoyment. Fresh asparagus is in abundance now. I love to sprinkle it with some olive oil and sea salt and roast it in the oven.........magnificent! It still has some crunch and a wonderful flavor. It is also superb on the grill with the olive oil and sea salt. Remember how people used to prepare it by boiling it to death........ugh!

Lovely, Hawaiian pineapple are also in delicious abundance right now. Try putting fresh slices on the grill for a minute or two on each side and you have a surprisingly good, low calorie dessert.....very tasty! They also really jazz up any chicken and rice dish. If the you make the dish a little spicy, the pineapple adds an interesting contrast and makes chicken and rice more exotic. Personally, I also love to just indulge in pineapple fresh as is. I have a fantasy of sitting in a field of them in Hawaii eating until I fall over in a juice-laden stupor!

Strawberries are back in season in a big way (and I do mean big........some of them are huge this year)! While strawberries are great under any circumstance, try making a fresh salad of baby spinach and sliced strawberries with a balsamic vinegarette. Wonderfully satisfying and very unique in flavor. Also, strawberries smothering a bowl of vanilla bean ice cream comes to mind.....ahhh!! Strawberries smothering a slice of gluten-free angel food cake........then drenched in fresh whipped cream.......what was that I was saying about a healthy diet????

Lastly are my beloved champagne mangos. These are a slightly smaller version of the usual mango that we are accustomed to and are pale yellow in color. I find them at Whole Foods and they are very plentiful right now. I can't seem to get enough of them! They are sweeter than their counterparts and I could eat them until I sprouted a Carmen Miranda fruit adorned hat! You really need to give them a try! They are reasonably priced so they are good for your budget and loaded with nutrition.

As far as I am concerned, this is a great time of the year for Celiacs. Cherry, peach, and watermelon season can't be far away and let's remember that sweet corn and tomatoes deserve our attention later in the season. The more fresh wholesome food we eat, the more unlikely it is for us to get "glutenized". As we all know, meat that is not marinated when you buy it is gluten-free. So grilling becomes a delightful possibility with nary a hint of gluten to ruin your summer BBQ. Remember Cookies BBQ sauce is gluten-free! But always read labels for possible "injections" in meat.............sneaky, very sneaky!

A few announcements regarding Hy-Vee and their Health Markets........108th & Fort Hy-Vee....April 28th - 15% off Gluten-Free Health Market Sack Sale. May 25th Northwest Omaha Hy-Vee Gluten-Free Support Group meets at 79th & Cass St. Hy-Vee. Contact Karissa at 384-8668 to pre-register. (I believe it is 5:30 to 6:30 PM, but check with her.) May 26th - Gluten-Free Sample Fest - 3:00 PM to 6:00 PM at 108th & Fort Hy-Vee. May 26th - 15% off Gluten-Free Health Market Sack Sale, 108th & Forth Hy-Vee Only.
Council Bluffs Hy-Vee - Gluten-free Sack Sale on May 11th and a regular Health Market sack sale on May 20th.

Next blog I will finally talk about all the interesting mixes I have been making and sampling.....and making and sampling! I had to slow down my carb intake briefly though. I had visions of resembling the Pillsbury Dough Boy! Get outside and enjoy the weather..........you have been cooped up all winter! Linda

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Gluten-Free Menu Restaurants

I haven't been on-line lately because of a hideous virus on my computer. I believe it has been killed and I have survived to write again! I got some lovely bread in the mail today from Mariposa Bakery and I can't wait to try it and review it........more to follow!

Let's talk about several restaurants that boast gluten-free menus. First up is P. F. Changs. They recently expanded their gluten-free menu and it is just delightful! Now of course you all know how wonderful their lettuce wraps are, right?? Well, you could start with that, but then I am always too full to eat the main event! Frankly, if I were to order them that would have to be my entree.........sigh! I have tried several of their gluten-free offerings and have been pleased with all of them. Let's begin with one of my all time favorites........Philip's Better Lemon Chicken. It has a lovely, light dusting of corn starch (I am guessing) and it is paired with a magnificent citrus infused sauce. It is not too sweet, nor too lemony and has just enough tartness. It comes nicely paired with beautiful fresh broccoli. You can get brown rice with it, which I always do because it has a little more nutritional value than plain rice. The sauce is "just right" to me and you don't feel like you are weighed down by a heavy calorie laden meal. I also tried their Salmon Steamed with Ginger........ahh yes, it is light and airy and full of flavor! It comes with fresh asparagus, tiny little sweet tomatoes, bok choy, green onions and shitake mushrooms. It is a completely new take on salmon for me and I absolutely loved it! Very fresh and lively........a real winner! Now no review would be complete without discussing the Chocolate Dome Dessert............yes it is actually a small dome! This flourless glimpse of heaven is served with fresh berries and a dazzling raspberry sauce. One spoiler alert..........do not order this without plans of sharing it with at least 2 to 3 other people. It is so decadently rich and gooey, but there is no chance that after having a meal there that you could even begin to make this dessert disappear on your own. The richness of it will take you down..........trust me on this..........but what a way to go!!!

Now let's move on to Roja Mexican Grill. Ahhh, what a delicious journey across the border and the delights that await you are well worth the trip. First, if you are into margaritas this is the place to be. They have more brands of tequila that you can count and they are all cleverly displayed on the sparkly shelving in the bar. Their margaritas are top notch and they have such an array of choices you might want to stick with the original margarita out of sensory overload. Now let's talk about the important stuff.........the food. I had the Al Carbon tacos and they were magnificent. (I can't remember the last time I thought a taco was magnificent, but I assure you these are.) They are overflowing with a seared chicken breast, achiote, orange juice (yes, orange juice), red onion, fresh cilantro and cotija cheese. The gluten-free version is served on corn tortillas and they are not deep fried. They are an authentic version of a corn tortilla that is soft and tender and is just a perfect match with the filling........this gets a giant thumbs up with me! They have great gluten-free nachos and a Create Your Own Layer Dip that is interesting and fun to mix and match ingredients. Everytime I have eaten at Roja I am struck with the same thought.........the offerings are fresh and not the same run-of-the mill Mexican fare.

Last, but certainly not least is Ryan's Bistro. One of my favorite dining spots for many reasons. Ryan, offers a very pleasing gluten-free menu. I have waxed on rhapsodically in a different entry about how I am possibly addicted to his BBQ Chicken, Cheddar, and Bacon Pizza. It is just awe-inspiring in my book and you know how hard it is to find a good gluten-free pizza! He also has a Spinach Artichoke Pizza and a Steak & Mushroom Pizza. But Ryan also offers great gluten-free entrees that are very refreshing and exciting! His Salmon Pasta makes me want to dance around the restaurant in pure joy in appreciation of all the flavor it has. It is a grilled salmon over pasta with a lemon dill caper cream sauce that is just divine and so satisfying in a kind of "I can't believe this is gluten-free" way! He also has an awesome Cioppino......the lovely soup of clams, mussels, shrimp and scallops in a delicately but hearty tomato Miso broth. Now again we must talk dessert. My two favorite desserts of all time are Bananas Foster and Creme Brulee'. Ryan has Bananas Foster on his menu and it does not disappoint. Of course in true New Orleans Style, they make it right at your table complete with the infamous flaming show! But of course the taste is the true test and it passes with flying colors. And they also make a fresh strawberry version that is just as wonderful and satisfying.

These three restaurants all have their gluten-free menus online and I have only scratched the surface of the great items they offer!

Now there are many other restaurants in Omaha that offer gluten-free menus, but these are just a few and the list is growing daily. The fact that they have a gluten-free menu however, does not excuse you from deligently asking questions to make sure your server and chef know the "celiac do's and don'ts". The truth is, it is in their best interest to make sure you are not contaminated and that you have a pleasant experience and will be a repeat customer.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Gluten-free Slice of Heaven

I had heard rumblings for awhile about the gluten-free pizza at Pudgy's Pizza, but I had never made the trip to 168th & Harrison. (It isn't exactly in my neck of the woods.) But then I saw the spot on KETV about the place and I determined that I was long overdue for a visit......so I made the trip last night. Pudgy's is an unpretentious pizzeria in a strip mall on 168th & Harrison. This pizzeria emphasizes great food and a friendly atmosphere. First, I must mention that the owner, Phil Cerra is adorable and makes everyone in his place feel warm and welcome. He greets customers as if they are already a friend and he does so with a charming gusto. His enthusiasm is genuinely infectious. I must also admit that I admire Phil's tenacity in recognizing the fact that there is a need in Omaha for quality gluten-free offerings in restaurants here. A customer came in one day and asked about gluten-free pizza......and not only did Phil start offering it, he made a point of learning about celiac disease and the complications of cross-contamination. Now this would be an opportune time to suggest that more restaurant owners in Omaha take a page from Phil's book..............I'm just saying..........celiac numbers are growing at a very fast pace, and we are a group of consumers who will spend our money where we feel we are being given a fair shake and a variety of choices.

But let's get to the actual pizza. Phil offers Chicago style pizza, thin crust pizza and gluten-free pizza. My daughter ordered a small Chicago style pizza and it looked audaciously delicious. I think you could have served a small family that pizza but of course you can also take the leftovers home with you. My daughter concurred that the pizza was indeed as good and fulfilling as it looked! Now for my gluten-free pizza. I happen to be a big fan of thin crust pizza and as luck would have it the gluten-free pizza is a thin crust pizza. I ordered the 12" "the works" pizza and it did not disappoint. The crust was crisp and chewy, but not the least bit tough. (I must mention that these crusts are not frozen as in other pizzerias, these crusts are freshly made!) I am a bit of a crust snob when it comes to pizza, and this thoroughly satisfied me. It tasted like "regular" pizza! The toppings were just right and the sauce did not overpower the pie. In short, it was a gastronomical experience that I have not had since my diagnosis! They also offer gluten-free breadsticks, gluten-free cheese bread and gluten-free beer. Now think about that concept for a moment.........you can go to a pizzeria with friends and or family and enjoy pizza and beer with them at the same restaurant!! What a concept! This experience had me smiling from ear to ear and I know I will be back there soon to sample more of Phil's delightful menu.........no matter that he is not in my neighborhood........I will make the trip and you should as well as soon as you can get there! One more thing.........Phil jokingly told me that his wife hates it when celiac people eat his pizza and then want to hug him..........but alas, I could not resist, once my dinner was over and I had my take-out box well in hand, I found Phil and gave him a huge hug of thanks and appreciation..........my apologies to your wife Phil.......... but what a guy and what a pizza!!

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Everybody Eats Big Sale!!!

OK, this is newsworthy! Everybody Eats, who makes the best gluten-free products on the planet is having a one day sale. You have to call tomorrow and order and you get 30% off. You have got to order some of their products and this is the perfect opportunity. http://www.everybodyeats-inc.com/ Please see below. (These are the guys that make the awesome multi-grain bread!)

30% OFF EVERYTHING - Shipping and packaging not included
THURSDAY, APRIL 1st, 2010 (this is no joke)
9:00 AM to 5:00 PM ONLY (EST)

Call them.............you will be so happy that you did!!

Friday, March 26, 2010

Gluten-free snacks - the good and the not so good

Greetings to all and happy spring! I have been sampling some different gluten-free snack items this week and what follows is my take on them individually.

Bakery on Main - Nutty Cranberry Maple Granola - I have never been "over-the-moon" about granola, but I did occasionally indulge in it in my before celiac (BC) life. It has too many calories and too much sugar normally, but this one seems quite different. It has 13 grams of sugar per serving which is not over the top. It is loaded with pecans, almonds, flax seeds, sesame seeds, fruit juice, cranberries, and other good stuff. I like it alot! It is really good straight out of the bag when you need something with crunch and it is also good as a cereal with milk. However, I do prefer it just as is in the bag. I have found this at Hy-Vee and No Name Nutrition. It isn't terribly expensive and it fulfills a need for a few bites of crunchy delight when you need a quick lift. And it is so conveniently mobile.....you can take it anywhere. I give this item a thumbs-up.

Arrowhead Mills - Organic Maple Buckwheat Flakes Cereal - now I know many people who consider cereal a snack (me included) or strictly as a breakfast food. But whichever way you lean, I think this is a good healthy option. It has 33 grams of whole grain per serving and has buckwheat and grits in it. With only 5 grams of sugar it fits the bill for me. I like to put soy or almond milk on it and it really doesn't need any additional sweetener. And I am not racked with guilt when I have a small bowl for a light snack. I get this at Hy-Vee or No Name Nutrition as well.

Katz - Chocolate Chip Cookies - I hate to be the bearer of bad news but these cookies are just not good at all. They give gluten-free cookies a bad name and quite frankly there are plenty of gluten-free products floating around the universe giving gluten-free products a bad reputation, not to mention bad taste. So I don't think we need any more contenders in that area. They were dry and crumbly and basically had no redeming qualities. Don't waste your money and don't settle for "ho-hum" products.

Katz - Cinnamon Rugelach/Rugelech - For those of you who don't know, rugelach is a perfectly delightful, sinful pastry that you will find in many bakeries on the East Coast. It is quite wonderful and flaky and a real treat. Let me just say that this is not a real treat! It was extremely dry, stale tasting and not the least bit deserving of a second piece. This was a new box so it hadn't been opened, so I am not sure what the staleness was about but again, don't waste your money. As always, I think you get what you pay for.

Sahalie Snacks - Glazed almonds with cranberries, honey & sea salt - I had several friends try this with me to see if I was just jaded by inferior products. But we all agreed.....although it sounded healthy and tasty it was extremely mediocre and I would not purchase it again. There was just something totally "off" about it and I could not recommend this to anyone.....friend or foe. I was somewhat disappointed because I wanted to like the product...........but it just didn't happen.

This brings me to a point that I may have driven home before.........do not settle for products that don't taste good. There is a great deal of competition out there in the new world of gluten-free products being baked and manufactured. If you buy something and you think it isn't any good........tell the store, dietician, manager, whatever, that it was not good. Most of the people doing the purchasing don't try many of these products and consequently, they need to know so they don't keep ordering them. We need to be pro-active and insist on quality over quantity. To me there doesn't seem to be much point in having a large selection of product if a good percentage of it is not worthy of indulging in. The same can be said for restaurants. If you go to a restaurant and you are assured your food is gluten-free but.....saints preserve us.....in 2 hours your small intestine is telling you something completely different...........call the restaurant the next day and let them know what happened. They need to know these things! And they won't know if you don't tell them. Now go out there and enjoy life!! Later, Linda

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Gluten-free Nirvana

I received another box of baked items from the supremely & ultimately decandent gluten-free
Everybody Eats on Thursday. Since then I have been sampling with great joy the new products they sent me. Oh my, the bagels! If you have ever had "authentic" New York style bagels from New York.......you know the kind where they boil them first and then bake them? And they have that chewy familiarity that only a "real" bagel can offer? Well, low and behold and stop the presses..........they do exist in a gluten-free form now!! The minute I looked at these remarkable little jewels I knew they were different from the brands of gluten-free offerings I had sampled in the past. This may sound absurd but they have a "real bagel" look to them......some of you will know exactly what I am talking about, and the rest of you will have to take my word for it! Now I sliced mine and toasted it and then assaulted it with BOTH butter and cream cheese! (Yes, I know I am a hedonist but sometimes that is exactly what life calls for.) These bagels are so chewy and heavenly delightful! They are the kind of bagels you savor and eat slowly and while eating you are already thinking what you will top your next one with.........of course you won't have another one until tomorrow.........??? These bagels are real gems and if I was to rate them I would give them 5 stars (and a schmere of cream cheese, of course)!

Next I tried their white bread. Now let me just preface this by saying I have not been impressed with most of the gluten-free white bread that is out there.........pretty tasteless and dull. But this white bread is different. There is something about it and I can't exactly describe it precisely, but I know that I like it. One thing I love about this bakery is that they don't slice the bread for you. They send you a whole beautiful loaf just like I picture it emerging out of their magical ovens. I love that little touch, because I can slice the bread any thickness I like.........of course I lean toward thick slices, but sometimes only a thin slice will do. When I get a loaf I slice it in various thicknesses and freeze them in ziploc bags. Then when I need a couple of slices for a sandwich or toast or some creation, they are ready to be popped in the toaster or oven and turned into a significantly, glorious experience. I made toast with it yesterday for breakfast with butter and blackberry jam. It was a perfectly enjoyable breakfast........almost sinful. I think many people with celiac have become accustomed to mediocre products and so when we have something that is really outstanding we almost feel guilty............are we secretly eating gluten and don't realize it? Can something this good really be gluten-free? You know the drill.

And while we are on the subject of loaves of bread from a corner bakery in Brooklyn, their Multi-Grain, High Fiber bread deserves a second nod. This stuff is so good!! And now I know that it also contains 4 grams of fiber and 4 grams of protein in every slice!! I think that is some pretty awesome news. Most gluten-free bread is made with rice flour and is pretty much sans fiber or protein. Now this is a bread I can feel good about..........and do a little happy dance over, while I am at it!

Last but certainly not least is their banana bread loaf. I recently devoured a slice of it and I must say it was just amazing! Again the loaf comes whole so it is a good idea to slice it before you freeze it. I put a slice in the microwave and warmed for maybe 8 seconds and then slathered some butter on it. (Yes I can see your eyes rolling, but butter makes everything better!) It was warm and comforting, deliciousness that once again made me think of my childhood when you could smell banana bread baking in the oven and couldn't wait for your Mom to slice a piece of it for you to gobble down with a cold glass of milk! Now I am plotting other ways to serve these slices of paradise...........I am thinking banana nut french toast???? Little sandwiches made with cream cheese in the middle??? The mind boggles at the possibilities!

I must say one more time for the record........these guys are not paying me to wax on rhapsodically about their products. However, I can't seem to help myself. They have got this whole gluten-free baking process down to a science! Pure and simply they are what we have all been seeking for a very long time! Great taste and a quality product...............imagine that!

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Mixed Bag

First a couple of announcements. If your are a fan on FB of Blue Planet Natural Grill they are running a trivia contest this week online. They are asking 10 questions about their amazing grill and then the first person with the correct answer wins a $10 gift certificate to BPNG. I believe they are already on Question #5 today, so get on their FB site and go for it!! And while you are at it, go there as fast as you can and have something (or maybe a couple of things) from their outstanding and inspiring grill. The awesomeness of BPNG is superior and oh so fulfilling!! Yay!
Blue Planet Natural Grill

The Council Bluffs Hy-Vee (next to the Mall of the Bluffs), is having a gluten-free bag sale on March 25th. Any gluten-free products you can get in a paper bag will be 10% off. Now, as I have eluded to recently, we need to support Hy-Vee stores since they are so eager to order new products for us and are sincerely interested in providing quality food for celiacs and actually everyone for that matter! Did you know that you can get nutrition counseling and educational services at Hy-Vee Health Markets? Who knew?? You can even get your cholesterol checked for a mere pittance (try that at your doctor's office). What a great service they are providing the people of Omaha, Council Bluffs and actually Iowa, Nebraska, Kansas and Missouri!

Now this brings me to a subject that is near and dear to my heart. That is.......speaking out to stores and restaurants about getting QUALITY gluten-free products in their stores and restaurants. As consumers with a good deal of money to put back into the economy, retailers (be it restaurants or stores) need to recognize that more and more members of the population are turning to gluten-free eating for whatever reason, and therefore need to acknowledge that fact. We are a significant group of individuals and I for one have made it a practice not to spend my money in places that don't choose to recognize this growing number of consumers. We are more than worthy of the accommodations that are required for gluten-free living. Now this may seem unreasonable to some of you........you are not in the habit of making yourself heard or speaking up for things that you believe in. But I bring for your consideration the idea that if you don't speak up they don't know what you want and if you do speak up and they still don't accommodate you........shop and dine elsewhere......it is just that simple. At the very least speak out with your wallet and don't spend money at places that don't recognize your needs.

I am expecting another package of paradise from that outstanding GF bakery in Brooklyn:
Everybody Eats Of course the anticipation is again palpable and of course the review is to follow. I have asked several of the Hy-Vee stores in the area to carry some of their products and that would be an unbridled joy for me as a consumer and fan!! You may go on the Hy-Vee website, choose your store location, and request items from there as well.

Spring will be upon us soon and with that all the joys of outside living will again be a possibility! Make the best of your day and let me know if you come across something you would like me to mention or review. Cheers to you all, Linda

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

The Innovative Hy-Vee Stores

Now you may or may not be aware of this, but Hy-Vee Stores are a celiac's best friend. Their Health Market dietitians and managers are extremely knowledgeable about gluten-free eating and they are more than eager to help you with suggestions and choices. What a refreshing change of pace to go to a store that actually caters to us! And here is something else.....if you ask them to carry a product that they don't have they will do everything in their power to get that gluten-free item for you. Imagine that happening at some of the stores you may frequent now.......probably not! And they have pages and pages on their website that you may print of all the gluten-free items that are mingled throughout the store. It is also always available at the Health Market if you don't feel like lugging it around. I have reviewed many items on this site that can only be purchased at a Hy-Vee store and I will continue to do so. I also will try and keep you apprised of new products they get in, specials and celiac support group functions that they have. I'm telling you........these guys have their act together in a big way!

March 24th,(Wednesday) the 108th & Fort HyVee will have a 15% off gluten-free sack sale! You fill a brown paper bag with gluten-free items and you get 15% off for that day only. (Only Health Market Dept. items.) Also at the 108th & Fort Hy-Vee on March 25th,(Thursday) from 5:30 PM to 6:30 PM there will be a celiac disease support group meeting. You will have the opportunity to try new gluten-free items and discuss solutions to living with this disease. And of course it is free!! And don't forget we can start looking for gluten-free products from the heavenly
Olivia's Oven this summer. What a stroke of luck for us! Now as I recall last year I asked Bakers to start carrying a gluten-free product and they contacted me and told me that they could not help me with that. Now who do you think is going to get my hard earned money??? It is very heart warming to see that Hy-Vee recognizes the growing market of people that must or want to eat gluten-free and actually react positively. All I can say is YAY FOR HY-VEE!!

Alert for you readers......I am looking for recipes for gluten-free rye bread (or should I say "mock" rye bread). Please let me know if you have a good one! Thanks, Linda

Sunday, March 7, 2010

The Simple and the Sublime

Well, I dove into my newest shipment of goodies this weekend and what a pleasant experience it was!!

Olivia's Oven was started by a lovely woman named Carreen who has a daughter who was diagnosed at a very early age with celiac. She was not that impressed with the gluten-free options available (who could blame her) so she started her own gluten-free bakery. What she has created is a lovely selection of sans gluten products that you can order via the phone and she also supplies her products to HyVee stores in the Kansas City area. I have it on pretty good authority that the supplies to HyVee stores may expand to include our area some time this summer. Now that is some very good news! First I must talk about her incredible donut holes. Donut holes you say.........yes!! Once again we are in a territory that I no longer could visit. Now I never had a raging affinity for donuts in my old life, but I did occasionally enjoy a really good donut. But alas, as with so many things, donuts went on the "I will never have these again" list. But, that no longer seems to be the case. These donut holes are little nuggets of the most sublime, heavenly, enticing puffs of joy! Carreen gave me a tip and said to take a few out of the freezer and leave them in the refrigerator until you are ready to eat them. Oh my, there might be some mystical powers to these donut holes, I can't say for sure. But what I can say is you cannot eat just one (or two) and you cannot possibly stop thinking about them when you are not indulging in them. Even non-celiacs would love these.....of that I am certain. They are simply wonderful!

Next up is Carreen's cinnamon raisin bread. When I was a child my favorite thing for breakfast was cinnamon raisin toast. It was always a special treat since my Mom did not often buy cinnamon raisin loaves of bread. But the aroma of warm cinnamon toast in the morning was enough to make me exceedingly happy and appreciate the simplicity of the toast. This bread does not disappoint. Nice texture, light flavor (not too sweet) and nice sized slices! It seems live gluten-free bread is always so puny and kind of inferior looking. But this bread is lovely and a very welcome addition to my gluten-free life..........and oh, the intoxicating aroma!

Now to the pizza crusts. I have had them at a delightful little pizza place in Kansas City called Waldos. It was the first time I ever went into a real live restaurant and ordered pizza off the menu. My excitement was palatable. What a pleasurable meal that was. And now I have them in my freezer where they await my own special creation of toppings to make them unique and tasty. Carreen does a nice job with these crusts and I am very grateful for that.

Last but not least,is the sour dough bread. I was intrigued by the fact that she made such an item and so naturally I had to try it. Again, it is not puny slices of bread. Nice size slices and they make splendid toast. And quite amazing grilled cheese or grilled ham and cheese sandwiches. I was very happy with this bread. Good texture and it stands up well when used in a sandwich. (Which some gluten-free bread does not do.) I have got to say that Carreen makes very good, simple quality products. And I can't wait until they are available in our neck of the woods!

Side note.......I ate at Charlestons the other night and had a nice gluten-free experience there. They have a gluten-free menu that they don't really advertise or have online, but it does exist. Our waitress was very well versed in celiac since her Mother had it and the chef seemed very well informed as well. I had ordered the salmon but he knew it was marinated in soy sauce which of course has wheat in it. Because he knew that he kept me from a misguided mistake that I would have sorely regretted. Yep, I am continually delighted to see how gluten-free eating is starting to main-stream in Omaha eateries. And the more we speak up the more we will see out there. Safe eating, Linda
Waldos Pizza

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Managing Your Unglutenized Life

Managing your gluten-free life can be challenging, to say the least. It is not easy by any means, but it can be done. How often have you gone out with friends or family only to be staring frantically at a menu that seems only to offer food selections that have been either drug through flour, dipped in a floured batter, or smothered in a lovely flour-laden cream sauce? Then comes the anguish and anxiety of wishing you had stayed home and gnawed on raw carrot and celery sticks or something similar. You wonder if the wait staff will understand the precarious predicament you are facing, or will you be unintentionally glutenized and be tortured with an assault on your digestive system that literally reduces you to a "very special" kind of misery.

Take heart! You can have a social life and still not be accosted by gluten at every turn. The secret is to be very well informed. Via some unpleasant experiences, I can tell you that you need to research, read labels continually, and arm yourself with a myriad of information. Most restaurants now post their menus on-line and they also post their gluten-free menu (if one exists). Study them, print them, call and talk to the manager about options. Ask questions and don't be shy about it. The questions should be precise because vagueness is not an option with a celiac. Spontaneity is definitely more demanding, but you can do it if you do your homework. You can't depend on others to do it for you. So keep all your print-outs for reference.

Now I have wonderful friends that I adore and whenever we decide to get together, they always ask me; "where can you eat"? I usually name 4 or 5 options that I know are non-gluten friendly and we go from there. Another caution.....be aware that the most unlikely foods can have gluten in them. I have been told at restaurants that there is wheat in their sour cream (really??? Is that technically even sour cream?) I have been told to leave black olives off a salad because they have wheat in them (again....what???). However ridiculous this seems, it has kept me from making some misguided choices. Back to reading labels........once I didn't take my own advice and started taking a supplement. I felt really bad and had that "glutenized black cloud" following me. I finally checked the label (duh!) and there was wheat in it!!! My point is to be careful and make yourself aware, it literally is in everything!

One more thing on the eating out with friends issue........if your friends don't take your health issues into consideration when picking a restaurant.........you might want to get new friends....I'm just saying.......

I ran across a new product at HyVee in the frozen food section of their Health Mart. It is Kettle Cuisine Chicken Noodle Soup (gluten-free, of course). I must admit I was slightly leery and bought it on impulse. (I am not a big fan of prepared frozen food.) But I was very pleasantly surprised by how good it was. It had a lovely flavorful broth, chucks of white meat chicken, slices of carrots and celery and very nice noodles (not mushy). I would definitely buy it again. It is always nice to have something around that you can fix in a pinch. This company is another example of someone starting a business because of family members with celiac.

I just got a great shipment of products from a gluten-free bakery in Kansas City. More on that in a few days after I sample everything. Looks really good so far. Cheers! Linda

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Unglutenized Bliss!!

OK, fasten your seat belts because this is really good!! Yesterday I received an incredible box of wonderment from Everybody Eats. Oh be still my heart!! I felt like I was opening a Christmas present and what I found inside was just this side of heaven! Bruce and Pedro the owners of Everybody Eats, told me that their products were delicious and they were not wrong! Let's start with the cinnamon sticky buns.....I have lamented for two years now over the loss of that delicacy and had bid them a fond farewell. No longer! These buns are bursting with gooey sweetness, cinnamon lovliness and a delicate, buttery roll that makes you cry for your mama......I'm not kidding. I fear I could easily become addicted to them. I have tried other gluten-free cinnamon rolls and they can't begin to compare to these!! I don't know how they work their magic, but sign me up for more! Next we have their French Baguettes. Yes, you heard me....French Baguettes!!!! Again something else I had bid a fond farewell to after my diagnosis........and believe me I was particularly fond of baguettes. Well, can I just say that their baguettes are beyond all expectations! Oui, oui, magnifique!! I warmed it in the oven and it was crunchy on the outside and fluffy and wonderful on the inside........add butter and you have the most enjoyable experience.......oh my!! Can this really be true.........there are real bread products that exist that are gluten-free and just phenomenal?? Apparently so.

Next up is their multi-grain, high-fiber bread. Yep, kids multi-grain and high fiber.......something else that I gave up on. I sliced several nice slices of it this morning and made the most unbelieveable toast. It was fantastic! It tasted like a beautiful slice of gluten-laden bread to me. Just devine and so satisfying! Bruce, you were right about the tapioca-cheese loaf........I threw it out........blech!!! And now as if I hadn't eaten enough in the last 24 hours, I made myself a big, piled high sandwich with their deli rolls. Yes, deli rolls! All I can tell you is I enjoyed a REAL SANDWICH, with real bread. How do these two make such mystical bread products? I don't know and frankly I don't care....... I just want them to keep doing it! Oh, and also while I was opening the box of goodies last night I devoured one of their chocolate chip cookies in record time. Reminded me of the ones my Mother used to make which, of course I can no longer eat.

Bread - the staff of life, the bane of a celiac's existence. A constant reminder of what we miss and love and can't have. But, alas there is hope. And it is resides in a bakery in Brooklyn that makes most of the gluten-free bread products out there look like pastey, cardboard imitations. What else can I say......go to their website and order something........anything, just do it!! In the meantime I am going to figure out how to get a U-haul truck to Brooklyn and load up on this beyond belief food! Bruce and Pedro, you are outstanding and if I could I would hug you! Seriously, you have to order something now!! Happy eating, Linda

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Our Unglutenized World

Picture this.......you walk into any restaurant in Omaha...fast food, family, or elegant and you order anything off the menu without giving it a thought! Sigh....OK, now come back to reality. Even though that is not close to happening, we do have more choices here in Omaha than we did a few years ago. Restaurants are getting more saavy and realize they need to fill a void for people with celiac. I read a statistic today that indicated that 97% of the people with celiac go undiagnosed! Considering the complications that can ensue that is extremely disturbing! So, we need to be more assertive in asking restaurants for their help. And of course we know that doctors need to be more concious of testing for celiac when their patients present with symptoms.

One restaurant in Omaha that is leading the way to gluten-free eating is Blue Planet on 63rd and Center. Now if it bothers you to order your own food you need to adjust your attitude because it is worth it. They do deliver your food to your table so there is that. The first time I went there with my sister I felt like I had gotten a free pass to Disneyland! We had choices and we had a lot of choices. Hamburgers......with real buns. Not tasteless, cardboard buns, but REAL buns! My personal favorite is the California burger. It has bacon, cheese and fresh avocado. The bun is similar to a wheat bun and it is simply fantastic! It tastes like real food......yes, REAL FOOD! They serve a sweet potato fry (it is actually baked and delicious) with a sprinkle of cinnamon.....devine! They have very unique choices for their gluten-free pizzas and they have some interesting rice bowls. And desserts........well they have macaroons that make you want to dance on your hat! Lovely mounds of a moist flavorful cookie that just happens to have the bottom dipped in chocolate! Sweet!! They also have different flavors of dessert bars and they are all moist and delicious. I love this place and you feel so "safe" gluten wise that it is a very enjoyable experience. It is very reasonably priced and you can get it to go too! If you don't live very close to the location......make the trip anyway....it is so worth it! Check out their website:www.blueplanetnaturalgrilll.com.

I am waiting for some products to come from several mail order retailers. Stay tuned for some reviews. There are some really good products out there you just have to take the time to find them. Keep smiling, Linda

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Some new products

I'm sure everyone has certain food items that they miss since having to go gluten-free, but there seems to be more and more products on the scene to help us with that longing. First up: I have found a frozen cheese ravioli that is amazingly good and quite similiar to it's gluten-laden counterpart. It is made by a company called Conte's Pasta. They headquarter out of New Jersey. This is the only item of their's I have found so far, but I am checking their website out to see what else they make. I found this product in the Health Market frozen food section of HyVee on 156th and Maple. It is just fantastic and I highly recommend it. It is lovely little pasta puffs filled with creamy ricotta cheese and parsley.......so wonderful! Their website is: www.contespasta.com.

Next, via a recommendation of the dietician at HyVee I tried an angel food cake mix by The Twisted Bakery. Now I have always loved angel food cake and had reluctantly put that on my list of things I will never eat again. However, this is pretty good stuff. It comes with 3 packets in the mix and you have to use almost a dozen egg whites with it. Now it is not as high in height as a regular angel food cake, but the flavor is very nice....hint of almond, and it is surprisingly good. Plus it will freeze well. Which we all know is a pretty good characteristic of gluten-free foods. They also have a website: www.qualityglutenfree.com. If you are a lover of angel food cake, I think you will like this one.

Lastly, but certainly not least, let's talk about Kinnikinnick brands. My personal favorite of their products is their New York Style Bagels. Now I always toast them because I just think they are much improved with toasting and of course my favorite way to eat them is with a nice smattering of cream cheese. They are also very good toasted and buttered and I have even used them to make a sandwich. I also use their frozen hamburger buns occasionally but normally I just eat a burger with no bun. But, sometimes that will just not do! I also toast them a bit since they can become a little "gooey" when you put a hot hamburger on them. As far as their breads go, the only one I like is the tapioca cheese bread.......again, makes pretty good toast. They also have a white cake mix that is pretty good, but I think it could use some "doctoring up" which I will try someday soon. It continues to be my experience that many gluten-free mixes are much improved with your own particular tweaks! Cheers, Linda

Sunday, January 31, 2010

Random Stuff

First, let's talk about pancake mixes. Now we all know there a lot of them out there in the universe of gluten-free options. My favorite far and away is Pamela's Baking and Pancake Mix. It makes the most heavenly pancakes and waffles. And here is a tip if you want extra incredibly, stupendous pancakes.....instead of 3/4 of a cup of water, add 3/4 of a cup of whipping cream (not whipped). The pancakes are so creamy and good you would swear that you were revisiting your life before celiac disease. I have visions of the pancakes my Mom used to make on cold mornings. She would give each of us a fluffy stack of deliciousness that was not to be taken lightly. And so it is again for me......as far as I am concerned, Pamela's mix is outstanding in it's field! Try and see if you don't agree.

Next, lets talk about the Betty Crocker gluten-free mixes that came out last year. First, the brownie mix. I think it is quite tasty. I always add a cup of chopped walnuts (sometimes 1 & 1/2 cups.......yeah, I love nuts), and I always frost them with Duncan Hines milk chocolate frosting......to die for! I brought them to a function and never said a word about them being gluten-free. One of the guests commented on the fact that they tasted just like her Grandmother's brownies. I was quite pleased with that comment and I never told her any differently. Now about the chocolate chip cookie mix........not so good (as is). But, as I have found with most gluten-free mixes you need to add more to them to give them the zip that they almost always need. I follow the directions on the package, but then I add to it 1 cup of peanut butter, 1 cup of walnuts, 1 additional egg, 2 more tablespoons of butter, and 1/2 to 3/4 cup of plain M&Ms. The cookies are wonderful jewels of sweetness when they are done and they have substance and are not dry and blah! Just in case they aren't sweet enough, I drizzle some melted white chocolate over them or milk chocolate. I gave these as gifts this Christmas in my cookie tins and people loved them and again.....no mention of the gluten-free factor to them. I will talk about the Betty Crocker cake mixes next time.

A note about Applebee's: They cannot accommodate celiacs very easily. I am pretty sure that most all of their meats are injected with gluten of some kind and of course almost everything they have on their menu is dipped or fried in some type of wheat product. Their wait staff knows very little about our issues. The only safe things I have found on the menu are the sides of broccoli, baked potatoes and a hamburger patty that you must insist has no seasoning or additives. Not much of a selection for us. Perhaps if we start complaining to them they may have a change of heart, but I wouldn't count on it.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Mail Orders

OK, when living a gluten-free life sometimes you just want to go on line and order something new and exciting and wait with guarded anticipation for it to be magically delivered to your door. Now I have tried several places and one place that I HIGHLY recommend is Mariposa Baking out of Oakland, California. They have a lovely website and oh my do they have some wonderful products. And if that isn't enough sweetness, they are not very expensive and their products always arrive fresh and delicious. Let's look at several of their delights. First, they have these amazing coconut lemon squares...........oh just amazing! They are bursting with flavor and one square is just enough to satisfy you.......at least for a little while until the craving overtakes you and you need another one. Next they have an amazing little coffecake (when I say little I mean little....just enough for two people - or one if you want it all to yourself), I warmed it up and it was devine! (and you might want to throw caution to the wind and put a touch of butter on it too)....couldn't hurt. It has great texture and you feel like you are indulging in something very sinful but so nice! A very special treat. Next are their amazing bagels.......oh my, they are so good and they are big! I have bought gluten-free bagels before that are more akin to a small hockey puck than a bagel. These are a totally different story and just heaven. Again you will think you are eating something that you shouldn't be...but alas it is OK! Another one of my favorites in their biscotti. Crisp, full of flavor and just the right amount of crunchy delighfulness. Now these people have not paid me to say this (however I am quoted on their site for their heavenly creations) but I volunteered the comments after devouring all of their products. But don't take my word for it. Go out on a limb and order something off their site and see if you don't think I am right. We all deserve a little treat now and again. Like all gluten-free products, you should keep what you don't eat right away in the freezer. www.mariposabaking.com (You won't be sorry!)

Post note.....The other day I mentioned I was trying Udi's gluten-free frozen pizza crusts. I finally created the pizza and I must say it is by far and away the best gluten-free pizza crust I have tried to date. Nice and thin and crispy the way I like it. Yay!!! I must say I am pretty impressed with these Udi's products. They also have a site: www.udisfood.com. You can order online and I believe I mentioned that their products are starting to turn up at HyVee. Keep smiling, Linda

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Let's talk about gluten-free pizza!

OK, if you are not a newbie to the gluten-free life you know that pizza is not exactly high on the list of your favorite foods any longer. Gluten-free pizza is usually tasteless, doughy, and just plain blah! I think I have tried every frozen pizza dough out there and every time I get my hopes up, come home and create a masterpiece (only in my mind of course)I am always disappointed. I don't know, maybe I expect too much from a gluten-free pizza crust? There is a frozen pizza that some HyVee stores carry and it is not half bad. The crust is made out of cheese believe it or not and it already has sauce and toppings on it. A man in Iowa makes these and ships them to different HyVee stores. Now when I do buy one of these which is not very often, I always "doctor" it up with more toppings, gooey cheese, etc. My biggest complaint is that the pizza is extremely salty. I mean really salty and I definitely have a problem with too much sodium. But it is not bad in a pinch and of course it is totally gluten-free!

Now going out to a restaurant for a pizza, that is another story. I understand that Godfather's gluten-free pizza is not good. But I can tell you about one that is absolutely wonderful. Ryan's Bistro on about 176th and West Center Road has pizza that will make you swoon with enjoyment! They use a very thin crust and it is crispy, thin and delicious! Their different toppings are also wonderful and I highly recommend the BBQ, chicken, bacon, cheddar pizza. It is a small glimpse of heaven in an otherwise lack luster offering of gluten-free pizza. Now, I am going to try Pudgy's Pizza soon, and the pizza at Blue Planet is also great........more about the Blue Planet later. But I seem to be obsessed with the pizza at Ryan's Bistro....I crave it if I don't have it every so often. I think it has something to do with the fact that I went so long without pizza thinking I would rather not have any pizza than a bad one. Check it out and let me know what you think and if you have any pizza recommendations.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Issues with not so good bread

So, you are gluten free and you have tried several or many of the frozen gluten-free bread products and you are still coming up unsatisfied. Let's face one big truth about gluten-free eating. Bread products have come a long way, but they still don't taste like gluten laden bread, so you may have to adjust your taste just a bit. There is a slight difference in taste and I am assuming that there always will be. But, all whining aside there are some good products out there. A new bread product that HyVee is carrying in their Health Market frozen food section is Udi's products. Their frozen muffins are wonderful........the closest thing I have found yet to "real" muffins. I keep them in the freezer and heat them up in the oven when I want to indulge in one. They are nice big muffins and the texture if delightful. They also make a frozen whole grain bread that I think makes excellent toast. I think we all know that you have to keep frozen gluten-free bread frozen and just pull out what you need as you need it. Gluten-free bread does not have a great shelf life nor does it do so well without being toasted. But this bread is pretty good. I have not tried their sandwich loaf yet, but I have their frozen pizza crusts in the freezer as we speak and I am planning on making a pizza tomorrow so I will post the results. What drew me to it was the fact that the crust is thin.......I don't think that there is anything worse than a thick, frozen, gluten-free pizza crust.......ugh! Not good!! So hope springs eternal with this one awaiting to be created. I have yet to see Udi's products anywhere yet but HyVee Stores. My quest for good gluten-free bread products seems to be never ending and I am happy to see new products that seem to outshine some of the old stuff. I believe I would rather just go without bread that eat bad gluten-free bread.......not worth the calories or the "blah" of it all. Stay tuned all you celiacs........later.

Monday, January 18, 2010

The land mine of gluten free eating

For those of you with celiac disease, eating out can be akin to roller skating through a mine field. My hope is that I can let you know of restaurants in Omaha that are saavy about celiac disease and know how to prepare food that is not contaminated. Those of you who are extremely sensitive know the dread you feel after eating a meal out that you have been assured is gluten- free only to have your whole body indicate otherwise within a short amount of time. And then there are the helpful waitstaff who assure you they know what you are talking about when you mention wheat-free eating and that don't really have a clue.........again glutenized and miserable for several days thereafter. Next post I will talk about a good restaurant in Omaha offering gluten-free alternatives. But my first recommendation is this: ask to talk to the manager of the restaurant.........you will have much better luck right out of the gate!

And the other issue is gluten- free products........some good, some mediocre and some positively awful. I will try and steer people clear of really awful products and focus on the good stuff! Now I love to cook, but I don't have a lot of time and now that I have to eat gluten-free I am not very interested in recipes that require you to purchase 3 or 4 different flours in order to make a loaf of bread.....or a batch of muffins....not me..........too expensive and not enough time. I have found a gluten-free all-purpose flour that I really like. You can use it cup for cup in any recipe that calls for regular flour........and that to me is fantastic!! The product is: Beth's Gluten-free All-purpose Flour by Gluten-Free Pantry. It comes in 16 oz. packages which probably is only a little over 2 cups but it is a very good product and it is not overly expensive. You can find it at Baker's and most HyVees in Omaha. I believe you can order on line in larger quantities. Give it a try and see what you think!