Thursday, January 30, 2014

Lula Cafe Logan Square

Lula Cafe came highly recommended by a friend so one Saturday when we found ourselves right by Logan Square we stopped in. First off it's one busy place. So make sure you get there early, or call ahead to reserve a spot. 

I'd read that though they didn't have a specific gluten free menu, many items could be made gluten free. I had originally chosen the Pozole and asked our waiter to be certain it was gluten free. He said it was, but he thought I should get the sweet potato latke, and that they use a gluten free flour blend on the grill so it'd be ok for me. I was sold, I love sweet potatoes! 

When my meal arrived I have to say latke was a better description then shredded pan fried sweet potatoes topped with a bunch of tasty stuff. That was my explanation. It was so flavorful I was shocked. I couldn't pick out just one thing that stood out, everything blended together so well. I was wowed.

The restaurant had such a Chicago charm to it! I would give them a thumbs up for old Chicago charm, shabby sheik would be another term for the bar area. We ended up getting a seat at the pastry counter (Ironic) Next to the bar, so we never went in the dinning room, but the area we were in was too cute. 

Over all I'd give them 3 dragonflies. I'm a nut for wanting a printed menu so I can look it over and think about what I want ranter than having someone point out what i can have and standing over me asking and explaining how it will be served gluten free. But well worth the adventure of coming to this cute area and trying their food. Really they had a stand up menu of unique dishes. 

Monday, January 27, 2014

Everything is made with soy sauce?

I had my first complete face to face rejection for dinning out. Not the type where I walk out because the staff is untrained and horribly uneducated. But I had the owner tell me they couldn't serve me because every pan has soy sauce so nothing is safe.

Wow - Ok. Let's start at the beginning. A childhood friend of my boyfriend was having a birthday and his wife picked out a Korean BBQ restaurant for dinner.  Having learned briefly what Korean BBQ included, Grilled meat, veggies, it seemed safe. I even read a few reviews that said you have to be careful, but it can be done. Just stick with un-marinated meat. That's simple enough, I already do that. 

The place we were going didn't have a website, so we couldn't look over the menu until we got there. We looked it over and questioned the owner/waitress/manager on gluten free. She told us "Everything is made with soy sauce, soy sauce is in all the pans". The look on my face must have been priceless. I wanted to ask; "Do you wash your pans? Do you just spread soy sauce all over the kitchen? What about the un-marinated meat that's even on the menu!"

She kept asking, "Is this OK?" Well - No, I told you I can't have anything made with soy sauce, so No - It's not OK! Everyone with us seemed really upset for me, that I wasn't going to be able to partake in the meal, I had so many emotions at once I felt like a hormonal teenager again. We came to the understanding with the owner, I was not eating the main meal. I'm trying to not get so overwhelmed that I want to cry, especially since I don't want to ruin the night for the birthday boy. I had 20+ people commenting how that sucks, why can't she do something about it, the un-marinated meat should be fine, what the heck, I'm so sorry.

My boyfriend was apologizing that he'd make sure we stop and get something for me to eat after dinner, I didn't want to make a big scene, everyone was being really nice about it, and apologizing that I couldn't eat. I was excited to see everyone and catch up chatting, so I focused on that aspect of dinner, it's a lot easier to do a lot of chatting when you're not eating. As they brought out the side dishes for the meal we noticed the pickled bamboo shoots and potato salad, so I nibbled on those, so I could eat something (I was starting to get hungry, and didn't feel like pulling out a KIND bar from my purse!). Eventually they came around and asked who wanted rice, I volunteered my boyfriend to get rice, so I could have some rice, it was something at least. What we didn't understand was the owner brought out one of the dishes to grill in aluminum foil... We stared at each other and went, hey... Couldn't you do that with the un-marinated meat??? What if we even brought our own aluminum foil? 

It got us thinking. We need to try this again without a huge group maybe just 2-4 people so that we can really pin point what we order, AND Bring our own aluminum foil. So it's on the agenda of "we have to try this again!". Over all it could have been way worse, the company for the night could have sucked, or could have been jerky over it and I would have felt even more outcasted. But everyone was cool, even the people I just met that night. My boyfriend has some really cool friends, at least their parents thought them to be kind and have manners. I can say I haven't always run in to people like them. My biggest disapointment for the night was by the time dinner was over, Chik-Fil-A, Chipotle, Jimmy Johns, Five Guys and Wendy's were all closing, so we stopped at Jewel Grocery store to get a microwave meal. It ends up being the worst Jewel ever, they had 3 meal options? No pizza's, no EVOL products. I wanted to cry all over again. Why can't they carry a standard line of products across all stores in an area. I settled found something to microwave and we left. I honestly think I could have eaten a whole buffett at this point I was so hungry but I was also super tired, from a long day and spent emotions. 

So it goes back to my normal stance, only go to places that advertise they do GF and talk to everyone you can about reviews and experiences before you go.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Pamela's cake mixes

I first tried Pamela's Products again, looking for a good brownie mix, for brownies for a Halloween party my brother's company was holding. They do a competitive Halloween costume contest, office decorating contest, and scary food competition every year. Every year he "we" enter each category, I always bake for him on the food competition so that's "my" award when we place in the top 3 :).

When I was first diagnosed with Celiac I told my brother that to keep getting baked goods for his parties, he'd have to be ok with gluten free options. At the time he sighed and said we could work on it. I tried really hard at finding good recipes and mixes that tasted pretty similar to non-gf options on the market. Pamela's won him over so it was no longer "Can you make me a tray of brownies?" it was now "Can you make a tray of Pamela's brownies?" These were our Halloween brownies that year. With the help of Wilton's candy melts and sprinkles we were able to make some scary skeletons in dirt. :) Everyone loved them, and no one believed they were gluten free.

For my Godmother's birthday I was on the hook for a cake, cupcakes, something sweet for after dinner this past year. I have made my family famous rum cake previously but we thought we'd change it up some. So I made a modified Strawberry shortcake. I got the Pamela's white cake mix, and baked it in two 8 inch round pans following the instructions on the back. (There is instructions for cooking 2 - 8 inch pans.) Once the cake had cooled I layered whipped cream frosting and strawberries on the inside, frosted the outside and decorated the top. The only issue we ran into was trying to make sure the cake safely made it to the party, since it was larger than my cake carrier!!

We all felt the cake came out a bit dry. I had only used a half recipe on the whipped cream frosting, but felt I could have used more, to help add some moisture to the over all cake. It tasted good overall, but it was dry.

So for my brother's birthday (I did a lot of baking for his birthday, cookies, cupcakes, cake, I felt like I was on an episode of cupcake wars!) I decided to try this again, with the chocolate cake mix, add in some banana's and use cream cheese frosting from Duncan Heins, because I was too lazy to make my own frosting. I also got a bit more adventurous and added in some bananas, and cherries as well as strawberries. I could have used the cake for weight lifting it was so heavy!!

The left is Strawberry / Banana, and the right, Cherry / Banana.
Ok - So my decorating on this one is rather lacking, I was not in a creative mood once I got done baking for the day. I did one thing differently with this cake, on the back of the package said to add an extra egg for a fluffier cake. The cake was fluffier, and didn't taste as dry. I put the left over cake in the fridge, and had it for a snack the next day. It was even better the next day. It was soft, moist and very flavorful. The sides of the mixes have some extra options for how to make the cakes, so you can tweak the actual mix to make a few extra options.
I want to try the white cake mix again, see if the extra egg helps, make it less dry. Though we will Not be adding strawberries to Any more cakes, since my dad had an allergic reaction to my brother's birthday cake!! He told me later that when he was younger he use to react to strawberries, and it had been years since his last reaction, but the cake was delicious. Thankfully since I'm allergic to so many odd things we always have Benadryl and cortisone cream on hand, we were able to tackle is reaction pretty quickly.

Pamela's Products also make some great pre-made items, I've reviewed them on my cookie page as well. Overall they create a great product that's high quality at tasty.

Monday, January 20, 2014

Gluten Free Tapas Gitanas

I had Tapas once, about 5 years ago, and was not a fan, at all. Maybe it's what was ordered, or maybe it was the location, but I was not hurrying back to get more any time soon. My boyfriend mentioned a Tapas Restaurant near his house one day so I said I'd try it one more time. I'm glad I did, it's become a nice treat for a meal especially with our group of friends. Recently I got to suggest a place to go for a holiday outing.

We were originally going to a different restaurant but they refused to respond to my questions if they could do gluten free. I had seen that Tapas Gitana even noted on the menu which items were Vegan and which were Gluten Free. I was sold by that allow, I love full disclosure. I printed out the menu while at work and got to highlighting which dishes I'd like to try and shared with my boyfriend for his input. 

When we sat down I mentioned to our server that I had a gluten intolerance and that I would be ordering strictly gluten free, and if there were any changes that needed to be made to the dishes I'd like to know. He was very pleasant and kind and said everything was as marked. (Score!)

We had to get the bacon wrapped dates. These are a favorite of ours every time we see them on menu. They came with a side of olives too. :)

I realized eating and drinking, and several rounds for Tapas... I forgot to take another photo until we got to dessert! We felt like we ordered half the menu. There were so many good options not only was this a filling meal, it was a long meal. We honestly were there 3 hours. It was great because it felt like we got to try more this way.

I give Tapa Gitana 4 dragonflies their food was so tasty, and flavorful. There were so many GF options that were no fuss to order. The staff is so friendly and nice and I can't wait to go back. 

Friday, January 17, 2014

Is Hallmark Gluten Free Insensitive?

Every coin has two sides, just like every story, and no matter what you do, how PC you try to be, if you are trying to be funny, or eye catching, you're going to offend someone. It's a fact of life I've come to accept. Being in Marketing I know it's a fine line to walk on that you have to think of everyone when you do anything. One bad move, and it ruins you. I STILL think of Quizno's and their ad campaign where they had ugly rats in their commercials turned into a media nightmare for them with people saying they were serving rats in their food. People were so upset by it, but Quizno's thought it was funny and catchy. That campaign ended quickly. I know people who still refuse to go there "Because of those rats".

How does this relate to gluten? Well I've written before about how it gets tiresome having every late night comedian, every bad comedy on prime time, and random celebrities cracking jokes about the gluten free lifestyle. But with anything people find funny, it gets a rise out of others and keeps the ratings up, the jokes keep coming. But we are all human, and all have different likes, and some people truly are able to laugh at it and themselves and find it funny.

Last year there was a huge bump in gluten insensitivity with Hallmark Cards. They had printed a card that was "appalling and awful, and making fun of gluten free people" according to everyone who saw it.

I couldn't find the card at the time, and decided to let it go.  Well the debate started again about how awful this card was. So I went to the local Walgreens and looked for it, it took a while but I found it, and when I got to read the inside sentiment; I busted out laughing.I guess this is where our experiences and our differences in what we find funny come into play. I honestly find the card hilarious. When I shared it with my family they all started chuckling and laughing at it.

Do I think Hallmark is being insensitive to gluten free people? No. I think they have someone who has a sense of humor for real life gluten free situations. You know some places you go this is what the cook/baker/chef is thinking the moment you ask the question. You know it happens. You hope it doesn't happen, but lets' be real; we know it happens! I'm sure in some form or another we've all thought this at work about something we've been asked to do.

I guess this is where you have to stop and think, is this harming anyone? Is anyone being specifically called out in this? Is there any chance it's going to cause others to think that being gluten free isn't important? If you actually take the time to read the inside of the card you'll see the sentiment to have your "birthday request be granted" So they are relating with the difficult hard to navigate world of finding gluten free, that you find something safe and you are happy on your special day. I don't see why this is "awful, shameful, and the worst thing ever that Hallmark could do to Celiac's". I feel like they are sympathizing that you're going to run into jerky situations where they are going to tell you to bug off, and you'll have to keep struggling to find gluten free. 

Plus really the comment that his @$$ is gluten-free, well so is mine buddy! :)

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Chipotle Gluten Free On the Go

I guess I haven't thought about writing about Chipotle because I just about live there. I mean I could eat there every day if needed, and some weeks I just about have!!

This photo doesn't do justice to the amazing wonder known as a burrito bowl. It's basically everything that goes into a burrito; but in a bowl, sans the flour shell. They have a nice variety of meats; steak, barbacoa, carnitas, chicken, and if you are in Chicago, sofritas, which is seasoned tofu. It gives everyone a nice variety to change up their meal each time. Though honestly, I never do, I basically get the same meal each and every time.

My 2nd favorite to the burrito bowl are the hard shell corn tacos. They can do soft shell corn tacos now, but they warm the tortilla's in the same press that warms the flour tortilla's so you have major CC issues there. I go with the tacos when I'm not quite as hungry, the burrito bowl is a lot of food, at least for me it is. 

I like that I can watch my food go down the line and tell them right then and there what to add. I can see the ingredients, (Which is where I make my choice between steak and barbacoa. some days the steak is so red, I can't handle it.) You can also tell them how much or how little of an ingredient to add.

What I love is if you tell them you have a gluten intolerance and you need them to change their gloves,they do, no questions asked. ingredients that miss the bowl/tortilla/shells are whisked on to the floor off the preparation surface, and not back into the topping bin.

You can also get chips and guacamole, or chips and salsa as a side snack. I just wish they gave you more guacamole for the chips, because it's so tasty. Some locations are equipped with liquor licenses and you can get a margarita to go with your meal. 
The first few times I came here I thought their meat and salsa were too spicy, either it's grown on me or it's not as hot these days. 

I give them 4 dragonflies, if they didn't have those pesky flour tortillas' they'd be the top of my 5 dragonfly list. Those tortilla's can cause CC issues, but for the most part I've never had a CC issue here.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Sticky Fingers Gluten Free Scones

I always have good gluten free finds at Homegoods. On a recent trip I found Sticky Finger Scones gluten free scones in Blueberry, lemon and apple. My first thought was it's been so long since I've had scone, these are worth a try.

Wow - These were super easy to make, and very tasty. My brothers comment was "They taste like real scones, a little dry, dense and tasty, not that gluten free gritty with funny taste." I was laughing at that comment. Like all gluten free mixes they just about kept their shape and size of the dough lump I plopped on the pan.

It's just over 3/4 cup of water and 3 tablespoons of oil. I used Olive Oil instead of Vegetable oil like the package asked for. I also had to bake them a little longer than the box asked for by about 6 minutes so they were a little more golden brown. 

These made a great breakfast treat!

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Broccoli Cheddar Quiche

I like quiche, who doesn't? I mean if you can have eggs and dairy it's a flaky pot pie crust with breakfast goodness inside.

I originally wanted to pick one up at Sweet Ali's but they were out of all but the spinach cheese one. I'd gotten a request from our group that spinach doesn't exactly agree with one of the hosts for our party. I was able to pick up a gluten free crust at Whole Foods it came in a nice 2 pack, so I can make a 2nd quiche later.


1 ready-to-use refrigerated pie crust
1-1/2 cups  Shredded Cheddar Cheese
1 pkg.  (8-10 oz.) frozen chopped broccoli, thawed
4 eggs
1-1/2 cups  half-and-half
Prepare pie crust by baking for 10 minutes at 350. Sprinkle half of the cheese evenly onto bottom of crust. Top with a layer of broccoli.

PREHEAT oven to 375°F.
Mix eggs and half-and-half with wire whisk until well blended; pour over ingredients in crust. Add another layer of cheese on top of the mixture. 

BAKE 45 to 50 min. or until knife inserted in center comes out clean. Let stand 10 min. before serving. 

While fussing over making the crust my dad mentioned he doesn't think he's ever had a quiche! Over all everyone at the party Loved it! I know it's for real because the one person doesn't know how to politely tell you something is awful, and he really was raving how he enjoyed it!

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Roti - Gluten Free Mediterranean

I'll admit I've never been an adventurous eater. I would prefer to stick with what I know and like. So when my boyfriend mentioned Mediterranean food the one day I stared at him like he was nuts. I happened to see an email from Rose's Wheat Free Bakery that their pita's (Which are AWESOME) were being sold at Roti, I said OK - let's give this a go!

I know Mediterranean food isn't that off the wall, but from what I'd had in the past, it was. So we have now been to several Roti's as well as a few other places I dream of Falafel, and Pinched, since they also have GF options!! First off I could eat the pita all day long and be happy. I don't know how they do it but there is NO Gluten Free after taste to the pita! 

Secondly their staff is pretty well trained how to handle gluten free. Right away when asking if they had the gluten free pita the server asked if it was preference or allergy. When I said allergy she changed her gloves and got plates from the back. The layout is similar to Chipotle or Subway where your food is made at a counter and you watch it be made. Their website does warn there are chances for cross contamination, since it's not a dedicated facility, but that happens any time you dine out. I really feel safe dining here and really enjoy their food.

I got the steak plate, which is enough food for 2 meals for me. I never leave here hungry! There are 2 sides that are not gluten free, which include the cous cous and one other item. Their rice is super tasty as well as their Tahini sauce.

I give Roti Four Dragonflies. You can see the food before you order, the staff is diligent and their food is so tasty. Plus there are options to change your meal up each time you dine there if you want. You're not limited to 1-2 items and a small selection of sides. I just wish there were more locations around Chicagoland!!

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Big Bowl Gluten Free Thai

I love Asian food. I don't know why but it's always been a great comfort food for me, so it's something I really miss not being able to grab it on the go. We opted to grab Thai food at Big Bowl while on our way to Vernon Hills, traffic was horrible, so stopping in Lincolnshire on the way was a good way to get out of traffic.
Their gluten free menu isn't up to date on their website. That menu does not do justice to the menu you can get at the table when dinning. We got the Grilled Chicken Satay, though it would be nice if they came with a dipping sauce. To make them gluten free they remove the peanut Thai sauce.

One thing to keep in mind, check out the regular menu versus the GF menu, if an item has a man with a flame shooting out of his mouth it's SPICY! I had ordered the Bangkok Shrimp and Scallops, my boyfriend opted to get the Panang Curry Chicken so we could split and share dishes. I'm 50/50 on curry dishes, some are tasty, some have a weird taste.

After our appetizers came it seemed like the longest wait to get our food. Our waitress came over and explained that the Panang chicken came out with fried rice instead of plain rice, the manager caught it and sent both dishes back to be remade, so that the one didn't come out cold. Wow - How awesome!

The Panang with the curry made this dish great. I really enjoyed his meal. Mine despite not showing the man with flames in his mouth it should have; OMG the peppers were soooo hot.
I love their food, I really do. We got to dessert, and our waitress insisted we try the Mochi in a moment. We did the you pick 3 combo and had 3 fabulous mochi. She eventually came over ande told us it was on the house for the issue with our food taking so long. It was a nice surprise at the end of our meal.

I feel the need to mention in here too that they are apart of Lettuce Entertain You Enterprises. They take a lot of care and diligence in their restaurants to offer gluten free where they can. 

I'm going to give them a 4 dragonfly rating over all, there are chances of mistakes, we had one adverted for us, thankfully, so you do have to make sure you are diligent, but they have all the makings of my favorite type of menu, appetizers, entree and dessert options! Plus everything here is tasty.