Sunday, May 24, 2015

BlackFinn Ameripub

BlackFinn Ameripub has been in Mount Prospect, a stones throw from my house for a couple years now. I'll be honest it didn't sound that appetizers, so I think they've upped their menu options in recent months and added a lot of new items.

We stopped in to check it out one Wednesday night, as a recommendation from my parents. Turns out it was half price wine night too. The gluten free items are marked in the menu with the regular items, they also label if it's an item that can be customized to be gluten free, so they have two different indicators. There was a variety of items to choose from most of the sections of the menu, which made me happy there were options.

I had asked the server about the GF and GFO markings. I ordered a dish that was labeled GF, not GFO sides are listed separate, he told me which sides were GF safe, which oddly did not include the rice. I'm always shocked when places say their rice is not safe, but I went a long with it, better to be safe than sorry. Whipped sweet potatoes instead totally hit the spot. Their portion sizes are huge! When my plate arrived I almost asked if I missed a marking for meal for two on the menu! 

Our server seemed very knowledgeable when I mentioned I was gluten free, he pointed out right away being half price wine night that I could still get wine and be good! 
I give them 4 dragonflies, they had a good selection of foods on their menu. All items are listed GF or GFO depending if it needs modifications. Staff seems to know what's going on. I'll go back.

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Are Mike's Hard Lemonade's Gluten Free

Another Great Loaded question - Are Mike's Hard Lemonade's Gluten Free... Well No - Not Gluten Free, but gluten removed. Like any gluten removed, or made on shared lines with gluten containing ingredients it's up to each of us to decide what is best for us. Personally I've never had an issue with a gluten removed beer like Omission 

I do love me a Mike's at bowling as it's the only GF option they have. I've mentioned before I WILL NOT Drink beer on tap, why I've gotten sick from it. Why? Well the bar has to take the time and effort to really clean the lines to the kegs and you have to hope the keg is on a dedicated line, and there is no sharing in the tapping process.... Too much effort and too many questions to ask the bartender. Give me a drink in a bottle I know I'm safer that way.

I was told that Mike's lite's were safe at one time so I tried it, and didn't react, so for the last 3 years it's been my drink of choice when wine, or gf beers weren't available... Never reacted... Yet if I have a crumb of gluten with something I'm in gut wrenching pain, why?? I wish I knew, but Here you can get the scoop from their website. OR below you can read on the information they handed out at the GFAF Expo as they tested their products. 

As with any Gluten Removed item it is made with grains that contain gluten, and processed to remove. Similar to the process Cheerios is using to clean oats before using them in the new GF Cheerios, or how Schars uses Wheat Starch in their GF items the initial grain is present and then reduced to what is considered safe. Celiac Disease and Gluten Intolerance are not a cookie cutter disease and it is up to each of us to know how exactly to handle our tolerances. While we may not feel sick from something it can still be doing damage to your intestines.

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Aldi's Gluten Free Love

Aldi’s goes gluten free – for the 2nd year in a row Aldi’s has launched a slew of new gluten free products right at the beginning of Celiac Disease Awareness month. It’s a very pleasant surprise to see the new items show up in their flyer. Products do vary based on location many times, and not all items launched will become regulars to their product line, it’s a nice inexpensive way to indulge on your favorite items of gluten years past. 

Last year products included a range of dry goods to frozen items. They brought out cookie mix, and brownie mix, granola bars, flour, hot pockets, 2 frozen meal options, pizza, chicken nuggets, crisp bread, wraps, and white and multi-grain bread to list a few items. Most items remained on the shelves after the promotion ended, giving us gluten free eaters some nice inexpensive options for picking of quick staples. 

This year they brought out more exciting items, boxed macaroni and cheese, both powdered version and “real” shells and cheese, frozen mac and cheese and spaghetti, cheesecake, tamale bites, pasta side dishes, cereal, chips, crackers, angel food cake, ravioli, and soon they will have additional hot pocket flavors. I’ll be honest I was one of those people who came and stocked up on everything so I could make sure to get a variety and try the most exciting looking items. 

I’ll be honest when it comes to food for me, convenience wins most the time. I don’t mind taking the time to make the main entrĂ©e for dinner, but for a side or snack, I like things that are quick to prepare, and inexpensive is even better, that’s why I’m totally crushing on the Aldi’s items. #AldisForTheWin. I don’t have the time or energy to make everything from scratch after working all day.

Only a few items haven’t won me over in their product line the frozen Italian meals gave me really bad heart burn that I could do without. The hot pockets tend to be a bit dry on the crust, but if you add some cheese or pizza sauce they work just fine! The mac and cheese is a close 2nd to my favorite Annie’s brand which is impressive to me. Totally blows the Walmart brand out of the water. The cheesecake Wow – creamy flavorful, (though the crust does include nuts) the crust is moist and no one would ever know it was GF! – I can serve it to friends without them questioning it. In my mind this is a keeper cause anyone can buy and enjoy it. We’ve been trying different Aldi’s products over the last week to see what they’re like so I know what to go back and stock up on! 

Besides the Live G-Free line Aldi's has an expansive selection of items that are labeled Gluten Free. Great for quick shopping, you can flip see the label and keep going. Plus they have awesome wine at a great price. I'm a huge fan of their chicken nuggets, a bag of those, a bag of mixed veggies and a bottle of wine solve any "I don't know what to make for dinner concerns.

Monday, May 11, 2015

Deerfields Sugar Cookies Mix

Happiness is cookies. Even better happiness is homemade cookies, fresh out of the oven, even if they are made with a mix. I happened to find a bag of Deerfields Sugar Cookie Mix recently and thought I'd try them out, homemade. To start of with, Deerfields makes gluten free goodies at their Schaumburg location, and they are kept in a freezer at all 3 locations, as well as several stores around Chicagoland. Deerfields has been making baked goods since 1886, and are well known around the area. What's another great plus, their gluten free products are made at a peanut free facility as well.

The first time I had their cupcakes, I did notice one thing, they're sweet, almost too sweet for me. Their lemon button cookies are good, but you do have to bring them up to room temperature for a good solid taste on them. They are a great find, but not my first of the gluten free options out there. 

Their Cookie Mix... Well it's super easy recipe. Always my favorite thing when I go to back, quick, easy, common ingredients needed. There were instructions on how to make a sugar cookie frosting/icing to go on the cookies, but I wasn't that ambitious that morning, so I stuck with my stable, colored sprinkles. It seems no matter how old they are, guys love colored sprinkles on cookies, so my sugar cookies are always a hit. Flavor on these, Good! Not too sweet, and not to grainy/gritty tasting, so they already had a leg up on Betty Crocker Gluten Free cookies. 

But there really was no after taste, so they tasted like sugar cookies made from scratch. Next time I see this mix, I'd be inclined to pick it up again, and make another batch when we're having guests over.

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Gluten Free Expo 2015 round 2 of reviews.

On to the next group of reviews from the expo. - This was a mix of products I purchased and some new and familiar brands that again all excited me.

Red Apple Lipstick - Red Apple make amazing lip products that are gluten free. I'll be honest, I don't wear lipstick, never have. I maybe wear a little mocha colored tint, but that's it for me. I bite and lick my lips too much that I'd always be re-applying it. I do like eye shadow and liners. I decided I'm due for some new make-up. They have a small color collection which thankfully were in my palate, light hews and some neutral colors. They are pricey, but if you compare against a brand like Urban Decay, which is my go to for GF eye colors it's comparable, and Red Apple goes on smooth and lite as well.

Bears Super Fine Rice Flour – This was a new brand for the show and they had baking mixes and straight flour using super fine rice flour. What was great, was despite being a rice flour it didn’t taste like rice. So many flours that use rice leave a rice taste in your mouth this one did not, and it actually had lift and fluffiness to it. I got a bag of their donut mix to try out and make some baked donuts one morning.

Delights Stuffed Sandwiches; who debuted their products in this are at the show last year. In a nutshell these are the Gluten Free Hot Pockets. If you've been to Aldi's you've seen these in the frozen section for the past 8-10 months. They carry two flavors, Southwest and Peperoni. Well Delights is excited to say that come July Aldi's is going to have 2 additional flavors from their product line. Ham and Cheese as well as Spinach Cheese with kale. The outside dough is a bit dry and dusty even when microwaved. So make sure you have something to drink when eating them, but they are pretty tasty.  

Kiki's Gluten Free - Kiki's has been at the expo in the past demonstrating their spinach pockets and cherry pockets. Their crust is super flaky and tasty and is another product everyone in my family loves. Now Kiki's has developed a deep dish pizza! If you've spent any part of your life in Chicago you KNOW that's a big deal. Their pizza will be at Pizzano's and Gulliver's. It tasted like the read deal. Real Deep Dish pizza! It wasn't gooey, it didn't fall apart and was worthy of a second tasting. We for sure will be hitting up Pizzano's soon to get some pizza! It's been years (about 7+ since I've enjoyed a meal at a Pizzano's!

Lovely Candy Co - I remember falling in love with their caramels last year. This year I made a bee-line right to the table the moment I saw they were giving out samples of their new licorice. I LOVE licorice, and that has been horribly sad that I can't get licorice when I have a craving. I honestly pick up every new brand I see and flip over to see if maybe there is a wheat free option available. Their caramels and chocolate smidgens are soft and tasty. Even better; a lot of retailers carry these. So if you're shopping at HomeGoods, or hitting up the pharmacy at Target or CVS you can pick up a bag and keep on snacking! 

Hudsonville Ice Cream - This brand is more familiar with me, because of our many trips to Michigan, because Hudsonville makes my brothers girlfriends favorite ice cream. Superman. They were tasting awesome sized portions of their Mackinac fudge ice cream, and Soy Free Strawberry at the Expo. These are two of the 20 ice creams they have that are labeled gluten free. they were tasty and super refreshing after 2 hours on our feet!.

Monday, May 4, 2015

Gluten Free Expo Chicago 2015!

It's my favorite time of the year, and it's not just because my birthday was last week, the GFAF Expo was in Schaumburg, IL! I love the expo for many reasons;
1 - It's a great way to meet other gf people and talk about what you do and don't like and different foods you've tried and how they turned out. 
2 - You get to try new foods without wasting a lot of money on them to find out you just don't like them. Or your family doesn't like them.
3 - Coupons - You can get coupons from your favorite manufacturer for purchasing later.
4 - You can find out what is out there. - When I was diagnosed we had NO CLUE what to do, we didn't know what gluten free really meant, or what products to look for.
5 - There are a variety of classes offered, and it's a great way to get advice and pointed in the right direction if you're newly diagnosed.

New Products - I love when companies demo new products at the expo. Let's face it you see a shiny new package in the store you're drawn to it, and you really want to try... But you don't want to waste your money if it's awful. We've all been there - it looks so tasty and by the 2nd bite you're trying to figure out who to give it to, but you don't want them to think you hate them either. 

New this year at the expo that caught my attention - 

R.P. Which stands for Real Pasta - Found in the Refrigerated section of the grocery store. I've seen their pasta at Whole Foods, but never tried it. I liked it, it was light, and didn't have a gummy texture at all. no after taste, and it was served w/just olive oil so you got to really taste the pasta itself. My mom was a huge fan, as a gluten eater, this was huge for me! There were several grocery stores at the event and each one she told them how they need to carry this product. Go mom!

Brazi Bites, Brazilian Cheese Bread - Not sold in the midwest, decided to use the expo as a chance to get their name out so customers can ask the local grocers to carry their products. Pretty smart idea. Tapioca and cheese based, and "naturally" gluten free the way it's made in Brazil. Similar to Chebe products. These had a slightly more dough like consistency to them which was nice, plus they came in multiple flavors, like jalapeno, garlic, bacon and regular cheese. They are all natural, GMO-Free, soy free and sugar free, and FULL of taste. My mom made sure to point out to me that they were good.

RedFork Sauces - They are small batch crafted cooking sauces/marinades. The gal was nice to tell us they are mixed in with other items, (not in a dedicated gluten free section of the store) because one of the sauces they make is not gluten free, but all the others are. Sadly she didn't tell us which one, but did say all are labeled as such. For a sloppy joe sauce (and a girl who doesn't like sloppy joe.) it was good. They were serving it on Canyon Bakehouse bread which was super tasty. I'm eying their potato seasoning so I'll be looking for these in the near future.

Cheesewich - This really couldn't get any simpler. 2 pieces of cheese with a piece of salami in the middle, sold packaged just as is... No bread, no crackers... Brilliant if you ask me. I laughed because it is such a simple concept, and would honestly keep me happy when at a NASCAR race, or on a road trip. I could do without the bread, or even without the crackers. I make these as is for days when I'm not sure what I'm going to get for gluten free options. 

Don't Go Nuts - These are marketed at kids, but I would be willing to buy these. My brothers girlfriend told me several times how good the blueberry bar was, and my boyfriend and I were huge fans of the white chocolate bars. They were good, not gritty and no after taste, plus not too sweet. They are also Nut Free, an Non-GMO as well. So far around Chicago it seems they are in smaller independent markets and at Joe Caputo's. 

Classic Crab - Imitation crab meat by Trans Ocean. Such a controversy, some people don't understand it's not crab meat... But it also contains wheat. Why, well it's fake to begin with, why bother questioning any logic beyond that. They have gone and removed it so you can now make California rolls easier, and you can make crab cakes easier, and cheaper. To me it was another exciting moment, finding something I use to buy was now safe, again. 

Tomorrow I'll go over some other products we tried, Kiki's new pizzas, Mike's Hard Lemonade, Redd Remedies, Lovely Candy Co, as well as Delights Stuffed sandwiches. More to come!!