Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Pizza, crumb cake, pot pies and new donuts - Yum!

I'm fairly certain there is an unwritten language that translates "personal frozen pizza" to mean "Tiniest pizza they found to put in that box" - 

So that sums up the Smart Flour pizza... I know the box was smaller, but I swear the pizza shrinks in the box. As a stand alone pizza, wouldn't fill me up. As an addition to some fruit and sliced cheese it was enough. The dough came out a little softer, like a NYC style pizza, but the crust is flavorful, and the sauce isn't overpowering.

Since I'm dog sitting at my brothers girlfriends place, I had to pull out the pizza pizzaz to make the pizza, which has always been spot on with cooking pizzas, so I knew it was fully cooked. 

Katz Donuts - I was a bit worried after trying their Rugalesh a while back and finding it dry, I hoped the donuts weren't the same way. Luckily they aren't, at all like the rugalesh. They were very moist and comparable to the ones that I usually get from Kinnickinicks. I got the cinnamon ones to do a one to one comparison these were super close, and tasted so real to the ones I remember getting in high school in the cafeteria.

Blossom Bakery - Tasty, their crumb cake and cheese cake were both so good. They come frozen so I had to let them sit and thaw out before digging in, but a day in the fridge did them good! Tasty. It was the first time I'd heard of the Utah bakery, but I'm glad they found their way to Chi-town, they are on my will indulge in again list.

Personally I'm a fan of Amy's products. They do disclaimer they are made in a shared facility - I've only had an issue with one item from them, and I noticed shortly after the issue, the product was pulled from shelves, so I'm not sure my issue was even gluten related. The pot pie was so tasty. I haven't had a pot pie with a nice crispy crust like this in a long time.

Evol -I'm already an Evol fan, minus their burrito's they have a funny consistency for me. But their bowls, quesadilla's, and now their meals for 2. We picked this up after a long bike ride on the lakefront, just wanting "something to throw in the oven and not think about" meal. Well this doesn't go in the oven, but it's so super easy to make. Delish! It was the right serving size for 2 people with a small side, and the flavor was great. Looking on their website it looks like there are 4 gluten free flavors. As always when buying read the labels there are not-gf ones available too.

Tres Papusas - Ok this one was a bit random, they showed up in my Facebook feed one day as a great new product to try. I bookmarked it as a "If I see it in the store, I want to check it out."I spotted them right away at Whole Foods, after reading the packaging 100 times we opted to try them. They were very similar to a product we'd tried in San Fransisco, and very tasty. I really enjoyed these. They are great for a side dish or something to compliment a bowl of soup.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Augustino's Rock and Roll Deli

Augustino's Rock and Roll Deli has 2 locations one in West Chicago, the other in Carol Stream. We drive by the one in West Chicago any time we have to go out to St. Charles. We'd stopped once a long time back, the food was OK, it was a good quick stop, with a fun atmosphere. Both locations are done up with a Rock and Roll 1960's theme inside and out. Really you can't miss their West Chicago location, it stands out on North Ave.

I remember meeting the owners at the gluten free expo in 2012. They were Very proud of their gluten free options because their little girl had celiac disease and they wanted her to eat safely at their restaurants. I was excited they served up some great burgers at the expo, and they were on a bun! Score! So while being out in the area, we thought we'd give them a try.

Gluten free was not marked anywhere on the meny boards, so if you didn't know they did gluten free, nothing would alert you to ask about gluten free options. I was a bit disappointed in that. But waited patiently inline and asked the girl behind the counter if they had a listing of gluten free options. She rambled for a bit about bread and finally asked if I'd like to read the menu. (Finally!) The GF menu states the Philly W/O fries or chips. She kept telling me they came with the meal, so I should get them. When I asked if they were fried safe she said no, so I asked if the bagged chips could be subbed she said No again, but the other ones come with, I told her the GF menu says no fries or chips, which miffed me because if they come with, I'm being Ripped off! Especially if there is no GF substitution for the side.

I wanted to like them, I really did, I didn't like the lack of a safe replacement side dish. I was annoyed that the girl taking the order seemed so complacent, like I was bothering her, and that my meal that's falling all over the place didn't come with silverware.

I give them 3 dragonflies, their "Gluten Freedom" could be more free'ing and give you more options especially for a full meal. It wouldn't hurt to have a safe side dish. Trained staff that doesn't seem annoyed and unknowable would be a great addition as well. Place to stop when passing by, but not a place I would seek out to dine at.

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Five Guys Gluten Free Fries!

French Fries, The best junk food EVER created!! Well, next to Tater Tots.... But I'll take safe fried greasy delicious french fries any day. 

Five Guys came to Chicago on the tails of the fan fare that it was the first place President Obama ate at when he got to Washington DC. Being the city the president was from this became big excitement for everyone. When they opened lines were always out the door, and you'd wait 10-15 minutes just to get your food. Now, not so much. We're not talking 5 star burgers here, but they're good. They've been serving up burgers in the Washington, DC area since 1986, it wasn't until 4 years go they found their way to Chicago, and now they're everywhere!

Big warning here - Do NOT Eat Here If You Have A Peanut Allergy!!!!  While you wait for your food you can dip into a bin of peanuts and much. Also their fries are cooked in peanut oil. 

The first time I got a bunless burger here the guy making it seemed so confused. He wrapped my meat in aluminum foil, my bacon in a different foil, lettuce, tomato and mushrooms in another... I had all these foil balls we laughed that it was not only bunless, but assemble your own! Now they have fancy take out containers they put everything in, Score!

They do toast the buns for the burgers, but that is on a different grill top to the right of the meat, so you shouldn't have any CC issues with the burgers being toasted up. Bunless is an option on their ticket system so they get noted right away instead of a bun your burger goes into a aluminum container when done. 

Their menu only consists of burgers, hot dogs, a couple sandwiches and french fries, so I love going to town on their fries! Ordering a regular size fry is good for sharing because after filling your fry cup they dump a ton more right into the fry bag! so you never have to worry about not getting enough fries!

I could honestly just go there order fries and be happy. Everyone says it's a shame that I can't get a burger on a bun there. I don't feel the same way! I honestly am ok getting a "bowl" of burger, bacon, cheese, mushrooms, pickles, tomato and lettuce to eat, and pigging out on fries. Though I add enough toppings to my burger that I probably wouldn't add if I was eating it on a bun, that really I have a salad with a burger on top! 

I give them 4 dragonflies. I would give 5 but there is a chance you can get contact with a bun if the person making it isn't careful. The one by my house I've watched a few times now the bunless burger gets special attention, so it seems they know this isn't a run of the mill "picky" order they know they have a gluten free following which makes me smile. Plus they have Coke Free style machines, so I can get a cherry coke or peach ginger ale and be ever so happy! Oh and they automatically give you a knife and fork in the bag too, Awesome! 

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Trader Joes Gluten Free Love

When I was first diagnosed with Celiac Disease the GI doctor gave me a lot of advice "Go to Trader Joe's and talk to them, they'll tell you what's gluten free." REALLY??? That's it?!?!?! Ok so we went to Trader Joe's. They have a great list of what is gluten free you can get, in the back of the store, or ask a team member, they all rock there.

So I do tend to run to Trader Joe's for my OMG I need something gluten free to eat kind of days. Here is my ranking of the best products from Trader Joes. As you'll see I have a lot of loved items. My one downfall on items I wish they had a better production plant. So many items are labeled with their famous G* but are processed on shared lines. Ggrrr. Shared lines are a No No for me. Shared facility, I'll give it a try. (I keep hoping that shared facility is 4-5 football fields long and the gluten is all the way on the opposite goal line.)

Favorite Items:
1 - Tamales! - I could eat these every day. Really I could. With four different flavor options, you get a good mix of variety.
2 - Gluten Free Brownie mix - Soft, fluffy, chocolatey tasty brownies, this is by far my favorite mix.
3 - Polenta mix - One thing that I find weird is if I eat too much I feel like I've been glutened, but there are no gluten ingredients, I guess maybe my body is telling me to slow down.
4 - Taquitos - Just like the tamales but can be microwaved, and I don't need to worry about them being fried with flour stuff, so crunchy and tasty.
5 - Fresh edamame - Fresh, not frozen in the shell edamame. it's sweet and tasty, but you have to buy it early in the day, it runs out regularly.
6 - Pre-cooked brown rice - cheap and pre-made. All you have to do is nuke it for 60 seconds and you have 2 full servings of rice. Great for a quick meal with a couple tamales.
7 - Wine - Cheap~ OMG - Cheap tasty wine. I really like the TJ branded wine. Plain and simple and a bottle costs you under $4.
8 - Creme Brulle cups - OK, they are warm and gooey and caramelized on top but it's custard inside chocolate cups that are just the right size above bite-size to satisfy you after a nice home-cooked meal.
9 - Gluten Free Cupcakes - Their fresh, not frozen! So you can pick them up on the way home from work! Not 3 days before so that they thaw! (They also did pink frosting ones for Valentine's Day!)
10 - Gluten Free Joe Joe's cookies - The best most reliable place to get gluten free "Oreo" cookies, that also aren't bite size.
11 - Chocolate chip cookies - They have a great bag of chocolate chip cookies, very similar to the Tate's brand, but cheaper and easier to find! Nice and crispy.
12 - Licorice scotties with no wheat! - I miss licorice like nothing else. I find myself flipping over every package when I'm in the store. These are great, and wheat free!
13 - NGB: Gluten Free Beer - Trader Joe's now has their own Sourghum based gluten free beer, brewed by Minhas Brewery. I can get a meal and a good beer all in one place!
14 - All purpose baking flour - Some recipes call for Not using this recipe, so keep an eye out for that in some cook books. But I made cupcakes with it, and they turned out with a fabulous consistency, and tasted really good. I felt a bit of a rice after taste, but sometimes I feel that's only because I know it's there.
15 - Brownies - Who knew there were brownies too! (see picture above!)
16 - Almond meal - Almond flour, just not as ground up. It's CHEAP! Almond flour in the regular grocery store costs at a minimum $10 a tiny bag. This is under $4.50 and is a big bag. If you grind it up a bit more it works just as well as almond flour.  

Fancy sounding beer, frozen mac and cheese single servings and creme brulee cups, yum!

The Not so favorite:
1 - Gluten free pizza - It had no taste... None.. How do you make a pizza with no taste?!
2 - Mac and Cheese - I guess I'm spoiled with Annie's mac and cheese that comes with the cheese sauce instead of the powder.
3 - Gluten free ginger snaps - Too much ginger flavor. I know that's the point of Ginger Snaps, just didn't hit my taste buds. They were crumbly and pungent.
4 - Gluten free bread - This is a total hit or miss for me based on which brand they have in stock. The first bread I got from Trader Joe's made me cry it was so bad. 
5 - Granola - Their granola is different. It is sweet, and has a lot of alternative items versus regular granola in it. It's good for a handful or 2 in a pinch. But after several tries I can't bring myself to finish the bag. 
6 - Frozen Mac and Cheese - It didn't get much better in frozen form. The pasta was tough, and I could taste the mustard and paprika too strongly. It was creamy, and rich, but left me burping mustard and paprika hours later. 

It doesn't even look tasty!
Trader Joes has been bringing out new products for gluten free every couple months. If you go there, sign up for their Fearless Flyer newsletter and keep your eyes open for new gluten free options, and keep your sense of humor around. While informative, they are also comical. Last month they highlighted their Gluten Free Greeting Cards... :)

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Chili's Restaurant and Bar

Chili's.... Well they are casual fast food, I can't classify them any higher. I guess eating gluten free I've learned to respect good food, well made meals, that are held at a higher quality because it has to be. My bestfriend came in town for my birthday, after a long train ride she wanted from the small town she's working in, she wanted a good old fashion meal out with chips and salsa, and a margarita.

Chili's does have an allergen listing for the top 8, which used with the menu can help make a good meal. I got excited they had loaded baked potato soup. I get excited over soup on menus these days, when before you couldn't pay me to get soup, unless I was ill. Looking over the menu they have some tasty sounding options. I was a bit confused since they do list fajita's with both corn and flour tortillas, but they are not listed on the gluten free menu. They don't have dedicated fryers so you have to bring your own corn tortilla's if you want chips and salsa.

I'm guessing the best way to tell an authentic Mexican restaurant from Chili's is the corn and bean salsa is not allowed, which I've never seen a salsa not be safe in a Mexican restaurant. If you bring your own tortilla's you can have the regular salsa. Otherwise their ribs are pretty tasty, and thankfully I like broccoli. This time I wasn't that hungry and tried their new Fresh Mex bowls which reminded me of Chipotle's burrito bowl, though I feel Chipotle is tastier! I need to remember tortilla chips next time, it might be better that way. In a pinch or on a road trip they would make an ok stop, going out of my way, I wouldn't stop here.

I'd give them 3 dragonflies, there are options, not the greatest food, but they can provide more than a crouton free salad. I wouldn't go out of my way to eat here, but there are options when traveling, or to make the larger group happy.

Sunday, May 4, 2014

GFAF Expo - Food Reviews the first group

Now that we’ve tasted more things from the GFAF Expo, here’s the first of our product breakout of goodies. More to come still!

Leo’s  Italian foods – They are a local business, and we’ve seen them in the frozen section at a couple grocery stores. We’ve had their Gnochi and their Ravioli’s before. We got to try their linguini at the show now too. We love the first two products; their linguini was just “OK” in our tasting opinion. 
New Planet Beer – You can’t go wrong! They are a great beer that is truly safe for Celiac’s. For those that loved craft beer before being GF, this is what you need in your fridge after a long day of work, with 6 different options, there is bound to be 1 you’ll like. 
Bard’s Tale Beer – Bards was the original sorghum based beer. Not to put them in a non-relevant category, but it was the only beer when I was first diagnosed, and it was ok. There isn’t anything wrong with it, but it’s like a staple in the beer world like MGD, or Budweiser, it’s there, it tastes ok; but probably not the first thing you’re going to grab.
GlutenFreeda – Hot Pockets – I tried these last year, and have not had a chance to find them in store. (and not for the sake of not looking!) They were able to give me 1 store locally, Fruitful Yield, which carries them. I’m hoping they’d expand their market some. I’ve found their pizza pockets at Sunset Foods, and I debate buying them out of them when I see them. They are YUM! I honestly think it’s worth the trip out of my way to get some of these for lunch. 
Enjoy Life Foods – If you don’t know Enjoy Life, they are a local, Chicago based company, and they specialize in Allergy friendly foods. They offer items free of the top 8 allergens. I love that they give the option to accommodate all allergies, though sometimes I feel that has sacrificed their taste a bit. I’m VERY fair weathered on their products. I Love their Plentil Chips, and their Seed mix, cookies, and baked chewy bars I would skip. The chewy bars don’t fill me at all, the taste is ok, they are tasty, but the texture is a bit tough to deal with. 
Van’s – Van’s was handing out their Almond breakfast bars, which are tiny, but I like. They are good. They also had their Say Cheese Chips as a sample, the look of the bag, and the smell made me think they’d be like Cheez It’s or Gold Fish crackers. They definitely aren’t either of those! They were very grainy and I’m not sure if it’s the oatmeal or something else in there, the texture was just weird, and it took me a long time to eat the little sample bag. I don’t think I could do a full size box of them. 
Cosmo Popcorn – It wasn’t like popcorn you get at the movie theater, it wasn’t even like Angie’s Boom Chick A Pop, Popcorn, the kernel and hard center were gone. In a way it reminded me of a cheesy poof, but not as bad for you. I liked it a lot and know it would be a dangerous snack to have on hand.

Snikiddy – Baked Fries – I vaguely remember the greasy “baked fries” that were popular in the 1980’s my boyfriend Loved them, and when I showed them these he kept asking if they were like the product from the 80’s. I told him, yes and no, they aren’t greasy, they also are thicker, and flavored. The samples I got were the spicy flavor. The taste was subtle on the front end, but kicked on the back end. My mom and brother loved them. They even confiscated the wrapper so they could go buy a few bags at Ultra Foods. 
Mediterranean chips Lentil Chips – I already know these are winners. I get these for my holiday hummus dip I take to all the holiday parties I attend. My brothers’ girlfriend gets them to go with her crap dip she does at the holidays. They have a nice flavor to them and don’t leave you with a lingering after taste of “gluten free”. 
Crunch Masters Edamame Chips – Crunch Masters makes OK crackers in my opinion, they aren’t great, their Cinnamon Grammy’s are awesome, and their cheddar ones are good, but bite size tiny. We tried their new popped Edamame chips, and thought they were bland. We decided with some hummus or cheese, mostly cheese, they would be good. 
Ian’s Products – Ian’s makes some options more geared towards kids, but in my opinion that doesn’t matter, I can still eat them. They also cater to families with multiple food allergies. My favorite item they carry are gluten free onion rings! They can be hard to find, but they’re still out there. Chicken tenders, fish sticks, and corndog bites round out their most common products. They now have pancake roll ups with either fruit compote or sausage inside. I haven’t tried them yet, but I got coupons at the show, so I’m going to have to try them now. They use to offer a breakfast sandwich similar to a McDonald’s McGriddle, but I haven’t seen those in ages. They gave out their cinnamon cookie buttons. They are tiny, but tasty. My dad said they’d be awesome with coffee. 

Lovely Candy Co – I’d never heard of them, but was intrigued to know I could buy them at one of my favorite places to shop for gf foods, HomeGoods! I love going there for cheaper mixes and snack bars. I was in Mariano’s last night and found Lovely Candy Co products right on the end cap of the check-out line. I grabbed a bag of their chocolate caramel swirl candies, and have to put them out of site so I don’t eat them all! I’m glad I was introduced to this new company I guarantee you I probably would have never picked the bag up to buy them if I hadn’t tasted them at the expo. My brother said he liked them and felt they were even better than the new Hershey’s Lancaster candies they came out with. Whoot whoot! 

Angie’s Boom Chick a Pop – I’m a big fan of anything Angie’s makes.  Their holiday popcorn mint w/chocolate drizzle was so good, and I was so mad I couldn’t buy a 2nd bag of it because the store sold out! Good tasting and not too bad in the calorie world either. 
There’s still more! Part 2 coming soon, once we indulge some more and review the rest of our notes from the expo!  Over all we had a great experience and we know what we do and don’t want to buy again in the stores.