Monday, June 29, 2015

Fiesta Chicken Bake

Here is a quick and easy meal that will easily feed 5-7 people in one sitting.
We like jazzing up recipes to make sure they have more vegetables when possible.

What I like about this meal is once you prep the items, it's really easy to make. Just layer the ingredients and bake! Easy and cheesy!

  • 1 can of Rotel
  • 1 block of Velvetta cheese (the smaller block is enough)
  • 3-4 chicken breasts chopped up and cooked
  • 12-13 corn tortilla's chopped up in 2 inch squares
  • 1 green pepper diced
  • 1/2 a package of mushrooms diced
  • 1 can of corn
  • 2 cans of gluten free creamy chicken soup
  • cassarole dish 8x12
  • Preheat oven to 350
Once you have cooked the chicken place it aside.

Mix together the veggies, rotel, and chicken soup. set aside. 

You will layer each of the ingredents (except the cheese) starting with the chopped up corn tortilla's to make a single layer of tortilla's. Next you will layer in chicken, and then a layer of the soup mixture.

Then you will repeat these steps to make the next layer, tortilla's, chicken, and soup. You will top all of this with the velvetta. I chopped mine into small cubes to layer over the top.  Bake for 40 minutes at 350 degrees. This will be plenty of time for this to cook. When it's done it will look something like this.

This is one of the few recipes that I don't add any other spices to. The Rotel does enough on it's own!

Monday, June 22, 2015

Going Wilde - Gluten Free

OK - I had to have a little play on words here. Wilde Bar and Restaurant is a sister restaurant to one of my favorite places in the city; Lady Gregory's. Lady Gregory's has an amazing menu for gluten free, and non-gluten free. There are many items on there my parents look forward to when we're in the city. I have to say they satisfy my bad for you food cravings. The menu at Wilde is very similar to Lady Gregory's; and uses the same "Gluten Freedom" of marking Gluten free dishes with a little flag so you have some more assurance that the correct meal is being brought out to you. 

That's huge in my book, it shows they care. they also have several different gluten free beer/cider options, and have a dedicated fryer for the sweet potato fries. (YUM!!). They offer Udi's buns so you can get a burger on a bun, and feel like you're having a normal meal. I like that they have a wide variety of items and I've never had anything that wasn't delicious.

We got an appetizer of the cheddar artichoke dip with toast points. They brought out toasted Udi's bread on the side and it was so good. The menu is similar, and the neighborhood is just as bumping as their sister restaurant. So either is a great choice when on the North Side.  

I give them 5 dragonflies, our server was attentive, she knew right away which GF beers were in stock, what my options where and asked if I had an allergy. I will go back and I recommend anyone else trying it out. I mean They have bacon mac and cheese, how can you go wrong with that!!

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Dia De Los Tamales Pilsen

Dia De Los Tamales is a quirky fun place in the Pilsen Neighborhood of Chicago. This young restaurant who just passed two years in business, has an American twist on Mexican foods. Really the only thing they serve is Tamales, but their not ordinary Tamales. My boyfriend was a fan of them when they were starting out at the Pilsen Farmers Market, so he was so happy they got a store front. What's great is that despite not having a singly note gluten free menu, they know their stuff. Plus on their regular menu there is only 1 tamale that isn't safe, and that's the Apple Cobler.

Randomly they have special other flavors available which are listed on their flat screen menu board when you walk in. I love how different the flavors are, Buffalo Chicken, Italian Beef, Juicy Lucy, Atomic Pork and Chocolate Peanut Butter, so even though you're going for tamales, it's not the same as going for traditional Mexican food. Each tamale has a matching sauce or topper that helps make them even more interesting, and you can get a "nacomale" Which is fresh made chips topped with a tamale cheese and jalapenos! How can you go wrong?! Another interesting side they have for beans; you can get black beans or garbanzo beans. The garbanzo beans are pretty awesome. The one thing I wish they would work on was making their rice tastier. It's rather bland, which is shocking since their tamales have so much flavor in them. I guess next time I can try one of the many Chicago made hot sauces they have on the register and for sale to try and spice things up. 

For those that live in the area, they do deliver, which might be best as they only have 4 seats for dinning in year round. In the summer they do have a couple tables outside, so we generally get our tamales to go.  But they do deliver, which is awesome. The staff rocks and are so out of the box fun it's great to just stop in and say hi when ordering tamales, also when you ask about gluten free they are very upfront and understanding. If they are ever unsure a topping has gluten for one of their tamales (pumpkin spice in the fall) they will add the sauce and leave the rest of the topping off. I give them 5 dragonflies, they make their products fresh, and they are full of flavor. The staff makes the place even more inviting and never lets you down for flavor.

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Kabob's and mushrooms

With the 4th of July coming up quickly! Here's another quick and easy meal, well part of the quick and easy comes from getting skewers pre-made at the grocery store. The mushrooms were made with a couple items I always keep in the fridge, cheese and garlic, as well as a jalapeno I picked up at the store. Prep time, minimal, cooking time, as long as it takes for the meat to be cooked to your liking! 

I did these outside on our little hibachi grill, but I've also done this on our inside stove top grill. To spice the meat up a bit I used SanJ's new Mongolian BBQ sauce.

I always wash off my fruits and veggies and let them dry a bit. Afterwards I laid some foil on the grill, rubbed the bottom of the mushrooms with olive oil and filled them with cheese, garlic and topped with a couple jalapenos. Cook these bad boys until the cheese is mostly melted, 10 minutes roughly.

The skewers I laid foil down so I could use the Mongolian sauce, I sprinkled a touch of salt and pepper before pouring the sauce on top of the meat. I rotated to each side about every 8-9 minutes until the meat was cooked through to the level I liked. Viola Dinner, quick and simple! While this was grilling I boiled some small round potatoes on the stove. They take very little maintenance and after about 30 minutes of simmering they were super soft.

It did help that I was able to get these pre-made up, so there was no prep time on cutting the veggies or the meat, but that's the kind of meal I like! Paired up with a Glutenberg Beer this meal was a total success.

Saturday, June 6, 2015

Product Reviews Back at it!

New Products ~~Well it's that time again, new product reviews! I've got a bunch!! 

Tate’s Cookies – I like Tate’s Chocolate Chip cookies, the cookie itself is tasty. But I’m going to say the horribly unpopular statement, I just don’t like chocolate chips. Though neither do my parents, so I guess I do take after them! I was so stoked when I saw that they were going to make their Chipless chocolate chip cookies gluten free. I’d been eyeing those each time I’d see the gluten-full ones in the store, wishing they were gf. Mind you, we have enough cookies in our house to last us months if the zombie apocalypse happened, but I had to get these, and I know they won’t last the week. 

Hungry Jack Funfetti Pancakes, Yes they made a gluten free version of this. You may have to pinch me to make sure this isn't a dream. These are BY FAR the BEST pancakes I've had in years. I love them. they're fluffy, and don't have a gritty texture or a funny paper like after taste. Plus they have sprinkles in them so how can you go wrong. The only thing you need to add is water so you can't go to wrong. Plus the directions on the back are portioned well so that you don't end up with a ton of extra pancakes when making these for just two people.

Schars has some new products including a Hearty Grain bread. There is both a White and Whole Grain version of this bread. The white bread I'll admit was too dense for me. Tried it both with sandwiches for lunch and for making grilled cheese. For breads this was by far my least favorite on grilled cheeses, for sandwiches, wasn't loving it. The Whole Grain version Much better for sandwiches, it has a good flavor and doesn't taste GF at all! These are interesting because they are meant to be frozen not in their sealed packages on dry good GF shelves. What I like is I can take it out of the freezer in the morning before work, make my sandwich and it's properly thawed by noon.

Another interesting product we tried were cupcakes from Antonia's Artisan Bakery. They do sell regular non-gluten free products as well. The novel thing about them, they use mayonnaise as an ingredient. I've seen it before in a local favorite cake in Chicago, Portillo's makes an amazing gluten-ful chocolate cake that the key ingredient is mayonnaise. I've just never seen it used in gluten free baking. These were really good. Super moist and tasty. I was afraid they'd be overly sweet or too dense a taste, but these were good. they also make cakes and loaf breads/cakes, their gluten free items ARE made in a dedicated facility.

Meatballs! Coleman Natural, I got these on a whim we had some GF pasta so I though these were worth a try. The gluten free label is on the back of the package but it is present. I like that I just had to put them in a saute pan with some water and they were ready in a few minutes. The taste, fabulous, a bit of a kick but a lot of flavor. While searching their site I found out they also make gluten free breaded chicken tenders. I'll buy these again for sure quick pasta night these will be a go to. I got them at Fresh Thyme, but Costco also carries them.

Snack Factory pretzel chips, I've tried two versions of these, Caramel and plain. First thoughts on the caramel were Oh My Gosh are these Sweet!! But the sweetness doesn't last long on your tongue it does mellow out and become a sweet and salty blend. They're not too dense, pretty light actually, and they don't hurt your teeth. I like these, with some soft cheese spread they remind me of good pretzels with pub cheese. 

Saturday, May 30, 2015

Outback Steakhouse "Can Do" Gluten Free

I hold some reservation on the full ability of Outback doing gluten free. Their main entree, they are know for is steak, how hard is it to make a steak safe? Well I've had issues at LongHorn Steakhouse doing a gluten free steak, and even Outback and the lack of knowledge that lays at different locations. Really dinning out relies 100% on the staff and how well trained they are, and how much management cares.

We've been to Outback a couple times at a couple different locations. I like that there is always a variety of items, including steak, chicken and seafood. My only issues each time is each location has a much different understanding of what gluten free means. I've been told that shrimp isn't safe, or Old Bay seasoning isn't safe or the cinnamon in the sweet potato, though these items are on the gluten free menu. But again training and staff knowledge. We have to go into the situation knowing our stuff and knowing when to ask questions.

The part that does make me feel a bit better was talking to a friend who worked there that told me when an allergy order comes in the cook will stop all other meal orders, clean the grill surface and work on the allergy order and then start the rest of the orders again. So props to them for having the kitchen trained, now to get the front end staff trained!

Usually asking for the manager or asking for the cooks advice helps with staff that isn't that well trained. Our last trip I got the steak and lobster tail, because my brother raved about it from his visit a few days earlier. As usual it turned into a lot of questions, and the server telling me the lobster wasn't safe.... But Finally was willing to go talk to the cook, find out if the lobster was safe (I'm Gluten Intolerant, not Shelfish intolerant....) She came back and told me it was OK. It was prepare well, the server who brought out my plate announced it as gluten free, which did make me feel better because the server made me nervous.

The food was good, but I leave feeling that I need to be extra diligent in any meal I have there, the product they offer is so simple to produce gluten free, yet it seems like such a hard question for them to answer when to talk to the staff. I would say going there is best if you're willing to really talk to them and make sure they understand gluten free instead of other issues. I give them 3 dragonflies, the process seems like it could be a lot simpler than they make it, and I don't understand what is so hard on their end.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

What Snacks to Pack When Traveling Gluten Free

Traveling with any food allergy or restriction can be challenging, even tricky depending where you’re going, how you’re getting there, and who you are traveling with. Personally I love traveling, but the moment a trip comes up in topic, I kind of panic, and a million questions rush through my mind.
Will there be places to eat out? What are the grocery stores like? Do they have GF options? What does everyone else like to eat? Are we renting a car so I can go to the store? What should I just pack?
How I travel – I guess I can break this into two parts. How I travel via plane and via road trip!
Plane has more restrictions, since there are restrictions on what you can bring on a plane, and how much room you have to pack. I always have a carry-on with snacks, and if I have room in my checked luggage, I’ll pop some stuff in there. 
Why keep food in my carry on? 2 reasons; it’s with me and I can snack on the plane since the bag of snacks they give out usually is a trail mix that has gluten in it. I’m set. Secondly Layovers. We had a layover in Saint Louis coming back from California. The terminal we flew into was a temporary one because a Tornado hit the regular terminal a few months earlier. It left us with a very desolate terminal with not a lot of options. The 2-3 food options were all fried and pre-made fast food, we had 2 hours sitting there, and luckily I had snacks to tie me over. 
What do I pack; well any variety of these items I can pick up before the trip and fit in my bag – Nuts, Larabars, Kind Bars, Kind Granola, Raisins, Cookies, Pretzels, Crackers (who knows I may find cheese or salsa or guacamole to go with it), Skinny Pop individual bags, Pamela’s Figgy and Jammies, Corn Nuts, Gummy Bears and M&M’s. Last but not least my Toast-It Bags. I usually stay away from perishable items like bread or fruit because I’m not sure how long it will be until we get to our destination after flying. That kind of thing I look for Whole Foods, or Trader Joe’s. If I find out what grocery chain they have, I’ll read reviews on how good their GF product line is to decide if it’s worth going there. Taking the Toast It bags allows me to pick up bread or anything that needs toasting and use a toaster at the hotel to make a quick breakfast item. 

Bringing food in the car again has two benefits, you can snack as you’re on the road saving money if you stop at the gas station. But also depending where you’re traveling you may be stuck along the way to find safe GF options, or the destination may not have the best gf options for you. Traveling up to Tawas, Michigan was one of our adventures that 1st Tawas didn’t have the best GF selection in their grocery store unless I was baking/making from scratch. 2nd driving to Indianapolis from there, the route didn’t offer much for GF dinning without driving out of our way to find it, and on our tight schedule that wasn’t an option! Generally though road trips involve a group of people so I find every way possible to not be a total and udder nuisance to the group. I look up reviews on places we can dine out safely, and make a list so that everyone can decide what they want to eat. The group I travel with has some picky eaters, and there is no reason to make them go somewhere they don’t want to! It’s their vacation too, and their money their spending, so I’m not going to force them to eat somewhere they don’t want to. I bring a lot more perishable options when going by car; including bread, Kinnickinick donuts, a few slices or bread and English muffins, because I can pack them into a cooler to make sure they don’t get too warm before we get there. If we do eat breakfast in the hotel I have some options for myself as well. I also map out what grocery stores are at our destination so we can do a shopping trip to get things like lunch meat or cheese and check out what products I can’t find at home.