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.