Thursday, January 22, 2015

Gluten Free Versus Wheat Free

What is Gluten?? That's a good question, and can something be gluten free an contain wheat, well actually yes! Just as something can be wheat free and still contain gluten.

Let's not make things too easy to follow now. The crazy part was the new labeling laws that were established in the US came with a lot of fan-fare and excitement that things would be easier and clearer, 6 months in, and it seems to be murkier and more convoluted. Now the US says Wheat Starch is ok to used in gluten free products. This is already a norm in Europe, so it's now been approved for the US. How safe is it? A study done in 1999, says it's not harmful to Celiacs...

From the FDA's site directly -
# 3 - How is “gluten-free” defined in the rule?
In general, foods may be labeled “gluten-free” if they meet the definition and otherwise comply with the final rule’s requirements. More specifically, the final rule defines "gluten-free" as meaning that the food either is inherently gluten free; or does not contain an ingredient that is: 1) a gluten-containing grain (e.g., spelt wheat); 2) derived from a gluten-containing grain that has not been processed to remove gluten (e.g., wheat flour); or 3) derived from a gluten-containing grain that has been processed to remove gluten (e.g., wheat starch), if the use of that ingredient results in the presence of 20 parts per million (ppm) or more gluten in the food. Also, any unavoidable presence of gluten in the food must be less than 20 ppm.


There are some products already big name companies using wheat starch on Certified Gluten Free Products. Go-Picnic is one of them. As you see below the item is certified gluten free, but contains wheat... I see people question this regularly. Why? Because it's confusing!!



Well another big name brand, Dr. Schar's is going to be launching croissants in the US! They already sell croissants in Europe, and those croissants, contain Wheat Starch. So the products being brought over to the US now, follows that ingredient list and also has Wheat Starch. When you look at the ingredients it's the first thing listed! 

So now what?! Well we each need to figure out what this means for us. In the US it means if an item is labeled "Certified GF" and contains wheat starch. That amount is less than 20ppm of wheat starch. Now if you have a wheat allergy You HAVE to read all labels extra carefully. If you have a gluten intolerance or Celiac Disease, you have to determine if this product will cause any reactions for you. Remembering that any product labeled GF can contain up to 20ppm of any gluten, even from cross contamination of the facility. 

Cross contamination is a whole different story, but just as complex because manufacturers are NOT required to disclose items are made on shared lines or in shared facilities. So any manufactured product is a gamble unless you know how the product is made. 

Personally - I really miss croissants, and I will give them a try, I miss them so bad. As for this Candy from GoPicnic, I've probably eaten this candy from GoPicnic in the past without realizing there was wheat starch in it, only because it comes in a box labeled gluten free, I assumed it was safe! 

With anything it's our responsibility to research and know what is best for us, and make sure we make the best choices possible when it comes to our health and eating gluten free.


Sunday, January 18, 2015

Marcello's Father and Son Restaurants

One of the best gluten free dinning options I've found that everyone loves is Marcello's. They have a couple locations around Chicagoland. We frequent both Northbrook and Lincoln Park for dinner. From what I hear their broasted chicken is amazing, and the non-chicken eaters we know love it there. Unfortunately that is not on the gluten free menu. But their Gluten free menu does have some good options. 

Abbe's Gluten free menu includes pizza, pasta, salads, dessert even GF beer! We've been here a few times, my absolute favorite dish is the fusilli pasta baked with mozzarella cheese. They use a corn pasta, no mater what sauce you pick it will be fabulous. Keep in mind the dish is Hot when it arrives!



Last time I decided to finally break down and get their pan pizza. (I Really like the pasta!) I asked the waitress to confirm I could get any toppings or pizza options with the gluten free crust. She confirmed yes, so I got the buffalo chicken pizza. Yum! I might have a new food love here. 


It's not a huge pizza, it is only 8 inches, square. But was enough to fill me up. The crust again is a corn base, crispy, and thicker than a normal pizza. I'm not sure which I liked better the crust or the toppings. The crust had moisture to it and wasn't dry. With any meal they will bring out a complementary cup of coleslaw, which I've heard is tasty, I can't find any muscle in me that likes any coleslaw so I always pass on it. Maybe on our next visit I'll branch out and try dessert!

I give Marcello's 4 dragonflies, they take a lot of caution with preparing their food, and I've never had any issues ordering, or getting my food. There are lots of options for everyone on both menu's and the staff is very friendly.




Friday, January 16, 2015

Crockpot Rootbeer BBQ Chicken

Working 8-5 Monday-Friday, Moving into my own place with my boyfriend, it seems the first thing everyone says is "you need to get a crock pot!" Sounds great, what do I do with it?! My mom NEVER used a crock-pot, One day her cousin and her talked about how they got them for their weddings, and gave them away, years later; unused. So I was bestowed a crock-pot from a friend, so I started asking other friends if they used them. Most told me "once or twice... That's about it." Honestly my apprehension comes from the setting it to cook, and leaving for 8 hours. I really fear burning the house down!!

So to try and start getting over that fear, I thought, I'll make something in the crock-pot on the weekend, when I'm home and doing stuff around the house, that way I can totally babysit the whole process and get more comfortable with the idea of leaving it on the counter and going to work.

Heck - I read the original recipe for this and went, well this seems easy, I must be missing something. I did a few Tweaks to make it my own, so here goes. The original recipe called for Sweet Baby Rays BBQ; which is Gluten Free, and A&W rootbeer; also gluten free. I'm a huge fan of Two Fat Guys BBQ Sauce, and my grocery store didn't have a small bottle of A&W Rootbeer, so I had to settle for Barq. 

Ingredients
1 crock-pot
1/4 cup of water
4-5 chicken breasts thawed
1 18oz bottle your favorite BBQ Sauce
6oz your favorite Rootbeer
A Dash of Salt
A Dash of Pepper
1 Tablespoon of Honey (Optional)

For a first try at using a crock-pot this was an easy one. Put the chicken and 1/2 cup of water in the crock-pot and set on High for 3 hours, or medium for 6 hours. Drain the chicken juices  at the end of the time. 


Mix the remaining ingredients in a bowl right before you drain the chicken. Pour the mixture into the crock-pot and then place the chicken back into the pot, making sure the chicken is covered with the mixture. Set the timer to cook on high for another 45 minutes. 

Once the time is up the chicken will be ready to pull out, and will be super tender. Spoon some extra sauce on the side to pour over the chicken. My sauce came out a bit thin but was sweet with a bit of a bite on the back end. We did a pasta dish on the side, but could have easily shredded the chicken and served over bread or rice as a pulled chicken dish. 


I love this as a good entertaining dish as well, when some friends are coming over for dinner, it's low maintenance enough that you can set it up before they come and just plan to serve it once dinner is ready. Now let's see what our 2nd crockpot meal is!


Monday, January 12, 2015

Wok & Fire

Gluten Free Chinese food??? Don't tease me!! 

The first time we found Wok & Fire was with Find Me Gluten Free in Saint Charles, IL. We were out that way for their Annual Scarecrow Fest, and thought we'd see what our options were. We were delighted to find Wok & Fire. The gluten free menu is pretty encompassing for options, they even can do fried rice and have gluten free soy sauce. Even better - They are a chain in the Western Suburbs. They really meet my expectations for a great gluten free menu, they have appetizers, small plates, even sushi, and regular dish options. The menu is pretty consistent across all locations as in terms of variety.


The portion sizes are big enough for sharing, and upon request they will bring out gluten free Tamari for all dishes. Though their sauce mixes are really good, so you don't need to much as an extra flavor enhancer. They make their own ginger ales and each location differs which flavor enhancements they have for the ginger ale.


The best part is that their regular food options are really good, so I never have to twist anyone's arm on going there for dinner! I give them 4 dragonflies, they have a great variety of options, the food is Super tasty, and the variety is Huge, especially for Asian food!

 

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Café Winberie

Interesting and intriguing all in one, the options at Winberie's were rather unique. Their location in Buffalo Grove recently closed, so the only option is this location in Oak Park. It's tucked away in a corner, spot, and if you blink you might miss it from the outside, but inside it's much bigger. They did have regular burgers, but really their combinations of items were pretty exciting, Jamaican Pork, Shrimp Dijon,  London Broil. I honestly wasn't sure what to get, everything sounded interesting. They even stated that their soups were gluten free, which is really hard to find it seems.

They don't have a parking lot right there, there is public parking down the street, and metered street parking as well. It's quaint area to walk around and do some shopping or check out the Frank Lloyd Wright tours. 


They have a separate gluten free menu from the regular menu, that lists out the options. Like I mentioned there were a lot of great sounding options including the soup of the day! That day it was a Cauliflower Cheddar which sounded awesome for an option. Sadly my stomach was not as excited as I was to being eating out and was holding a bit of protest. The Jamaican Pork was amazing. It combined the perfect blend of sweet and spicy to help make the flavors intense and interesting. We had to get a creme brulee to try, I feel since this is usually the safe GF dessert option we should start rating places on their Creme Brulee's!

The menu over all had a great variety, with everything from appetizers to dessert options, and a wide variety of entrees. Next time I'm in the area for a tour I will be stopping by here again. Oak Park in general has some stellar Gluten Free Dining options so it always makes choosing so hard. I give them 4 dragonflies. 



Sunday, January 4, 2015

The Cheesecake Factory

I've learned over the years that The Cheesecake Factory is a love hate place for many. Lot's of options, annoyingly huge menu with ads in the middle, large portions, high prices, but good tasting food. I've got my own beef with them on their gluten free menu, but we were going there for work, so I had to at least try and like it for a day.

We went to the one at Old Orchard Mall in Skokie. Compared to the one in Schaumburg it was easier to get a seat at noon on a Friday. Part of our party was seated before us, so we got to the table, I browsed the 10 page menu, and there were no gluten free markings on the pages. So I asked if there was a separate one. Our waitress said yes and she'd go get it. With such a huge menu I'd think they could just mark items with an symbol, but C'est la vie, I waited for my menu. And we waited, and waited, and I laughed when I realized the waitress was going table to table asking if anyone had it cause they had 1 copy. It would be nice if the menu was online... But it's not.

The waitress was nice enough to offer to bring me a gluten free bun and butter while everyone else had the bread basket. she also asked if I got sick from gluten, or really sick from gluten. When I told her I'd be very ill, she did start to tell me about how good their kitchen is and how there is a different prep area for the gluten free items. Plus she doesn't know of any complaints on people getting sick from gluten free meals at their location.

I was in the mood for a smaller meal so I got an order of their corn cakes and a side of edamame. It was a lot more filling than I'd expected, and I couldn't finish the last corn cake. Over all the food was presented well and tasted good.  


The downfall of the day I'm not sure if it was the coffee I grabbed on the way back to the office, or the meal, I felt so sick later that night.... I don't know where the shoe drops, but I didn't feel good by 7:00 pm, which is my rough time frame for a gluten reaction.

We skipped dessert. I really don't know how people eat an entree there and still have room for dessert. I was ok with skipping, I don't trust their gluten free cheesecake for a couple reasons.
1st - How do they make sure there is no cross contamination prepping the cake?
2nd - Godiva advises Not to eat Any of their products due to the malt flavoring added to enhance their product. When I asked Cheesecake Factory about it, they said "It generally tests under 20ppm". So that left me nervous....  No Godiva cake for me, I don't want to risk having one that might test higher, or didn't get tested... Or someone wasn't as careful handling.

Over all I give them 3 dragonflies, the menu could be listed gluten free in their novel of a menu or even online. There are a lot of options, but I just don't feel the prep is safe enough, plus not feeling good later that night really left me feeling uneasy over all. I feel like they are in this for the glory and not really for the safety for someone with Celiac Disease. 

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Wise Guys Pizzeria

This past weekend we happen to be out in South Elgin and ended up spending more time then expected, and needed something to eat before heading back to the Northwest burbs. We found Wise Guys Pizzeria in South Elgin, formerly Pizza Cucina until July of 2012.

It's a casual dining establishment at the left end of a strip mall off of Randall Road. We happened to get there between lunch and dinner time, so there was no wait and very quick service for the dine in area. They also are able to do carry out, and catering.


The gluten free menu is listed up by the front counter for walk up/carry out diners, and also listed in the regular paper menus at the tables. When we ordered I made sure to emphasize to our waitress Gluten Free, for an allergy. I was excited they had cheesy garlic bread as a side dish, I had to get an order, since I don't know the last time I had garlic bread, and this came with cheese baked on it!


It was tasty, I could tell when she brought it over, it had a certain smell to it that was very gluten free. I gave a couple small pieces to the people dinning with me. (very small, I was enjoying it too much) They both agreed it was good, my brother said he was picking up on the gluten taste in it.

I had ordered the gluten free pasta with vodka sauce. The waitress asked Spaghetti noodles or penne? I was shocked there was a choice of pastas. I made sure to again emphasize that it was gluten free due to an allergy. When my pasta arrived, I was shocked to see there was garlic bread on it.... I asked the girl if the bread was also gluten free. After staring at me blankly she said she would go ask in back. She came back with the manager who confirmed the bread in fact was NOT gluten free. 


I pointed out to him that there were in fact crumbs from the bread in the pasta. He said, "then we will have to make you a new one." It only took a few minutes for a new dish to come out to me. This one came out piping hot, and with gluten free garlic bread. The sauce this time also looked more like vodka sauce. It was very tasty, but I definitely filled up on the cheesy bread waiting for my meal, so I ended up taking most of the pasta home to have for lunch.

I was glad they took the correct steps for fixing my dish and making sure a new one came out quickly. The food was good, they have pizza and pasta's, with no extra cost for gluten free pasta! That is almost un-heard of! Though it would be nice if they had gluten free sandwich options in addition to the traditional Italian options. I would only give them 3 dragonflies, I do worry that since we were the ONLY diners in the restaurant and they couldn't get gluten free done correctly, I worry how they would be when the restaurant is busy.