Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Lapse in Posting

Hi all, please don't worry, I haven't fallen off the face of the planet however since the Thanksgiving holiday I've been caught up in a ton of family and holiday events, and we've been so busy that kitchen experimentation has fallen by the wayside.

I promise that as soon as the Christmas holiday is over - certainly before the New Year - I'll be back on a more regular posting schedule.

In the meantime, two events that you may be interested in:
  • Hannaford is hosting another healthy living class entitled "Gluten Free Holiday Ideas!" The free class is on Monday December 15th from 6 - 7:30 PM at the Clifton Park Hannaford. Registration is required, so if you're interested in attending please call (518) 383-4136.
  • Sue from the Saratoga County Food Allergy/Sensitivity Support Group has informed me that their next meeting is on Monday, December 15th from 5:30 - 7 PM at KD's Fish Fry, 418 Geyser Road, Ballston Spa. Attendance is free, and you can contact Sue at thfarm (at) nycap.rr.com.
December 15th is a popular day and also happens to be the evening of my office holiday party. So I unfortunately won't be attending either gluten free event, but I hope to in the future!

I hope that everyone is having a wonderful holiday season!

Friday, November 21, 2008

Gluten Free Soup and Campbell's Gluten Free List

In the past week or so the weather has changed -- all of a sudden it's freezing in Albany, we're breaking out the wool sweaters and winter coats, running our cars in the morning before we leave for work, and everyone seems to be coming down with some sort of cold, flu, or bug. This is the time of year that I traditionally go into pack-rat mode, stocking up on canned goods in the event of bad weather - and with all the germs flying around the major staples to have on hand include ginger ale and chicken soup.

I've been looking for some good, gluten free canned soups - especially chicken soup - to have on hand. The last time I went to the grocery store I was very excited to see some promising-looking Campbell's soups - I picked them up, noted the ingredients, and called the company with the UPC. Well, I have (sort of) good news and bad news. The bad news is that the soups I called up about were not on their gluten free list.

Now, OK. I understand that there are certain additives in some soups. I'm not asking for a mainstream, gluten free chicken noodle soup, but chicken and rice soup is not gluten free? Seriously?? I purchased a can of Campbell's Select Harvest Healthy Request Savory Chicken and Long Grain Rice soup. It looked like a decent chicken soup, and these ingredients looked promising:

Chicken stock, roasted natural white meat chicken, carrots, rice, celery, contains less than 2% of: lower sodium natural sea salt, garlic, onions, modified potato starch, flavoring [milk], yeast extract, chicken fat, potassium chloride, carrot juice concentrate, salt, sugar, natural flavoring (salt, onion juice concentrate), rice starch, chicken flavor, citric acid, parsley, spice.


Now, none of these ingredients look particularly damning to me, but according to Campbell's neither this soup nor their condensed chicken and rice soup are gluten free - in fact none of their soups are listed on their official list of gluten free items! I'm sorry, but how hard would it be to make that soup above gluten free? Or if it is safe, then stop with the CYA answers?

Anyway, since it doesn't look like Campbell's is going to get their act together any time soon, there are a couple of good chicken soup options that have been verified as gluten free.

They include Hannaford brand Chicken and Rice condensed soup (last verified this summer), as well as Kettle Cuisine All Natural Chicken Soup with Rice Noodles (seen in Paradise Natural Foods in the frozen section). If anyone else has verified gluten free soups (especially chicken) I would love to hear about them!

That said, Campbell's did send me a list of their gluten free products (current as of October 2008). So for what it's worth, here goes the list:

Swanson Broth & Stock Aseptic
  • Natural Goodness Chicken Broth
  • Chicken Stock
  • Chicken Broth
  • Beef Stock

Swanson Broth Canned
  • Natural Goodness Chicken Broth
  • Chicken Broth
  • Vegetarian Broth
  • Chicken Broth with Garlic

Campbell's Tomato Juice
  • Tomato Juice
  • Low Sodium Tomato Juice
  • Organic Tomato Juice
  • Healthy Request Tomato Juice

V8 Splash Smoothies
  • V8 Splash Smoothie Strawberry Banana
  • V8 Splash Smoothie Tropical Colada

V8 Vegetable Juice
  • V8 Vegetable Juice
  • Low Sodium V8 Vegetable Juice
  • V8 Spicy Hot Vegetable Juice
  • A-C-E Vitamin Rich V8
  • V8 Fiber Vegetable Juice
  • Organic V8 Vegetable Juice

V8 Splash & Diet V8 Splash Juice Blends
  • V8 Splash Tropical Blend
  • V8 Splash Strawberry Kiwi Blend
  • V8 Splash Berry Blend
  • V8 Splash Fruit Medley
  • V8 Splash Mango Peach
  • V8 Splash Diet Tropical Blend
  • V8 Splash Diet Berry Blend

V8 V-Fusion Blends
  • V8 V-Fusion Strawberry Banana
  • V8 V-Fusion Tropical Orange
  • V8 V-Fusion Peach Mango
  • V8 V-Fusion Pomegranate Blueberry
  • V8 V-Fusion Acai Berry
  • V8 V-Fusion Light Strawberry Banana
  • V8 V-Fusion Light Peach Mango
  • V8 V-Fusion Light Pomegranate Blueberry

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Gluten Free Pizza at Uno's!

Lisa posted a blog that made my morning - Uno Chicago Grill has finally started testing their long-promised gluten free pizzas!

They've updated their gluten free menu to include cheese and pepperoni pizzas, and they're currently testing the new pizza in Maine, Vermont, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, and parts of Massachusetts. Unfortunately they're not available in New York yet, but they hope to roll out their new pizza to all stores in 2009 - and for us folks in the Capital District, New England isn't that far of a drive, especially when the closest Whole Foods and Trader Joe's is in Amherst!

The article can be found via QRS magazine.

Thanks, for making my day! If you've tried Uno's gluten free pizza, please let me know about it!

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

DAFFI - Dawn's Allergen Free Foods, I is Hungry

I've had the pleasure of corresponding with Dawn from KD's Fish Fry regarding her new line of allergen-free foods.

I've written about KD's before - they're a wonderful establishment and one of the few (but thankfully growing) number of restaurants in this area that cater to celiacs. We've made stopping by KD's a tradition before heading up to SPAC for concerts, it's so convenient and a huge treat for us.

A celiac herself, Dawn started cooking up allergen-friendly foods for customers who asked, and has started up a new line of frozen goods along with the fare offered at KDs's. She's put a lot of work and effort into tuning her recipes, so much that after relentlessly campaigning with manufacturers to produce a wheat, gluten, dairy, egg and soy-free margarine to no avail, she now has a patent pending on a vegan butter alternative free of all the allergies listed above. Now that is dedication!

Called DAFFI (Dawn's Allergen Free Foods, I is hungry!), her new line is composed of home-cooked tasting food free of wheat, gluten, dairy, egg and soy and include a diverse menu with foods like chicken or eggplant parmesan, chicken cacciatore, chicken francaise, asian chicken, eggplant rollatini, beef stew, lasagna, and jambalaya - and a ton of mouth-watering desserts: chocolate zucchini bread, pineapple upside down cake (yum!), cookies, apple fritters, cinnamon buns, cupcakes and a cookie cup chocolate mousse - just the sound of that makes my mouth water.

The last time we stopped by, KD's started stocking their freezer. My husband and I can't resist trying new gluten free products, so we tried the chicken parmesan, apple fritters and cinnamon buns, and of course stocked up on her amazing oatmeal raisin cookies! He ended up enjoying the chicken parmesan the next day at lunch - and we shared the desserts. Everything was amazing, but my husband's favorite remains her oatmeal raisin cookies, which are very good (and impossible to tell that they're gluten free). We've gotten to the point where, if we head up to Saratoga we call ahead of time just to make sure those cookies are in stock!

DAFFI will have an official kickoff meeting this Thursday, November 20th, from 5:30 to 7 PM. If you're in the area, stop by KD's Fish Fry (418 Geyser Road, Saratoga) for information and samples. Registration information is located on their page. They're also feeling out the level of interest in a Celiac/food allergy support group in the Saratoga area.

Unfortunately I have other obligations this Thursday and as much as I like to I won't be able to attend the DAFFI kickoff. But I'd love it if some of my readers would go - not only is it great information, and I'd love to hear your feedback on the event, but it's so important to encourage and support the local businesses that are helping make our gluten-free lives that much better.

Please let me know how everything goes! (And when you go, definitely try those oatmeal raisin cookies!)

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Bangkok Thai Bistro

Friday evening we went with some friends for a birthday dinner at Bangkok Thai Bistro in Schenectady. It's a Thai restaurant and martini bar (sushi is also available on the menu). They also have karaoke on Wednesday - Friday evenings and offer discounted movie tickets to Bow-Tie cinemas.

I'd heard good things about the place, and the moment we walked into the restaurant, we were hit by this amazing smell and knew the food was going to be good. When we sat down we ordered a round of drinks (Since they advertise their restaurant as a martini bar, I just had to try one of their specialty drinks, so I ordered a flirt-ini).

We were very impressed that the menu said (in bold) to see your server with any dietary restrictions. I asked our waitress about gluten free options, and she had a chef check off all of the safe dishes on the menu. There were a lot of options, including the following:
  • Chicken Sate - Marinated, char grilled chicken on skewers, served with peanut sauce
  • Tom Kai Chicken - Chicken soup made with coconut milk and gal angal
  • Sweet and Sour - Choice of meat sauteed with fresh garlic, ground peppers, mushrooms and baby corn, in a light brown sauce
  • Green Garden - Choice of meat steamed with green vegetables topped with house peanut sauce
  • Fish Coconut (Steamed or crispy) broiled fillet of fish topped with panang curry sauce
  • Thai Curries - Red, Green, Yellow, Panang, and Masaman curries
  • Thai Inter - A combination of crispy duck, scallops and shrimp served with bell peppers, baby corn, and mixed vegetables in a panang curry sauce
  • Bistro Duck - A half duck served crispy and topped with bell peppers, string beans, snow peas and bamboo shoots in a green curry sauce
  • Bistro Curry - Combination of shrimp, scallops, squid and mussels sauteed in a panang curry sauce
Obviously, since menu items can change over time, I'd double check their list of safe items, but this is a pretty good list of choices! Several of the dishes are marked with a level of spiciness which can be adjusted either way for personal taste.

I'll admit that I didn't order anything gluten free - I couldn't resist the drunken noodles - but my husband tried the Thai Inter and really enjoyed it. We both cleaned our plates! We had both gone to the gym before meeting at the restaurant, and I thought my portion was perfect but my husband was still a little hungry - if you have a large appetite you might want to consider ordering an appetizer first.

The prices aren't that bad either - dinners usually range between 10 and 20, though the alcohol is pricey - 6-8 dollars for a mixed drink is a little steep, especially when it's small-ish and kind of weak.

Overall we were happy with our experience and have added Bangkok Thai Bistro to our list of restaurants to visit regularly. And a sweet end to the evening? Walking back to our car we saw that Villa Italia was open late, so we stopped in and bought some of their delicious almond paste - and gluten free - cookies!

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Review: Enjoy Life boomCHOCOboom bars

The final Enjoy Life product on my list of reviews is Enjoy Life's boomCHOCOboom chocolate bars. They're dairy free chocolate bars made with rice milk, which I have to say is a great idea for choco-holics suffering from allergies. Unfortunately, my husband not only cannot eat gluten but he also can't have chocolate, so he was out of these taste tests we well.

There were three chocolate bars: crispy rice, dark chocolate, and rice milk chocolate. The crispy rice one looked the best, so I tried it first. I have to say that it was different - not as sweet as say, a Nestle crunch bar, and with a bit of a heavier, thicker texture. Honestly, it didn't taste like milk chocolate to me, but I was definitely reminded of dark chocolate. I liked the crunchiness of the crispy rice, but one square was more than enough - I wouldn't ever be able to eat a whole bar in one sitting (that's a good thing though!).

Next on me life was the rice milk chocolate bar. This had the same heavy, thick texture that the crispy rice bar did, and again it wasn't as sweet. I was reminded of dark chocolate again - it's definitely not as sweet as mainstream milk chocolate bars. Without the crispy rice there was a more noticeable difference from other chocolate. Again, one square was enough, though I didn't like this one as much as the crispy rice bar.

Finally, the dark chocolate bar, was just way too dark for me. I am not very objective on this - I'm a girl who eats Dove milk chocolate all the time and I have never been a fan of the very dark stuff. Still, I think people who do like extremely dark chocolate may like it a lot better. The only thing I can say, is that it needed something else in it - like a caramel filling or something - to offset the bitterness.

Overall, they're a little pricey compared to mainstream chocolate and not something that I'd buy regularly without allergies. That said it's a great idea for people who have problems with nuts or dairy and I'd especially recommend the crispy rice bar for people who can't have regular milk chocolate, and if they came out with a "sweeter" chocolate bar I'd definitely give it another shot. No paws on this review, because chocolate is bad for little puggles. :)

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Review: Enjoy Life Not Nuts! Beach Bash Nut Free Trail Mix

Continuing the list of Enjoy Life product reviews, we came to Enjoy Life's Not Nuts! Beach Bash Nut Free Trail Mix. This trail mix was made up of sunflower seeds, dried pineapple, pumpkin seeds, dried cranberries and dried apricots. Now, my husband wouldn't touch this stuff (he's not a fan of sunflower seeds and absolutely detests anything that ends in the word "berry" unless it's strawberry milk), so this review was all me. It looked pretty decent - I mean, how can you go wrong with sunflower seeds and dried fruits? Looking at the ingredient list I was pretty impressed as well - all the ingredients were 100% natural. It's nice to know exactly what you're putting into your body, and be able to pronounce all the ingredients!

I grabbed a handful and have to say it was pretty tasty - albeit addictive. Since Vince wouldn't have any of it I brought it back to the office. A handful of that all week staved off a 3 PM break to the vending machines - where the trail mixes were full of salt, sugar, chocolate and preservatives - and it seemed to be a much better choice. I'll be honest - I'm not usually a trail mix girl so I don't know how often I'd buy it, especially for just allergen-free me - but I can see it for a good snack to stick in the carry-on luggage during a plane ride. And I'm sure that it's a blessing if you have a peanut allergy!

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Review: Enjoy Life Soft Baked Snickerdoodle Cookies

Next on the list of Enjoy Life products to review is their soft baked snickerdoodle cookies. We'd seen them in the store but always passed them by with a "oh, gluten free boxed cookies can't be that good!" So come testing day, we opened the box to try them and saw that, again, they didn't look that appetizing. But, in the interest of science, we each (nervously) took a bite and were pleasantly surprised! Soft, chewy, and cinnamon-y with the texture of a "regular" cookie, this one was a surprising winner!

Now, we've traditionally baked snickerdoodles in the past and they don't taste exactly like the snickerdoodles I remember from Christmastime - but you can taste sugar, cinnamon and spices and it's a good cookie for a snack. My hubby - though he has a huge sweet-tooth - doesn't like many desserts and ended up polishing these ones off pretty quickly!

My one complaint was the packaging - they come in a very light plastic tray with a sheet of plastic. I see their site also promotes individually wrapped cookies - that's more convenient and wouldn't make the cookies go stale right away, but it would be nice to have either a box-full of individually wrapped cookies for freshness, or a seal-able bag to lock in the freshness of the cookies.

Otherwise, these were pretty darn good. Phoebe the puggle loved them, more importantly Vince my hubby liked them, and we'll probably buy them again. Phoebe'd give this product three-and-a-half paws out of four. :)

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Review: Enjoy Life Sunbutter Crunch Snack Bars

Well, for a while our main computer was on the fritz and I had to blog using my husband's laptop. However with the purchase of two nice, widescreen LCD monitors from Dell, we're back in business - and that makes posting with pictures that much easier! So here goes.

Back in August I wrote an unfavorable review of Enjoy Life's cinnamon raisin bagels. Well, they were kind enough to send some samples of their products that I might enjoy, so the next few blog posts will be reviews (with pictures, finally!) of some of their other products.

The first product we tried is the sunbutter crunch snack bars. Now we've had some pretty bad experiences with gluten free snack bars in the past so we weren't optimistic about these bars to begin with. Still, it never hurts to keep an open mind and try something, right?

Well, I opened the package and they weren't that impressive to look at. I broke a piece off, though, and it wasn't that bad for a gluten free snack bar. Vince had already written them off in his mind, so in order to get an honest opinion from him I broke another piece off and told him to try it. Suspicious, he asked if it was chocolate (no), and then took a bite. He had the same reaction that I did - it's not something we'd go out of our way to eat, and you can tell it's "gluten free," but it's convenient to stick one in your desk drawer or purse and will do the trick in a pinch. I have to say that it's the best gluten free bar we've found so far - Vince tried the cherry Larabar and was not impressed at all.

In the interest of science (and the fact that she's been doing better about exercising) we gave the puggle a piece of it - who gave it two paws out of four.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Celiac Drug Fast-Tracked by FDA

I have Google alerts set up for celiac disease, and the other day I was checking out an interesting press release: Alba Therapeutics Presents New Data for Larazotide Acetate at the 2008 American College of Gastroenterology Annual Scientific Meeting.

Now, if you have celiac disease you may have heard about Alba Therapeutics. They've been sponsoring clinical trials of a drug to treat the symptoms of celiac disease. Now, I'm a computer geek and not a doctor, but I thought the following exerpts were extremely promising:

  • "...The first Phase IIa trial conducted in celiac disease... showed that larazotide acetate (AT-1001) successfully demonstrated prevention of gluten-induced immunologic changes in celiac patients."
  • "Larazotide acetate has the potential to become the first approved medicine to treat celiac disease and has been granted "Fast Track" designation from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for this indication."
  • "This study showed that larazotide acetate prevented immunologic changes induced by gluten in patients with celiac disease."

The full paper is available via Wiley. I look forward to hearing more about the AT-1001 drug!

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Gluten Free at Bomber's

October 4th (yes, yes, I know I'm behind on my posting) was my girl Sammy's birthday. We wanted to go out to celebrate, so first we hit up Koto for a nice (gluten free) sushi dinner, and later on headed to Bomber's for the oblivatory obligatory birthday fishbowl margarita.

Now, I like to occasionally go out - especially to a place like Jillian's where there might be dancing - but my husband has never been a big fan of bars. I can usually drag him out about twice a year. He's been pretty good about replacing his Bud with a Captain and Coke, but his torture is intensified when he sees all sorts of horrible-for-you bar food that he can't eat.

Well, I figured that it never hurts to ask, so while we were at Bomber's waiting for our drinks and Sam's free margarita, I asked about allergen-friendly foods. Well, the bouncer and host were extremely helpful, and the host went over the menu with me. I didn't expect that Vince could eat the tacos and burritos, and he can't, but there are filling platters that are safe, and the wings are safe.

Wings, you might ask? Yes, wings - they have a dedicated fryer for their meat (wings) and it is not cooked in the same oil as their other fried foods. Gluten free wings, yay! And good wings, at that!

Something tells me that we'll be seeing a lot more of Bomber's. :)

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Gluten free sausage!

When my hubby and I started de-glutening our household, one of the first casualties was sausage - breakfast sausage, Italian sausage, you name it. I'd read online that sausage often contains gluten, and called local supermarkets inquiring about gluten free meats only to talk to clueless deli workers who couldn't answer my questions or just said in a blanket statement "all of our sausages contain gluten." Helpful, thanks buddies.

We'd tried Applegate Farm's apple/chicken sausage, but... yuck. We couldn't even bring ourselves to give those leftovers to the puggle. We figured that sausage was off-limits for a while, but at least my skinny jeans were thankful!

Well, fast forward to a couple of weekends ago, I spent a lazy weekend morning surrounded by the weekly newspaper advertisements and a laptop trying to figure out what dinners I wanted to make that week. We were stuck in a little bit of a food rut, and I saw that Italian sausage was on sale. Mmm, sausage and peppers, spaghetti with Italian sausage... it had been a while, and those were some of Vince's favorites!

Well, it turns out that Premio makes gluten free Italian sausage! Their website didn't specify this, but I went on some forums and found references to the fact that their sausages were gluten free. I made a mental note to call their company, but when I went grocery shopping that day I saw the words "gluten free" right on the package. Yay! I picked up two packs of sausages - a hot Italian sausage that I used to make sausage-and-pepper sandwiches (using freshly baked brown-rice flour bread using this recipe), and stuck some in the freezer for use with pasta (incidentally, last night's dinner).

But - that's not all! Boldened by my good luck and Google, I even found breakfast sausages that are gluten free as well - Johnsonville breakfast sausages (all varieties except brown sugar and and honey). The best part - their website specifies wheat/gluten free, making it that much easier to plan our grocery lists! So, we made a nice Sunday breakfast this weekend of eggs over-easy, breakfast sausage, and hash browns.

Okay, I'll admit - we probably overdid it and might be sick of sausage for a month or so. But it's so wonderful to have more options to vary our meals!

Does anyone else know of mainstream sausage brands that are gluten free?

Monday, October 20, 2008

BeFreeForMe - new allergen free site

BeFreeForMe is a new site - and a promising resource for the gluten-free community. As family, friends and frequent readers of this blog are all well aware, purchasing gluten free foods can be extremely frustrating - we're lucky enough to have a decent number of stores carrying gluten free products in the Albany area, but it's very disheartening to spend several dollars on a gluten free food product only to find that it's unpalatable.

BeFreeForMe will be offering free samples and coupons for allergen-free foods - I've signed up (membership is free) and am looking forward to my first newsletter. It'll be interesting to see how this new site turns out!

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Review: Bionaturae Pasta

First of all, my apologies for the sporadic posting over the past week or so. A busy work and school schedule meant a lot of "easy" meals for our household this week - and not a lot of time for experimenting with recipes!

However, my mother's friend introduced me to a pasta I'd never heard of before, Bionaturae. They produce both wheat and gluten-free pastas - of course we tried the gluten-free penne. It's made in Italy (promising for Italian food!), out of rice, potato and soy, and the packaging said it was a "no rinse" pasta. So far, so good!

We cooked the pasta according to the directions on the package, and we were pleasantly surprised by the color, texture and taste. (I am a fan of Tinkyada pasta, but I'll be the first to admit that it needs sauce in order to taste good). I couldn't tell the difference between the Bionaturae gluten free pasta and, say, Barilla pasta.

According to their website's purchasing page, Bionaturae pasta is available at the Honest Weight Food Co-Op and Dean's Natural Foods in Westgate Plaza - as well as other locations in Ballston Spa and Massachussetts.

We completed our meal with Bertolli pasta sauce (what, I'm not Italian), and it was very good. We'll definitely be buying more of this pasta.

Phoebe the puggle is unfortunately on a diet and could not assist in reviewing this product for us - though I am sure she would have rated it four paws out of four. :)

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Hannaford Healthy Living Class

If you're new to the gluten-free diet and lifestyle and would like more information, the Clifton Park Hannaford is hosting another Healthy Living class on the gluten free diet. I attended their last class, and it's really geared toward someone who's newly diagnosed and trying to understand what's allowed in the diet, or friends/family members who are trying to better understand the diet.

From their e-mail:

Gluten Free Diet!
(Includes Halloween Candy List)
Tuesday October 28 5:30pm - 7:00pm
Clifton Park Hannaford, 9 Clifton Country Road
Call to register at (518) 383-4136

You can find more information on Hannaford's free healthy living classes at http://www.hannaford.com

If anyone does go, I'd love a copy of the gluten free candy list - you never know what you'll find! :)

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Thanksgiving Series: Gluten Free Jalapeno Cornbread

So, it's that time of year again - Thanksgiving is going to be around the corner before we know it. This is going to be our first gluten-free Thanksgiving, so it's a pretty big deal. We've always had the usual, traditional trimmings in the past: turkey with stuffing and gravy, mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, green beans, cornbread, creamed white onions, applesauce, a selection of pies, and, at least personally, a longing to get back into my skinny Seven for All Mankind jeans for at least a week afterward.

Well, the good news is that a lot of this stuff is naturally gluten free - turkey, mashed potatoes, vegetables, sweet potatoes, gravy (we've always used cornstarch), and applesauce are all good. And since my hubby isn't a fan of the onions, or the pecan or pumpkin pies that leaves a short list of things to try to make gluten-free:
  • stuffing
  • cornbread
  • apple pie
Now my original plan was to go apple picking, and make a gluten free apple pie with fresh granny smith apples - unfortunately due to the lovely Upstate NY weather that was postponed for a week or two. So, I did the next best thing and tried my hand at cornbread. I picked up a package of Arrowhead Mills organic yellow cornmeal, and found a recipe on the back of the package for a jalapeno cornbread (it's since been removed from their recipe page).

Here's the recipe, for your reference:

Ingredients
  • 1 cup onion, finely chopped (I didn't measure but used 1 medium sweet onion)
  • 1 Tbsp vegetable oil
  • 1 cup unbleached white flour (I used the same amount of white rice flour with 1 tsp xanthan gum)
  • 1 cup yellow corn meal
  • 1 Tbsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp sea salt (I used regular, iodized salt)
  • 1 cup soy milk or milk substitute (I used skim milk - I wonder if that made a difference?)
  • 3 Tbsp vegetable oil or butter (I used butter)
  • 2 eggs or 1/2 cup liquid egg substitute (I used 3 eggs)
  • 2 Tbsp honey
  • 1 1/4 cups sharp cheddar cheese, grated (I used extra sharp)
  • 2-4 jalapeno peppers, chopped (I used a handful of canned jalapeno slices, certainly not as many as the recipe called for)

Directions
  1. Preheat oven to 400 F
  2. Prepare an 8x8 pan with cooking spray
  3. Sautee the onions in the 1 Tbsp oil until just limp, about 5 minutes, and set aside
  4. Combine the dry ingredientsg
  5. Seperately beat together the milk, eggs, oil/butter, and honey. Add the milk mixture to the dry ingredients and mix until just moistened
  6. Stir in the onions, 1 cup cheese, and jalapenos
  7. Pour into prepared pan, top with the remaining cheese
  8. Bake 20-25 minutes or until top is crusty brown (it took about 20 minutes in my oven)

Now - the cornbread turned out tasty, but if I decided to make it again I think I'd make some changes:
  • The dough came out very thick and the top of the cornbread was lumpy and unattractive. I think the dough needed more liquid or a couple Tbsp less flour
  • I love spicy food and would prefer to use fresh jalapenos next time - however my hubby hates spicy food and probably wouldn't eat the cornbread!
  • There wasn't enough cheese. I would probably put the entire 1 1/4 cup in the mixture, and top the dough with another 1/2 cup or so

Anyway, that's all for now - let's hope the weather's better for apple picking this weekend so I can try my hand at a pie!

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Apple Cider Doughnuts - Gluten Free!

Well, it's officially fall. I've put away most of my summer clothes (keeping optimistic about an Indian summer), wear a sweater or jacket most mornings, have semi-retired the grill and started thinking more about cooking in the house. And of course, given the season that means cooking with seasonal goodies like apples, pumpkins, and roasts.

With an eye on apple picking in the near future (as soon as Red Delicious apples are available!), I decided to attempt apple cider doughnuts. They were one of Vince's favorite autumn treats. We used to have a tradition of going apple picking at Bowman Orchards every year, filling up two bags with Red Delicious, Macintosh, and Granny Smith apples for eating and cooking, and stopping by their bakery and store where we'd pick up gourds, caramel/candy apples, fudge, and of course a wide variety of apple cider doughnuts, apple turnovers, apple fritters, apple pie ice cream, etc. Yum!

Well, I still have my heart set on apple picking, but obviously the pastries were out this year. I found this apple cider doughnut recipe though, and it looked easy enough, so I decided to modify it and try it. The thing is, I don't own any doughnut cutters - I hadn't even heard of one before this recipe - so I decided that my first try would be a cross between doughnut holes/Munchkin lookalikes and a flat pancake-shaped disc. Hey, don't knock the way it looks if it tastes good, right???

First thing Sunday morning, I boiled down the apple cider, mixed together a combination of white rice and tapioca flours instead of the all-purpose flour the recipe calls for, and heated canola oil on my stove. When I started handling the dough, it didn't feel particularly solid and I was dismayed to see that it fell apart as soon as I put it in the oil! Aargh! What was missing?

Well, it's probably glaringly obvious, but the issue was that in my coffee-deprived state I forgot to add xanthan gum to my dough. I smacked myself on the forehead and added a Tablespoon of my now-favorite stabilizer, and immediately the dough felt better when I tried to shape it into a flattened disc, it didn't fall apart in the hot oil, and I mentally composed the Ode to Xanthan Gum.

Here's the (very slightly) modified recipe:

Ingredients
  • 1 cup apple cider
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup shortening
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 cup buttermilk (I didn't have buttermilk so I tried the good ol' milk-and-lemon-juice trick)
  • 1 1/2 cups tapioca flour
  • 2 cups white rice flour
  • 1 Tbsp xanthan gum
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp nutmeg
  • Canola oil for frying
  • Cinnamon sugar for coating

Directions
  1. Boil the apple cider for about 8-10 minutes until there is only 1/4 of a cup.
  2. Beat the sugar with the shortening until smooth.
  3. Add the egg, beat, then add buttermilk and mix well.
  4. Sift together flours, xanthan gum, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon, salt and nutmeg. Add to wet mixture. Mix just enough to combine.
  5. Transfer dough to lightly floured board and pat to about 1/2 inch thickness. (I used rice flour and sugar on the board).
  6. While cutting with a 3 inch doughnut cutter per the instructions in the original recipe is probably ideal, I shaped them by hand into small, flattened round discs.
  7. Add enough oil to fill a deep pan 3 inches. Heat to 375 F.
  8. Fry several doughnuts at a time, turning once or twice, until brown and cooked through. The recipe says that this takes about 4 minutes, but mine (probably due to the shape) was more like 2-3 minutes or else they'd burn.
  9. Remove to paper towels with a slotted spoon.
  10. Toss doughnuts in plastic bag with cinnamon sugar; serve warm.
We ate them warm for breakfast and they were amazing - they may not have looked like real doughnuts but I couldn't tell the difference in taste from "regular" apple cider doughnuts. There were no leftovers - I'll definitely be making these again!

Friday, September 19, 2008

Sherry Lynn's Temporarily Closed

This has been reported in several places, but just in case you haven't heard, Sherry Lynn's is temporarily closed.

The message on their website:

"Sherry Lynn's Bakery & Cafe is closed until further notice. due to a structural failure in our building. we apologize for any inconvience this may have caused you. we are working very hard to get back up and running."

Hopefully this doesn't negatively impact their plans to move.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Fast Food Rant

I have probably mentioned this before, but it bears significant repeating. One of the hardest adjustments my husband and I had to make with our conversion to a (mostly) gluten free household was giving up the vast majority of fast food and takeout. Now, I love to cook when I have the time - and I make the time now - but let's be honest here. Sometimes you just don't want to be bothered. And while there are plenty of restaurants with gluten free menu options, who can afford dining out every night? A $10 pizza or fast food meal is sometimes just the best way to go.

Now, before I go any farther, I know that fast food is junk, not good for us, and we're probably eating a lot healthier by sauteeing chicken, etc. That's not really my point - it's a guilty pleasure that we sorely miss. And many gluten free convenience foods have just about the same nutritional value as fast food, but they're more expensive, not always good, and you still have to make them at home!

I do have to say that most of the major fast food chains are great about posting allergen information right on their web sites. It's so handy to be able to go to a website, download the allergen information and make an informed decision about whether or not to go there. And I'd especially like to call out Boston Market. They are the only fast food restaurant where it's possible to get a full meal - chicken, starch and vegetable - that's completely gluten free. That's amazing, and thank you!

That said - if you're craving Mexican, you're just about out of luck.

First, I checked Taco Bell. Like most fast food restaurants, they are kind enough to post their allergen list online. As you can see, there are exactly three "safe" items on the list: pintos 'n cheese, mexican rice, and tostadas. That's it. No tacos or anything with meat, because their seasoning mix contains wheat flour. I'm sorry, but that does not make up a meal! I was slightly irritated and e-mailed them asking for more gluten-friendly menu choices. My response was a snail-mail letter a few days later, informing me that my e-mail was a "product suggestion" and therefore could not legally be considered. Thanks a lot, guys.

Next on my list was Moe's. I had Googled for their allergen chart and found it, but since it wasn't hosted or linked to directly by their web site, I e-mailed them for confirmation and an up-to-date allergen list. Instead of a generic blow-off letter that I took as a "heck with you," I had an e-mail dialogue with a customer service representative for the company. I found out that the only items containing gluten were their chicken, steak, and every/any variety of corn/flour tortilla, shell or chips. After additional e-mails back and forth between the customer service representative, we had the following exchange:

Now on one hand I have to give Moe's props for thoughtful customer service. They seem to "get" allergens and cross-contamination and while I have to say I'm sorely disappointed, I can't exactly blame them for not having a dedicated fryer for every ingredient, can I? So, it looks like if my hubby and I want Mexican in the future, we're either making it at home, or visiting El Loco's for a sit-down dinner. Certainly not bad options, but it would sometimes be nice to have more choices.
[Kat],

There is not gluten of any form in our corn chips or corn tortillas. However, we
do fry our chips and taco shells in-house. We also use the same fryer for our
salad bowl, which is a fried flour tortilla (contains wheat gluten). Since they
are being fried in the same oil, we have to list those items as containing
gluten, due to cross-contamination in the frier. Have a great day!

Sincerely,
[Moe's Rep]

-----Original Message-----
From: [Kat's GF Kitchen]
Sent: Tuesday, September 09, 2008 3:07 PM
To: [Moe's Rep]
Subject: Re: Moe's Customer Service CRM:0004926

Hi, and thank you for your response to my e-mail.

I was surprised to see that absolutely none of your wraps or chips are gluten
free. I would expect that your soft flour tortillas would be off-limits, however
the fact that your corn tortillas and chips are not safe is extremely
disappointing. There are several commercially available varieties of corn
tortillas and chips that are safe for celiacs and others with gluten allergies
and intolerances, without sacrificing any taste. From my point of view, if I
have a choice to go out and only eat taco fillings or make food at home, I'd
stay at home.

Please consider modifying your menu to provide at least one option for pure corn
tortillas, with no wheat or gluten.

Thank you very much for taking the time to answer my questions.

I haven't even started on Chinese food - but if I could find a good
Chinese restaurant that used gluten-free soy sauce - and better yet,
rice flour - I would be in heaven. (Again, I know PF Chang's is gluten
free, but they just don't compare to Pearl of the Orient).

That said - does anyone know of other good, gluten free fast food
choices? I know things like the fries at Five Guys are gluten free -
but a meal is not made on french fries alone. Are there any places
worth going for a quick, cheap meal when we do need to grab something on the go?

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Recipe: Semi-Sweet Chocolate-Hazelnut Buttercream Frosting

My father's birthday was a couple of weekends ago, and I was asked to provide a gluten free dessert that everyone could enjoy - so I decided to bake gluten free yellow cupcakes, with choices of buttercream or chocolate frosting. The first thing I did was research online, where I found this recipe. I was extremely happy with the results - though it's important to note that you have to be sure to use superfine white rice flour to make sure the cake isn't too gritty.

The buttercream frosting I used was pretty simple and straightforward - I used a modified version of Betty Crocker's recipe, with the following ingredients:
  • 1/2 cup shortening
  • 1/2 cup melted butter (I never, ever use margarine here)
  • 4 cups confectioner's sugar
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup whipping cream
However, the piece de resistance was the chocolate-hazelnut buttercream frosting recipe that I created. For inspiration I took the above buttercream frosting recipe, and the back of the Hershey's baking chocolate box.

Semi-Sweet Chocolate-Hazelnut Buttercream Frosting

Disclaimer: Vince does not eat chocolate so I did not verify that Nutella is actually gluten free.

Ingredients:
  • 1/2 cup shortening
  • 1/2 cup melted butter
  • 3 cups confectioner's sugar (this really is semi-sweet - I'd recommend using 4 cups if you like sweeter frosting)
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup whipping cream
  • 1/2 cup powdered unsweetened cocoa
  • 1/2 cup nutella
Directions:
  1. Mix butter, shortening, until fluffy. Add sugar 1 cup at a time until everything is well blended.
  2. Add cocoa, salt, vanilla extract, whipping cream, mix. Add Nutella. Add additional whipping cream by the Tbsp if necessary. Beat on high speed until fluffy.
The cupcakes turned out very well - everyone enjoyed them and other than a slightly chewy consistency it was hard to tell they were gluten free. The semi-sweet chocolate frosting also went over well - my parents aren't big fans of super-sweet chocolate.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Review: Conte's Gluten Free Cheese Ravioli

Paradise sells some Conte's pre-packaged, frozen dinners. My hubby liked their ravioli so much that he asked me to write about it. Being the born-and-bred Italian that he is, he wasn't thrilled with the sauce (he was spoiled with his mother's tomato sauce recipe growing up), but he really liked the taste and texture of the pasta and the cheese.

His one complaint is the fact that, when microwaving the dish according to the instructions on the package, "stirring gently" often breaks up all the raviolis which still taste good, but isn't as aesthetically pleasing. The 20 oz. frozen dinner is in the ballpark of $10, and relatively small for a whole meal. Still, it's a nice option to have in the freezer for something quick, especially when he's on his own for lunch or dinner.

I checked on their web site and in addition to their pre-packaged dinner, they sell their frozen cheese raviolis online where you can add your own sauce. That looks like a nice idea for the occasional gluten free comfort food treat!

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Gluten Free Pizza, As Promised

Well, I believe I've finally started to adjust to working full time and taking evening classes, and what better way to come back to blogging -- and the football season -- than a post about gluten free pizza? I've been owing my co-worker Joan this post for a while now -- I've got a recipe that my picky hubby loves and that I keep adjusting and playing with. Here's the latest incarnation:

Ingredients:
  • 1/2 cup + 4 tsp potato flour (or 1/3 and 1/4 cup)
  • 1/2 cup potato starch
  • 1/2 cup amaranth flour
  • 2 tsp xanthan gum
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp dough enhancer
  • 2 1/4 tsp yeast (1 packet)
  • 2 Tbsp sugar
  • 2 egg whites (or 1 egg)
  • 2 Tbsp EVOO + liberal amounts of EVOO for rolling, brushing, etc.
  • 1 cup lukewarm H2O
  • Desired Toppings
Instructions:
  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  2. Mix sugar, dough enhancer and yeast in lukewarm H2O. Set aside to foam.
  3. Mix potato flour, potato starch, amaranth flour, xanthan gum, salt. Add water/yeast combination, egg whites, and olive oil and mix until everything is well combined.
  4. Coating hands and pan with olive oil, knead the dough for several minutes. I like to do this manually and keep pulling and shaping. Eventually when the dough feels stretchy, shape it and place it into a pizza dough pan that's been greased with EVOO.
  5. If you want a thicker crust, cover and let the dough rise. I like thinner crust pizza though so I usually skip this step.
  6. Bake in preheated oven 5-10 minutes, until done. My oven usually takes about 5 minutes. When it's done it will smell like potatoes and the bottom will just start to turn brown.
  7. Take out the dough and let cool. This is usually when I start preheating my pizza stone.
  8. When the dough has cooled off and the pizza stone has preheated, transfer the dough to the hot stone. Brush the dough with EVOO, add sauce (I usually doctor plain Ragu with oregano, marjoram, onion powder, crushed red pepper and a liberal amount of garlic), mozzarella cheese and any other desired toppings (Hormel pepperoni now says gluten free right on their label!). Preheat the oven to broil and place the pizza in the oven until the cheese is melted.
That's all there is to it -- it goes wonderfully with buffalo wings and Bard's Tale gluten free beer!

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Review: Against the Grain Bagels

OK, I'll admit it. My hubby and I are total suckers for gluten-free products that look good. That's why, the first time we checked out Paradise Natural Foods on Western Ave, we acted like kids in a candy store in front of the freezer. There were all sorts of yummy-looking gluten free foods, including frozen bagels made by a company called Against the Grain Gourmet.

The bagels were slightly smaller than the huge bagels you can find in bakeries, but they were a decent size and looked really appetizing. We brought them home, nuked and toasted the bagels according to the directions on the package, and dug in!

Now, at first glance I have to say we were dismayed - the inside of each bagel looked like a crater! There was a lot of empty, hollow space inside the bagel. Still, the bagels smelled good, so we shrugged it off and spread fresh butter on the bagels. And I have to say, they were absolutely delicious. I thought the consistency was more like a croissant than a bagel, but the bagels just melt in your mouth.

Given the consistency of the bagels, one bagel by itself probably isn't enough for breakfast. I'd suggest making sure you have fresh fruit or something to go along with it, though my hubby is very content making breakfast out of two bagels! (He also has an enviably fast metabolism). We were very happy with the discovery of these bagels - they're not going to hit the spot if you're craving Bruegger's, but they're extremely good nonetheless. In fact, I couldn't review the first package we bought because my hubby polished them off so fast!

According to the Against the Grain Gourmet website, the company makes several other products, including rolls, baquettes, and pizza/pizza dough. We haven't noticed other products in health food stores, but we're certainly keeping an eye out. According to their website, Against the Grain Gourmet products can be found in the following Capital Region locations:
  • Dean's Natural Foods, Albany
  • Green Grocer, Clifton Park
  • Honest Weight Food Co-Op, Albany
  • It's Only Natural, LLC, Albany
  • It's not on their website but I've bought their bagels at Paradise Natural Foods
Happy breakfasting!

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

CIA Gluten Free Baking Class

The Culinary Institute of America is holding gluten free baking classes on October 18, November 1 and December 13.

Here's the blurb from their page:

Dreaming of fresh-baked, gluten-free treats that don't sacrifice flavor or texture? Now you can indulge. Thanks to Chef Richard Coppedge, Certified Master Baker and gluten-free baking expert, you can enjoy delicious favorites such as yeast-raised breads and pastries, cookies, brownies, cakes, pies, quiche, and pizza.
In this new, hands-on course, Chef Coppedge will demonstrate how to create sweet and savory recipes straight from the pages of his just-released cookbook, Gluten-Free Baking. You will discuss and use unique gluten-free flour blends, and learn tips on working with and storing gluten-free baked goods, as well as baking techniques that are comprehensive and easy to master.
The day includes a light breakfast and lunch, informative lecture, hands-on baking, and, of course, lots of sampling. To conclude your experience, you (and a guest or two*, if you'd like) will attend a specially prepared gluten-free dinner including such dishes as polenta lasagna, roasted pork loin, grilled salmon, quinoa, and seasonal local vegetables with a complimentary glass of wine. You will also receive an autographed copy of Chef Coppedge's book to take home.
Whether you live a gluten-free lifestyle or know someone that does, you're sure to enjoy the day.

Click here to view their page and register for the class.

Sounds yummy! I would love to attend, though at $325 (and an additional $55 per dinner guest) it's pretty pricey - that's a pair of Stuart Weitzman pumps!

Has anyone registered for this class yet, or taken other gluten-free classes at the CIA?

Monday, September 1, 2008

Happy Labor Day!

Hello and I hope you're all having a happy and gluten-free Labor Day weekend!

Posting will likely be light this week. I've decided to pursue a graduate degree and my first class starts next week. I'm really excited to go back to school!

There are some interesting posts queued up though - including:
  • Correspondence with and new products from Enjoy Life, after my last blog entry
  • Amazing (and easy!) gluten-free pizza
  • Store-bought gluten-free bagels that melt in your mouth!
So I hope you all have a wonderful holiday and I'll be back very soon!

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Gluten Free Offerings at the Cheesecake Factory

Interested in eating at a new restaurant and encouraged by the feedback several other gluten-free people had given, I called the Cheesecake Factory in Colonie Center to find out their gluten free options. A teenage employee answered the phone but promptly put me through to a manager who could answer my questions.

I was very impressed with their level of customer service - the manager I spoke with went through the menu and discussed what was naturally gluten free and what could be made gluten free. We came up with the following options that as of my phone call on 8/29/2008 the following menu options are/can be made gluten free:

Salads

All salads can be made gluten free, with the following salad dressings:
  • Bleu Cheese
  • Thousand Island
  • Honey Mustard
  • Caesar

Appetizers
  • Salsa and Chips
  • Thai Lettuce Wraps
  • Sweet Corn Tamale Cakes

Entrees
  • Fresh Fish entrees (e.g. Mahi Mahi, Salmon)
  • Steaks (with no au jus)
  • Grilled Chicken Medallions (avoid the balsamic vinagrette)
  • Cajun Jumbalaya (Manager said there was a trace amount of gluten from worcestire sauce, but I've also heard that worcestire sauce is gluten free)
And of course for dessert they have flourless Godiva cheesecake!

When we told our waiter about Vince's diet, they were very accommodating. They brought a manager over to our table who talked to us about the menu. He was very good about double-checking ingredients - even telling us there was red wine vinegar in the Caesar dressing, and expressing concern over ingredients such as dijon mustard and offering to bring the container out so we could check the mustard ingredients.

Vince ordered Steak Diane, served with mashed potatoes and grilled onions, with a caesar salad (no croutons, of course!) I'm not usually a steak person but I tried his steak and it was extremely good. I had the grilled salmon, plain with steamed broccoli and mashed potatoes. I would have ended the night with the flourless Godiva cheesecake, but since Vince can't eat chocolate there wasn't any point! (Now, if they come out with a flourless vanilla bean cheesecake, then we could talk!)

Overall we were very happy with our experience, and would be happy to recommend the Cheesecake Factory as an allergen-friendly restaurant!

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Recipe: Yummy Gluten Free Bread

Breadmaking is a weekly routine in our household. Many of the gluten-free breads on the market are some combination of inedible and extremely expensive, so we purchase bulk flour and have made baking a Sunday afternoon ritual. Not only does homemade gluten free bread taste much better than most store-bought varieties but it saves quite a bit of money.

I have a go-to bread recipe that I modified from the Easy Gluten Free Baking website. It's extremely easy and versatile - I've used this recipe for everything from sandwich bread to Italian loaves to hamburger and hot dog buns.

Ingredients
2 1/2 cups brown rice flour
2/3 cups tapioca flour
2/3 cups dry milk (optional)
1 Tbsp xanthan gum
1 tsp salt
1 tsp dough enhancer
1 1/2 cups lukewarm water
2 1/4 tsp (1 packet) active dry yeast
2 Tbsp sugar
2 eggs
2 Tbsp canola oil
cooking spray
2 Tbsp melted butter (optional, for brushing - but trust me, you want to do this for Italian bread, as well as cutting diagonal lines in the dough before it rises!)

Directions
1. Mix water, sugar, dough enhancer and yeast. Set aside to foam.
2. Sift together dry ingredients.
3. Add eggs, oil and water/yeast mixture. Blend well - here's where the KitchenAid mixer comes in really handy. After everything has blended I let the KitchenAid knead the dough for at least 10 minutes.
4. Coat your pan with cooking spray. Spread dough into pan. If desired, brush dough with melted butter. Cover and let rise for approximately 1 hour.
5. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
6. Bake for approx. 45 minutes or until bread is done. Test that bread is done by inserting a toothpick into bread - if it comes out clean the bread should be done. NOTE: My oven is on its way out and tends to cook faster than some other ovens so be sure to check that the bread is done, it's likely your oven will take longer!
7. Remove from pan and let cool. Enjoy!

Note - if you get bored with this recipe you can use alternate flour combinations as long as it adds up to the equivelent of 2 1/2 cups of wheat flour and 2/3 cup starch. So you could use something like:
  • 1 cup brown rice flour, 1 cup sorghum flour, 1/2 cup amaranth flour, 2/3 cup tapioca flour
Use your imagination - it can make bread making fun and it's nice to not have the same monotonous thing every week.

Also - huge tip here - I have found King Arthur Flour's website to be absolutely invaluable for baking. My three favorite pans that I've purchased from their site are their hamburger bun pan, the New England hot dog bun pan, and the Italian loaf pan. Trust me, they're worth every penny!

Update: Thanks to Joan for catching my typo - and avoiding a real-life re-enactment of "The Blob!"

Sherry Lynn's is moving!

Sherry Lynn's Gluten Free Bakery and Cafe is moving from their Brunswick location.

The new location will be in Siena Square, 644 New Loudon Road, Latham. Right around the corner from us! That's actually great news - I'm really looking forward to bringing their famous apple fritter donut holes home to Vince for the occasional treat!

Expect the move to occur sometime between October and November. I'll keep you all updated as I find out more!

Source

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Gluten Free Beer

One of the biggest things you have to give up on a gluten-free diet is beer. We always like to keep some beer on hand in case we have company, and while admittedly a case of beer could and did last a long time in our household, my then-fiance did enjoy the occasional Budweiser. And as is usually the case, after being told he could never drink regular beer again only made him want... a beer.

Well, the first thing we tried was Redbridge beer. On paper, it's great - brewed by Anheiser-Busch (keep in mind, his beer of choice was Bud), gluten free and available in our local grocery stores. When we first tried Redbridge, it tasted decent. I likened the flavor to Killian's. However, Vince wasn't thrilled with the aftertaste it left. Actually, I think we still have half the original six-pack we bought in the back of our fridge.

I wasn't quite sure what to do next for gluten free beer. I mean, sure, I saw some brands available online but I didn't want to buy an entire case of beer without trying it first! Well, when I was surfing the web the other day I came across mention of Oliver's Beverage Center on Colvin Ave, Albany.

Oliver's has the reputation of being the largest beverage supplier in the Capital Region, and boasts a selection of gluten free beers. Of course, they do carry Redbridge, but I was more interested in some of their other gluten free beer offerings. I asked an employee about gluten free beer and he was very helpful, showing me their small section of gluten free beers as well as their hard ciders. What really impressed me was the fact that they sell beers not only by the case and 6-pack, but by individual bottles as well. It's a lot easier to spend a few bucks on a bottle or two than commit to an entire 6-pack that may or may not be good!

I ended up purchasing two bottles each of Bard's Tale beer, and New Grist beer. We haven't tried the New Grist yet, but Vince was very impressed by the Bard's Tale beer. It had a good taste and not that bad of an aftertaste - we'd definitely buy it again. We're looking forward to trying the New Grist beer as well. Maybe this weekend. :-)

I also picked up some Woodchuck hard cider - their bottles say that it's naturally gluten free, and while I'm not a fan of stuff like that I know my hubby drank those Smirnoff drinks so we figured that might be worth a shot as well.

I've heard that Fox Barrel cider is very good but it's made in Oregon and I haven't been able to find it locally. Does anyone have any other gluten free beer recommendations?

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Online Gluten Free Resources

After speaking with some other gluten free people the other day, I found that a lot of people just don't know where to look for information about celiac disease or the gluten free diet. I'm of the opinion that the more information you have the better, so I've put together some information resources that will be very helpful to anyone starting a gluten free diet, and hopefully at least something new for someone who's been following a gluten free diet for some time now. So here goes...

Some informative links:
Some useful gluten-free blogs:
Additionally, did you know that you can set up e-mail alerts through Google? For specific queries of your choice, for example 'celiac' or 'gluten free' you can set up automatic e-mails that let you know whenever that phrase is in the news, new web pages or blog posts concerning that phrase come up, etc. It's a great way to stay on top of the gluten free community, and best of all - it's free! All you need to do is sign up for a (free) Google account, and you can set up as many alerts as you wish. You can find out more information at Google's alerts page.

Still, all this free information is good, but sometimes it's worth paying money for some information. My husband and I started out our gluten-free journey by purchasing gluten free product and Rx lists. They provide subscriptions to lists of gluten information in many different products - you can get this information either on your Windows or Mac desktop (where's the love for us Linux geeks?) or your PDA. If you own a PDA it can be especially useful because you can bring the list right along with you when you go grocery shopping - and if you have any questions the software will provide contact information for the companies in question which can be really useful when you want to research specific foods. There are several such lists available - Vince and I initially purchased the Clan Thompson Celiac SmartList - but I'd love to hear other suggestions as well!

Finally, as one reader, Lisa, also pointed out, The Book House in Stuyvesant Plaza sells some gluten free magazines, including Living Without. It could be worth checking out next time you're in the area!

As always - if I've missed a really great resource please let me know!

Monday, August 25, 2008

Gluten Free Soy Sauce!

I took off early from work this afternoon to check out Hannaford's Healthy Living class regarding the gluten free diet. I'll admit that I was already familiar with a lot of the information presented in the class - they went over the basics like what is/is not allowed on a gluten free diet, specific products they sold that are gluten free, etc. However, I was very excited to learn that not only does Hannaford carry a gluten free soy sauce in their Nature's Place department, but as of the writing of this blog entry their name-brand soy sauce is also gluten free!

In the past we've tried La Choy's soy sauce which is also gluten free, but the taste just isn't that great. The other gluten free soy sauce we've experienced is the Panda sauce produced by the Kari-Out company. This is an especially nice find - we love going out for sushi, but we can't usually go out at the spur of the moment. We have to plan ahead and remember to bring our own soy sauce. Well, certain local restaurants, such as Okinawa in Wynantskill, carry the gluten free panda soy sauce. So not only do we get to go out for a nice sushi dinner, but we also don't have to worry about gluten free soy sauce!

Friday, August 22, 2008

Albany Gluten Free Resources, Part 2

It's about that time again to update the list of gluten free resources in the Albany area. In my original post, I focused primarily on Albany gluten free resources, but this list includes several capital district gluten free resources as well as restaurants that serve gluten free food in other areas of New York State.

If I've left off any restaurants, stores or other helpful information please leave me a comment. I'd love to hear about more gluten free resources in the Capital District (and beyond!) not only for us to try but also to add to this ever-expanding list of gluten free resources.

Of course, before going to any restaurant, much less one listed here, it's always good practice to call ahead and verify that they can, in fact, accomodate your special dietary needs.

Happy gluten free dining. shopping and eating!

Restaurants with dedicated GF menus


Restaurants without dedicated GF menus but that are generally safe

  • Just about any sushi restaurant, as long as you bring your own soy sauce

  • Just about any steak house – steak, baked potato and veggies are gluten free, the only real issue can be au jus from prime rib

  • Cheesecake Factory (They don’t list anything online but have GF cheesecake so I’d imagine there has to be stuff that’s OK to eat there)

  • Hattie’s, Saratoga (We haven’t been, but I’ve read a lot of good review RE: GF dining experiences there)

  • Maestro’s, Saratoga

  • Red Lobster (steamed crab and lobster only, with baked/mashed potatoes and salad)

  • Also most high-end restaurants have chefs that can accommodate a gluten free diet. It's always good to call first though!

Grocery and health food stores that carry GF items:

As an additional note, Oliver’s Beverage Center on Colvin Ave in Albany is on my list of places to check out this weekend. Apparently they stock four different types of GF beer.

Recipe: Sauteed Cinnamon Apples

When fall comes around, or at least chilly August weather in Upstate NY, my mind starts turning to apple picking and what can be done with apples. Well, it's a bit early, but our summer hasn't been very hot and my mind has already turned to apples. I absolutely love the sauteed apples at Cracker Barrel and Smokey Bones, they make a great side dish and they're incredibly easy to make.

I make apples for my hubby and myself - the measurements here will feed the two of us for about two meals. I also don't like to do a lot of measuring because it's all about what you like. Some people like sweeter apples and others like their dishes a little more tart so it brings out the natural flavor of the apples. Still, it's an easy recipe to play around with, reheats nicely, and you generally can't go wrong just eyeballing amounts.

You need:
3 Granny Smith apples
3 Tbsp of butter give or take
Half a cup of brown sugar (more or less depending on your taste)
Cinnamon to taste (I'm pretty liberal with the cinnamon, I'd say I use a heaping Tbsp)
1 1/2 cups water with 1 Tbsp of cornstarch, mixed

1. Melt the butter in a pan over medium heat
2. Throw in the diced apples, stirring frequently, until the apple slices become soft
3. Add brown sugar, cinnamon, and water/cornstarch mixture
4. Bring to boil, stirring frequently
5. When sauce thickens, take away from the heat. Serve hot.

They go really great with pork chops or spare ribs, but in the fall I've been known to serve them with chicken (especially roast chicken) as well.

See? Can't get easier - or yummier - than that.

Best part about it - it's naturally gluten free with no substitutions!

Thursday, August 21, 2008

The Search for Gluten Free Bread Crumbs

As most of you who live in Upstate NY know, when we're not enduring torrential downpours this summer has been unseasonably cold. With temperatures in the low 70s these days (yes, I know it's Upstate NY and to stop complaining), and a buy one get one free sale on pork chops at our local Price Chopper, I decided to bake some comfort food this week.

Now, one of the big challenges to gluten free comfort foods was finding good bread crumbs. Let's face it, a girl just doesn't have the time to always make bread crumbs and it's really convenient to have a trusted brand on hand. My mother taught me to always use 4C Italian bread crumbs, and those worked well for years - chicken parmesan, baked chicken, pork chops, fish, you name it and these breadcrumbs did the job. Thus began the hunt for decent, gluten free bread crumbs.

Well, the first type of bread crumbs that I picked up, the first week we went shopping in the gluten free section of our local grocery store, was Orgran's all purpose bread crumbs made from rice flour. And I have to say, don't bother! These "bread crumbs" had the look and consistency of coarsely ground white rice flour. What was the point? I wanted bread crumbs for texture, not a flour coating on my baked chicken. Plus they were completely flavorless and no matter how many spices I mixed in, they always seemed to absorb all flavor. Next!

A couple months later brought me to Hannaford, where I found Gillian's bread crumbs. They came in a clear plastic container and I could see they actually looked like real bread crumbs, and as a bonus Gillian's makes Italian seasoned bread crumbs!

I brought home Gillian's bread crumbs and tried them right away and I have to say - they got the taste of real bread crumbs down perfectly. My only complaint is the texture in some dishes - you absolutely can't beat Gillian's bread crumbs for chicken parmesan or anything that you want to be a little on the crunchy side, but if you want soft, breaded baked goods then there's something... missing. I'm happy to stock Gillian's bread crumbs in my pantry and I've passed the word on to my mother to do the same when she bakes for Vince, but I still wanted to find a good, soft coating.

Well, a couple of weeks ago I came across HOL-GRAIN chicken coating mix. The canister says that it's great for chicken, pork, fish and vegetables, so I picked up a package to try it out. The mix was very fine, and there were already some seasonings. I coated my pork chops in egg whites and the chicken coating mix, then topped them with extra garlic powder, onion powder, and a liberal amount of seasoned salt. In a glass pyrex baking dish (incidentally a shower gift from my gal pal Sam, and a daily reminder of my previous pyrex baking dish that I kind of, sort of, exploded - a story for another time) sprayed with PAM, I baked the pork chops at 350 for 30-40 minutes.

The pork chops came out perfect - soft, tender and juicy. Honestly, you couldn't tell the coating was gluten free. I'd definitely recommend doctoring the coating mix with additional spices but this coating mix is definitely a winner for baked pork chops and baked chicken.

The best part about baking gluten-free comfort food? It goes so well with naturally gluten-free comfort food - mashed potatoes (made with loads of real butter, 2% milk and garlic), peas, and easy-as-pie sauteed cinnamon apples (coming in my next post) made the meal perfect.

It's hard to believe it's still August!

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Review: Seeds of Change Organic Quinoa Blend

I know that everyone in the gluten-free universe has heard of and probably tried the ancient supergrain called quinoa, but this grain really started going mainstream right about the time that I started this blog. I picked up a box of Quinoa Harvest quinoa a while back, and well, it's a humorous story involving way too much garlic salt rendering the quinoa inedible. So, I still have the box and I'm determined to give it another go, but the summer's been so busy that I just haven't had a chance to experiment much in the kitchen.

Enter the Seeds of Change Organic Quinoa Blend. Our local Hannaford sells the French Herb flavor. While this flavor is not listed on their website (I hope it's not being discontinued!) it's still available for sale in bulk on Amazon.com. Their quinoa blend is another somewhat-instant (about 20-30 minutes) convenient side dish, and I picked it up to try with dinner one night.

I followed the instructions as completely as possible given my tired, just-completed-eight-hours-at-the-office daze, but they were simple enough that everything came out very nicely. My hubby isn't as big a fan of the quinoa blend as I am - he's not used to the consistency - but I found it a very tasty, unique and savory dish. You have to take note of what you pair it with - it's very strong and could easily overpower a meal. I served the quinoa blend with lightly seasoned and baked tilapia, a fresh salad, and a nice pinot grigio.

I'd definitely recommend trying the French Herb blend. Seeds of Change does have other flavors listed on their site (the amantani whole grain blend quinoa and wild rice looks especially yummy), but as yet they haven't been picked up by our local grocery stores and I'm hesitant to purchase it in bulk online before trying it. (If anyone from Hannaford is reading this, please consider it a heartfelt request to start stocking it!)

And of course, the ultimate test - Phoebe the puggle tried a little and liked it. Three paws out of four!

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Review: Lundberg Farms Risotto

In almost all of the grocery and natural food stores I go in, I always seem to see boxes of Lundberg Farms Risotto in several flavors, including Alfredo, Florentine, Tuscan, Wild Porcini Mushroom, Butternut Squash, Cheddar Broccoli, Creamy Parmesan, Garlic Primevera, and Italian Herb. I have to admit that the first time I picked up a box of their risotto, the first thought to enter my mind was "oh, look, gluten free rice-a-roni!"

Well, don't knock rice-a-roni - we loved that guilty pleasure stuff in the pre-gluten-free days, so figured it couldn't hurt to try risotto. And I have to say that we haven't looked bacgk. In fact, Lundberg Farms risotto is so rich, tasty, not really budget friendly but affordable and worth it at around $3/box, and easy to make that I've been known to highly recommend their products to friends, gluten-free or not. In fact, after eating their products I don't think we'd ever be able to go back to some of the cheaper packaged rice mixes. They take about 20-30 minutes to cook including the time to boil water (and the stove in our apartment can take forever and a day to heat up) so it's not totally "convenience" food but it's easy enough to whip up as a side dish. I'd recommend pairing with something like baked/roast chicken, baked pork chops, or even fish.

We haven't tried all of their flavors - there are some that my hubby vetoes right off the bat - but of the ones we've tried our personal favorites are Creamy Parmesan (my favorite) and Cheddar Broccoli (Vin's favorite). We also occasionally have the Wild Porcini Mushroom flavor for something different. The only ones we weren't thrilled with were the Florentine and Alfredo, and it's not fair to say that the Alfredo is bad, but it just doesn't compare to the Creamy Parmesan, so why bother?

And, of course, the puggle loves Lundberg Farms risotto. When there are leftovers she's ready and waiting, only happy to oblige - unfortunately there rarely are leftovers. The puggle gives Lundberg Farms risotto four paws (out of four, of course!).

Monday, August 18, 2008

Gluten Free in Saratoga - KD's Fish Fry

Last week Vince and I went to Saratoga to see the Maroon 5 concert at SPAC. Since it was a Tuesday and we had to rush up there for the show, we needed a quick, convenient, gluten free dinner which is why we chose KD's Fish Fry. It's on Geyser Road (very convenient to SPAC), and they offer a huge gluten free menu.



Vince and I have been to KD's Fish Fry twice, and it doesn't disappoint. We both ordered gluten free so we could steal from each other's plates - we started with their mushroom appetizer. Vince had a fish fry with onion rings while I ordered the fried shrimp with french fries. It was incredible - you can tell the breading is gluten free because it's not the same color as "regular" fried foods, but it's just as tasty! Our entire meal came to about twenty dollars as well, including drinks, and the portions were large enough so that neither of us could finish our dinner. You can't go wrong there!



What really sweetens the deal about KD's Fish Fry though is their home baked desserts. They sell gluten free oatmeal raisin cookies ($2.50 for one dozen). They're amazingly light, chewy and tasty - we like them better than the Freihoffer cookies we used to buy at the store, and it's hard to believe they're gluten free! They also carry other cookies such as chocolate chip, which unfortunately we haven't tried as Vince can't eat chocolate either. But I'm sure they're amazing!



The best part about our latest trip - they just installed a new freezer in the front of their store where they plan to start selling gluten free snacks, cookies, and pre-made meals right out of the store. The man who helped us gave us a sample of a baked cheese snack called Just the Cheese which is gluten free and very tasty. It's definitely on our list to pick up the next time we're in the Saratoga area.



If you haven't yet visited KD's Fish Fry, you're missing out. It's good whether you're gluten free or not, and I love the fact that we're supporting a local business that's so proactive about supplying decent, gluten-free options to our area.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Review: Enjoy Life Cinnamon Raisin Bagels

The last time I placed an order of gluten free goods online, I decided to add Enjoy Life's cinnamon raisin gluten free bagels to my cart. I hadn't tried anything from their brand before, but they certainly looked good and had decent reviews overall. My hubby has never liked cream cheese, but he used to love cinnamon raisin bagels with butter, so I figured this would be a nice treat.

They came and were much smaller than I imagined. I know Bruegger's bagels are quite large and more than one serving size per bagel, but I wasn't expecting something quite this small. Still, the package gave off a very pleasant cinnamon smell so I figured it was still promising. We stuck them in the freezer as recommended until the weekend, when we toasted them and added butter.

Well... I'm trying to be as polite as possible here, but they tasted - and had the consistency - of a big, thick piece of cardboard. One bite was all that we needed to realize these bagels were not good at all - I gave the puggle a piece of the bagel to see if even she'd eat the bagels. She took it, played with it for a little bit, grudgingly ate it, and then gave me a dirty look like I did something incredibly mean to her. Keep in mind, our puggle suffers from Coprophagia, so that's saying something.

All in all, we threw out the rest of the package, considered the whole experience a $6 lesson, and decided that, until we hear reputable evidence otherwise, Enjoy Life is brand to avoid.

The puggles rating: 0 paws. Enjoy Life? Anything but!

Saturday, August 16, 2008

More Albany Gluten Free Goods!

A couple of weeks ago I was surfing around online and came across the Metroland's "Best of 2008" issue. Of course, I was gratified to see that Mari's Japanese Cuisine on Van Vranken Ave, Schenectady won the "Best sushi" category - I've known Mari and Jiro for years and they're not only extremely talented at what they do, they're wonderful people and most definitely deserve this recognition. Congratulations to Mari's, and if you haven't tried their sushi it's well worth the trek to Schenectady!

I also noticed that Paradise Natural Foods, on Western Ave in Albany, was listed as the best health food shop and gluten free was specifically mentioned in the blurb. They're located about half a mile west of Crossgates Mall, in the same plaza as the Runi hair salon.

We walked into this store and were blown away by their selection. Of course, they have a lot of standard fare - the popular grains, flours, and pasta products that we've all come to know and love. They carry Tinkyada pasta at a significantly better price than our local Price Chopper, and they have more varieties of other well-known brands like Mrs. Leepers, Glutino and Glutano just to name a few. We were impressed to see that they carried the Glutano soda crackers that Vince loves and we usually purchase online. We ended up picking up cereal, quite a few different types of gluten free pasta, gluten free bagels (hopefully they'll be much better than the Enjoy Life bagels we tried), pretzels, chicken noodle soup, new england clam chowder, frozen mac and cheese, a frozen ravioli dish, and quite a few other new things to try. I'll definitely note the winners on the blog at a later date.

The woman I talked to behind the counter was very nice - and while she was ringing me up she informed me that they run bulk discount specials if you prefer to order goods by the case. Unfortunately we can't take advantage of that now due to space, but anyone with a chest freezer or a large pantry should duly take note - especially with food prices what they are these days!

Paradise Natural Foods is certainly worth a look in your gluten free travels - we plan on coming back and stocking up in the future!

Monday, August 11, 2008

Update: Celiac Diet Update at Clifton Park Hannaford

Just a quick update regarding Hannaford's Celiac Diet Update. I called to register for their class and was informed that it has moved to Monday, August 25th at 2:30 PM.

I am definitely still going to the event, but wanted to make sure you're aware.

The woman I spoke to said it was most likely going to fill up, so please call and register soon if you haven't already! Their number is (518) 383-4136.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Celiac Diet Update at Clifton Park Hannaford

Thanks to the wonderfully thoughtful receptionist at my place of employment, I found out about a free Healthy Living Class offered by Hannaford. An article on Hannaford's Healthy Living Classes is available via the Daily Gazette's website.

Next week, Hannaford in Clifton Park is sponsoring a Celiac Diet Update, including gluten-free food sampling. This event is Wednesday August 13th (next week) from 2 - 3:30 PM.

You can call to register for this event at (518) 383-4136.

It looks like I'll be taking a half day on Wednesday and may see some of you there!

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Gluten Free goods, right in Stuyvesant Plaza!

On Friday, I took a half day from work and spent the afternoon shopping with my mother. Instead of hitting Crossgates like we usually do, we decided to change it up and check out some of the stores in Stuyvesant Plaza. Now, Stuyvesant Plaza is pretty close to where I live and we go often go there - however, I'm sometimes guilty of tunnel vision, and I had no idea there was a food store selling gluten free goodies until a co-worker clipped a coupon for me.

The store is It's Only Natural, LLC, and the sign outside their door boasts the largest selection of gluten free goods in the Capital District, with an added note that if they don't have it they can get it! That was pretty encouraging, so my mother and I went in to browse.

Now, I wouldn't say their selection was the largest I've seen in the Capital District, but it certainly rivals the gluten free selections available at the larger Hannafords in the area. They carry Authentic Foods flour (at a slightly higher markup than online, but it's really useful to know if we run out of something!), an assortment of baking mixes, cookies, pretzels, chips, crackers, and other snacks, and a wide variety of frozen items - breads, rolls, frozen pizzas, etc. They had some gluten free items that I'd never seen before, even online, including gluten free croutons and hot dog buns.

What really impressed me, though, is the fact that they've started carrying products from local bakeries. They had muffins from Sherry Lynn's Gluten Free Bakery in Brunswick as well as bread, rolls and cookies from Saratoga Gluten Free Goods. Everything was fresh and soft to the touch and looked amazing! I really wanted to pick up some of their whole grain bread, but figured my hubby wouldn't be thrilled with it - he grew up on Freihoffer split top wheat bread and isn't thrilled with a lot of the whole grain options available. It's a shame.

Still, I did pick up some yummy looking buns made by Saratoga Gluten Free Goods, a box of Kinnikinnick vanilla glazed donuts (we'd seen the cinnamon sugar donuts in Hannaford, and they were pretty decent, but hadn't seen the glazed donuts before), some gluten free rolled oats from Bob's Red Mill, and a package of Pamela's bread mix (I usually bake my bread from scratch, but I've heard that's the best brand and it can't hurt to have on hand if we're feeling lazy).

The next day I brought the rolls down to Yankee Stadium, where we tailgated with our dads before Old Timer's Day. Great time, great food - and those rolls from Saratoga Gluten Free Goods did not disappoint. They were amazing!

Overall - please, check out It's Only Natural, LLC in Stuyvesant Plaza. The odds are you'll see a lot of familiar brands and products, but you'll probably also see something new and worth trying. And it can't hurt to make suggestions for new products either!