Saturday, February 28, 2015

Blonde Chicken

I have nick-named this dish, Blonde Chicken because, well while making my shopping list at work I completely forgot one of the main ingredients from the original recipe.... So I went shopping, I'm unloading the groceries, and realized what I was missing. So I made-do and moved on!

But this dish was super easy to make, and the part that took the longest was honestly grilling the chicken.

4 - Chicken Breasts
4 Slices - Provolone Cheese
1 Bag - Fresh Spinach
1/2 Cup - Chopped Pecans
2 Tablespoons - Sliced Scallions 
2-3 Cloves - Garlic
1 1/2 Tablespoons - Oil
1 Teaspoon - Chicken Seasoning (I used Mrs. Dash)
1 1/2 Cups - Chopped Mushrooms (optional)

To start pour the oil in your frying pan, add garlic and onion and let saute while you start to grill up the chicken breasts on a separate grill or in a separate pan. 

After a few minutes add pecans, and (mushrooms if using) to the pan with the garlic and onions and continue to saute, until pecans and mushrooms are soft. Add the spinach at this time. I added slowly so that the pan wasn't overwhelmed with spinach trying to cook. 

Add chicken seasoning to the chicken breasts as you start to grill them in their pan.

Stir the saute and rotate the chicken as needed until the chicken is close to done (within 2-4 minutes of completion), add the provolone cheese so it can begin to melt. 

Place chicken on plate, and top with the spinach mixture. So Simple!! 

I added Trader Joe's Mac and Cheese for a side dish, and some fruit. Considering I was so excited initially about the mushrooms, to completely forget them... This still turned out pretty darn tasty! Plus really the longest thing to make in this whole meal was the mac and cheese.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Saranello's Wheeling

Saranello's is one of the Lettuce Entertain You corp restaurants in the Northwest suburbs of Chicago. They opened in the Westin Convention center and hotel in the fall of 2011. Named in memory of one of their partners who lost her life to cancer that year. Most of the Lettuce Entertain You restaurants do offer a gluten free menu of some sorts, some more comprehensive than others, but generally a good selection made by good chef's. 

I recently dined there as part of a party for a friend. I had heard from some other friends previously to be ready for the super slow service and absent wait staff, so I wasn't too excited, but figured a night with friends it wouldn't be so bad. I checked the menu online the day before and decided that the one pasta dish option that was listed would suffice, since the prices were pretty steep from there.

There had to have been one or two weddings going on, as well as a winter dance type party, and being a hotel, and 3 other restaurants there, besides using the valet there was No Where To Park! Being winter in Chicago it was brutal finding parking and walking back. Once inside it was super loud and bustling with people, but sounded like a fun environment. Once they brought out the gluten Free menu I was excited to see another option, of the Shrimp Diablo. I checked with the waitress if it was really hot, she said no, that I could get it with any sauce I wanted. Great!

A few of the other party guests wanted appetizers, at this point I could see where the slow service kicked in, we'd been there 30 minutes and all I had was a glass of wine, and getting pretty hungry. Giving in and picking an appetizer we opted to try the Parmesan-Crusted Onions. I have to say WOW! These were fabulous, and I need to learn how to make these at home. The waitress came out and explained that all pastas are made fresh by hand each day, and that nothing is frozen. (That doesn't explain why we never seem to see her, unless she's making the pasta in back....) 

I ordered the Shrimp Diablo, with vodka sauce, she got very nervous and told me she thought there was flour in the vodka sauce. I asked if she could confirm and let me know my options, since nothing is designated well on the gluten free menu. She was able to confirm that my pasta that day would be linguine. My meal came out with the vodka sauce, and she seemed sure then, that it was fine.

I can't be certain of being glutened, I didn't feel great when we finished eating and I had to excuse myself to the bathroom, at the opposite end of the restaurant, up a flight and half of stairs; that I felt bad for the person who got the stall after me. Though they were nice private stalls so I could feel less embarrassed by my issue. If not glutened, bad shrimp? I didn't have any lingering stomach issues the next day, I didn't feel dizzy or light headed, just didn't agree with my stomach.... They did have dessert options but after a nice 10 minutes in the loo, I passed on dessert. Plus we sat down at 7:30 and now it was almost 10:00!

I give them 2 dragonflies, this is probably the worst rating I have ever given any Lettuce Entertain You establishment. Normally great service, great food, and great atmosphere top their list of ways to present themselves. Personally if I go back, I want the appetizer of the Parmesan-onions again, and a salad, hold the shrimp. 

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Corkscrew and Meatballs!

I had a total craving for spaghetti and meatballs. I was thinking about how to make paleo meatballs, and found my favorite breadcrumbs while at Bed Bath and Beyond (I know, random) so I grabbed a container of Aleia's breadcrumbs to have on hand, so this just made complete sense to try out! 

1 1/2 Lbs - Ground Beef
1 - Egg
3 Tablespoons - each, Basil & Parsley
1/4 Teaspoon- each salt and black pepper
1 Teaspoon - Oregano
2-3 Cloves - Garlic
3/4 Cup - Gluten Free Breadcrumbs 
1/2 Cup - Mozzarella cheese, shredded. 

The easy part is you take everything and mix it all together in a big bowl. I recommend mixing by hand, it's just easier.

Using a Tablespoon make a ball out of the mixture about the size of a tablespoon and roll between your hands and place on a cookie sheet lined with foil. Do this for all of the meat in the mixture.

Bake at 350 degrees, for 10 minutes. After 10 minutes you'll rotate the the meatballs and cook for another 10 minutes so both sides get cooked evenly. You'll notice a lot of the grease from the meat will run out while baking. While waiting take another cookie sheet and line with a clean foil. Take the meatballs out and place on the clean foil, so you aren't continuing to cook them in the grease that's baked out. you'll bake for a final 10 minutes. 

While this was cooking I was working on making my pasta and sauce. I used a bottle sauce for a time saver, and my favorite, Ancient Harvest Quinoa Pasta

What a pretty meal?! I was in a total over achieving mood and even made Chebe brand bread rolls, I added some Garlic powder to the mix so that we got a bit of a garlic bread taste to go with our Italian meatballs and pasta! 

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Must Try Gluten Free Dinning in Chicago!

Every major city has places it’s known for. Places that even if you don’t live there, you know when you visit, you have to check them out. This is what I consider the places that anyone who has Celiac Disease or Gluten Intolerance Have to check out when they come to Chicago! I was going to stop the list at the top 12, but I see it continuing to grow as more places get awesome GF menu options. Click on the name for the restaurant website and address information.

DaLuciano’s is a neighborhood pizza place that has a Strong following in the gluten free community. What’s great about Daluciano’s is they have a separate kitchen for gluten items. Why? Well several of the owners children have Celiac Disease, so they know how to do it right! But how can you turn down Chicken parmesan (Breaded and served on pasta) and Manicotti, and Tiramisu. 

Chicago’s has 3 locations in Chicago, what makes them so unique is they do a traditional Chicago style deep dish pizza. Having grown up eating Deep Dish, it tickles me pink I can still find a place to satisfy that craving. For anyone new to Chicago, well you can join in on knowing the joys of a deep dish pizza. They also have Calzones, garlic bread, focaccia, and more. 

Mity Nice and the Water Tower Food Court are owned by LettuceEntertain You corp. Which any of their restaurants would be a great treat for someone visiting Chicago, because so many have awesome GF menus.  Mity Nice in particular is known for their popovers they put on the table in their bread basket. They are naturally gluten free, and so darn good, I could go there and just eat those for dinner! The food court will give you a print out of where you can go and what to get at each of their stations.

Sweet Ali’s is a no-brainer. Out in Hinsdale, they are a dedicated gluten free bakery. But besides being 100% they are darn tasty as well. I have yet to eat anything here I didn’t love. Cupcakes, cookies, lemon bars, quiche, bagel dogs. The list goes on and on. Well worth a trip out here to treat yourself to something sweet. Plus they always have several dairy free options each day. 

My boyfriend found this place by a recommendation from a fellow gluten free dinner. The best part about them, is there vast menu options really put most places to shame. I’m not talking, a burger and fries. There is Lobster mac and cheese, goat cheese flatbreads, sweet potato fries, and craft beers. It’s really a treat, great atmosphere and just a fun place to go.

Honesty here, I don’t think I ever ate Mediterranean food prior to being diagnosed with Celiac Disease. So trying something new, and finding a place that does it wonderfully was great! Tell them when you get in line you are gluten intolerant, the person preparing your meal, washes their hands and changes their gloves. If they touch anything else down the line, they go back again, re-wash their hands and get new gloves. What makes them stand out against a lot of the other Mediterranean places around Chicago is they carry the My-Bread Pitas. So you can make a full plate with a pita on the side!

Pancakes, Waffles, and Bacon, Oh my! Walker Brother’s has a long history in the suburbs of Chicago for having great waffles and pancakes. About 2 years ago they got a dedicated gluten free waffle iron. Welcome back Awesome Waffles! I recommend the Bacon Waffle. 

Swirlz is located on the North Side of Chicago, tucked away where you wouldn’t find them right away, but they’re no secret, they make amazing cupcakes. Offering both Gluten free, and non-gf options, they also accommodate dairy free with their gluten free selections. On a recent visit, brownies and lemon bars were in their freezer case. If you can’t make it out to Swirlz, stop by any Whole Foods store in Chicagoland and pick up an individually packaged cupcake from the bakery.
I really like Flat Top for variety. They are a Stir-fry restaurant that really looks to accommodate allergy situations when dinning. The format is simple, you get a bowl you fill with rice or noodles, pick out the veggies and meat you want and add the sauce. Their Wok chefs fry up your meal and you’re all set to chow down. For Gluten Free talk to your server about getting the un-sauced meat from the back, and confirm which sauces are gluten free, and you have a meal that will knock your Asian fusion socks off. 

The Berghoff has a long history in Chicago. They are known for their German American inspired foods and beer. In recent years the daughter of the current owners was diagnosed with Celiac disease so they were inspired to make items on their everyday menu gluten free. Their menu won’t disappoint, and the beautiful interior makes for a great dining experience in a “classic” for Chicago. 

Do-Rite Donuts 
Ok this one is a bonus, it could be lumped up in the other Lettuce Entertain You group places, but this one stands out. You can get the best cake donut of your life here!! You need to get their early in the day so that you have options, or call the day before, ask for the options for the next day and reserve your donuts. Yes… Reserve a donut. It’s worth it. 

Sophie's Great Food -  
Or previously known as Rose's Wheat Free Bakery. This place is a staple, especially for a beginner to really feel the love. Mac and cheese, and baked goods you can't even think up. Nut bars, cheesecakes, dairy free options. This was the first place I went when I was diagnosed, so it's one that I keep near to my heart. 

For anyone who is gluten free these are my top picks for where to go when dining out in Chicago on a gluten free lifestyle. You won't be disappointed.

Monday, February 9, 2015

Buffalo Chicken Quinoa Bites

Buffalo Chicken Quinoa Bites. I had a craving for buffalo chicken - This seems to be a regular occurrence for me. I don't know what it is, I guess it was a favorite way to get chicken in my Pre-Gluten Free Days, but now, having a kitchen I can experiment on my own recipes I can go crazy with it!

This one I had some confusion on the initial recipe so I ended up making some edits as I went, and my only downside on it would be The quinoa needed to cook a touch longer.

1 Cup - Quinoa. 1 Large Egg
1/4 Cup -  chopped scallions
1 Cup - chopped cooked chicken (I used the chicken in the can)
1/2 Cup - Frank's Buffalo Sauce
1/2 Cup - Blue Cheese crumbles
1/2 Cup - Gluten Free Breadcrumbs
1/2 Teaspoon Garlic
Pinch of Salt and pepper.

This is the easiest thing ever! 
Cook the quinoa, make sure it's nice and fully. 

Take all the ingredients and mix them all together in a bowl. (How simple) 
Once everything is mixed together, scoop into mini cupcake pans. Pressing down to make sure each pan is full. For me this made just over 24, so I used all 3 of my cupcake tins. 

Bake for 30 minutes at 350 degrees. When I turned over the cupcake tin, the bites fell right out. I got some frozen mixed veggies and french fries, and dinner was served.
Viola! I have to say this was the first meal in a while that I made, that had so much color to it. My boyfriend joked that it looked so "Southwestern" with all the orange, and yellow and green. I have to say, it was a pretty meal, AND pretty tasty!!

I've made a similar dish, but with peperoni and mozzarella cheese as the main ingredients, with a side of pizza sauce... That one may make a new appearance soon!

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Andy's Jazz Club - Gluten free and Jazz

This one is an anomaly to my gluten free eating out theory. I try only to go places that advertise they do Gluten free, or have a menu. This one did neither, but it was my brothers’ girlfriends’ birthday, and she made my brother call ahead and talk to the manager. He talked to him mentioned it's a "bad allergy" and that it'd mean a lot to his girlfriend that I can eat with them. The manager assured him they had options and they could make the meal safely. So ultimately I caved. It turned out to be OK, but I’m not planning on making this a regular occurrence. Andy’s is a cute little live jazz club tucked away in River North, not far from Navy Pier. Michelle really wanted to check it out for dinner prior to going on a nice sunset boat tour on Lake Michigan. 

Andy’s has been at this location since the early 1950’s, and has been playing Jazz since the late 1970’s. It reminds me of a cute little speak-easy with waiters dressed the part and friendly jazz artists playing live music. We had a reservation for 4:00 on Sunday, when they are less busy. (Friday’s and Saturday’s it’s quite the hopping place!) Our server came over asked who was the birthday girl, and who was the gluten free diner. I was happy; they noted it on the reservation. He asked a few questions, he confirmed it was an "allergy", and if I had any other allergies they needed to know about. He said he’d double check everything with the chef before he guessed what was safe. He came back with a list and pointed out the dishes they could do gluten free. It was a huge selection, but it had a variety of beef, chicken, salmon and risotto. The disappointing part is they seemed to be missing was a dessert option, so we skipped dessert, but made it up by stopping at Garrett’s for popcorn before boarding our boat! 

I got the risotto – One word – Fabulous! It was plated so pretty I didn’t want to disturb it at first, but really it was tasty, if I could have licked the plate I might have done it!  When the food arrived it was even announced at gluten free, so there was no mistake on the meal. I was really glad I came out, even though I was a bit nervous about it, everything turned out really well. 
I give them 4 dragonflies, despite not having a dedicated menu the server took great care of handling the gluten free dinning and checking with the chef for options and modifications. I would love to go back again since the entertainment was amazing and the food was extremely tasty and unique. I'm not sure I could have made anything this good myself.