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.


Friday, October 25, 2013

Stonewall Kitchen Gluten Free

While shopping in Crate and Barrel one day I happened to be looking at their cook books and mixes, and noticed one of the Stonewall Kitchen mixes had a gluten free label on it! Yay - A new mix to try!! It was on sale so that was extra incentive to get a box to try, otherwise the mix is normally $10, and makes 12 cupcakes, with frosting.

Trying to figure out which mix to use to make cupcakes for a party this past summerI grabbed this mix from the cupboard and started to flip through my cupcake books to come up with the recipe I wanted to use. Plain chocolate cupcakes just seemed so boring, since I had just made an amazing strawberry, banana, cherry cake! I decided to do a Black Forest style cupcake and a Turtle style cupcake. I was worried just doing one or the other, I'd exclude someone from having one due to an allergy, or straight up dislike of a flavor (I was right! We had an Anti-cherry friend in the house.)

I made the mix according to the directions, this one called for milk, most the mixes I've tried for gluten free don't contain milk. I filled the cupcake papers a about 1/4th of the way with batter, then half of them I added a layer of pecans, the other half I added some tart cherries, then layered the rest of the batter on top. Keep in mind the recipes I found had a lot more steps for each flavor, but since I was using 1 mix for both, I simplified to adding flavors in the middle.

After they cooled for the Turtle ones I added some caramel sundae topping to the top of the cakes. (I found 1 brand in my grocery store that did not contain barley!!) and then frosted with Coolwhip frosting, and sprinkles from Wilton Cakes.

For the Black Forest I put down a layer of the Coolwhip frosting, then added a layer of melted chocolate Wilton Candy Melts, once they cooled, I added another layer of frosting and a maraschino cherry.

I have the frosting from the box to try on my next baking adventure, but the cupcakes were delicious. Everyone was going for seconds the first chance they had. I was impressed with the mix and the over all taste of the cupcakes. I was initially put out by the cost, but for a great quality mix, it would be worth it to purchase again. Having added in the other ingredients in the middle I was able to stretch it to 18 cupcakes from the 12 the box says it will make.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

The Happ Inn

The Happ Inn is a cute pub style restaurant on Happ Road in Northfield. I've been here a few times over the last couple years, they have a decent gluten free menu, with some good options. I love when places have a decent selection of appetizers, some times you don't want a full meal, and a cup of soup and a flatbread, or some hummus would really be enough.

Their menu does have a large selection of salad options, as well as burgers that are served on either a gluten free bun, or wrapped in lettuce. Their French fries are fried in a dedicated fryer, so they don't get cross contaminated from breaded items being fried. I had the waitress confirm when placing my order.

For an appetizer we got the gluten free flat bread pizza, there were several flavors to choose from. I was impressed, it didn't have a funky after taste, and the crust was light. The outside crust with no toppings was a bit crunchier than I would like, considering I grew up in the burbs of Chicago, I'm not a pizza crust lover. I always liked the middle pieces of pizza better!

For dinner I got the Mexican Turkey Burger, with fries. The burger had a lot of potential, but the turkey burger was over cooked and dry, and the gluten free bun was also, dry. They gave a side of guacamole and salsa to top the burger, as well at lettuce. For me the salsa was more like a mole sauce, and not salsa like. A good chopped up fresh salsa with tomato chunks would have been better for me, and helped bring this back to life. But if nothing else the fries rocked!

Next time I think I'll order the flat bread as my entrée and skip the burger. Their menu also had a chicken tortilla soup, that I heard was very tasty, as well as a turkey chili! so they do have a good variety of options, and small plate options, which always makes me happy.

Over all I give them 3 dragonflies. They have a good selection on their menu, and they understand gluten free to keep the fries from cross contamination. But my dinner selection was a bit lacking and I'd want to try more items before I say their food is great.

Friday, October 18, 2013

Glutino Quick and Easy Pancakes

Earlier this year Glutino's came out with some new products, including pancakes that you make right in the bottle, and they only need 1 ingredient water! 

I remember getting bottles like this growing up, and on Saturday mornings dad would make pancakes and scrambled eggs. I've made Pamela's pancake mix, Bob's Red Mill and Hodson Mill, before, and the first two were good... wasn't a fan of Hodson Mill's which was a disappointment since I love their cookie mix. Their pancakes came out grainy and tough. What I love about the Glutnio's mix, is all you add is water! My boyfriend is the typical bachelor, and his place mirrors that mentality, open the fridge there is a pitcher of water and a 6 pack of beer, and a garbage can of take out containers. So the idea of making breakfast has to be simple or a shopping trip is needed. Which for anyone who lives in downtown Chicago, you know that can be a half day adventure just to buy milk eggs and butter!

Add water, pour in the pan, and voila! Pancakes are ready. I was especially proud because I had to take a phone call in the middle of this, and they still turned out well! We had a few left over too, which became his breakfast for the next morning. Surprisingly since they were made with water, not milk they were still fluffy and not dry, they had good flavor to them. If he happened to have some butter I might have added that for a touch more flavor, but butter and syrup taste so good together, you can't pass it up! Over all two thumbs up from me! Maybe next time I'll add some bananas or walnuts too...

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Gluten Free at Applebee's

I've had a love hate relationship with Applebee's for quite some time now. I actually haven't been to an Applebee's in years, because I've had so many crazy experiences of bad service or poor food that I just stopped going. We were back in Joliet for the NASCAR race, and after our horrible experience at Aurelio's, we had to find a new place to go for dinner. There is an Applebee's near the mall, so we decided to give it a try.

They don't have gluten free menu per-say but they do have a book listing out the allergens so you can pick what items from the menu can be made gluten free. They have the same allergen listing for several other allergies including, shellfish, peanuts, soy, egg and dairy.

I found the item listing a bit confusing because it could have been a lot clearer. But I talked to the waitress, and since she was semi confused we error-ed on the safe side of what the allergen listing was trying to say.

I thought the Margarita Queso Chicken & Shrimp sounded different and interesting. What got me was that it said the dishes were gluten free, when not served with the sides... Now Both the black bean corn salsa and mexi rice are listed as safe.... Our sever was just as confused, and decided to change the dish up to make sure it was safe. She was really nice and trying to make sure everything went well. We went with plain rice, and opted to skip both sides. their chips are fried on site so if you have your own chips you can get salsa or queso to go with the chips as a side dish.

I can only give them 3 dragonflies because they don't actually have a safe menu listing. plus the allergen listing is rather confusing.

Friday, October 11, 2013

New GF Meal Options!

I can't lie, I love quick and easy meals. They get me thru the day at work. If I had my own kitchen I'm sure I'd cook more, or at least I tell myself that. So I get super stoked when I find new gluten free meal offerings in the frozen section. While getting lunch items recently at my local grocery store I found some new product offerings. The first being Michael Angelo's Risotto dishes. OK the microwave at work is horrible at heating. Every meal takes way longer to make so the 3 minutes the box says turns in to 8 or 9 minutes... The meal was done, but the rice was still tough. Plus I'm not a lemon sauce fan. But it was OK. they had 3 other options, I'll have to give them a try, but it was filling. 

The second being a new brand by Lucerne foods The angle of the aisle I couldn't get the whole shelf in view, but there was pasta and macaroni and cheese meals at the bottom of the shot. The prices were about right on for gluten free, maybe a little cheaper if you have your Fresh Values card with you when shopping. I would say their shortbread cookies don't actually taste like shortbread cookies. They were good, crumbly and thin, but not like a shortbread.

Mac and cheese, yes please - I was excited to see the Mac and Cheese option, so I got a box to try out. On a scale of rating mac and cheese, it's not as good as Annie's mac and cheese. But it's not bad the cheese was tasty and the noodles were soft. It could have passed for not being gluten free. I went back 4 days later to buy another box, and sadly they were out. Next time! It's not bad to keep in the cupboard for last minute side dish or a quick whip up meal. 

Schar's Chibata roll and mac and cheese dinner!
Part of me felt these products don't really exist, expect for the fact that I actually purchased some. There is no website for them. They are not listed on the Eating right website... They just exist with no extra information.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Mity Nice Grill Gluten Free menu

Mity Nice Grill is a great sit down place to go to when you at Water Tower Place in the city. There is a play house on the 1st floor of Water Tower and they will do their best to get you in and out so you don't miss your show. It's tucked away in the back of the Food Life which is a nice open area food court which also offers gluten free options. Just ask the hostess when you arrive they give you a great print out of what is available!

Their menu does change seasonally both the regular and the gluten free. They make their own gluten free buns so all burgers and sandwiches come on a gluten free bun.the best part are the pop-overs they bring out to the table before the meal. Their "bread basket" is gluten free! They are the most amazing cheesy bread you'll ever have. My brothers girlfriend loves them, which is a great compliment since she can't live without bread.

Their bread is tasty it's not dry, it actually feels like they steam it prior to serving it. I got a turkey sandwich and a side of broccoli. I had a hard time finishing my meal, probably because I filled up on the pop-overs! We had gotten an order of their guacamole and veggies as an appetizer. My main issue was that the veggies were chopped up real tiny. So it made it hard to eat. I think bigger slices would have been much better.

The food here is amazing, both gluten free and regular. The service is horrible. Unless you have show tickets your meal is very long and drawn out. I do recommend reservations for getting a table around dinner time. Also pushing to the front of the entrance and blocking the door way in order to be seated is required. I'm not rude but this is the only way to get seated without being passed over for anyone else who pushes in.

If you politely stand at the hostess stand, you will be passed over for people pushing into the entrance. I find this odd, since Mity Nice is a part of Lettuce Entertain you Restaurant group and their restaurants are pretty stand up. the excuse they gave to the couple who got passed up in front of us, was "they have show tickets". Which isn't fair to the people who walked up and were waiting, especially since the next table was about to open up... Show tickets or not, they were there first, and skipped. We were there, but not pushing in the doorway. People without reservations pushed in front of us despite standing there for 10 minutes, they got seated first, because they were 2 feet in the doorway, impatient and pushing. We did not have show tickets and our meal was 2 hours long!!! By the time our server rediscovered our table to ask if we wanted dessert, we had our coats on and were ready to leave. I give them 4 dragonflies for the food. If I did different breakouts they would get 2 dragonflies for their service.

Friday, October 4, 2013

Four Ingredient Peanut Butter Cookies

Four ingredient peanut butter cookies in my house are called peanut butter crack cookies. Great name, huh? They got that name when I made them and right away they were All Gone! So I will warn you, just double this recipe it will be for the best!

Tuesday I was running errands with my brother and mentioned I got a new cookie mix I want to try so I'm going to bake cookies Wednesday. His response was "Are you going to make peanut butter crack?" I'm thinking, No... I said I was going to... OK, whatever, these are Super easy. I'll do these, it's been a while since I baked, so next week we'll try for the new mix I bought. 

The nice part is you don't have to find a replacement flour, these are also called flour-less peanut butter cookies. I've thought about swapping out the vanilla extract for almond extract, but I figure why ruin a good thing, we know these rock just as they are.

Ingredients :

1 cup Peanut Butter (or almond butter)
1 cup Sugar
1 Large egg
1 Teaspoon of Vanilla

I like using chunky peanut butter so you get some extra crunch to the cookies. I also use a little over a cup to make the cookies less crumbly, and a little less than 1 cup of sugar, so it cuts the sweetness just a tad.

Mix the 4 ingredients together in a large bowl. and voila you have a sweet tasty PB mix. 

Make the dough into teaspoon size balls and place them on a cookie sheet. Slightly flatten them with a fork in a criss-cross patten on the top, but don't flatten them completely.

Bake at 350 for 9-10 minutes and let them cool for about 5 minutes before you remove them from the tray. This is the outcome - Fabulousness~