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 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

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 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 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 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 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 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 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 apologies to your wife Phil.......... but what a guy and what a pizza!!