Sunday, December 29, 2013

Gluten Free Christmas brunch

Hopefully everyone had a great gluten free Christmas, we did here! At some point back about 10 years ago we got this crazy idea to make some brunch like snacks that we could nibble on as we opened gifts. We would run into issues that we'd make so many snacks no one would be hungry when it came time to eat Christmas dinner... Whoops! We tried to make less so that we wouldn't have so much to eat, but that would never work, so this year we concluded, let's make Christmas dinner smaller and enjoy our snacking for brunch. That was a much better idea, and it worked well.

We had a few hot items that were more like entrees and then a bunch of tips and sweets to fill us up. 

Crab stuffed mushrooms
Lil' smokie bacon wrapped hotdogs
Beer cheese dip (using gluten free beer)
Spinach artichoke dip
Caprese Skewers
2 cheese balls
Rolo delights
Sugar cookies
Wine (Not pictured here :))

I pre-made the beer dip, filling for the stuffed mushrooms and the dessert items. Christmas morning I made the smokies, spinach dip and stuffed the mushrooms.
We had Glutino's Pretzels and bagel chips as dippers for each dip and Breton and CrunchMaster crackers for the cheese ball, as well as tortilla chips. 

The scones are from Sticky Fingers Bakery, and the Sugar Cookies are Pamela's, which is one of our favorite brands for gluten free baked goods. Everything was easy to make gluten free which was a plus!

Monday, December 23, 2013

Eggheadz Cafe

Taking a detour while on our way to a wedding in East Chicago, Indiana, we thought we'd stop and get some food. We found Eggheadz Cafe and they happen to have breakfast items, and it was interesting sounding. Some scrambled Eggs and bacon sounded good to me, but we ended up finding something much better. 

I was excited at the opportunity for waffles and pancakes, even crepes. I couldn't resist getting the crepe's. I haven't had those in years. they could do any topping/filling. I went simple and did banana's and nuts. I've never been big on fruits with jelly on my breakfast pastries. 

I had to get a side of bacon to make sure it was a little salty in case the crepe's were very sweet. The batter was a bit on the heavier side than a normal crepe. But it was just as good. The restaurant itself is a typical "greasy spoon" diner with breakfast and lunch options available. I  give them 4 dragonflies for the novelty and variety on the menu, but there is definitely a rush of getting food out and keeping customers moving that if you don't emphasize the need for gluten free it could be missed. The staff is energetic and listens to your requests. 

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

McCormick and Schmick Gluten Free Holidays

Our family is pretty close knit and small. My immediate family is just four of us. Going further out my parents each only have a couple siblings, and only a couple cousins. So we don't tend to make a big pomp and circumstance for most holidays. We will do more low key one on one events where we do dinner out and everyone can get what they want, the way they want. The nice thing is then it's also a good way to meet everyone's dietary needs, or wants. 

The last several Thanksgivings we've done dinner out at McCormick and Schmick's. They generally are known for their seafood dishes, but they do a fabulous Thanksgiving Turkey dinner, and they can accommodate the meal to be prepared gluten free. Ok, so there is no stuffing or gravy, but I can live without one of the two, and we can make a box of Glutino's stuffing to have with dinner some other night! It still tastes good on days other than Thanksgiving!! Though after the last 2 years we are considering moving to Coopers Hawk for Thanksgiving next year, but not because of the food; because dinner for 4 shouldn't be a 2 1/2 hour meal!

Last year we had a reservation for 6:00 at the Skokie location. We showed up at 5:45 and were seated at 6:45. It wouldn't have been so bad if it wasn't a cattle round up at the door of everyone waiting for their tables, and the rain made it so cold and miserable. This year we went back to Oak Brook and did a reservation at 5:00,we were seated right when we walked in. (Yay!) Though it was so cold in the restaurant I had my jacket on my shoulders and my scarf on my lap to stay warm! They don't do a gluten free menu, but the hostess advised me that the waiters are trained in what is and isn't gluten free. Our server must have missed that memo. We right away told him we wanted the Thanksgiving dinner, gluten free and he stared at us blankly. We also asked what appetizers were gluten free. We had debated a few options but wanted to make sure. He recommended the Firecracker Shrimp which have pepper jack cheese and bacon on them. We asked if those could be done gluten free, he responded, "I don't know, can you have cheese? They have cheese on them." FAIL! Finally after going and talking to the kitchen staff he figured out they are ok, but we had decided on the crab tower to be safe. 

We put in our order for dinner and laughed because we finished our wine, and were sitting there freezing waiting for dinner, then our salads came out, we finished those and waited, and waited. We got dinner, and my plate seemed fine, it didn't have the stuffing for sweet potatoes, but this time I was given cranberries (yes that cup that's cut off in the photo is cranberries)! normally they remove the cranberries as well. Everything was prepared well, and tasted really good, but my turkey was cold. I decided to not rock the boat it was already 6:45 so I didn't want to send my plate back. I got a Creme brulee for dessert, which was fabulous. I could go there for drinks and dessert.

Is that not an amazing looking Creme Brulee? It's not pumpkin or apple pie, but those were at home in the fridge!

Over all they did a good job on the meal. Execution of staff knowledge, not so much, it left me a little dry. I don't like not having a menu to look over and know what to expect. Knowing that they can make Thanksgiving gluten free is a great planning advantage, though we are looking into other options for next year, but that was based 100% on our never ending meal! If we look at the execution of just Thanksgiving dinner, they get 4 dragonflies from me. If we look at the full menu and the upfront staff knowledge, and how long it took to eat, they only get 3 dragonflies. 

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

BurgerFi, Gluten Free Burgers

We noticed a new place in town the other day, as we drove by, BurgerFi. Right away I had to look them up and see who they were, where they were from, how many locations they have and what they offer. As something else caught my eye I paused and forgot to resume my search until the next day when my brother asked if "that new burger place did gluten free"? I stared blankly and went back to my search. It seems they do have a gluten free or "Green Option" as they call it. They promote a fresh from farm to plate environment as well as serving craft beers as a nice local feel. Everything about the restaurant reminded me of being in California.

The option is the same one In-N-Out Burger calls Protein Style. They wrap the burger in lettuce in lieu of a bun. Their "special sauce" tastes a lot like In-N-Out burgers sauce as well. I really liked the taste of their burger! It was a little messy to eat, but like In-N-Out they had a paper wrapper around the burger to help hold it together, especially since lettuce isn't the best material to soak up extra juice and sauce! 

My Only disappointment is they have onion rings. Don't get me wrong I LOVED onion rings in my Pre-Celiac days, but Onion rings when dinning out is a huge contamination issue. I did ask the nice gal who took our order, she said they are fried together. Poop! No fries for me. The worst part was my brother telling me how they were the really good tasting fries, and they were so good. Double poop! I did contact them and told them they should have a separate fryer cause they could be a gluten free dream if they did.

I will give them 3 dragonflies, because I did really like my burger, but really wished I had a side to go with it. Even if it turned out to be potato chips, at least it would be a side.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

California Pizza Kitchen Does Gluten Free, Take 2.

Take two for gluten free pizza at CPK. This time they seem to have hit a home run with doing it properly. They teamed up with GIG to train their staff, and make a pizza that didn't come with a huge disclaimer and a lot of angry customers. Previously there was a huge disclaimer, similar to the one that Domino's touts on their gluten free pizza, "Not for those who have Celiac disease."
You  could order any of their famous pizzas made to order they would use aluminum foil no the pan to make sure no CC happened on the pan, and they moved towards not cutting the pizza so that the cutter didn't contaminate the pizza. The part they missed was the sharing of ingredients and the sauce spoon on the regular pizzas. After enough back lash, the CPK Gluten free pizza was no more.

Fast forward to now, CPK made a huge press release that they now have 4 gluten free pizzas that they worked on with GIG to provide the best dining experience possible. Their menu does note that if you want something other than those 4 you do run a higher risk of cross contamination, but it's clearly stated on the pizza menu. The nice thing is they have a couple, small plates that are gluten free as well as their salads. For the longest time way before being G-Free I would get their salads each time I went, they are really good. 

The gluten free pizzas are on a separate menu, and is easily searchable on their website. When we sat down I noticed there was a sign on the table advertising that they did have gluten free pizzas. When our server came over I asked him if I could have the BBQ Chicken Gluten Free pizza. Right away he asked if it was a dietary or allergy situation. When I said allergy he made a note on the ticket. It seemed like we waited forever for our food, considering I was the only one who got pizza, and the place was pretty dead, I'm not sure what the delay was. 

Eventually our food started to come out. The other two people with me got their meals, and the server said the manager would bring mine out since it was being kept separate from the other meals to avoid contamination. The manager came over, told me he thought I'd be very pleased with the pizza and that they were happy to have the option back on the menu. He also complimented my choice of their signature BBQ Chicken pizza. He also said he'd come and check on us shortly. Which he did. Also there is a little wooden stick that says Gluten Free stuck in the center.

I have to say the pizza crust is thin.. Very thin, like flat bread thin. Also a little cardboard like texture. The taste over all was OK. Nothing that I'm going to stand on a corner raving about, but it was tasty and when trying to plan a meal out, I will go for it. Plus I'm a sucker for their corn guacamole small plate appetizer. Their regular menu does have a little GF next to items that are gluten free for small plates and salads. So if you're not in the mood for pizza you have a couple other options.

They have some good mixed drinks and good pricing for wine, which can make up for their lack of a gluten free dessert option. I give them 4 dragonflies, they are taking the time and effort for pairing with GIG to train to understand how to properly serve a gluten free pizza as well as taking steps to make sure their customers are aware of risks involved. This time they have it correct, and are being diligent in their practices. 


Friday, December 6, 2013

Pumpkin Pie

I was diagnosed right before Thanksgiving, 3 years ago. Right away we all started to wonder, is there gluten free pumpkin pie, and where do you find one? We had heard about Rose's Wheat Free Bakery in Evanston, so we ventured over and got a pie for me from there.  It was good, the crust was a bit tough but it was something, which is better than nothing, and I just couldn't do a crust less pumpkin pie. Something about the texture reminded me of, well dog food is a not so graphic description.

By the time Thanksgiving 2012 came around I had discovered Sweet Ali's Bakery in Hinsdale, following them on Facebook I saw they had a post, pre-order your pumpkin pies so we don't run out! We made sure to order several pumpkin pies, a quiche, some pumpkin cupcakes, and some cinnamon rolls. Their pumpkin pie was delicious and made a note to order early again in 2013 to make sure I could get a pie. They also have them in the frozen section in several local stores like Fruitful Yield.

This year Whole Foods opened a new store closer to me, and while checking out the store we saw a sign for ordering your Thanksgiving dinner, including pumpkin pie. We talked about it and decided it was worth checking them out, at least we would know if it's any good and it was much closer to home to pick up the day before Thanksgiving. 

In our house you can't have pumpkin pie without whipped topping! Oh it makes it so yummy!

For convenience I'll stick with the pie from Whole Foods, but if I find myself near Sweet Ali's I may not be able to resist theirs.

Monday, December 2, 2013

Fox Tail Beer

A New Gluten Free Beer! Sign me up for taste testing!!! My love affair with beer is brutal when it comes to mentioning I can't have most beers!

My boyfriend fits into my family for our love of beer and tasting new ones. On a recent Saturday morning he happened to be all the way out in Naperville taking care of some family business. He decided to stop at Binny's in Naperville to pick up some beer for the evening. (My recent purchase of "your so awesome" cupcakes may have helped spur this purchase.) I started to get frantic text messages about gluten free beers they had, that he had never heard of before. I was furiously texting back for more details. 

He found a new beer by Green's and Fox Tail Beer from Joseph James Brewery in Nevada. At first the name didn't sound familiar. Then when he sent a picture I got really excited. This was on me, "I am determined to find and try this beer" list.The original reason I wanted to try it was because it comes in cans or bottles. It's the first gluten free beer in a can, which is Great for tailgating and NASCAR events where they don't allow glass bottles inside. I have to hope they carry Mike's hard lemonade, or stick with my mini bottles of Rum.

This ended up being one of several that we tried that night. Pouring it in the glass it's light in texture and color, it's similar in color to a miller light. First taste, it was similar to Lakefront Breweries New Grist - It's made with rice. Rice gives beer a very distinct taste when drinking it. It's sweet, and fruity. It has a very citric taste to it. The light color translates into the flavor on the tongue, nice and light.

One thing I noticed on the 2nd bottle was that if you drink it out of the bottle, it foams up more than usual. So you have to be careful when putting the bottle down, it will waterfall over the top. Pouring it in a glass is a safer bet. I really really liked it. I like light beers so this is on my wishlist to show up at either Binny's by me.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

OMG Gluten Free at Home

In Frankfort IL, there is a nice little places named OMG It's Gluten Free. I've had the pleasure to be in the area a couple times to visit their shop, which is a cute little place, only a couple tables, and some semi limited hours. I definitely have to be down in the area to make a trip there worth it. They also sell their products to several grocery store chains around Chicagoland (and starting to branch out), and have products at Brookfield Zoo, Disney land, Several Six Flags locations around the country as well as my favorite restaurant, Coopers Hawk. One thing I have to get when I'm at their cafe are their corn dogs! I really wish those were available in the grocery store! You can also order right from their website to get their products shipped directly to you.

On a recent trip to the new Mariano's location off 16th street and Clark we happened to notice they were carrying the OMG frozen products! Their products carry a heftier price tag than products made by Amy's or EVOL, and portion sizes aren't that much bigger. They even have the cutest little pizza's which personally I think I could eat in 6-7 bites. But They look good. They do carry normal 10" inch pizzas too. They had half the case full of products ranging from pizza and lasagna, to spaghetti and meatballs, and a modified version of chicken parmesan.

The package says you can microwave this, but the metal exterior of the container worries me... We put it in the oven, to bake it instead. It cooked up quite well, it was very tasty, and filling.The 1 bite I like my bf try he said was good. 

While visiting the cafe one time I had their grilled cheese, wow, it was good, their bread is very tasty. It's moist and doesn't carry an odd after taste. Sadly now their cafe is not open on weekends so it's hard to get there and have any of their fresh products, or their amazing corn dogs which are not available in stores. :(

Monday, November 25, 2013

Food Review - Gluten free soft pretztels, Annie's meals, crackers and some bars!

Finding new products in the grocery story is a very excitable moment for me. I tend to look like a small child as I try not to buy everything I see. I couldn't pass up the Kim & Scott soft pretzels. I loved soft hot pretzels. I picked up some cheese Tostito's cheese to go with it as well, cause you can't have pretzels without cheese!

They were super easy to make, you can just pop them in the microwave and they are ready in less than a minute. I was shocked they had pretzel salt in the box as well. I enjoyed the pretzels though I found them very dense, and if I didn't have the salt and cheese I'm not sure I would have enjoyed them. They definitely were dense and had a strong gluten free taste. 

Annie's mac and cheese has been a family favorite in my house since we discovered they had a mac and cheese similar to Kraft's Mac and cheese. When I saw that they had tuna helper I thought we have to try it out! We had tried adding tuna to the regular Annie's mac and cheese and we loved it. The mac and cheese has a lot of flavor and is so creamy and cheesy it worked well. The Skillet meal I found was a classic Alfredo, all you needed to add was tuna. We opted to add a bit of hot sauce and garlic powder to make sure we had a good taste and punch. One thing I noticed that was different from the Mrs. Leeper's meals was that the pasta stayed more al dente.

But over all this meal scored a win for us. It was filling (for 3 of us) and it had a lot of taste. I remember I picked it up while traveling.. Now I have to figure out where I was so I can find other flavors to try! 

Van's recently came out with peanut butter and jelly bars. I stared blankly the first time and went "Blah!" I never liked PB&J as a child. I liked peanut butter, I liked jelly. For me they each got their own time on bread eaten by themselves. I thought, maybe this would give me a reason to like PB&J all as one. The outside of the bar, which looks like a little jelly sandwich, has the peanut butter in the crust. The jelly is a bit over powered by the peanut butter and actually had a good balance for me. My main disappointment was how tiny they are! In my opinion they are a child's portion, or a side portion to go with a meal, nothing that's going to fill you up!
The Altoids(are gluten free) are for size reference..

While on the bars idea I got Natures Valley roasted nut crunch bars. I use to eat their granola bars all the time! Their nut bars are plainly labeled on the front Gluten Free. Getting a box to try out was NOT a disappointment. I had found the Almond ones and found myself eating them for breakfast, with my lunch and for a snack later in the day. I was very excited and glad I found these, they are similar to the KIND bars, but completely nut based, no fruit or chocolate added.

A late addition, I found these today at the grocery store Breton Gluten Free crackers! Growing up every holiday contained a cheese and cracker tray and the crackers were always Breton. Sadly my favorite ones where the wheat crackers... But these are pretty good, and though they don't taste like wheat they have the seeds so it' a very familiar taste. These are so far the best table crackers I've found since I've been gluten free. Plus they are a good size not the normal "it's gluten free let's make it tiny" items.

This last one was a total accident while roaming Tony's Finer Foods I found a new soup mix or at least new to me, from My favorite Gourmet. It was a broccoli cheddar soup mix that was gluten free! Wow, I think I've had broccoli cheddar soup once in the last 3 years since being gluten free, where as I ate it at least 2-3 times a month before that. It has dehydrated broccoli, so we had to jazz it up a bit, and added some frozen broccoli, garlic powder, onion powder, and a little more cheddar cheese. It was Really good! 

That concludes this round up of products. As we go into Thanksgiving, and me having some time off from work we may get some more baking reviews, and new product reviews. Hope everyone has a safe and fun Thanksgiving. There is a pumpkin pie with my name on (Literally!) at our new Whole Foods that will taste amazing I'm sure with some Cool Whip topping on it!

Friday, November 22, 2013

Panera's Secret Menu has Gluten free options

For years of going to Starbucks I knew there was a "Secret menu" that you could basically ask the barista to make anything, and they would. It really comes down to letting the customer order anything, anyway they want and then having the person making the order prepare it as such. Great idea! More and more places have "secret menus" that really aren't that secret, but they aren't posted on the wall when you get there. This is great, if you know what you want, and the person taking your order knows what you are talking about.

I was traveling in Iowa a couple weeks back and we were trying to find a place for breakfast. Breakfast always makes me cringe, since most of our society loves bagels and cream cheese for breakfast... and most bagel places are taboo to celiacs! So we went to Panera. I quickly looked on my phone, Thank goodness I was getting service at this point. I found the Secret Menu, which included the Power Egg Bowl with either steak or turkey. I decided I like steak and eggs, we'll give it a try. 

I got to the register, and didn't see this power egg bowl on the menu, so either they don't do it, or it's on the 'secret menu'. So the cashier asked the gal making pumpkin spice latte's about the power egg bowl. She stared blankly at her, they both went and asked a guy standing by the meat slicer, he looked less perplexed and went over and helped her look thru the menu options on the register, finally they found it. I emphasized to her that I have Celiac disease, and Do NOT want bread with it in any shape or form (I regularly have an issue with them getting that concept).

Well apparently they don't make these often because everyone who was behind me in line got their food first, as a very lost girl stared at a book on how to make the egg bowl. Finally someone helped her and apologized that my meal was so delayed. To my dismay the steak used is exactly as it's used in their steak salad, red and COLD. When I asked if there was any way the steak could be warm I was told they'd have to remake the whole dish. I told them Fine, cause I'm not going to eat it. Really steak that's cold when served with eggs???? So he compromised and got a new packet of meat and heated it up, took the meat off the one I got, and replaced it. Now if it was on the menu, and not a secret, maybe it would state the steak is served COLD

Now look at the secret menu, and the photo of their steak bowl.. It looks appetizing.

Panera for me is a meal in a pinch, they have this 1 option, with 2 different protein options as a breakfast choice. In a pinch I'll stop here with friends, but otherwise I'll avoid them. Normally the service for GF I've found lacking. I do have their rewards card, which they ask for dietary restrictions on it. I have Gluten Intolerant listed, I still get asked if I want pastries...  They want to seem like they care, but they don't. I don't know how many times after No bread, no croutons, I still end up frustrated with a plate that has bread or croutons on it.
They get 2 dragonflies in my book. I end up more annoyed when I eat there, then not, they have the option to do GF, but it always seems like they'd prefer not to.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Petterino's Downtown

Recently I met some friends’ downtown after work to see Book of Mormon. I’m not sure I’ve laughed so hard at a Broadway show before in my life! While planning our mid-week theater outing one of my friends suggested Petterino’s for dinner. It’s within 3 blocks of the theater, and it’s right by the blue line “El” so it’s in a nice place for everyone to meet, right across from Daley Plaza, and right next door to my favorite place to stalk, Do-Rite Donuts! (See my post on Do-Rite donuts and you’ll understand!) Actually Do-Rite is carved out of Petterino's.

Petterino’s is a Lettuce Entertain you restaurant (LEYE). LEYE owns a good selection of higher end dining establishments in Chicago, and has started to go Nationwide. One thing I love about LEYE is on their corporate site they list all their restaurants that have a gluten free menus so you can pick a place to eat, as you peruse their GF menus. Plus I’ve never had a bad experience with any of their restaurants, they are extremely professional and take the time to make sure that customers are satisfied with all dining experiences.
I checked out the menu on Petterino’s site, before heading into the city, because I was worried if my train was delayed I’d miss dinner.  I picked out a couple items and if needed I’d text my friend to order for me. I did get there, right on time, and we were seated right away. This place fills up quickly, so I do recommend having reservations if you want to eat on the weekends, or during the dinner rush.
The menu the waitress gave me was much more expansive than the menu that was posted online. They also had Two Brother’s Prairie Path beer, and Tito’s Vodka listed for gluten free drinks. They had soups, salads, appetizers, pasta, steak, fish, chicken, dessert; WOW! It was a great menu with a lot of choices, I was actually left debating what to order, I finally had to ask our waitress what to get. I ended up with the Gluten free linguine, with vodka sauce, though I was thinking of going with the asiago sauce first. OMG, it was amazing tasting, it had a bit of a kick, but wasn’t too spicy, the pasta was very slightly Al Dente, but you could tell the pasta was thoroughly cooked, and had a lot of flavor to it. 

I want to go back. Though I don’t know what I’d order yet, but they had a Midwest corn chowder soup that sounded good, and the steak Diane, as well as the Amish chicken were the top 3 choices on my list.
I give them 4 dragonflies. Our server was awesome; she took the time to talk to me about the menu when the restaurant was super busy. I emphasized gluten free, she repeated it back to me, and when she brought out the bread basket, she placed it on the opposite end of the table! It’s a must try if you want a nice, classy place to eat in the city.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Do-Rite Donuts

While in the city one day, and checking out diner options on Find Me Gluten Free, Do-Rite donuts popped up as a gluten free option. We didn't get to check it out that day, but while at the Chriskindlemarket I noticed the sign, and the large donut on the sidewalk in front of this tiny shop, right next to Petterino's across from the Richard J Daley Center. It was later in the afternoon, and from what I know now, I got super lucky there were donuts left! They make small batches of donuts hourly until 11:00am and they only stay open as long as they have donuts on the shelf.

Do-Rite is backed by Lettuce Entertain you Restaurant group, the brother of one of the owners has Celiac disease, and understand how careful you have to be when preparing gluten free. Lettuce Entertain you Restaurant group does a great job providing gluten free options, which this time is a total benefit. 

Their donuts were AWESOME! It was a great trip down memory lane eating a chocolate glazed cake donuts.  

The gluten free donuts are in a separate area from the regular donuts, right on the front shelf. So it is easy to see if they are out when you walk past the window. I have been advised you can call ahead the night before to reserve donuts for yourself. There are generally 2 gluten free flavors for each day, and They DO Sell Out FAST!

I have been back a handful of times since the first time I tried them and it's been hit or miss getting donuts, even as early as 11:00am! I've even seem the store closed as early as 2:00pm! My brother was recently down in the city for jury duty, at 1:00 he went in and there were 3 boxes labeled "SOLD!" they were all gluten free chocolate donuts someone called and reserved. He was able to get me 2 of the last 3 lemon donuts they had. He said daily there are lines out the door, which really says something about their donuts!

They are definitely on the 4 dragonfly rating for me. They have a separate fryer for the gluten free donuts, the staff also knows to bag gluten free donuts in a separate bag from the regular donuts. I look like a kid in a candy store on any given visit that I can get donuts, who knew such a simple food could make one so happy!

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

The Walnut Room Gluten free

This past weekend found me in the heart of the loop looking at the windows at Macy's and even eating in the famed Walnut Room. It's been years since I last dined in the Walnut Room, certainly before I was gluten free. Last year we looked at the menu, and it wasn't that great, plus we decided it wasn't worth the wait in line for a table. From November 1st to January 14th they do not take reservations. You can get a pager and wait in line, or shop the 7th floor, but when you have a full day in the city planned, it's not going to get you far!

I was shocked this past weekend how dead the city was. Now it is early in the Christmas season, and no ones thinking about going to see the tree at Macy's since the tree at Daily Plaza isn't up yet, so it was perfect for getting in and sitting right by the tree!

I was a bit disappointed since the tree is identical to last year. When Marshal Fields was in town they did a different tree each year. It was exciting to go down and see what the theme was this time... No Surprise here, It's the 2012 tree redone for 2013. It is pretty and sparkly, and my boyfriends amazing talent for photography his pictures made it look more amazing than it did in person!

Dinner - The gluten free menu, does have items in each category, but it definitely isn't a big menu. It's great they accommodate for gluten free, there is a menu, but you have to like chicken, salmon or salad. I was starving so I knew a salad wouldn't work, and I still hate salmon... So Chicken it was, I was glad the mustard sauce was on the side, because I'm really not a fan of mustard. 

The soup of the day was a pumpkin bisque. I got a cup, it was very tasty and creamy, it was a nice small portion to hold me over while dinner was prepared. 

Dinner came out and the server who brought it out did announce it as the gluten free grilled chicken. It all had a great presentation. I did try the mustard sauce and didn't find it too over bearing for a mustard taste. I dunked some of my chicken in it. I did have to say the veggies were OMG seasoned. They were SO Salt and Peppery I felt like the chef added a whole bottle of salt and pepper mix to my veggies alone! I always finish my veggies, but I just couldn't do it without making a scene to wipe them off. The flip side was the chicken was juicy and very good, so was the rice, it was very tasty like they added a little seasoning to it, but definitely not as much as the veggies. 

We were all full after dinner, even though we'd picked out dessert items while looking over the menu we said no we'd pass and continue on with our night. I was feeling a bit full and bloated, a little light headed, but I did indulge in a cocktail as well, but I'm not sure that was causing my issue. We walked over and checked out millennium park, which looked so nice with the fall leaves and the clear night.

My overall rating I hate to say it, unless you are going for the tree, it's a rather lack luster menu.The poor execution of the veggies left me underwhelmed with the whole meal. I was glad we got to go and sit by the tree, but really I'd rather go for a drink and call it a day and walk down to Roti, Petterino's or even Jason's Deli, all right there all have more options. They get 2 dragonflies from me. I want to give them more for ambiance, but they have put a wine bar in the Walnut room, go for a glass of Pinot and go to dinner somewhere else. 

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

My first accidental Glutening

Today is the 3 year anniversary of my first accidental glutening. Weird thing to commemorate, but it was a turning and learning point for me. I was diagnosed on November 2nd 2010 which is also my best friends birthday. "Happy Birthday and btw I have Celiac disease." My doctor wasn't the most in depth with his diagnosis either; he told me to go to Trader Joe's and talk to them, they could help me figure out what I can and cannot eat. When I got home from work (Yes I made this learning discovery while at work) my dad had found two things to show me life would be ok, chicken nuggets and frozen mac and cheese. Life would go on, there is gluten free mac and cheese!!! We had a learning curve with the gluten free chicken nuggets, they were more like little gluten rocks when they came out of the microwave. Whoops! That night we went to Trader Joe's stared at them blankly and kept going, "Do they sell this in normal stores? How do I spell this disease? Is this like a disease you catch?" I was clueless what Celiac disease was. I remember I had some of the worst bread EVER.

As Friday came my father mentioned Don's Doc had a great stuffed Salmon that was amazing, and since I detest salmon he thought this would be a good way to make me like it. I was still living off what we got at Trader Joe's 3 days earlier, my plan for the night was to plop myself down at Border's books (yes back in the day of Borders Books) and read and figure out what the heck this Celiac disease was.   

He called me at work and said that though the girl he talked to assured him that the salmon did not have bread crumbs when he got the meal home it did have bread crumbs... What to do, should he scrap them off? Should he call and see if they could make me a new meal? Not knowing better and not wanting to make a whole extra production out of it, I said to scrap the crumbs off, what harm could be done once they were removed. So Wrong! I got home from work late and my family had gone out for the night, I warmed my meal and sat down to eat. Within the first several bite I knew something was wrong. I had cramps and pain and my stomach felt like it was being ripped out. I noted to myself, can't remove bread crumbs, well crap. 

I forced my self to go to Borders and try and pick out a book or two to bring home so I could learn something. I found the best descriptive book yet - Celiac Disease for Dummies. I always liked the "Dummy" books in college, why stop now! I sat down with several books in a nice corner chair curled up in stomach kicking pain wanting to die trying to read. I learned very little that night, but I got my 1 book and wrote down titles of other ones that sounded interesting. Turned out it made a great Christmas wish list for my family and friends. I'm not sure I ever received so many books for Christmas ever before. 

I started to learn little by little. I spent several days going to the grocery store flipping cans to read labels, flipping bottles of salad dressing, yogurt containers, cheese labels, trying to find gluten free beer, who knew they made such a thing. It was definitely a learning experience. But that one accidental glutening is what really turned it around for me. I felt the different I felt what it was like to not be in pain, and have that pain brought back. There was no cheating. There was no sneaking gluten, it wasn't worth it. 

About 2 weeks after that point I sat at my desk at work blinded by the sunlight outside. Having a throbbing headache from the sound of myself typing... I felt like my head was in a vice. I'd never had such a bad headache before in my life. I finally whispered to my boss, because talking at a normal level felt like someone was shouting in my ear; that I had to go home. I was experiencing a migraine I'd never had before. I was told later it was a detox effect on my body. I was finally clear of the gluten and my body was reacting. I was glad, from that point forward, only minor gluten contamination issues have been in my body.

When people say Celiac disease is hard to handle, it is, its socially ostracizing at times. It takes patience and learning, and really understanding people to help you adjust. You have to be open to learn and change your lifestyle. But really, when taking a step back and looking at the bigger picture. It's not a disease you can spread, it's not a disease that require expensive treatments and expensive medication. The doctor isn't putting a time on how long you will live after being diagnosed, and you don't have to have extensive surgeries. You just have to manage your health and watch what you eat. I know it's hard at times. don't get me wrong, I cry some days still when it's hard, but I think of friends who have lost loved ones to Cancer, who have Cystic Fibrosis, Kidney problems, Liver disease, Tumors, or MS. This is something we can control on our own.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Adobe Gila's

I had another date night with my boyfriend at the Muvico in Rosemont. It's really our favorite theater since you can reserve your seats ahead of time, so you don't need to be there early to get that perfect spot! :) I suggested we check out Adobe Gila's this time, because I'd seen they did gluten free, and that it was marked on the regular menu while looking online. The only problem with the online menu is you can't make it large enough to actually read... but you can see the Not-gluten free labels to the left of items. There were a Lot of good looking meals that were labeled as gluten free. I was delighted that they noted the fryers are not dedicated gluten free! This is a HUGE pet peeve for me when dining out. Restaurants that list fries, or chips on their gluten free safe menu, but they are fried with other breaded items... So they are Not Gluten Free then!! I was happy they noted this on here.

It was also noted again on the bottom of the menu by the desserts. I thought they did a great job of listing out the allergy listing. I enjoyed the food, though our waitress was a bit slow their range of options was nice. 

I would be willing to come here again when I'm back in the area, but knowing what risks there are since there are no dedicated fryers or grills. The fryer is easy to deal with, but the grill does make me nervous, because they do serve flour tortilla's and those will be grilled with the rest of the food. I give them a 3 dragonfly rating. The food and selection is good, but the chance for contamination does stand out.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Happy Halloween!

Happy Halloween to everyone! Our family has always been the type that got more excited over Halloween then we did Christmas. We were very excited when my family decided it was socially acceptable to decorate the front yard, small and not offensive.... Well the only rule we follow now is not offensive or sick. Small does not describe at all how we handle Halloween. 

The great part is my brother works for a company that is the same way. Well in their mind it's easier to celebrate Halloween, as a fun holiday, versus dealing with the religious aspect of Christmas. They dress up and decorate the office, and I make is "spooky" dish of treats. Well when I got diagnosed I informed him we had passed the last year of "normal treats". At first he freaked out, but it made us try harder to find mixes we liked and treats that were easy to make gluten free. Last year he requested Pamela's Brownie mix and we had some skeletons sticking out (picture pending me finding it again! I know it's in my archives!!) No one believed him that they were gluten free brownies. For Christmas time I decided to make some gluten free chocolate covered oreo's in the effort to make people see Gluten Free does not = Awful! Yes some stuff is less than desirable. But there are some great products out there!

The last "normal" dish we did were witches fingers pretzels. Now if a pretzel company could make these gluten free it's be awesome!

Note: Not Gluten Free sadly.
So this year because they all know I'm gluten free, and the only baked goods I'll make for his parties are Gluten Free, the potluck list even said "Mitch - Gluten free chocolate covered Oreo's"
These ARE Gluten Free

 Trader Joe's Gluten Free Joe Joe's fit in the candy molds perfectly, I guess it's one advantage to gluten free Oreo's being smaller, they fit in the molds Perfectly! I couldn't let him have all the fun, so I made an equal plate to share with my co-workers, I didn't tell them they were gluten free, and I only heard compliments on how awesome they were. 

For the candy coating I use Wilton Candy melts they are super easy to work with, they come in tons of colors (well milk chocolate, Dark chocolate, Mint chocolate, lavendar, black, 2 shades of green, blue, orange, yellow, red.. now even flavors). This way you can make all the holiday treats you want, without anyone knowing they are gluten free, and they look store bought!

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Celiac in the Media

This is one hot topic! No one wants to be the butt of a joke, it's not fun. Now there are times we all do dumb things that our friends will remind us of for the rest of our lives, and hopefully those things we can laugh about at some point. But turning on the TV and seeing that condition you suffer from is the butt of a joke, especially if the joke is "it's a fad", or "it's all in their head".

A friend of mine recommended watching Two Broke Girls, that it was absolutely hilarious. Honestly I never made it thru the first episode because within the first 15 seconds there is a joke about Gluten Free and how it's an eating disorder. I didn't find the humor and I never finished the episode. Maybe had I bonded with the characters first, I could have found it more enduring... But without anything there to hold me in, I wasn't interested.

I love the show White Collar on USA, it does help that the lead character is a cutie with nice eyes, but that aside; in one of the episodes where his side kick Mozie is in the hospital it's mentioned that they should take him brownies, but making sure they are gluten free. Now I do watch the show every week, I know both characters drink a lot of wine, but honestly I've never paid much attention to what he eats, and if everything he eats is gluten free. The show isn't focused around eating and food, so I've never noticed, but I did giggle a bit when it was mentioned the brownies needed to be gluten free. Part of me even got a little soft spot in my heart for him, he's gluten free too! I'm sure other people rip it apart because they analyze everything he eats and has seen something along the way that was "probably not" gluten free.

An episode of a show on Disney Channel was pulled because of a scene where kids throw items containing gluten at a fellow student who is gluten intolerant, and parents felt his was bullying. I don't know I'd go as far as saying bullying, but kids are cruel when they want to be, and it's sad to think kids may do this to another child. Most people touching gluten isn't going to kill them; but what if it was a child with a nut allergy this happens to, or someone who does have an allergy to items that could harm them. That is an issue. Now why Disney didn't automatically put a lesson in there where the kids are taught this is not appropriate behavior, who knows. Personally I think that would have been beneficial.That one a lot of people took offense to, because it was flat out making fun of gluten, would it have been different if it was an adult who was being bullied... Maybe, but again, could have been a teaching moment for Disney. 

In the Iron man movie that recently came out Tony Stark comments on eating gluten free waffles for breakfast. This too got people up in arms because they felt it was being used as a fad diet. Again, it caught my attention, my boyfriend and I both giggled and moved on. Some people took high offense to someone eating gluten free waffles because in the Avengers movie his character ate a meal with gluten, so they felt it was mocking Celiac disease. I really sat there scratching my head thinking, Really?! I don't see the offense!

The one that put me over the edge recently was Long Island Medium, a "reality show". Honestly I don't watch, my mom does so I overheard the whole episode. The daughter of the star of the show, thinks she has Celiac disease, but her mother thinks it's crazy because they are Italian and they have to eat bread an pasta. The whole episode the daughter is fighting with her over it, and the mother telling her she's wrong. The end of the episode the daughter who is 19 goes to her pediatrician who tells her she doesn't have Celiac disease because of the type of poop she has. WHAT?! Are you serious?! You based it on her poop? If that's the case I'm not a Celiac after all and the pain that went away going gluten free is all in my head! only one third of those with Celiac disease had diarrhea before being diagnosed, or major constipation. I was gassy, but that was it. So the episode ends that she's not gluten intolerant because her poop is normal, and the doctor telling her she only thinks she has Celiac disease because it's a fad disease right now. I didn't know diseases were fads! 

Honestly I can't think of any show that has trivialized or poked fun at having Cancer, or being diabetic, or even something like MS. Generally we are more sensitive to these types of issues, but I'm not sure why Celiac disease is different. Is it because people don't understand it? Is it because all of a sudden it's gotten a lot of attention and is a buzz word in the media? I'm not sure but I think it's a two way road that we as Celiacs need to look at the situation in the media before freaking out and complaining. But people who find these types of jokes funny need to realize it hurts the people who suffer from Celiac disease. We spend countless hours researching products, places to eat, recipes and ways to explain ourselves to others, to have someone trivialize it and say we're CooKoo is painful. 

I've heard people fly off the handle at comics that mention, or as they saw it, poke fun at gluten free. I guess it depends on your humor, but I find both of these very funny. Again depends on your humor, but the first one reminds me of myself after I'm 75% of the way done baking, thinking thru all my ingredients for the 10th time.