Monday, December 22, 2014

Christmas trip meal ideas

We almost always have to travel for the two major holidays at the end of the year.  While we enjoy being with family, dealing with the stress of having to take enough food to cover all your needs in a non gluten-free house is not always welcome.  What works well for me is to do almost all my holiday cooking before I ever hit the road.  Below is what's 'on the menu' for me in a few weeks.

Christmas eve dinner: gluten-free lasagna, Italian side salad and garlic bread.  I make a small batch (that offers two nice sized servings for me) ahead of time and freeze it.  If I'm in a generous mood after I'm good and full, I'll give the left overs to the husband.

Christmas morning breakfast:  Pancetta and Gruyere cheese egg casserole and pumpkin muffins.   Again, I make two servings ahead of time and freeze.  When I get where I'm going, I put previously frozen items in the fridge and they're ready to heat up by the time I need to eat them.

Christmas dinner:  turkey (no gravy as I don't care for any type of gravy with or without gluten in it), cornbread dressing, green bean casserole (homemade onion rings last for two weeks in air tight container), sweet potato casserole, whole berry cranberry sauce (from a can) and last, but certainly not least, pecan pie!

To make sure my food stays gluten-free from cooler to table, I make sure and follow my own protocol to prevent cross contamination.  These tips work well any time of year.

  • Take your own butter in a labeled container so no one puts their crumb laden knife it it. 
  • Take mini foil sheets (I get them at Dollar Tree) to line pans and racks in oven or toaster ovens when heating bread, muffins, etc. 
  • Take small packs of snacks and sweet stuff so you don't feel deprived having to pass on a dozen gluten-filled desserts. 
  • Don't apologize for the fact that you can't indulge in Aunt Amy's cake or pie or dressing.  Doing so implies that you have a choice in the matter - if you're gluten-free because you can't eat gluten that's far from true.
  • Don't feel bad if you can't share your expensive gluten-free food (like donuts, cheese straws, cookies or pie) with others.  If they're not sharing with you (because they don't have gluten-free foods to share), you don't owe them anything. 
  • Do enjoy the holiday and all your fabulous gluten-free food!     

  Happy Holidays Y'all!!

Monday, December 15, 2014

We interrupt this blog....

OK - some of you have noticed that I'm now posting on this website regularly after a VERY long hiatus in 2013.  Even though the reason for this has nothing to do with the gluten-free world, I decided to share some info about an off topic subject (real estate) in case it helps someone else down the road.

We lived in Gwinnett County for over 18 years and for the most part, it was fine.  And then one day, it wasn't.  Without going into detail, let's just say the time came when we had to move so we did.  And moving out of Gwinnett was by far, the best decision we've made regarding real estate.

But this post is not about that area - it's about how real estate agents will take advantage of you if you let them.  We interviewed five agents in all (2 via phone only and 3 in person) before deciding to work with a neighbor who had less experience than anyone else we talked to.  And that turned out to be a VERY good decision as well.

One agent who was clearly very successful wanted us to sign a 6 month sales agreement and pay a fee if we broke it.... I didn't want buyers (strangers) invading my house for a month so anything over three months was totally out of the question.  NEXT!

Another agent walked into our house and asked if our on-site stained REAL hardwood floors (that people could not believe the gorgeous condition of) were real....AND low balled the proposed sales price by over $20K.  She'd listed our house as a 4BR (in a proposal) when I'd explained in writing, on the phone and via email that our house was a 5BR house and that's the way that Wieland built it.  Somewhere along the way someone mislabeled it as having 4BR years ago and well, you know what they say.  You can't kill bad info on the web.  NEXT!

Another agent (that I only spoke to on the phone) tried to convince me that the finishes in my house (from the hardwood color to counters to cabinets to tile) were all wrong and unfortunately, my house was not worth nearly what I thought it might be.  NEXT!

We ended up working with a neighbor, literally, who dabbled in real estate on the side.  That's right.  We chose that route over giving the other pushy, seemingly scare monger realtors a dime of commission.  Below is what happened next - I still at times have a hard time believing it all turned out this way.  But in fact, it did.

Home gets listed on the market late - around 2:30 pm instead of the 9 am scheduled time.  Someone doing the listing for the broker was sick...blah blah.  Before 3:30 pm, we had our first showing - for 6:30 that evening.  It was freezing cold and raining on a Friday night in February...we went out to dinner and returned home to find every single light in the house on.  The next morning, I had an email from our agent - an offer had come in at 9:00 pm the night before.  Let's see...that's less than 7 hours after the listing was posted.  Not bad....at all!

The offer was less than our asking price so we didn't reply.  We had 10 days to do so - so why rush?  Later that day, we got another showing set up for the following morning.  We went out to breakfast and after the second showing we never heard zip from that agent.  Then something remarkable happened.  The people that made the first offer must have been concerned that we were getting a better offer so they came back and upped their offer without us throwing out a counter to them.  Can you imagine???  It's was seriously crazy - but in a fabulous way!

So, we signed a sales agreement less than three days after the house hit the market.  The only problem was we had nothing to move into.  We ended up renting our house back from the buyer for just over three weeks (for less than our old mortgage).  By the time we had to move out, we still had not found a house we wanted to buy.  And so we moved into a rental home and continued our search.

In the end, we found a house that's just right for us (if a little larger then we need) in a much better area for gluten-free dining, shopping and living.  The reason I thought it was important to share our experience is simply because I think way too many people trust realtors when the truth is that MANY realtors will take advantage of sellers if given half a chance.

Please note I'm only speaking of realtors in our area as we've only bought and sold houses here.  Something similar to our recent transaction also happened on our first home sale years ago.  Don't let people convince you of something that is not true unless you don't mind losing a LOT of money in real estate deals.

Monday, December 8, 2014

The holidays are here...ho hum....

Most of the time, I really don't think it's that difficult to be gluten-free.  Seriously - I don't.  That's probably because I live in an area where there are very few things I can't find delicious versions of (think donuts, bagels, cookies, pie crusts, crackers, cakes, cheese straws, cinnamon buns and much more!).  And I can't possibly find time to dine out at every place that offers exceptional tasting (and safe!) gluten-free meals around here.

But when the holidays roll around, I often find myself feeling irritated in a way I don't feel good about.  I tell myself it's only one meal I have to deal with making all my own food for.  Since I have two other gluten-free family members, only the events with people other than my family are somewhat challenging.  Still, it's only one meal for the whole year - how hard can it be?  Well OK....it's actually three meals if you count Christmas Eve and Christmas morning....  Oh yeah - that is annoying.

If you've been gluten-free for a while, you might be wondering if I don't understand that my gluten-free-free dressing, green been casserole (with homemade fried onion rings), sweet potato casserole and pecan pie are as good as any gluten containing version of those dishes are.  I do know that, of course.  However, many people who are not gluten-free are afraid of gluten-free food.  Therefore, mentioning a small change of ingredients in a family recipe during the holidays is not always a good idea.

I've personally found it's usually best to make/take your own food, don't share if you don't feel inclined to, and call it a day.  This way, you're not upset, sad or annoyed that you can't have any 'fill in your fave holiday dish here' during the holiday meal.  And that makes for a much nicer holiday for you and those around you.

What's interesting to me is that people who have no dietary restrictions or allergies have no idea what it's like to go without foods everyone else is enjoying.  They don't have any idea how it feels when others act as if it's not an issue.  Oh wait...it isn't an issue....for THEM.  It's our issue and it will always be that way.  And that is why it's beyond wonderful to enjoy holidays with other gluten-free people in your own family.  At least that way, you'll hopefully have one holiday meal where you don't have to make all your own food.  And that is an absolutely beautiful - not to mention delicious - thing!

Happy Holidays!      





       

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Gluten-free fruit cake anyone?!

Forget everything you think you know about fruit cake - with or without gluten in it.  If you're a fan of really good fruitcake and can't eat gluten, I've got great news for you!  You can order an absolutely fabulous gluten-free fruit cake from American Gra-Frutti even if you can't buy one in person at their Roswell, GA bakery.  Check out all the great product options here.  Get your order in soon to make sure you get it in time for Christmas!

While you're at it, you might want to order some killer cheese straws (regular or spicy!) if you can do dairy.  Those are available from Marilyn's Gluten-Free which is a line within the American Gra-Frutti brand.  Those straws are over-the-top fantabulous!

If you're lucky enough to be able to buy the Peachtree Pimento cheese spread from this line, be sure to stock up for the holidays!  Whole Foods seems to run out around this time of year because they don't get that they need to order more to stock up for the holidays.  That stuff is great on bread, crackers and celery sticks  - and it makes killer cheese grits!

ENJOY!

Monday, December 1, 2014

Delight's new cookbook!

Full disclosure here - I work with the great team at Delight Gluten-Free Magazine.  But even if I didn't, I would be amazed by this gorgeous cookbook!  It has pretty much everything you'd be looking for in a cookbook - fabulous recipes for everything from starters to entrees to snacks to desserts.  They just all happen to be deliciously gluten-free!

Just looking at the beautiful photos has me drooling and hankering to get into the kitchen to create some magic.  So far, these are the recipes (from The Delight Gluten-Free Cookbook) that I'm looking forward to making soon:


  • Cheesy Leek Risotto
  • Lemon Lime Bars
  • S'mores Cupcakes
  • Mango Crab Cakes with cilantro lime dipping sauce
  • Lemon Coconut Cake with ginger icing 
  • Zesty Corn Fritters
  • Alfredo Popcorn


If you're in the mood to bake your own bread, rolls, pizza crust - you name it - it's in this cookbook.  I'm just not that into baking bread since I can buy so many types from the fab gluten-free bakeries in the Metro Atlanta area.

This is a terrific holiday gift for the gluten-free cook in your life - or of course - for yourself!





*Special thanks to Delight's Editor, Vanessa Weisbrod, for her dedication to living life deliciously gluten-free every day.  And for helping me relish in doing the same!
      

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Pillsbury chocolate chip muffins - mmm mmm delish!

So far I haven't seen these tasty muffins anywhere in the ATL, but if you like chocolate chip muffins, these are definitely worth finding and stocking up on!  We first tried them at Expo West in 2013 and enjoyed them again at Expo West this year.  There are two flavors - blueberry and chocolate chip and I'm addicted to the latter one.  What I love about them is the fact that they are CHOCK full of chocolate chips!

Both Publix and Kroger stores carry the Pillsbury gluten-free doughs, but so far neither seems to have the fabulous muffins.  So if you want to try these super convenient, individually wrapped muffins for yourself - ask your store to bring them in.

If you take a muffin out of the freezer and throw it in your handbag or kid's lunch, it will be ready to eat for your mid-morning snack or by lunch at school.  I tend to use a little butter on the muffins when I'm at home, but I just eat them plain if I'm eating on the go.

These muffins are perfect when traveling to the in-laws who may or may not have anything special for you in the kitchen.  Just pack them in a cooler bag with an ice pouch and leave them on the counter overnight.  The next morning you'll have a tasty gluten-free muffin you can eat as is or heated in the toaster oven or microwave.

What is really amazing is that the company has created some amazing recipes using the muffins - you won't believe how great they are!  Check them out here.  Even though the weather is finally turning cooler here, I might have to make an ice cream pie or no-bake peanut butter pie with these amazing muffins!          

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Serpas - a gluten-free review

From time to time we go to pricey restaurants that offer no special gluten-free items like bread or pasta or even crackers.  At the end of the day, really amazing food can be found without the presence of specialty replacement foods.  The last place we checked out was Serpas downtown and it was totally AMAZING!

Since we were going on a Saturday night (this is a risky move that I don't suggest others do), I called ahead to discuss my gluten-free needs in detail.  As I always do at new places now, I made it clear I was NOT a trendy diet follower.  The conversation went well and I was much less apprehensive about the meal upon hanging up the phone.

Our party of five arrived at 6 pm sharp and the place was already hopping. We're used to early dinner crowds in the burbs, but were not expecting this in the hip Old Fourth Ward area downtown.  Our server asked who at the table was in need of gluten-free selections and delivered a clearly marked up menu which noted what I could and could not have.  Almost every entree offered that night was naturally gluten-free!

It was a tough decision as there were more than enough options, but I finally chose the grilled (to perfection) pork chop over (incredible creamy) grits - and the grilled peach arugula salad.  Everything was simply delectable.  I left thinking it was a shame the place was so far off our regular beaten path for us.  I also left feeling full, but not overly so.  And so very satisfied....I'm pretty sure I've never had a better pork chop anywhere!  If I had one slight criticism it would be that there was nothing worth having (to me) for dessert.  But at least that evening, I didn't miss an after dinner treat at all ;)
     

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Take away from Whole 30 (Part 3 of 3)

While I'm glad I did the Whole 30 challenge, I am back to only avoiding gluten now.  I decided to take some good habits from the 30 days into the future.  I try to get a lot of protein (and less carbs) in at breakfast though I've been doing that for a while.  Muffins and pancakes and yummy things like that tend to be weekend treats instead of weekday staples.  It's true what they say "eating a healthy breakfast leads to healthy eating the rest of the day".

Since I'd already started the practice of not eating several hours before bedtime, that wasn't a new change after the challenge, but I'm being more strict about that one now.  Eating within a few hours of bedtime can impede a good night's sleep.

When I read labels in the past, I paid attention to soy and if a soy-free option was available for an item, I'd buy it even if it costs more than the version with soy in it.  The exception is that I love soy sauce and I still enjoy it in moderation.  My fave brand of gluten-free soy sauce is San-J.

The fact that I did not find adhering to the Whole 30 plan very difficult and didn't hit all the suggested bumps - or phases - suggested on the Whole 30 timeline leads me to conclude that I must have been on a pretty good track to start with.  We spend a lot of money on our food aside from the cost of replacement items like bread, buns and crackers.  Grass fed beef and good quality chicken and seafood are very expensive, but we feel the cost is well worth it.

Due to a trip two days after my Whole 30 was finished, I pretty much delved back into eating both sugar, dairy and legumes right away.  I'm using much less sugar in my coffee and am off agave now.  I'm paying attention to both gluten and sugar on labels and if there is a sugar free option for a product, I will choose it over the one with sugar in it.  Why is there sugar in frozen cauliflower steamers anyway?!!!

Even thought it's not meant to be a weight lost diet, I dropped some lb's on the Whole 30 and I would have been shocked if I hadn't.  Not eating crackers or bagels or donuts or popcorn or drinking any alcohol meant many less empty calories for a full 30 days.  I'm all about the carbs and while I'm not giving them up, I'm paying much more attention to the snacks I choose and the sides I make for dinner.

I don't think I'd do the Whole 30 again, but I might do a modified version of it - one that includes legumes and healthy grains like buckwheat and quinoa.  And maybe a glass or wine or two...lol!

       

Friday, October 10, 2014

Verizon Ampitheatre's gluten-free options

If you can get into the VIP areas of Verizon's Amphitheater at Encore park, you will likely find some very tasty gluten-free things to eat.  If you need to eat in the 'normal' areas however, you will be very disappointed.  Before the last show we saw there (The Doobie Bros. and Frampton were incredible!!!), I called to find out what I could eat at the park.  There were TWO whole options - popcorn and the wedge salad.  For real.  I was kind of taken aback at such a poor offering for gluten-free foods.

The woman who told me what was safe even apologized and then she told me something I could at least respect.  She told me to take my own food into the park - the park that does not allow outside food inside.  Yes - she did.  And yes - I did.  I took some snack food in and noshed on it during the opening act.  After that, I was too busy dancing to eat.

We're so spoiled these days being able to eat pretty much anything you can think of that I sometimes forget that large venues are often greatly lacking in providing safe options for guests with food allergies and intolerances.  And the only way things will change is if we all ask for them to.    

Monday, October 6, 2014

First Watch gluten-free review

For several years, I'd read rave reviews of a FL based chain called First Watch so naturally I was uber excited when I learned about a location opening close to where we live.  Because I have celiac and try to limit the chance of the staff at restaurants messing up my food, I rarely go to a new place right when it opens.

Back in March, we tried First Watch for the first (and for now, at least, the last) time.  The staff was knowledgeable about the gluten-free menu selections which I very much appreciated.  My meal was gluten-free which I also appreciated.  What I was not thrilled about was that the scramble meal I ordered seemed much more like scrambled eggs and potatoes with a garnish of cheese and bacon than a cheese and bacon scramble.

Egg Harbor Cafe, Another Broken Egg and Tin Roof Kitchen all have excellent gluten-free brunch options and all offer specialty dishes like gluten-free pancakes, bread, etc.  Well, everything at Tin Roof Kitchen is gluten-free. So, First Watch already has a mark against it since there is not a single specialty item offered.

When my cheese and bacon scramble arrived, I assumed they'd left off the cheese by mistake.  Upon further investigation, I did find a minuscule amount of cheese on the very bottom of  the dish.  The bacon bits were a little more obvious.  There might have been two teaspoons of cheese and one teaspoon of bacon in the whole dish - or there might have been less than that.  The manager of the First Watch here needs to go eat at Egg Harbor Cafe so they can see what a scramble is supposed to look like.

On a positive note, my husband said his pancake-of-the-day special was very good.  So, if you can eat gluten, you might want to check the place out. Or if you don't mind not being able to have toast or bread or a bun or pancakes that you'd normally associate with a breakfast/brunch menu......you might also want to check out the place.  For now, I'll continue to spend my money where I can have a 'normal' breakfast that's as good as any gluten filled options on the menu.              

Friday, October 3, 2014

Best gluten-free lunch value in the ATL

For many years, I've enjoyed meeting friends for lunch at Prime at Lenox Square.  There was a short period when I passed on the addictive cheese grits due to a confused (ex) chef who thought I could not have corn...  In their defense, corn has gluten in it - it's just not the kind someone with celiac has to avoid.  It's confusing to say the least.  Eventually someone figured out the goof and I began ordering the fabulous salmon lunch with grits as usual.

The fish at Prime is seriously fresh tasting and the grits are the best in Atlanta (or GA for that matter).  The place has never had gluten-free bread or buns or anything like that during my visits, but I've never once missed them.  I'm not a mall person and I especially dislike inside malls.  I much prefer places like the Forum in Norcross.  However, Prime offers a very good reason to schlep down to Lenox to fight for a parking space (I used to pay for up front parking as a splurge, but they don't have that option anymore).

It's been over a decade since Prime opened and I think my first visit there was during the first six months.  For some reason which I can't explain, I've never thought to write about it on this site.  If you like seafood and cheese grits, you won't find a better lunch value than the salmon deal for $12.  If you like sushi, you might need to carry your own travel gluten-free soy sauce packs.  Since I don't care for sushi, I'm not aware of the soy sauce situation at Prime.  

Thursday, September 25, 2014

30 lessons from Whole 30 challenge (Part 2 of 3)

The list below includes observations and lessons I learned from my personal Whole 30 journey.  It is not meant as a guideline for anyone else's journey.  Please consult a doctor before embarking on such a restrictive diet. 
  
  1. Regular butter is better than ghee.
  2. Peanut butter is better than almond butter....but if you eat enough almond butter, you might learn to like it.
  3. BBQ sauce needs some form of sugar added to make it taste great.
  4. Guacamole is terrific with many things, but not as the filler in deviled eggs.
  5. Cilantro is a very undervalued herb - it makes almost anything better!
  6. Real mashed potatoes are better than mashed cauliflower, though mashed cauli-taters (50% potatoes, 50% cauliflower) are decent with coconut milk.  They’re actually tasty when you add butter and sour cream to them.
  7. Sweet potatoes are plenty sweet without adornment when you’re off added sugar.
  8. Finding interesting, compliant meals (that are worth eating) is next to impossible when dining out.
  9. I don’t like unsweetened coffee (even with coconut milk).
  10. Date paste is not as good as sugar or honey.
  11. Sugar is added to way too many processed foods.
  12. Soy is added to way too many processed foods.
  13. Bacon tastes better when cured with sugar.
  14. Aidell’s chicken apple sausage is delicious!
  15. Movies are better with popcorn!
  16. Not snacking (with healthy foods) is not a reasonable way to eat.
  17. Coconut milk works well as a replacement for dairy in some recipes that I would not have thought to use it in previously.
  18. Kiwi, pineapple and strawberries taste very much like candy when you’re on a no-added-sugar diet.  
  19. Eating enough vegetables is not as easy as you think it would be considering you’re avoiding normal starchy carbs like bread, rice, pasta, etc.
  20. Eating extremely clean definitely helps keep energy level swings in check.
  21. No matter how much you love eggs, if you consume enough of them, you can fall out of love with them.
  22. There are some great ways to flavor veggies and meats that I had not considered when on a “normal” diet.  
  23. Cheese is a food group in and of itself.
  24. Dairy adds a lot of great taste and texture to one’s diet.
  25. Buttery tasting macadamia nuts are great, but not nearly as great as popcorn.
  26. Shredded coconut chips (unsweetened) can be used as a filler ingredient in crab cakes, veggie fritters, meatloaf, etc.  
  27. Coconut Aminos is a great replacement for soy sauce!
  28. If you don’t eat starchy carbs during meals, you have to eat a LOT of veggies in order to get full enough to keep from snacking in between meals.
  29. I LOVE CHEESE!
  30. Avoiding gluten is A WALK IN THE PARK compared to avoiding gluten, dairy, soy, added sugar, legumes, alcohol, grains and pseudo grains (like buckwheat and quinoa).      

My post-challenge thoughts will be in the third installment on this topic.  Look for that in the next few weeks.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Gluten-free Whole 30 challenge (Part 1 of 3)

When I first heard of the Whole 30 diet in 2012, I wasn't that interested in learning about it.  After all, being gluten-free takes a lot of time and energy (and money if you're inclined to stock up on gluten-free replacement foods). Who wants to avoid a ton of other things besides gluten?  Not me, that was how I felt then anyway.  

Two years later, my tune has changed...at least a little bit.  I have no need to avoid anything except gluten, but according to the Whole 30 program creators, their plan can help you reset your metabolism.  Being someone who's always game to try new gluten-free products, I definitely needed such a change.  There is simply not a legit reason to have 6 types of crackers in your pantry.  Period. 

So, after reading and re-reading the Whole 30 plan, ingredients and rules online, I decided to take the plunge.  During my experience, I dubbed the plan the "paleo-on-crack" diet and the "free-of-everything-worth-eating" diet.  But the truth is, I wasn't really ever hungry and most of my meals were interesting, satisfying and tasty.  Some were exceptionally delicious, in fact. 

Even though I was prepared for a plethora of negative side effects, including the likes of severe mood swings and abdomen swelling making one's pants too tight, I only experienced two of the many suggested "phases" noted in the Whole 30 timeline.  The first one was the sugar withdrawal headache on day 3.  Taking a couple of Advil got rid of it, but it took a couple of hours as it was a really bad headache.  The other phase I hit was the EPS (empty plate syndrome) when you're not hungry for anything you can eat.  I felt that way for part of the last week, but it passed quickly and I made it to the end without giving in and noshing on crackers and cheese or my favorite snack - popcorn. 

During my 30 days, I had a couple of minor hiccups, but in looking at some of the odd rules of the diet, they were not of concern to me.  When I went shopping for complaint ingredients like coconut chips, almond butter, no-sugar-added bacon and nuts, I forgot to take the 'names of sugar' list and I ended up thinking coconut nectar was allowed.  After I had a tsp. in my coffee the first day, I realized it's on the 'not allowed' sugars list (which was in the wrong folder in my office).  I had no way to make date paste yet (which I didn't find at the store) so I used a 1/2 tsp. on days 2 and 3.  I finally switched over to homemade date paste (made with the new mini-Cuisinart that finally arrived!) on day 4.  Another incident involved using factory farmed no-added-sugar bacon (from Gwaltney's) because I could not spend almost $100 to order compliant bacon (recommended on Whole 30's website) online.

The last mess up was ending up with a salad with plain chicken on it that also had a few traces of bacon in it when dining out.  I'm sure the bacon was cured with sugar as bacon should be....  I'd made such a huge deal about making sure they didn't put cheese on the salad that I overlooked the bacon.  As usual, the gluten-free menu had no descriptions of the items (what a ridiculous way to print menus!) and from my earlier online review of the options, I only remembered needing to have cheese left off the salad.  

All in all, I found the challenge shockingly easy to stick to and the only plausible explanation for that is that being gluten-free gave me a huge step up during this experience.  Eight + years of reading labels has made me an expert at it. Knowing what ingredients are used in restaurants led me to greatly limit my dining out.  I could not come up with a good reason to go out and pay for a plain, uninteresting meal when I could make something better for a fraction of the cost at home.  The only reason I went out the few times I did was to break the monotony of making ALL my own meals for 30 days.

    
Part 2 of 3 my Whole 30 experience will post later this week.    
           


Thursday, September 18, 2014

Gwinnett Braves Stadium medical pass available

OK - this post is not timely, but I didn't get the information until the baseball season was pretty much over for the year.  If you're a fan of the Gwinnett Braves minor league team and have food allergies, you may get a medical pass in order to take your own food into the ballpark.  In the past, I've had popcorn, that Minute Maid frozen lemon dessert and a hot dog with an inedible gluten-free bun at the Gwinnett stadium.  When I eventually decided to order a burger without a bun, I was informed that the burger itself contained gluten.  Whaaaaa?????

It's extremely difficult for us to get to the games over there now, but we went once earlier this year.  As usual, I packed safe snacks in a bag (with very well concealed zipper compartments) as I'd previously been told no outside food was allowed.  This info was shared with me by the park's Aramark manager (who is no longer there) who knew I had celiac.  And it's still listed on the website's AtoZ page (see food under "F").  I'm not sure if the medical pass option is a new rule or what, but if you call guest services, you can find out how to obtain one.

Also, in previous years, I was able to get a Redbridge beer at the only on site restaurant Cool Ray field.  If the ball park is convenient for you to get to, you can save a TON of money and spend much less time stuck in traffic than when going to an Atlanta Braves game.


Main Phone Number
678-277-0300

gwinnettinfo@braves.com
         

    

Monday, September 15, 2014

Fresh 2 Order has gluten-free soup

The gluten-free menu at Fresh 2 Order is pretty good considering they have no specialty items like bread, cupcakes, etc.  The pork with apricot chutney with mashed sweet potatoes meal is excellent as is the club salad with grilled chicken added.  For the last few years, I kept asking the corporate office if they were going to offer gluten-free soups and the answer was usually "we're looking into it".  However, no gluten-free soups were available during my visits (I even asked about gluten-free options when it was way too hot for soup) so I finally gave up inquiring about it.

Skip to a few weeks ago when I thought to check the company's menu online and I still didn't see any soup listed on the gluten-free menu.  After inquiring at the corporate office yet again, I was told they have a gluten-free soup and it launched back in the spring!  I realized that due to moving twice last year, I had not been to Fresh 2 Order except for once in February (even though I'm 90% closer to a location now than I was before) in over a year.  Hence, I had no idea that indeed, gluten-free lentil soup was introduced.

It's unclear why the soup is only on the "soups" website page and the gluten-free menu wasn't updated online (or in the store we go to) to list it.  Soup is one of the hardest things to find when dining out so most people would not think to check the soup listings after not seeing soup listed on the gluten-free menu. In any case, the lentil soup is vegan, gluten-free and dairy-free (at the time of this posting).  While it might be too hot in the ATL to order hot soup right now, it will be nice to have a tasty option when the weather turns cooler next month.


  

Friday, September 12, 2014

My Friend's Place rolls out gluten-free bread (sort of)

For over seven years I checked in with the owners of My Friend's Place re: the chance they might start offering gluten-free bread.  The location nearest us was owned by some people that were not too happy when I went into to order the egg and chicken salads to-go back in 2007.  They apparently thought it was a pain to get new containers of the food and use clean scoops in order to ensure the salads remained gluten-free.  I wasn't that bummed when that location went out of business since I eventually stopped going there due their lame attitude.

Fast forward to a couple of months back when I checked the MFP website and saw a huge gluten-free bread notice and a photo of Udi's bread in the home page.  It said something like 'now offering gluten-free sandwiches' - how exciting!  There was only one problem.  As I started dialing location after location of MFP, I quickly learned that very few of them actually had gluten-free bread.  Worse than that, several people I spoke to seemed more than annoyed by the question about the new gluten-free bread.  One manager went so far as to say 'we don't get any requests for gluten-free sandwiches so it's not cost effective for us to have it'.  The problem with that comment is that his location is DIRECTLY across the street from a Jason's Deli that I regularly meet gluten-free friends for lunch at.  But of course, he could be right.  Maybe everyone knows to go to Jason's for fab gluten-free sandwiches (and chicken fingers, baked potatoes and ice cream!) and bypasses My Friend's Place.

It took some time, but I finally found out that the company is rolling out gluten-free service to ALL locations eventually.  But it's going to take some time as they have to train everyone on proper gluten-free service before they can safely offer gluten-free options.  And the company is definitely interested in doing it right which I very much appreciate.  As of now, the only location I'm aware of that has gluten-free sandwiches is the Norcross location.  The one in Augusta might as well, but be sure to check in advance at your location before assuming you can get gluten-free sandwiches there.  And if you want to move the gluten-free service process along, be sure to request gluten-free bread at your location by sending the company's corporate office an email (click here).  The phone number is also on the page.

It didn't occur to me to take a screen grab of the MFP website to prove they did have the gluten-free bread announcement and it's now gone.  But it was there and hopefully, it will be there again soon!


            

Monday, September 8, 2014

Easy peasy guacamole

Until recently, I'd never made homemade guacamole.  I'm not sure why that is, but I do know I've been missing out on having delicious guacamole any time I have a hankering for it...for no good reason other than laziness!  So far I've made two versions, this one from Delight Gluten-Free and my own version which is a basic guacamole recipe with a small twist.

Since there are only two people in our house, this is a small batch which we can eat before it turns brown.  It should be at least doubled for a 'normal' sized recipe.  This is good enough to eat with a spoon, but I try to refrain from doing that...honestly, I do!  It's great to use as a dip for chips, in a taco salad or as a topping for turkey burgers and grilled chicken.  Because I've seen so many positive reviews of 'guacamole' deviled eggs, I used it that way as well. And I learned that I don't care for boiled eggs and guacamole together - at all.

Homemade Guacamole

INGREDIENTS:
  • 2 Haas avocados. peeled and seed removed
  • 1/2 cup fresh cilantro
  • 1/2 small white (or yellow) onion
  • 6 strips of roasted red pepper (I used the jar variety)
  • minced green chilies (or jalapenos) to taste
  • 1 lime 
  • pinch of salt
INSTRUCTIONS:
  1. Lightly mash avocado with wooden spoon and squeeze the juice from half the lime over it to prevent browning 
  2. In mini food chopper (or processor), add all other ingredients except red pepper and salt
  3. Pulse several times until the cilantro and onion are the texture you prefer
  4. Add the red pepper strips and pulse a few more times
  5. Taste dip and if needed, add optional salt to taste (I use lime salt sometimes)
This stuff is so good that I find myself thinking of ways I can use it in other dishes.  And I thought the stuff at Chipotle was tops up until now....yea for easy homemade recipes!   

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Red Robin steps up gluten-free game

I thought my first visit to Red Robin (when the company opened a location in Snellville) would be my last visit there - ever.  I didn't get sick, but my burger came out with a bun and then it was sent back out to the table with bits of the bun left on it...  By the time they actually made my meal correctly, my husband was eating dessert.  It was not awful in the scheme of life, but it was a horrible experience in terms of gluten-free dining.  And to make matters worse, the manager gave us a FREE onion ring card for our troubles....seriously.  It was absolutely ridiculous!

After the chain introduced gluten-free buns and fries, we still didn't go back because I didn't feel the staff would know how to get my meal to the table safely.  Fast forward to a fabulous meal at Red Robin during Expo West in 2013.  The food and drinks were simply incredible and none of the gluten-free diners at our table had the least  pang of pain or sickness afterwards.  In fact, we went back to Red Robin at this year's Expo (to a different location in order to avoid the large crowd and wait at the other location) and the food was again wonderful.

Finally, I decided to give another GA location of Red Robin a chance and it turned out to be a great decision!  The only complaint I have is that you have to order from an iPad (at my location) unless you print up a gluten-free menu and take it in yourself.  In CA, everyone got their own printed/laminated gluten-free menu.  The iPad ordering is tedious because you have to scroll through everything and then remember what you chose when the server gets back around to your table.  From now on, I'll take in my own menu in order to save the time and hassle of using the iPad (it took an unusually long time for someone to bring me said iPad).

The gluten-free buns are so soft you can't imagine they're actually gluten-free!  There isn't a decent (to me) gluten-free dessert to enjoy, but having 'bottomless' sweet potato fries (at no charge!) more than makes up for that.  And if you need to avoid more than gluten, you can use the meal 'customizer' on the Red Robin website to figure out what you can order safely.  For the money, Red Robin runs circles around the trendier (read: pricier) Smash Burger.  My review of SB will be coming up next month.
      

Monday, September 1, 2014

Gibbs Gardens

If you love beautiful gardens, Gibbs Gardens in north GA is definitely worth checking out.  The sprawling property was designed to keep the air as cool as possible - even in the summer!  We were up there over July 4th weekend (along with half of Atlanta) and it was surprisingly cool all over the gardens.  The day lily garden was simply stunning - I had no idea there were that many colors and varieties of day lilies!





There is no outside food allowed in (you can exit the gardens and eat in your car if need be), but the on site cafe's signature chicken salad is gluten-free and absolutely delicious!  Since we decided to get an annual membership, I investigated a bit further re: gluten-free options and even though there are not many, if you call ahead 24 hours and request gluten-free bread for a sandwich, they'll have it ready the next day.  Mind you, I have not done this yet and likely won't until we go up to see the fall colors next month.  I'll report back about the experience later.


Check out the ode to Monet's water lily garden in Giverny, France!   




Besides exploring the various gardens areas, guests are also allowed to tour around the exterior of Jim Gibbs home on the top of the hill.  I'm not sure how he talked his wife into that one, but it's a great tour perk!  From the back of the house you can see far below to the gardens - it's a breathtaking view!


HAPPY LABOR DAY!
         

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Sprouts review - Peachtree Corners

The Sprouts Market in Peachtree Corners opened back in August and I was able to get there on the day of the grand opening.  There was not a line to get in, which was great, but it was overly crowded so it was hard to get around even with the smallest shopping cart they have.  The observations I was able to make are listed below.

There were some frozen and and refrigerated gluten-free breads available including some items I like and some I don't care for.  I thought there were be more options for some reason, but I guess I'm comparing their options to those at Return 2 Eden and Natural Foods Warehouse which might not be fair.

There were some brands of cookies and muffins I'd never seen and a good friend of mine tried some of them and thought they were either really great or pretty good.  Since I was on the Whole 30 challenge during my visit, I didn't buy anything off plan.  That means nothing except meats, veggies and fruits made it into my basket.  Oh, I also picked up some bars for an upcoming trip (after my Whole 30 was finished) and some coconut butter...the latter seemed very overpriced, but I didn't have time to comparison shop for the product.

Overall, Sprouts Market did not strike me as a place for my go-to gluten-free specialty items, but I was impressed with the produce and the variety of items they offer.  Eventually, I hope to try the fresh lemon poppy seed muffins, chocolate chip cookies and chocolate cupcakes.  "Fresh" is a key factor in getting me to part with my money for gluten-free treats.  I plan to go to the Johns Creek store as soon as it opens and surprisingly, that location will be larger than the store in Peachtree Corners! 

Monday, August 25, 2014

Are gluten-free menus going away?

There is finally a gluten-free labeling law in the U.S. (it went info effect earlier this month) which is cause for celebration.  The FDA was supposed to have the law worked out by August 2008...oh well, we are talking about the government, after all.

If  you notice some items no longer sport gluten-free on the label even though nothing has changed regarding the ingredients, don't be alarmed.  Companies that want to claim their products are gluten-free have to be able to prove that fact.  Therefore, some companies that previously listed gluten-free on their labels might drop it only because they never tested their products as there was not a reason for it.

If the only thing a company produces is canned pineapple, there is not a reason to test the pineapple to see if it's gluten-free.  It is - period.  So even though we finally have a labeling law, label reading is still going to be part of our shopping trips.  At least if you see the GF symbol or the words gluten free now, you'll know the item is definitely gluten-free.

The worst part of the new law is a tiny stipulation which mentions restaurants have to meet the same requirements as food companies that produce packaged foods with labels.  Yes, that is basically what the law says...it sounds ridiculous, right?  There is obviously no way this is doable in a non gluten-free restaurant setting so guess what?  Larger chains are already pulling their gluten-free menus and renaming them things like gluten-friendly menu, low gluten menu and avoiding gluten menu - yikes!!!  I'm glad I'm not new to the gluten-free dining scene.  If I was, I might be scared to death to eat out.

When you see packaged food items from Europe that contain gluten, they say just that - 'contains gluten'.  How easy is that?!         

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Earthfare comes to the ATL!

The news that Sprouts Market is opening a Johns Creek location next month is uber exciting, but there is more great news about the area to report! Earthfare (which is one of fave places to shop!) is opening a location in at the Collection at Forsythe in Cumming, GA.  There is no info about this on the Earthfare website, but they have job openings listed for another Atlanta area store listed.  The company signed a lease for two spaces in the area a while back - I guess one of them is the Cumming store.  We noticed a sign about the addition to the shopping center while walking around the shops there.  The below info is from the Earthfare website (FAQ page).


Will you build a store near me? I heard a rumor…
A: We’re always looking for directions to expand, but we’re like ninjas. You won’t know we’re there until we want you to know. Watch the listings on the Our Stores page for locations opening soon.

My apologies that I can't share when the store will open as I can't stand having to give companies my email address just to ask a simple question - especially when I know I'm risking not getting a straight answer for the trouble.  Earthfare carries a few things I've not found at any location here so we usually stop by the Chattanooga and Greenville stores when visiting family in those areas.  It's SO exciting to have another great shopping option for fabulous food in the ATL!

Monday, August 18, 2014

Gluten-free salmon cake recipe

When I was growing up, salmon croquettes were a special weeknight dinner. I'm not sure what was in them, except salmon and breadcrumbs, but they were pretty tasty!  Once I was eating gluten-free, I used crushed gluten-free crackers in place of bread crumbs to make salmon cakes.  The main difference between those and croquettes is typically how much oil is used to cook them.  

Last week, I created an interesting version of salmon cakes with no carb filler what-so-ever.  I'm not going to win any cooking or recipe contests, but this experiment turned out surprisingly well, if I do say so myself ;)  

Gluten-free salmon cakes

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 can salmon
  • 1/4 small white onion, finely chopped 
  • 1/4 c. mushrooms, finely chopped
  • 1 tbp. Dijon mustard (or brown mustard)
  • 1/4 to 1/2 c. rough chopped coconut chips (unsweetened)
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • black pepper, to taste
  • several dashes of coconut aminos
  • fresh lemon juice, to taste

INSTRUCTIONS: 

  1. Saute onions and mushrooms in coconut oil until tender 
  2. Mash up salmon in mixing bowl with sturdy spoon (I remove the larger bones, but it's not necessary) 
  3. Add all ingredients, including cooked veggies, and mix well with hands (I wear food safe gloves for this part)
  4. Form 6-7 medium size patties and place on wax paper-lined baking pan
  5. Place pan in freezer for at least one hour so cakes can get firm
  6. Saute salmon cakes in coconut oil over medium heat until golden brown, about 5 minutes per side (flip carefully as cakes are delicate)
  7. Serve with fresh lemon wedges (or sauce of your choice)  
There is no coconut taste to these salmon cakes.  The oil doesn't flavor them in the pan and the chips take on the flavor of whatever they're mixed up with. My husband could not figure out what filler I used which totally tickled me. He offered up several guesses, but coconut wasn't one of them.  
   

Enjoy!





  

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Gluten-free brunch at South City Kitchen in Midtown

South City Kitchen has been offering wonderful gluten-free dishes for a few years now and my favorite dish there is shrimp and grits.  Until recently, we'd only been to the location in Vinings, but we recently enjoyed brunch at the Midtown location.  Since we had reservations (recommended if you don't want to wait) and were driving in from the burbs, we got there before they opened.  While hanging out at the patio of the closed bar next door, we watched a huge stream of people arrived at SCK where they formed a line at the door.  When the door opened, we all filed in and the staff got busy getting everyone seated.  There is a huge patio with misters to keep things cool out there, but it was a little warm for us so we opted for an inside table.

Even though our server was 'triple seated' in a four minute time span, he handled his section quickly and efficiently.  He went over the day's specials and took our drink order.  Since the gluten-friendly menu (regardless of what they call the menu - it lists items that don't start with gluten ingredients which are prepared as safely as possible in a mixed use kitchen) noted that the Pure Knead bun is served with the pulled pork sandwich, I asked the server if the Benedict dishes used the gluten-free bun in lieu of the English muffin and was told no.



We ordered the pimento cheese dip which came with house-made bread and butter pickles (shown above) which I could have eaten a pound of (!) and celery sticks instead of crackers.  The dip was quite tasty - even to my husband who really wouldn't care if he never had pimento cheese again.



For our entrees, my husband had the amazing pulled BBQ sandwich with slaw (photo above) and a huge kale salad.  He loved everything on his plate.  I've had their pulled pork before and know it's seriously fabulous!  I chose the  “MC” MUFFIN BENEDICT  (photo below) which includes Benton's aged ham, American cheese, chive hollandaise and Red Mule grits.  Because I don't really love hollandaise sauce, I ordered it on the side.



When our meals arrived, I couldn't actually see that there was some type of bread on my plate under the over-hard poached eggs and ham, but my husband could.  We had the server check to see if it was a Pure Knead bun (which is what it looked like) and found out that it was.  What a lovely surprise!  The entire meal was delectable - even the hollandaise sauce!

Honestly, I could have been plenty happy with the dish without the bun, for which there is a small up charge.  We were not going straight home so I couldn't take any food home for later.  I pretty much ate everything I ordered except a few bites of egg my husband quickly scarfed down.  He was also impressed by the chive hollandaise sauce.

By the time I knew I could have the banana pudding (without cookies, I think) and some other ice cream type desserts, it was too late.  I was overly full, but didn't mind at all as I enjoyed every last bite of my meal.  The food is seriously delicious at South City Kitchen (part of Fifth Group) and the 'gluten-friendly' options available for lunch, dinner and brunch do not disappoint one bit!  
          

Monday, August 11, 2014

Pineapple salsa recipe

This summer, it's been as hot in the ATL and as in previous years.  (The past two summers were very temperate here for whatever reason)  The month of August is usually extra muggy and that makes it feel even warmer than it actually is.  UGH!!!

In looking at some ingredients I had on hand the other day, I was inspired to make something refreshing.  Pineapple salsa seemed to fit the bill perfectly and though I've made it before, this recipe is different and most definitely more delicious than any other version I've made or had!

Pineapple Salsa

INGREDIENTS:  

  • 1 cup cubed pineapple, drained (canned [in water] or fresh)
  • 1/4 white or yellow onion (green onion will work)
  • 1/2 cup fresh cilantro
  • dash of coconut aminos (or gf soy sauce)
  • dash of lime juice
  • 4-5 strips of roasted red pepper
  • pinch of salt (optional) 


INSTRUCTIONS:

  1. put all ingredients except peppers and salt into a food processor (3-cup bowl works great!) 
  2. with lid on tight, pulse a few times to get the consistency you prefer
  3. when unit is not running, remove lid and throw in red pepper strips
  4. secure lid and pulse a few more times, enough to incorporate peppers well
  5. remove lid to taste, add a pinch of salt (if desired) and pulse a few more times to finish the salsa prep 
We used this salsa on top of grilled fish for dinner.  The light, fresh and slightly tropical flavor reminds me of fresh salsas often used in seafood dishes in the Caribbean.  Yes - it's really that flavorful!  Even though I was tempted to eat the delightful leftover salsa with a spoon for dessert, I decided to think of a way to use it in another meal instead.  

While contemplating making Mediterranean tuna salad (similar to the version at Zoe's Kitchen) the next day for lunch, I remembered the salsa and changed gears.  I simply mixed up the packet of tuna with the rest of the salsa and then served it over a fresh spinach salad.  It was definitely different for tuna salad, but in a very tasty way!  The next time I make this it will be a topping for grilled fish tacos....or sliced marinated grilled chicken...oh yeah!

*This recipe is obviously gluten-free, but it also happens to be free of dairy, soy (sub coconut aminos) and added sugar, too!   

Friday, August 8, 2014

Sprouts Market is coming to Johns Creek!

It's exciting that Sprouts Market opened in Snellville recently and I've heard it's a great store if you can get into it (according to the husband's co-workers, there is apparently a traffic issue at that location).  I missed the blogger sneak peak for that store since it was in the middle of a work day and on the other side of town to boot.  But I know from bloggers elsewhere that Sprouts Market is a VERY gluten-free friendly place to shop.  That's why I've been excited about the company expanding to this area ever since I spotted the coming soon sign near Trader Joe's in Norcross.

I thought that the (yet to open) store over there would be the most convenient to us, now that we moved out of Gwinnett county.  However, as I was on 141 last weekend, I noticed that the space vacated by a massive shoe store recently is being renovated to be a Sprouts Market!  Let's see...if I drive pretty slow, the Sprouts Market over here is about a five minute drive from our house!  This is seriously exciting news since about a month after we moved, the Natural Foods Warehouse on 141 closed down.  It's a short distance to the NFW location on N. Main Street, but with weekend traffic it can be a bear to get there.

The grand opening date for this location is set for September 17, 2014.  Check out this page on the Sprouts website to see where more new stores are opening in the near future.  

UPDATE:  The open date for this location is being pushed out so it will not open on September 17th.  I'll announce the actual opening date when I get one I think is legit ;)   

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Gluten-free events at Whole Foods



There is a gluten-free event at the Buckhead location of Whole Foods Market this weekend.  I'm not why the location is not listed on the above flyer that the demo manager sent me.  Look for details on the store's website.

There is also an August event coming up at the Harry's Whole Foods store in Marietta.  Click this link and scroll down for the gluten-free event info for that store.

Monday, August 4, 2014

Fresh gluten-free pizza crust hits the ATL!


Up until last weekend, I'd only had wonderful FRESH gluten-free pizza crust in New York City.  At one time there was a place making fresh pizza crust in the metro Atlanta area, but it wasn't very popular and it might have been dropped from the menu subsequently.

Meet Don Antonio by Starita - Atlanta!  As you enter the upscale space on trendy West Paces Ferry Road in Buckhead, take note of the lovely patio strung with lights...it reminded me of a lovely Italian place in Rome.  Inside, the high ceilings and warm, rustic colors of the restaurant's interior further ooze the feeling of Italy.  I secretly hoped that maybe the food would taste as fresh as it does over there....

After reviewing the gluten-free menu options, we ended up getting to try some things we'd planned to order as well as several other things during a leisurely lunch.  By the end of the meal we were in a slight carb-induced coma, but we weren't complaining one bit!


To start, we sampled the Angioletti salad which is lightly fried dough topped with grape tomatoes, arugula and EVOO.  The produce was so delicious that we assumed they had a garden on site.  Seriously.  The bread pieces were amazing in the way that makes you wonder if it's really gluten-free.  Of course, it absolutely was!


Next up was the famous fried pizza Montanara Starita.  It sounds odd - a lightly fried pizza crust - but nothing about the pizza tasted fried and it wasn't at all greasy.  It was just 100% amazing!  If the crust was wonderful and the toppings were not, it would be a problem for any gluten-free foodie.  Thankfully, the amazing sauce, basil and house-made mozzarella cheese matched the perfection of the "I can't believe it's gluten-free!" crust!

In addition to the signature 'fried' pizza, we also got to try a regular gluten-free pizza and my husband sampled the gluten crust pizza and actually preferred it to the regular crust!  The only time he's ever said that about gluten-free pizza was in NYC.  I slightly preferred the Montanara 'fried' crust pizza over the regular gluten-free crust, but both options were fabulously delicious!  It's not easy to tell from the photos that the non 'fried' crust is slightly larger than the regular one.


Once I tasted the crust on the first Neopolitan style pizza at Don Antonio's, I realized I'd actually forgotten how wonderful fresh pizza crusts can taste.  There are some amazing and some very good frozen gluten-free crusts out there, to be sure, and there are some that are pretty much inedible.  It's reasonable to assume that there will always be more frozen gluten-free crust options than fresh ones.  That's why it's particularly special to be able to enjoy such a special pizza made with a FRESH crust and ingredients without having to fly to NYC or Naples!
    
We topped off our wonderful meal with a dessert made up of fried gluten-free dough and Nutella.  It was decadently delicious - what else is there to say?!  There is a full bar and the specialty cocktail options totally rock!  Feast your eyes on the special pies and other things at Don Antonio's here.



One of the most delightful things about dining at Don Antonio's is the way the staff makes you feel like family - it really is like being in Italy in the heart of Buckhead - in terms of the fabulous food and the service.  We were lucky enough to meet owner and renowned chef, Roberto Caporuscio (see above photo)during our visit and he explained about the extensive cross contamination prevention procedures they have in place.  Roberto's daughter was in the ATL for a long stint to train the staff which included proper gluten-free prep and service from the back of the house to the front.  Be sure to check out this fabulous addition to the Atlanta pizza scene whether you're gluten-free or not!

Monday, July 28, 2014

Celebrate - gluten-free cinnamon rolls!

If you read my post about Sally's Gluten Free Bakery's killer cinnamon buns, and decided to check them out for yourself, you might have played a part in the bakery choosing to offer them every Friday and Saturday until future notice.  Yes - celebrate indeed!

Here is the newsletter that recently went out to share this fabulous news with Sally's customers.  Please read it and weep...with joy, of course!

Oh my - it's great to be gluten-free in the ATL these days!

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Gluten-free pie crust - easy as pie

Making a traditional tasting pie crust made without gluten ingredients isn't particularly easy in my opinion.  For a ready-made crust, the Kinnikinnick product is very good, but the crusts are fairly small.  To get one regular 9" crust, you need to defrost and roll out the two KK crusts and roll them out into one large crust.  That is kind of a lot of work as well.

For the easiest gluten-free pie crust ever, the cookie crumb crust can not be beat!  For chocolate & peanut butter pie or chocolate cream pies, use gluten-free Oreo type cookies.  For lemon bars, use graham style crackers or gingersnap cookies.  For a more traditional crust, sugar cookies can be used, but you might need to add a pinch of salt to counter balance the sweetness factor.

The cookies should be crunchy - not soft - in order to make the best crust.  Cookie crust recipes are bountiful on food.com - just remember to use GLUTEN-FREE cookies if using a regular cookie crust recipe.  All the recipes I've found and used require butter so I don't know how non-dairy butter substitutes works in cookie pie crust recipes.

I recently made lemon bars using Three Bakers graham crackers for the crust and the glutenoids we served them to wanted seconds.  They don't eat gluten-free and, truth be told, might go out of their way to avoid gluten-free replacement foods.  I've also used crunchy ginger cookies from Trader Joe's and Pamela's for the lemon bar crust.  The result is always the same - most people want more than one bar and many ask for the recipe.  And isn't that why we bake to share with others in the first place?!

Monday, July 21, 2014

Allergen free bakery in Alpharetta


Another find on FindMeGlutenFree.com is Mama Bakes Safes Cakes in Alpharetta, GA.  Honestly, there are very few gluten-free, vegan cupcakes I've found worth eating so when I tried the goodies from this bakery, I tried to keep an open mind.  Understand that I've had delicious vegan cupcakes before - just not that many of them.  Even though I'd still choose a cupcake made with butter and eggs over any other version, the cupcakes and frosting from Mama Bakes Safe Cakes were surprisingly good!  Like 'I can't believe the're gluten-free and vegan' good!  My husband won't usually even taste any vegan baked goods, but I convinced him to try a cupcake and even he was impressed.  HE asked me at least twice if I was sure there were no eggs in the cake or butter in the frosting.

The staff at the bakery takes great care to explain which allergens their various goodies are free of (gluten, soy, dairy, eggs, etc.).  There are many things available to order to even pick up from the freezer out front at the bakery.  One such item that got my attention was lemon cookies coated in powdered sugar.  I don't recall the name of them, but they were by far the favorite thing we tried and I will be going back just for those incredible cookies!

If you're in need of gluten-, egg-, dairy- and even soy-free fresh baked goodies in the ATL, you might want to check out the wares from Mama Bakes Safe Cakes.  They accept walk in sales, but if you want to check out the cupcake flavors of the day, you can find them on the company's FB page.   

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Gluten-free crepes in the ATL!

Crepe Revolution went out of business quite a while ago.  I can't speak to the gluten crepes there, but the three gluten-free options were less than impressive in my opinion.  Because I love crepes, I routinely google 'gluten-free crepes atlanta' and what normally pops up are regular crepe places that don't have gluten-free options.  Then a few weeks ago, that changed.

Meet Crepe Cafe in Marietta!  The 500 degree griddle is cleaned (possibly with water only) before being used for the gluten-free batter.  Since I've successfully had crepes made that way before, and knew that the cafe serves many gluten-free patrons with celiac, I decided to give it a try.

We got one savory gluten-free and one regular crepe for lunch and a gluten-free dessert crepe for dessert.  Each gluten-free crepe was delicious...light and airy...just like a crepe should be!  All I could think was 'I hope they didn't mess up and give me the wrong batter' - it was seriously that delicious!  The regular crepe that I couldn't try was said to be not quite as light as the gluten-free version, but it was none-the-less tasty.  My only complaint is that there is only one location of this gluten-free gem of a cafe in the area!


Monday, July 14, 2014

Gluten-free brunch in North GA!

Buffet-style meals can be hit or miss when it comes to being gluten-free friendly.  Knowing what the safe options are and the placement of those dishes are equally important.  That said, you can find wonderful buffet meals here and there.

With the heat continuing to rise in the ATL, we wanted to head to the cooler climate in the North GA mountains recently.  We enjoyed the wine tasting flight at Wolf Mountain Vineyards a few years back and remembered how lovely the view was there.  This trip we decided to check out their Sunday brunch which has two seatings - 12:30 and 2:30 pm.  Since we wanted to sit on the covered patio, we chose the 12:30 option and let them know in advance I needed a gluten-free meal.  As always, I let them know I wasn't eating gluten-free for fun (although it's more fun than ever these days!).

The brunches at Wolf Mountain Vineyard have a theme each month and for July, the theme is BBQ.  Overall, the menu was fairly gluten-free friendly.  The options on the day we visited included, three types of meat, one BBQ sauce, beans, potato salad and gourmet salad.  Since it was my birthday weekend, I requested a gluten-free dessert (if possible) that wasn't fruit, ice creme or creme brulee.

The meats were all wonderful, but the chicken thighs were my favorite of the three.  So tender and juicy and smothered in a fabulous BBQ sauce!  The potato salad was also very tasty and far from the run-of-the-mill version I'm used to.  It had bacon in it which makes almost everything better.  I skipped the beans because the salad was insanely delicious and I had two helpings of it!  Fresh mixed greens topped with avocado, white cheddar cheese, seriously fresh tomatoes and house made dressing - what's not to love?!

My husband enjoyed the French toast casserole so I'm going to try to make a similar version with the new bread from Pure Knead (I call it gluten-free wonder bread!).  I've made a pretty good recipe for this using a well known gluten-free bread, but it takes a soft and fluffy bread to make it perfect in my opinion.  I'll let you know how it turns out later...too hot for that right now!

OK - back to the brunch.  I was pretty full before my dessert arrived, but once I saw the huge portion of crust-less key lime pie, I could not resist eating at least a 1/3 of it!  My husband usually gets my dessert left overs and he was surprised that this time, his portion was less than normal.  He had the cobbler dessert which he very much liked anyway.  And to the credit of whoever made my dessert, they did more than just pour some key lime filling into the dish.  There was a layer of pie filling, then some custard or whipped cream in the middle and then another layer of pie filling.  There was a scrumptious raspberry sauce drizzled on the pie filling and a dollop of fresh whipped creme on top!  If I'd had a cooler in the car, I probably wouldn't have shared it at all.  It was that delicious!


Between the wonderful meal, the fun live entertainment and the incredible view and the wine tasting downstairs after brunch, we had an absolutely wonderful afternoon at the winery.  We'll be checking out the brunch menus in the future in case there's another one that looks like a good bet for gluten-free options.

For anyone interested in the wine tastings at Wolf Mountain Vineyards, you might want to take your own cheese straws from Marilyn's (sold at Whole Foods in the ATL) or order the cheese plate without crackers.  Since we were full from brunch, we didn't need a snack.  They put out regular bread sticks for the tastings.  There are several nice wine included in the tasting, but the Sunset Rose is a perfectly light wine for the long hot days of summer!

Friday, July 11, 2014

Shelf stable gluten-free baked goods at Publix

When my friend, Dionne, told me about the gluten-free rack in the bakery section at a Publix store, I decided I had to check it out the next time I went to Whole Foods in Duluth, GA.  Sure enough, smack dab in the middle of the bakery section, there was a small rack with non-frozen treats, breads and muffins by 'All But Gluten'.  The line is not at any other Publix that I've checked with so far (which is only a few Atlanta area locations).  The Duluth store is at the corner of 141 and State Bridge Rd., just west of Whole Foods.  Check it out if you find the line near you!


Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Corner Bakery goes gluten-free! (sort of)

Every so often, I go into a restaurant to inquire about gluten-free options just because I'm walking by it.  Most of the time, I'm fairly certain the gluten-free options are either unimpressive or non-existent.  Even so, what better way to raise the awareness of the need for gluten-free options than to ask?  Sometimes I get the answer I'm expecting like "you can't have anything except our salads" (yes, I still get that one) and other times I'm delighted to learn about something new and gluten-free on the menu.

Last week , I picked up some take-out from Zoe's Kitchen (best chicken salad in the ATL!) for a July 4th fireworks picnic.  My Zoe's location is literally attached to a Corner Bakery Cafe so I dashed in to inquire about gluten-free options there.  To my surprise, I was told that they'd started offering gluten-free sandwiches that week!  I'm not sure why, but I was told they had gluten-free bread that day and when I called back to get more info, I was told they only have gluten-free pita bread... Either way, they apparently have something to make gluten-free sandwiches with.  You can check out the locations that possibly have gluten-free bread, pitas or something to make gluten-free sandwiches with here.

There is an allergen list you can request to check for sandwich ingredients so it doesn't seem that gluten-free friendly in terms of ordering, but I'm definitely going to check it out soon!  It's hard to see all those yummy desserts in the cases up front (none of which are currently gluten-free), but maybe if the gluten-free sandwich program proves lucrative for the chain, desserts will be next on the menu!

Please DO NOT order anything at this chain without inquiring about all the ingredients in whatever item you want to order.   The allergen list should help you confirm what is and is not safe.  Eat out at your own risk!     
    

What happened to Burger 21?

Over a year ago, we started picking up take-out from Burger 21.  They have gluten-free buns as well as gluten-free fries (regular and sweet ...