Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Quick and Simple

Quick and simple dishes; When you get use to the convenience products on the market going gluten free and back to cooking from scratch is hard because you forget all the extra effort involved, and it can feel overwhelming at first. I know for me it was super overwhelming. I own a ton of GF cookbooks which is great for ideas, suggestions and meal bases, but I'm talking even simpler. 

I remember learning to cook in home economics in Junior High School, but even at home with my family we did lots of convenience meals during the week, and Sunday's we'd cook a big from scratch meal, but that was it. We were always somewhere with some activity, that we were always rushing to get to. So all the wonderful training I received was pushed to the back of my brain to now 20 years later try and remember it all. This will be an interesting journey for sure! 

Having recently moved in with my wonderful boyfriend of four years and starting to make a go at things together, it's crazy learning more of what we each like and don't like in foods and what we are accustomed to. We still need furniture and to finish unpacking boxes, and heck move stuff from his condo to our place. So we're on the go 24/7 still. So with 1 pan that a friend brought over for us, and a few utensil's my mom gave us, I started to make more than just frozen meals this past weekend. 

Some are still cheater meals with the help of something frozen, but we're getting there, one day here I'll have a gourmet meal that we can have people over to enjoy, until then, guests will have to enjoy a frozen pizza or two with us. Though finding GF corndogs at the grocery store the other day made my heart flutter, I know we can't have that every night. 

As we make our cheater meals I'll do my best to photograph and post, between those and the "I Give Up - We're eating out" meals I should have plenty to write on. Luckily I have several great grocery stores for finding good GF items and fresh items, so I'm hopeful we'll knock this one out of the park and be kitchen pro's in no time. 

Monday, December 15, 2014

Pardon my absence

I must ask that you pardon my absence on reviewing. It's been a crazy couple months with my 8-5 job, finally getting started on a hand made jewelry partnership with a friend, looking for a new place to live and seeing what other job options are out there, and decorating for the holidays; I've been a bit busy! 

Don't worry I've been eating out and reviewing, just not in my blog. My notebook is full of things to type in here! With our new place we do have a Gluten Free Kitchen now too!! So I'm hoping for more baking, and experimenting recipes from my gluten free cookbooks, so I will have even more to write on. 

We aren't completely unpacked, but the kitchen is put together and we've started on some quick meals that can be made with 1-2 kitchen items. Once we get things more settled in I hope to get some Celiac Awareness bracelets made to put on Etsy, so I'll keep everyone informed on how that's going too.  

Right now I'm mastering the simple meals I can make with few items and in little time so we can devote more time to unpacking, and furniture shopping. I forgot how the little things do matter as I stood at the counter with a canned good thinking, "well now how do I open this???" Thankfully someone had brought me their electric can opener they never used. Well I used it for them! 

Luckily they also gave me a nice big frying pan, and some casserole dishes too; so I can start to make some meals. But Amy's Gluten Free line, and EVOL have been our best friends. I swear I have never run to the store so many times in a two week period, but I'm racking up some crazy reward points, as we realize we need stuff, and don't have it yet. Today's shopping trip is a spatula and butter, grilled cheeses for dinner tonight!! 

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Red Robin - Good and Bad Gluten Free

I have a love hate relationship with Red Robin. I was super stoked when they started to do gluten free buns with their burgers. I was even more stoked when they said they had dedicated fryers for their French fries. It was great progress from a chain restaurant to handle allergies with such care. I know it’s more for the sake of having options for children, but hey we all need a good ‘normal’ meal every now and then when out with friends and family. They seemed to train their staff really well, and everyone was on board with allergies. Now as staff has probably cycled out and new staff has come in, things have dwindled in my opinion. I am at the point of avoiding the place like the plague because I’ve left more than once almost in tears due to bad experiences of ignorance.

The first issue came from a disgusting, wet, cold burger. I refuse to be charged extra and then served a sub-par meal! The gluten free bun was so soggy and gross it almost disintegrated when I picked up the burger that was cold. That same location told me they didn’t have a dedicated fryer so I got 4 pieces of broccoli as my side dish. By the time the server came back most of our group was done eating. Pointed out to him how cold and gross the burger was and he told me “It is gluten free.”. – WOW! Really, that’s your response?

The second issue came 6 months later; we were at a different location in the same area as the one where this happened, since I wasn’t too keen on going back to that location we tried another one. 

This time as soon as we were seated and handed the iPad with the allergen listing the server couldn’t figure out how to turn it on, and unlock it. My brother called the manager over who right away started to praise how great their location is with allergies and how wonderful the gluten free bun is, and how awesome they handle allergies. It would have been nice had he given us 2 seconds to ask questions before he started to push their burger club card. He also pointed out the iPad was the “safest way” to ensure the meal made correct, even though the internet is super slow and takes a long time to load each page. So one would assume if I am holding the iPad that designates someone has a food allergy and ask the server no less than 5 times to make sure the meal is made GLUTEN FREE; and if he can double check that the fryer for the French fries is gluten free, that my meal would come out GLUTEN FREE. NOPE!

He brings out a basket of deep fried chicken fingers on top of French fries. I stared in horror at the meal, and asked him if he was certain it was gluten free. He goes “YUP!” I asked again and told him if he was wrong I’d be horribly ill, and in the hospital, was he certain? He responded, “Well I think so…. Do you want me to check?” The manager came out of the kitchen, Hands up in the air and loudly said “That’s your meal!” He walked over looked at it and responded – “That’s not on the gluten free menu…. That’s not how it should have been prepared….”

The sad interjection I should add is when I told my dad this he told me “I would have assumed it was rice based flour or something and that it was safe”. So back to the catering to children – my dad would have let me eat this because he would have assumed all the safeties of talking to the manager, telling the server multiple times, and their “super safe” way to order this would be correct. Major Fail! 

I walked out of the restaurant and told my brother I didn’t feel safe eating there, that I couldn’t risk their ignorance. The manager figured out besides flagging the meal gluten free in the computer the waiter needed to list out the modifications that needed to be made to the meal, he needed to list, no breading, grilled, not fried for the chicken. One would think with their fancy technology on the iPad that their system for ordering would be more advanced to know gluten free = no breading on chicken or their staff would have a cheat sheet how to enter the items for the cook to make sure they are safe. I settled for a microwaved Amy’s meal back at our hotel that I was too agitated to actually eat more than half of. 

That being said, no more Red Robin for me! 

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Graziano's Brick Oven Pizza

Graziano's is a Niles staple for quite some time. I remember in the late 1990's being there one night for dinner when the Bull's were going for their 2nd three-pete championship. The decor inside at the time was tons of cans of fresh tomatoes for their sauce. They have since updated the decor to retro Italy, and started to serve gluten free. I'll be honest it's been that long since I've been there.

We got there just before the dinner rush. It does get really busy come 7:00. The gluten free items are marked in the regular menu, and expand beyond typical pasta. They were also announcing they just started serving gluten free pizza. You do have to dig a bit on their website to find the gluten free menu (which is listed on the basic menu in the restaurant), which does not do justice to the full listing of items they have available.

Looking over the menu they had a lot of options from appetizers, salads and entrees even gelato for dessert. I was intrigued by the Portobello parmesan. I asked the server if it was something that could be made gluten free, because I wasn't sure if the mushrooms were breaded. He explained that the mushrooms were fresh grilled and could be made with the gluten free cork screw pasta. He told me he'd double check to make sure the parmesan was gluten free, which took me by surprise, but I figure if he was unsure about gluten free, this was a good way for him to check and make sure he had correct information. My dad said my "find" on the menu peaked his interest so he got the same thing, but gluten-full. We saw the server go over to the manager and start asking her questions, and came back with the affirmative that it was gluten free, and that it's a great dish. 

The waiter asked if it was ok to bring a regular bread basket out, they didn't have any gluten free bread, my dad opted to have a few pieces of bread. When our food came out, I was ok with them not having gluten free bread, the portion size was HUGE! I really thought the server said there was A Portobello mushroom on top, we each had 3 mushrooms smothered with cheese. The only difference was his dish was on angel hair pasta, and mine was corkscrew pasta. It was good, flavorful and gave me a couple days of leftovers.

I give them 4 dragonflies I am looking forward to go back, I noticed someone the next table over had the grilled chicken parmesan over corkscrew pasta, so I figured it was a good sign others were ordering gluten free as well. The server seemed to take care in making sure my meal was safe, and there was a good variety of items to order from. Plus it was so good!

Friday, October 31, 2014

Gluten Free Zombie Brownies

Happy Halloween!!!!

How does the time fly so fast these days? I swear it was just summer time, and now I'm making Halloween brownies? 

With so much going on this years Halloween party treats got down right, "simple" in our house, but still tasty and gluten free. 

Can't get any simpler than this. 

1 package of Pamela's Brownie mix
1 package of Extreme Chocolate cookies 
1/2 a bag of Wilton Candy melts

Follow the recipe on the pack of the brownies that suites your fancy. We went with the Fudgie option. While the brownies were baking we were crushing the cookies to sprinkle on the top for the dirt. Once out of the oven and cooling the "dirt" was applied.

The Wilton Candy Melts are awesome, I have a candy melter that I use to melt them, but the microwave for 2-3 :30 second rounds works, as well as using a double boiler to melt them. Pour them in the mold, freeze for 10 minutes and you have zombie hands to push down into the brownies and look like the walking dead are coming out of your dessert.... Heck it doesn't need to be Halloween to enjoy these, they'd be great to share watching the Walking Dead on Sunday nights too! 

Happy and safe Halloween and don't forget after Trick or Treating check out the safe candies for you and your little ones and swap them with someone for anything you can't have! Here is the list for a quick reference

Friday, September 19, 2014

Puccini's Smiling Teeth

Off the beaten path for sure. There is a lot of construction on Meridian right now, so it was a little crazy. We were ending our trip in Indianapolis and deciding where to eat, if we ate in Indianapolis or drive closer to home. Looking on Find Me Gluten free Puccini's Smiling Teeth came up in Carmel. After we giggled a bit about the name, we read the online reviews. It seemed they had some good gluten free options. Thankfully we punched the address in the GPS or we might not have found it, but at last we did. They have been in Indianapolis since 1991, and now have several locations in Indiana and Kentucky, they have also won several awards for the innovative pizzas and other Italian dishes they've started to serve.

Right away before walking in there was a sign stating they offer gluten free, and that although they don't have a dedicated kitchen, their staff is trained in preparing gluten free food. Positive sign!

When we walked in, they'd just opened for dinner, so I felt an extra sense of security that my meal would be correct. They had a full menu for gluten free, with the pizza options on the back. There were so many good sounding different options it was hard to choose what I wanted. I ended up getting a pizza, and we got a appetizer of scamorza; which was similar to a warm bruschetta that game with gluten free toast. The gluten eaters in my group said they enjoyed the toast, and that they were glad we tried the scarmorza because it was really tasty!

Talking with our server and mentioning that I was "allergic" he assured me the items I got were fine, and I would be ok. The pizza came out in it's own disposable pan, so I knew it didn't get contaminated from cooking. I even had my own pizza cutter and spatula.

The food was good, the staff was friendly they seemed knowledgeable. I am curious if the same would go for when they are busier, since they don't have a large kitchen or dinning area. We are hoping to go back next summer when we are back in town for the race again. My brothers girlfriend kept calling it "The best flipping pizza" she's had in a long long time. So the gluten eaters in the group won't object to stopping for pizza while you're there.

They get four dragonflies from me on their variety of options they offer for gluten free with everything from appetizers, traditional dishes, pizza and pasta. Though they could be dicey when it gets busy, but the staffs training and knowledge of gluten free did leave me feeling happy with our decision to stop.


Monday, September 8, 2014

Chik-Fil-A -- A Gluten Free quick stop meal

The first time I had Chik-Fil-a was back in my pre gluten free days in college. Down at ISU we had them on Campus as one of the places to eat in the dining hall of Waterson. They were one of the more expensive places to use our dining dollars, plus they were not open on Sunday’s so we didn’t eat there a lot, it was really more of a treat to get a chicken sandwich from there.
Fast forward 8 years and chik-fil-a is finally making their move into the Chicago Market. I was ecstatic, only issue… I couldn’t get that amazing chicken sandwich any more. Until I was gluten free I would only order chicken breaded, deep fried was even better then breaded, but I’d never order it grilled. Then they went and put a Chik-fil-a Right by my house, walking distance, it begged going in to check it out. 
Looking for a quick meal that wasn’t Chipotle or Pei Wei,(Which are right across the street) we stopped at Chik-fil-a to get dinner. I went with a salad with grilled chicken. I told the girl taking my order it needed to be gluten free, no croutons or bread, she told me right away there were no croutons or bread to worry about, but she’d make sure everything else was ok on the salad. (how sweet) I had the list of Gluten Free salad dressings pulled up on my phone already, I noticed one thing, they did not have Ranch, Blue Cheese, or Caesar salad dressing, my normal salad dressing staples. I was a bit miffed because I didn’t know what to order!?!!  I got the avocado lime ranch dressing, which turned out ok, I did like it. 
I did some more research, I found out you can ask them to be certain, but they fry their waffle fries in a separate fryer from the breaded items so they are gluten free too!!!!  OMG French Fries!!!! My love!!!

Note - I couldn't pass up ordering a side of fries with my Salad.
The Chik-fil-a sauce is also gluten free, Yum! While we were traveling to Indianapolis for the race we stopped in Merriville to visit the Albanese Candy Factory and decided to grab dinner since we had several options there (Joe’s crab shack, Don Julio’s, Red Robin, Chik-Fil-A) to choose from. We opt’d for a quick meal so we could hit the road quickly after eating so we did Chik-Fil-A. I was so excited when the girl taking our order checked with the kitchen; yup the fries were safe! Large fry for me, and a salad, since I guess fries aren’t enough for dinner. We now have another place to add to the quick eats list when traveling, or grabbing a meal before an event. 
I give them 4 dragonflies, since they have several options for grilled chicken, salads, nuggets, and patties, if you want to do a bun-less burger and waffle fries. They also have several dressings and sauces that are gluten free.