Saturday, May 30, 2015

Outback Steakhouse "Can Do" Gluten Free

I hold some reservation on the full ability of Outback doing gluten free. Their main entree, they are know for is steak, how hard is it to make a steak safe? Well I've had issues at LongHorn Steakhouse doing a gluten free steak, and even Outback and the lack of knowledge that lays at different locations. Really dinning out relies 100% on the staff and how well trained they are, and how much management cares.

We've been to Outback a couple times at a couple different locations. I like that there is always a variety of items, including steak, chicken and seafood. My only issues each time is each location has a much different understanding of what gluten free means. I've been told that shrimp isn't safe, or Old Bay seasoning isn't safe or the cinnamon in the sweet potato, though these items are on the gluten free menu. But again training and staff knowledge. We have to go into the situation knowing our stuff and knowing when to ask questions.

The part that does make me feel a bit better was talking to a friend who worked there that told me when an allergy order comes in the cook will stop all other meal orders, clean the grill surface and work on the allergy order and then start the rest of the orders again. So props to them for having the kitchen trained, now to get the front end staff trained!

Usually asking for the manager or asking for the cooks advice helps with staff that isn't that well trained. Our last trip I got the steak and lobster tail, because my brother raved about it from his visit a few days earlier. As usual it turned into a lot of questions, and the server telling me the lobster wasn't safe.... But Finally was willing to go talk to the cook, find out if the lobster was safe (I'm Gluten Intolerant, not Shelfish intolerant....) She came back and told me it was OK. It was prepare well, the server who brought out my plate announced it as gluten free, which did make me feel better because the server made me nervous.

The food was good, but I leave feeling that I need to be extra diligent in any meal I have there, the product they offer is so simple to produce gluten free, yet it seems like such a hard question for them to answer when to talk to the staff. I would say going there is best if you're willing to really talk to them and make sure they understand gluten free instead of other issues. I give them 3 dragonflies, the process seems like it could be a lot simpler than they make it, and I don't understand what is so hard on their end.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

What Snacks to Pack When Traveling Gluten Free

Traveling with any food allergy or restriction can be challenging, even tricky depending where you’re going, how you’re getting there, and who you are traveling with. Personally I love traveling, but the moment a trip comes up in topic, I kind of panic, and a million questions rush through my mind.
Will there be places to eat out? What are the grocery stores like? Do they have GF options? What does everyone else like to eat? Are we renting a car so I can go to the store? What should I just pack?
How I travel – I guess I can break this into two parts. How I travel via plane and via road trip!
Plane has more restrictions, since there are restrictions on what you can bring on a plane, and how much room you have to pack. I always have a carry-on with snacks, and if I have room in my checked luggage, I’ll pop some stuff in there. 
Why keep food in my carry on? 2 reasons; it’s with me and I can snack on the plane since the bag of snacks they give out usually is a trail mix that has gluten in it. I’m set. Secondly Layovers. We had a layover in Saint Louis coming back from California. The terminal we flew into was a temporary one because a Tornado hit the regular terminal a few months earlier. It left us with a very desolate terminal with not a lot of options. The 2-3 food options were all fried and pre-made fast food, we had 2 hours sitting there, and luckily I had snacks to tie me over. 
What do I pack; well any variety of these items I can pick up before the trip and fit in my bag – Nuts, Larabars, Kind Bars, Kind Granola, Raisins, Cookies, Pretzels, Crackers (who knows I may find cheese or salsa or guacamole to go with it), Skinny Pop individual bags, Pamela’s Figgy and Jammies, Corn Nuts, Gummy Bears and M&M’s. Last but not least my Toast-It Bags. I usually stay away from perishable items like bread or fruit because I’m not sure how long it will be until we get to our destination after flying. That kind of thing I look for Whole Foods, or Trader Joe’s. If I find out what grocery chain they have, I’ll read reviews on how good their GF product line is to decide if it’s worth going there. Taking the Toast It bags allows me to pick up bread or anything that needs toasting and use a toaster at the hotel to make a quick breakfast item. 

Bringing food in the car again has two benefits, you can snack as you’re on the road saving money if you stop at the gas station. But also depending where you’re traveling you may be stuck along the way to find safe GF options, or the destination may not have the best gf options for you. Traveling up to Tawas, Michigan was one of our adventures that 1st Tawas didn’t have the best GF selection in their grocery store unless I was baking/making from scratch. 2nd driving to Indianapolis from there, the route didn’t offer much for GF dinning without driving out of our way to find it, and on our tight schedule that wasn’t an option! Generally though road trips involve a group of people so I find every way possible to not be a total and udder nuisance to the group. I look up reviews on places we can dine out safely, and make a list so that everyone can decide what they want to eat. The group I travel with has some picky eaters, and there is no reason to make them go somewhere they don’t want to! It’s their vacation too, and their money their spending, so I’m not going to force them to eat somewhere they don’t want to. I bring a lot more perishable options when going by car; including bread, Kinnickinick donuts, a few slices or bread and English muffins, because I can pack them into a cooler to make sure they don’t get too warm before we get there. If we do eat breakfast in the hotel I have some options for myself as well. I also map out what grocery stores are at our destination so we can do a shopping trip to get things like lunch meat or cheese and check out what products I can’t find at home.

Sunday, May 24, 2015

BlackFinn Ameripub

BlackFinn Ameripub has been in Mount Prospect, a stones throw from my house for a couple years now. I'll be honest it didn't sound that appetizers, so I think they've upped their menu options in recent months and added a lot of new items.

We stopped in to check it out one Wednesday night, as a recommendation from my parents. Turns out it was half price wine night too. The gluten free items are marked in the menu with the regular items, they also label if it's an item that can be customized to be gluten free, so they have two different indicators. There was a variety of items to choose from most of the sections of the menu, which made me happy there were options.

I had asked the server about the GF and GFO markings. I ordered a dish that was labeled GF, not GFO sides are listed separate, he told me which sides were GF safe, which oddly did not include the rice. I'm always shocked when places say their rice is not safe, but I went a long with it, better to be safe than sorry. Whipped sweet potatoes instead totally hit the spot. Their portion sizes are huge! When my plate arrived I almost asked if I missed a marking for meal for two on the menu! 

Our server seemed very knowledgeable when I mentioned I was gluten free, he pointed out right away being half price wine night that I could still get wine and be good! 
I give them 4 dragonflies, they had a good selection of foods on their menu. All items are listed GF or GFO depending if it needs modifications. Staff seems to know what's going on. I'll go back.

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Are Mike's Hard Lemonade's Gluten Free

Another Great Loaded question - Are Mike's Hard Lemonade's Gluten Free... Well No - Not Gluten Free, but gluten removed. Like any gluten removed, or made on shared lines with gluten containing ingredients it's up to each of us to decide what is best for us. Personally I've never had an issue with a gluten removed beer like Omission 

I do love me a Mike's at bowling as it's the only GF option they have. I've mentioned before I WILL NOT Drink beer on tap, why I've gotten sick from it. Why? Well the bar has to take the time and effort to really clean the lines to the kegs and you have to hope the keg is on a dedicated line, and there is no sharing in the tapping process.... Too much effort and too many questions to ask the bartender. Give me a drink in a bottle I know I'm safer that way.

I was told that Mike's lite's were safe at one time so I tried it, and didn't react, so for the last 3 years it's been my drink of choice when wine, or gf beers weren't available... Never reacted... Yet if I have a crumb of gluten with something I'm in gut wrenching pain, why?? I wish I knew, but Here you can get the scoop from their website. OR below you can read on the information they handed out at the GFAF Expo as they tested their products. 

As with any Gluten Removed item it is made with grains that contain gluten, and processed to remove. Similar to the process Cheerios is using to clean oats before using them in the new GF Cheerios, or how Schars uses Wheat Starch in their GF items the initial grain is present and then reduced to what is considered safe. Celiac Disease and Gluten Intolerance are not a cookie cutter disease and it is up to each of us to know how exactly to handle our tolerances. While we may not feel sick from something it can still be doing damage to your intestines.

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Aldi's Gluten Free Love

Aldi’s goes gluten free – for the 2nd year in a row Aldi’s has launched a slew of new gluten free products right at the beginning of Celiac Disease Awareness month. It’s a very pleasant surprise to see the new items show up in their flyer. Products do vary based on location many times, and not all items launched will become regulars to their product line, it’s a nice inexpensive way to indulge on your favorite items of gluten years past. 

Last year products included a range of dry goods to frozen items. They brought out cookie mix, and brownie mix, granola bars, flour, hot pockets, 2 frozen meal options, pizza, chicken nuggets, crisp bread, wraps, and white and multi-grain bread to list a few items. Most items remained on the shelves after the promotion ended, giving us gluten free eaters some nice inexpensive options for picking of quick staples. 

This year they brought out more exciting items, boxed macaroni and cheese, both powdered version and “real” shells and cheese, frozen mac and cheese and spaghetti, cheesecake, tamale bites, pasta side dishes, cereal, chips, crackers, angel food cake, ravioli, and soon they will have additional hot pocket flavors. I’ll be honest I was one of those people who came and stocked up on everything so I could make sure to get a variety and try the most exciting looking items. 

I’ll be honest when it comes to food for me, convenience wins most the time. I don’t mind taking the time to make the main entrĂ©e for dinner, but for a side or snack, I like things that are quick to prepare, and inexpensive is even better, that’s why I’m totally crushing on the Aldi’s items. #AldisForTheWin. I don’t have the time or energy to make everything from scratch after working all day.

Only a few items haven’t won me over in their product line the frozen Italian meals gave me really bad heart burn that I could do without. The hot pockets tend to be a bit dry on the crust, but if you add some cheese or pizza sauce they work just fine! The mac and cheese is a close 2nd to my favorite Annie’s brand which is impressive to me. Totally blows the Walmart brand out of the water. The cheesecake Wow – creamy flavorful, (though the crust does include nuts) the crust is moist and no one would ever know it was GF! – I can serve it to friends without them questioning it. In my mind this is a keeper cause anyone can buy and enjoy it. We’ve been trying different Aldi’s products over the last week to see what they’re like so I know what to go back and stock up on! 

Besides the Live G-Free line Aldi's has an expansive selection of items that are labeled Gluten Free. Great for quick shopping, you can flip see the label and keep going. Plus they have awesome wine at a great price. I'm a huge fan of their chicken nuggets, a bag of those, a bag of mixed veggies and a bottle of wine solve any "I don't know what to make for dinner concerns.

Monday, May 11, 2015

Deerfields Sugar Cookies Mix

Happiness is cookies. Even better happiness is homemade cookies, fresh out of the oven, even if they are made with a mix. I happened to find a bag of Deerfields Sugar Cookie Mix recently and thought I'd try them out, homemade. To start of with, Deerfields makes gluten free goodies at their Schaumburg location, and they are kept in a freezer at all 3 locations, as well as several stores around Chicagoland. Deerfields has been making baked goods since 1886, and are well known around the area. What's another great plus, their gluten free products are made at a peanut free facility as well.

The first time I had their cupcakes, I did notice one thing, they're sweet, almost too sweet for me. Their lemon button cookies are good, but you do have to bring them up to room temperature for a good solid taste on them. They are a great find, but not my first of the gluten free options out there. 

Their Cookie Mix... Well it's super easy recipe. Always my favorite thing when I go to back, quick, easy, common ingredients needed. There were instructions on how to make a sugar cookie frosting/icing to go on the cookies, but I wasn't that ambitious that morning, so I stuck with my stable, colored sprinkles. It seems no matter how old they are, guys love colored sprinkles on cookies, so my sugar cookies are always a hit. Flavor on these, Good! Not too sweet, and not to grainy/gritty tasting, so they already had a leg up on Betty Crocker Gluten Free cookies. 

But there really was no after taste, so they tasted like sugar cookies made from scratch. Next time I see this mix, I'd be inclined to pick it up again, and make another batch when we're having guests over.

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Gluten Free Expo 2015 round 2 of reviews.

On to the next group of reviews from the expo. - This was a mix of products I purchased and some new and familiar brands that again all excited me.

Red Apple Lipstick - Red Apple make amazing lip products that are gluten free. I'll be honest, I don't wear lipstick, never have. I maybe wear a little mocha colored tint, but that's it for me. I bite and lick my lips too much that I'd always be re-applying it. I do like eye shadow and liners. I decided I'm due for some new make-up. They have a small color collection which thankfully were in my palate, light hews and some neutral colors. They are pricey, but if you compare against a brand like Urban Decay, which is my go to for GF eye colors it's comparable, and Red Apple goes on smooth and lite as well.

Bears Super Fine Rice Flour – This was a new brand for the show and they had baking mixes and straight flour using super fine rice flour. What was great, was despite being a rice flour it didn’t taste like rice. So many flours that use rice leave a rice taste in your mouth this one did not, and it actually had lift and fluffiness to it. I got a bag of their donut mix to try out and make some baked donuts one morning.

Delights Stuffed Sandwiches; who debuted their products in this are at the show last year. In a nutshell these are the Gluten Free Hot Pockets. If you've been to Aldi's you've seen these in the frozen section for the past 8-10 months. They carry two flavors, Southwest and Peperoni. Well Delights is excited to say that come July Aldi's is going to have 2 additional flavors from their product line. Ham and Cheese as well as Spinach Cheese with kale. The outside dough is a bit dry and dusty even when microwaved. So make sure you have something to drink when eating them, but they are pretty tasty.  

Kiki's Gluten Free - Kiki's has been at the expo in the past demonstrating their spinach pockets and cherry pockets. Their crust is super flaky and tasty and is another product everyone in my family loves. Now Kiki's has developed a deep dish pizza! If you've spent any part of your life in Chicago you KNOW that's a big deal. Their pizza will be at Pizzano's and Gulliver's. It tasted like the read deal. Real Deep Dish pizza! It wasn't gooey, it didn't fall apart and was worthy of a second tasting. We for sure will be hitting up Pizzano's soon to get some pizza! It's been years (about 7+ since I've enjoyed a meal at a Pizzano's!

Lovely Candy Co - I remember falling in love with their caramels last year. This year I made a bee-line right to the table the moment I saw they were giving out samples of their new licorice. I LOVE licorice, and that has been horribly sad that I can't get licorice when I have a craving. I honestly pick up every new brand I see and flip over to see if maybe there is a wheat free option available. Their caramels and chocolate smidgens are soft and tasty. Even better; a lot of retailers carry these. So if you're shopping at HomeGoods, or hitting up the pharmacy at Target or CVS you can pick up a bag and keep on snacking! 

Hudsonville Ice Cream - This brand is more familiar with me, because of our many trips to Michigan, because Hudsonville makes my brothers girlfriends favorite ice cream. Superman. They were tasting awesome sized portions of their Mackinac fudge ice cream, and Soy Free Strawberry at the Expo. These are two of the 20 ice creams they have that are labeled gluten free. they were tasty and super refreshing after 2 hours on our feet!.