Sunday, December 27, 2009

New Years Resolution - Cutting back on grocery bills!

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays! I hope everyone enjoyed a wonderful (and, of course, gluten free) holiday season. In the middle of all the parties and celebrations and gatherings, though (yes, some of which are still going on), I'm starting to think of New Years resolutions -- that time of year has already crept up on us! Every year I make the same resolution -- to lose 5, 10, 15 lbs. I'll go to the gym (for a few weeks -- usually until the Spring semester starts and I'm busy with homework), cook healthy meals, omit cookies, candies, chips, and alcohol, and try to be virtuous as long as I can.

Well, I'm still probably going to end up doing that (at least until I take the guaranteed holiday 5 lbs. off then all bets are off) but decided this year to make a resolution that I've got a better chance of sticking to:

Spend less on groceries. While maintaining most of our current lifestyle, eating healthy meals and not crap. (Or at least, not ALL crap - some crap in moderation is OK).

Right now my husband and I spend approximately $150 on groceries per week. That's just for us, and doesn't include our puggle or our ferrets. I know we eat gluten free, but come on -- we can do a LOT better!

So, in detail, my New Years Resolution to spend less on groceries includes:
  • Start by getting the grocery bill down to $100/week. That includes gluten free flours, regular groceries, cleaning supplies and laundry detergents. (I am not including pet food, which we have a separate budget for -- we splurge on the all-natural, bad-carb-free, canned dog food. It's expensive but worth it). Once we're down to $100/week, we'll go from there.
  • Plan out meals in advance. This means leftovers on evenings when I have class or something else going on after work -- and long, time-consuming meals with a lot of leftovers have to be made on the weekends.
  • Cut down my reliance on pre-packaged gluten free convenience foods. It's easy to ask my husband to whip up Ian's fish sticks and tater tots on his bowling league night, but our waistlines and wallets are insisting that this be an occasional treat only. However, I don't consider gluten free pasta to be a convenience food. :-)
  • On the same vein, TV dinners are a convenience, but only once in a while when they're on sale or we absolutely need them.
  • Continue to shop partially organic. By this I mean, shop organic when I can, but always shop organic when it comes to things like lettuce. That's non-negotiable.
  • Try to balance shopping locally with shopping at Walmart.
  • Clip coupons and plan meals based on grocery store circulars. And Don't Shop Off List!
  • Try to limit dinners out/takeout to once per month unless it's a special occasion (I'll admit, this is probably the first one that's going to slip -- especially since I'm a sushi addict).
There you have it. I think it sounds do-able.

To start myself off -- I found a great common-sense article detailing how to save money at the grocery store.

Oh yeah -- and as an incentive to keep at it -- The money we save on groceries will be used to pay for a vacation in 2010!

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Gluten free eggnog breakfast cake

I found an interesting looking recipe on Betty Crocker's website - for gluten free eggnog breakfast cake. Well my husband LOVES egg nog with a passion so we decided to try it.

The original recipe is here, but I decided to make a few changes. First since my husband hates pecans, we omitted those. Second, I made meringue cookies last night and had a lot of egg yolks to get rid of so I used six egg yolks instead of the three eggs. (I think in the future I'll use the three eggs). Finally, I used ingredients I had on hand.

Here's the recipe I made:

  • 1 box Betty Crocker GF yellow cake mix
  • 1 package Jello instant vanilla pudding
  • 1/3 cup milk
  • 2/3 cup egg nog
  • 1 stick (1/2 cup) butter, softened
  • 1 Tbsp dark rum
  • 1 tsp gluten free vanilla extract
  • 1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
  • 6 egg yolks (not recommended - use 3 eggs)
  • 1/4 cup frosting (I think I used a lot more, I didn't measure).
  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease bottom of 9" square pan. Beat all ingredients except frosting in a large bowl on low speed, them on medium speed until completely combined. Pour into the greased pan.
  • Bake 35 minutes or until it passes the "toothpick test" and an inserted toothpick comes out clean. Cool 10 minutes, scrape the edges of the pan with a knife.
  • Let cool for 30 minutes, then drizzle with frosting. It's easier to drizzle if you nuke it for 15 seconds or so.
  • Optional: sprinkle top with pecans or gluten free candied pecans.

Overall - pretty yummy, though I felt myself gaining 5 lbs. with the first bite. I'll leave it for my hubby (who doesn't have that problem) and keep it in my notes for an occasional holiday treat. :-)

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Monster cookies!

Some girlfriends and I started a monthly book club a little over a year ago. For December we selected The Christmas Cookie Club by Ann Pearlman, and we decided that, to go with the theme of the book, it would be nice to bring cookies and wine and do a holiday cookie swap. (Okay, so full disclosure, we decided to do that before selecting the book, but it fits in very nicely).

As you can imagine, most holiday treats aren't gluten free. However, one of my girlfriends brought monster cookies which can very easily be made gluten free -- no recipe substitutions, just using gluten free oats! The recipe for monster cookies can be found on the Food Network website, and here it is:


* 3 eggs
* 1 1/4 cups packed light brown sugar
* 1 cup granulated sugar
* 1/2 teaspoon salt
* 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
* 1 12-ounce jar creamy peanut butter
* 1 stick butter, softened
* 1/2 cup multi-colored chocolate candies
* 1/2 cup chocolate chips
* 1/4 cup raisins, optional
* 2 teaspoons baking soda
* 4 1/2 cups quick-cooking oatmeal (not instant)


Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line cookie sheets with parchment paper or nonstick baking mats.

In a very large mixing bowl, combine the eggs and sugars. Mix well. Add the salt, vanilla, peanut butter, and butter. Mix well. Stir in the chocolate candies, chocolate chips, raisins, if using, baking soda, and oatmeal. Drop by tablespoons 2 inches apart onto the prepared cookie sheets.

Bake for 8 to 10 minutes. Do not overbake. Let stand for about 3 minutes before transferring to wire racks to cool. When cool, store in large resealable plastic bags.

To make this recipe gluten free, make sure to use gluten free oats (and gluten free vanilla extract, non-contaminated peanut butter, etc. etc. etc.) and that's pretty much all that you need to do! It's nice to have another recipe that doesn't need a lot of modification. The cookies are absolutely delicious and I'm adding them to the list of cookies we're planning to make.

The one modification that I'm planning to make is omitting the chocolate candies and chocolate chips from the cookies -- since my husband doesn't eat chocolate and I want to be able to share these gluten free goodies! We may just make plain cookies, but I'm going to try them this weekend with some shredded coconut. Yum!!!

Sunday, December 6, 2009

EASY Gluten Free Pineapple Upside Down Cake

My mother's birthday is this weekend, and though she's not gluten free she requested a pineapple upside down cake that everyone could eat. (As opposed to bringing, say, a gluten dessert and a gluten free dessert). I'd never made a pineapple upside down cake, but fortunately Betty Crocker's website has a base recipe using theIir gluten free yellow cake mix. Considering that their mix is slightly disappointing without some form of doctoring, here's my first version of a pineapple upside down cake:

Gluten free Pineapple Upside Down Cake:
  • 1/4 c. butter
  • 2 Tbsp. honey
  • 2/3 c. packed brown sugar
  • Pineapple rings, without juice
  • Maraschino cherries, without juice
  • 1 package Betty Crocker gluten free yellow cake mix
  • 1 package Jell-O french vanilla instant pudding mix
  • 1/3 c. sugar
  • 1/2 c. canola oil
  • 3/4 c. orange juice (note: next time I might try pineapple juice here)
  • 4 eggs + 1 egg white
  • 2 tsp. gluten free vanilla extract
  1. Heat oven to 350 degrees F. In a 9" square baking pan melt the butter, stir in the brown sugar and honey. Spread evenly and arrange pineapples and cherries (with the cherries in the center of the pineapple rings).
  2. In a mixing bowl combine the dry ingredients. Add the wet ingredients and beat for at least 5 minutes until smooth and completely combined. Pour batter over the fruit in the pan.
  3. Bake for 38 - 43 minutes or until the top is golden brown and passes the toothpick test. (an inserted toothpick comes out clean).
  4. When done, immediately run a knife around the sides of the pan to loosen the cake. Place a heat-resistant serving plate on top of the baking dish. Turn it over and let it sit for 5 minutes to let the juices run down. After that, remove the pan and let the cake cool for at least 30 minutes.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Our first Thanksgiving!

Welcome back from the Thanksgiving holiday! I hope everyone had a wonderful holiday full of gluten free treats, family and friends. We certainly enjoyed ourselves!

We started the week off with dinner with my friend Samantha and her family. They made an amazing amount of Italian food, and we were touched not only to be included but also with the fact that they were so aware of cross-contamination, etc. They made a gluten free baked ziti dish for my husband, and made sure he had his own dish of gluten free sauce, and pointed out the other dishes on the table that were safe for him to eat. I know how much of a pain we can be to cook for, especially when there is a group of people, and we were very appreciative!

Then, on Thursday -- My husband and I hosted our first Thanksgiving. We're fortunate that both my parents and his are local, so we invited both of our immediate families for the holiday. We ended up with a total of eight people, three dogs, and two ferrets.

While I've roasted chickens before, this was my first turkey. I was also excited to finally have a chance to finally use the pretty china we selected before our wedding!

Our menu:

  • Cheese and crackers (we had "regular" crackers, as well as rice crackers and gluten free crackers).
  • Veggies and dip (with extra green peppers for the puggle, she absolutely adores them)
  • Homemade crab dip with freshly baked brown-rice-and-sorghum toast for spreading

Main course:
  • 20-lb roast turkey and gravy
  • Mashed potatoes
  • Dressing, both traditional and gluten free cornbread (courtesy of both our mothers)
  • Sweet potatoes and creamed white onions (two dishes, courtesy of my mother)
  • Homemade applesauce (courtesy of my mother-in-law)
  • Freshly baked dinner rolls
  • Corn
  • Peas
  • Green beans
  • Cranberry sauce
  • Traditional pecan and pumpkin pies (non-gluten free, purchased from Grandma's)
  • Gluten free apple pie from Laurie's Gluten Free Goodness, in Scotia
  • Homemade gluten free coconut cream pie

Everything came out very well! There were two minor snags with the turkey, but neither of them affected the taste of the bird, which ended up juicy and delicious. However:
  • We purchased an electronic thermometer that was supposed to alert us when the bird was "almost done," "done," and "overdone." I don't know if we stuck it in the wrong, er, location of the turkey or the contraption was just a piece of junk, but it beeped that my 20-lb. turkey was done two hours into the roasting cycle. We took the electronic thermometer out at that point and relied on the manual meat thermometer and pop-up timer in the bird itself.
  • Most of our serving utensils, including our carving fork, are made of plastic. They presented an interested engineering problem when actually faced with removing the bird from the pan, but fortunately we were up to the challenge. :-)
Other than that, the meat fell off the bone and somehow, everything was done at the perfect time. So overall I'd consider the meal a success. We have finally reached the point where the leftovers are almost all gone!

The one note about the pie: I was very excited to try the pie from Laurie's gluten free goodness. It wasn't bad, but there was something missing. The apple filling was very tart and there wasn't a lot of sugar in the pie crust either. I would have preferred the filling and/or the crust to be slightly sweeter, though it was interesting to taste her crust!

Overall we had a wonderful time, and it kicked off holiday celebrations just right!

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Chipotle - Grand Opening in Latham!

The Chipotle chain has come to the Capital District. There's been a Chipotle restaurant in Wilton for a few months, but it's come closer to home. Friday was the grand opening of the new Latham Chipotle (on Troy-Schenectady Road, by Target), and they're building another one in Clifton Park. I have to say that I was excited to have a new restaurant in the area, and we'd heard many good things about Chipotle.

In fact, I'd first heard about Chipotle a little over a year ago, when I met some new friends who had recently moved to the area from Colorado. They absolutely hated Bomber's, and thought Moe's was OK, but said you couldn't beat Chipotle for "fast" Mexican food.

Not only that, but most of the food at Chipotle is gluten free! The only items that are not safe are the flour tortillas. Hard shell tacos, bowls, salads, and chips and salsa are all safe. Their entire allergen chart is available online: Now, you can get "bowls" at Moe's, but what is nice about Chipotle is the ability to go there and get a taco or chips and guacamole about bringing your own.

So, we checked it out on Friday evening. We got there around 6:30 or 7, and the line was pretty long, but moved very quickly. My husband ordered two orders of tacos -- one chicken and one barbacoa -- and I ordered one order of steak tacos and some chips and guacamole. The original plan had been to share each other's orders, but we had some slight differences in mild vs. medium hot sauce. The tacos themselves were OK, and we enjoyed our meal, but I'm not sure how frequently we'd really go there. I like the tacos we make at home much better, and guacamole is very easy to make at home (or, spicy Wholly Guacamole is wonderful and labelled gluten free).

Our order combined with two sodas came in around 27 bucks, which seemed a little high for tacos that were comparable in size to what you'd get for much less at Taco Bell. I was full after my three tacos, but my husband didn't think two orders was enough for an entire meal. The burritos would probably be more filling -- but unfortunately they don't carry soft corn tortillas.

Overall -- not terrible, I'm glad we tried it, but a little overpriced for what it is. Still, major props for a clear allergen information policy and actually offering gluten free corn chips (Moe's, ya hearing me?). If you want to try Chipotle, you can order online at their website or through the iPhone -- that's pretty cool!! :)

Thursday, October 22, 2009

New Gluten Free Bakery!

I wanted to send out a quick update for my readers in the Capital District:

A new gluten free bakery is opening up in Scotia!

It's called Laurie's Gluten Free Goodness, and it's located at 5 South Ten Broeck Street, Scotia NY. (That area is my old stomping ground -- if you're not familiar with the area, it's right off Mohawk Ave, between Route 50 and Sacandaga Road).

There's not a ton of information online yet, but it's opening this weekend.

Hours are:
Monday - Saturday 9 - 5
Sunday 9 - 1

We're going to try to stop by this weekend! :) If you stop by, please share your thoughts!

Sunday, October 11, 2009

A Crash Course in Gluten Free

We've been gluten free for over a year now, and have been blessed with supportive family and friends who have taken it upon themselves to familiarize themselves with gluten free foods. In the past year we've met more and more people who are already familiar with the phrase "gluten free" as the celiac disease becomes more widely recognized and the gluten free diet has gone mainstream. Still, the majority of people we meet for the first time still have questions about what, exactly, it means to be gluten free. They're the same questions that we had when we started out, and I hope to at least start to answer some of those questions with this blog post.

Gluten is a protein found in wheat, rye, barley, and derivatives of these grains. (Oats are often included on the list of foods to avoid because of a high risk of cross-contamination with wheat). People with celiac disease or other gluten intolerances cannot properly digest gluten, causing potentially severe health problems. (In face, in the case of celiac sufferers, ingesting gluten causes an autoimmune response, where their bodies are actually attacking their intestines). The symptoms are similar to Irritable Bowel Syndrome.

So, what does it mean to be gluten free? Well, first off -- avoiding all foods that contain gluten. No wheat, rye, barley, or regular oats. What exactly does this mean?
  • Well, first, let's cut out all the obvious "traditional" foods: bread, pizza, pasta, cakes, cookies, pies, beer, anything with malt vinegar.
  • Next, let's start reading ingredient labels. Canned soups, broths, and stocks, soy sauces, marinades, salad dressings, cereals, and any other processed food product has to be looked at very carefully for gluten-containing ingredients. Imitation crab, for example, almost always contains wheat.
  • Not only do you have to read main ingredient labels, but sometimes innocuous-sounding ingredients like "natural flavors," "artificial flavors," and "caramel color" can contain gluten, so when in doubt it's best to contact the company regarding their labelling policy.
  • Finally, cross-contamination. Potatoes are gluten free -- french fries cooked in a fryer with chicken tenders and mozzarella sticks are contaminated with gluten. A salad where the croutons have been "picked out" is contaminated by gluten. A slice of gluten free bread toasted in a communal toaster may be contaminated by gluten. Since as little as a crumb can potentially set off a bad reaction in a celiac person, it's best to be on the paranoid side.

Now that I've scared you, you're wondering -- what exactly can you eat if you're gluten free? The answer is simple: A lot of things. But, it does require some research and creativity. (If you do decide to start dabbling in the kitchen? Invest in a stand mixer. It's been my best friend in the kitchen and just may be the best $300 I've ever spent -- and our deep fryer comes in second).

First of all -- many foods are naturally gluten free. Fresh fruit and veggies (frozen veggies with no sauce), meats and seafood, potatoes, rice, and nuts are all naturally gluten free, as are most cheeses. But, when you're new to the gluten free community the first question on your mind is "Rice and potatoes are great, but can I ever eat traditional carbs again?" The answer is a resounding yes! Not only are rice and potatoes gluten free but many other non-traditional grains that are delicious and healthy: sorghum, millet, flax, quinoa, amaranth, and the list goes on.

There are several solutions for gluten free breads, pastas, pizzas, and desserts. Since this is an introductory post, the only thing I'll say about gluten free cooking is that it's possible, healthier and sometimes even downright easy to make some of these options for yourself. But, when we were brand new to gluten free, we preferred to find options that were pre-made to ease us into the transition. Pre-made foods tend to be expensive, not as healthy, and often not that good -- but there are quite a few good options out there. For example, Bionaturae gluten free pasta. Bar none, the best gluten free pasta we've tried.

As you do research you'll find a lot of mainstream gluten free goods as well - General Mills and Kraft are very good about product labelling and will not "hide" gluten in their ingredients (no worrying about natural flavors). Furthermore General Mills has become aware of the gluten free community and is making several of their items gluten free -- such as Chex cereals and introducing Betty Crocker gluten free mixes.

Overall? Gluten free doesn't mean you'll never eat pizza again. Or cakes or cookies. It means, however, that you can start experimenting with new things that you may not have tried before -- but you'll certainly be able to eat modified versions of favorite foods. In fact, it's very easy to make your own gluten free pizza (or get it at at Uno's if you'd prefer), enjoy your pizza with a beer, eat a sandwich on freshly baked gluten free bread, or even enjoy gluten free apple cider doughnuts.

Have any questions? Leave a comment on this post. I'd love to write a follow-up to this entry.

New Discovery: Wolff's Biergarten

This weekend, we made a new discovery right in our own backyard!

Wolff's Biergarten, on Broadway Avenue in Albany, from the name obviously has several beers on their menu, but did you know that their menu includes Green's gluten free beer? It's a darker, Belgian beer made with buckwheat, rice and millet. This is one beer that we haven't seen at Oliver's, and it's actually the first time we've tried it -- I'll have to confess that I'm not a sophisticated dark beer drinker, but it tasted pretty good to me. It certainly went well with the peanuts they have on each table!

The Biergarten posts their menu online -- we didn't eat there, or ask the staff if any dishes were safe, so I'd call/ask before planning a meal there. Still, it's nice to know there's another place to grab a gluten free beer! It's a very casual place, with wooden picnic tables and benches.

One note: If you do decide to check out the Biergarten, hit the ATM first. They're a cash-only joint, and while they do have an ATM there, I certainly don't like spending money on ATM fees. ;-)

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Betty Crocker Cake Mixes

OK, so when Betty Crocker cake mixes first started appearing on the shelves of our local grocery stores, I immediately scooped up a box of the yellow cake mix to try. We excitedly made cupcakes with homemade buttercream frosting, and our mouths watered as we smelled them baking in the oven. When we finally bit into one, we were... well, pleased, but a little underwhelmed.

Now, don't get me wrong. They were good. But, we'd built them up so much in our heads that we were expecting this fantastic experience, and as always if you build something up that much you're often disappointed. It's kind of like New Year's Eve: you're always so excited to go out and feel like you have to have a good time, that even when you do have a good time you feel like it should have been more.

Overall -- they were tasty, if a little gritty, but got dried out way too quickly.

Still, I had another box left over and a blog post that looked interesting:

She uses the following recipe to doctor the cake mix:

New and Improved Gluten-Free Cupcakes Recipe
1 package Betty Crocker Gluten Free Yellow Cake Mix

1 3.4 oz package Jello vanilla instant pudding

1/3 cup granulated sugar

4 large eggs plus one egg white room temperature

1/2 cup canola oil

3/4 cup orange juice (no pulp)

1 Tablespoon good vanilla extract


Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F.

Mix the wet ingredients in a medium sized bowl. In a large bowl sift together the dry ingredients, add the wet ingredients and beat on medium speed until completely combined

Line a muffin tin with cupcake liners. Fill 2/3 of the way full.

Bake for about 23-25 minutes, until the cupcakes are golden and a toothpick inserted comes out clean.

We tried it and... YUM!

I have to say that I prefer my buttercream frosting recipe of:

- 1 cup butter

- 1 cup shortening

- 8 cups confectioner's sugar

- 2 tsp vanilla extract

- 1/2 tsp salt

However, these cupcakes not only smelled and tasted AMAZING, they stayed pretty fresh and moist for the better part of a week (after that they were all gone). We used french vanilla instant pudding, and the overall flavor was very strong vanilla -- I think I might halve the vanilla extract next time -- but mouth-wateringly delicious. I have to give credit where credit is due. :-)

All I can say is, these are easy and definitely on the list for the next party we go to - they're definitely good enough to give to gluten-eating people without them noticing a difference!

Winner: Betty Crocker Fruit Snacks

Congratulations, Doreen! I will contact you via e-mail shortly. :-)

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Did you know: Betty Crocker Fruit Snacks are gluten free?

I recently became aware that Betty Crocker Fruit Snacks (including Fruit Roll-Ups and Fruit by the Foot) are not only gluten free but now labelled as such. Now, they're not a snack that's high on my radar, but I remember them very fondly from my childhood. When MyBlogSpark asked if I'd like to review them as a gluten-free snack for kids, I happily agreed.

Full disclosure: My husband and I don't have kids, unless you count the puggle, but we sometimes consider ourselves 20-something kids. ;-) Case in point: MyBlogSpark sent a package containing Betty Crocker fruit snacks as well as toys like a yo-yo, frisbee and pick up sticks. Well, I don't want to throw anyone under the bus here, but that poor yo-yo was broken about five minutes after the box was opened! LOL.

Anyway, the real highlight here were the fruit snacks. We were sent one variety pack with Fruit Roll Ups, Fruit by the Foot and Gushers, and another box of "Create a Bug" fruit snacks.

The Fruit Roll Ups were very similar to how I remembered them - only, when I was a kid (OK, maybe in high school) they had these cut-out shapes in the roll-up part. These were solid, which was different, but tasty. And while there was more fat content than I would have thought, you can't go wrong with a 50 calorie snack where pear concentrate is the first ingredient.

We weren't as thrilled with the "Create a bug" snacks. They weren't bad, and my husband will certainly eat them, but we'll leave those ones for the kids. (Maybe it's my arachnophobia talking).

All said -- I love the fact that these fruit snacks are gluten free. NOT ONLY are they labelled gluten free, but this past weekend I was in the Halloween candy aisle at Walmart (Just looking...) and saw that they had fun-sized fruit snacks to give out as Halloween treats. Now, I don't know about you, but I think this is just awesome! Knowing all the trials that my husband and I go through to find "normal" snacks that we trust to be gluten free, this is great for kids with allergies or sensitivities. I love the idea of more celiac-friendly treats that kids can enjoy for Halloween!

Anyway. Now for the giveaway part: MyBlogSpark and Betty Crocker are providing a free "Simple Joys" package that includes two boxes of fruit snacks and some low-tech toys (a yo-yo, frisbee and retro pick-up-sticks game) to ONE lucky reader of this blog!

To enter the contest, all you have to do is leave a comment on this post. (I approve all comments, so don't worry if it doesn't show up immediately). Please include some means of contacting you - e-mail address preferably - and optionally tell me what some of YOUR simple pleasures are.

The deadline is October 8th. Good luck to everyone!!!

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Healthy Gluten Free

Last week I talked about all the unhealthy, but super-yummy, gluten free food we make during football games. Well, all that unhealthy food has its price, and since I really don't want muffin top in my cute little Bebe jeans, I try to make up for it during the week with healthier meals. (Note: we have a pretty high grocery budget... I wasn't really concerned with "eating on the cheap" here, but it's pretty indicative of what our usual grocery list looks like).

Hmm. I wonder I could get away with rationalizing designer jeans as weight management tools... but that's for another blog entry. ;-)

So, assuming Sunday is the "screw it, I'm eating anything I feel like" day, here's a sample menu for the rest of the week:

Since I have class on Wednesday evenings, I like to cook something that will provide at least one day of leftovers. A staple that I rely on is sauteed chicken. I'll sautee four chicken breasts (aka two nights for us) in a little bit of olive oil, fresh chopped garlic and white wine. I'll season the chicken with onion, pepper, and seasoned salt, and I'll throw in any veggies I have on hand -- peppers, onions, tomatoes, snow peas, you name it. Serve with a salad (make one big enough to store leftovers in the crisper, and you've got leftover veggies for Wednesday as well). I usually don't eat a starch with this meal but will make gluten free risotto or tagliatelle noodles with margarine for my husband.

Fish! I like to stop for fresh fish at the market the day that I cook it, but in a pinch I always keep frozen wild salmon fillets in the freezer. Thaw them by putting them in the fridge the night before (or soaking the vacuum-sealed pouches in cold water for about an hour). Sautee in olive oil, wine, and seasonings to taste. I like to keep wild salmon pretty simple - it tastes so good on its own - and just use garlic and black pepper. Serve with broccolini or yellow squash if it's in season, otherwise I'll usually do green beans or frozen broccoli florets. Baked potato with nonfat sour cream or plain greek yogurt for a starch.

And of course, pair with a nice riesling.

Heat up Monday's leftovers.


Asian stir-fry. I usually take the cheater's way out and do a little bit of sesame oil, a bag of frozen stir fry veggies, a can of baby corn, a can of bean sprouts, a can of peas, a can of corn, and a can of water chestnuts. Add brown rice, and for protein use some combination of shrimp, chicken, or scrambled egg (make it like fried rice).

I haven't found a good gluten free stir-fry sauce that I like, so I'll make gluten free teriyaki sauce or else just use a little bit of gluten free soy sauce -- I prefer it a little on the dry side and not drowning in sauce anyway.

TGIF! Who wants to cook!? Order in sushi! :-) We like tuna rolls, salmon rolls, and shrimp rolls.

And there's still that bottle of riesling from Tuesday. ;-)

Stir-fry leftovers.

I rarely eat carbs with dinner unless it's part of the meal, like stir-fry or sushi. But I always plan some kind of starch for my husband. We could probably be a little healthier and greener if we made more veggie-centric meals... it might be a good new years resolution to work on. But for now, that's a week of healthy meals for us.

So, readers: I'm always looking for more ideas! What are your go-to healthy meal options?

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Gluten Free during Football Season

Fall is officially here - and in our household that means football season has officially started! Sunday afternoon is now reserved for Giants games (with the occasional Patriots game thrown in as well). And, of course, with football comes snacks. Lots and lots of blissfully unhealthy snacks that taste amazing and, if eaten liberally, cause muffin top later on.

Most of the time we enjoy gluten free pizza and beer, sometimes with hot wings as well. We're partial to Bard's beers and frying hot wings with Frank's Red Hot. (Gluten free and one of my favorite foods). During 1 PM games, we'll do chips and Hel-uv-a Good French Onion dip or else salsa con queso.

Still, having the exact same thing every week gets old, so I've got some new ideas -- best of all, they're easy! You'll notice no measurements in here -- because no matter what you do, the chances are good that it'll come out well!

I found a great recipe for flatlander chili that I used at New Years. I'll brown some ground beef, and then toss everything else in the crockpot to cook for a few hours. Served with hot sauce, monterey jack cheese and chips on the side, it tastes amazing, makes great "football food" and if you make portions like I do, you'll have leftovers for the rest of the week so no more cooking!

I link to the recipe from my New Years' blog.

Another great junk food, and so easy! I pick up (naturally gluten free) corn tortilla chips. Brown some ground beef, and add that, beans, black onions, jalapeno peppers, and tons of monterey jack cheese (I like using the monterey jack with jalapenos). Preheat the oven to 400 degrees, and cook them until the cheese is melted, then top with fresh tomatoes and iceburg lettuce. Serve with sour cream, and guacamole on the side. Yum!

Speaking of guacamole - it's super easy. Mash up avocadoes, add diced red onions, chopped tomatoes, garlic, and cilantro. Mix with lime juice and add lime slices as a garnish.

Red Beans and Rice
OK, I've got a confession to make. This is one of my staple potluck foods. It's easy, relatively healthy, everyone loves it, you can make it on the cheap, and you can throw almost anything into the recipe. It heats up well (I like leftovers better, the flavors have more of a chance to mix), and is always a big hit. It heats up well in the crockpot so is very transportable. I always use brown rice, dark red kidney beans, salsa, and then any veggies I have on hand or feel like: green pepper, red onion, corn, diced tomatoes, etc. etc. etc. Serve with sour cream and monterey jack cheese, and the piece de resistance to make it acceptable "football food?" Use Tostitos scoops instead of a spoon.

Loaded Fries
We haven't done this one for football season yet, but it's pretty simple in concept. Buy frozen steak fries and cook them in a deep fryer, add cheese and crumbled bacon, and melt in the oven. Serve with ranch dressing to dip on the side.

For something only slightly healthier, do a loaded baked potato. It's still junky enough to pass as gameday food.

Hot Dogs
OK - this is for those days when you don't want to cook. Get some gluten free hot dogs (I only buy kosher hot dogs, too -- like Hebrew National) and cut them up into small pieces. Heat up some BBQ sauce in the crockpot, and let the hot dog pieces heat up with the sauce. Let people serve themselves -- I usually serve them with toothpicks as utensils.

NOTE: Since this isn't filling, I'll usually put out cheese, pepperoni and gluten free crackers too.

Modified Rangoons
OK, the Honest Weight Co-Op sells asian rice paper rolls that are gluten free. A package of them contains something like 100 sheets and they'll last forever. Take those rolls and follow the instructions on the package wetting them and drying them out. While they're drying, mix up cream cheese, green onion, tiny canned shrimp, and a bit of gluten free soy sauce. Place the cream cheese mixture in the rice paper rolls and fry in canola oil. Use your judgment, but we do about 3-4 minutes per "rangoon." I serve with a dipping sauce made from honey, pineapple juice, ketchup, soy sauce and cornstarch. It sounds gross, but works well!

I don't think I need to explain any more here - ground beef, seasonings, gluten free bread crumbs optional, tomato sauce, and crockpot. Always a good hit. I like Gillian's Italian bread crumbs.

OK - So hopefully these ideas give you a couple of suggestions for when it's your turn to host game day. They're all very easily made gluten free.

Next week - I'll talk about all the healthy cooking I do the rest of the week to make up for unhealthy Sundays!!!

Monday, September 21, 2009

Gluten Free Class

Just a quick update:

The Spoon and Whisk is hosting a gluten free class this Wednesday. I know it's late notice but wanted to let you all know in case you were interested. I won't be attending (I have school on Wednesday evenings) but if anyone does go I'd love to hear about it!

Gluten Free: Taking the Fear out of Gluten Free
Wed, September 23rd, 7 PM

We will be learning some of the basics concerning what is and isn’t gluten free. Susan will help you understand the role gluten plays in baking and cooking and how to work around it. You will learn how to put together flour blends that will make it easier to bake breads, biscuits, muffins, etc. Gluten Free can be enjoyable and fun with a little patience.
Menu: Holiday Bundt Cake, Spiced Cabernet Chocolate Dessert, Cranberry Almond Muffins, Apple Pie and how to convert some of your favorite recipes into gluten free.
Instructor: Susan Shamulka, Nutritional Instructor (Biography)

Registration and Policy Information

* Classes are $45.00 each, due at registration. You can register in store or by phone.
* Most classes are demonstration style. Each class includes recipes and a tasting session.
* Classes begin promptly at 7:00 PM, and will end at approximately 9:00 PM. Please arrive early.
* We recommend early registration since class size is limited.
* Students attending will receive a 10% discount on all purchases on the night of their class. (Some exclusions apply)
* Spoon & Whisk reserves the right to substitute instructors or menu items, without prior notice.
* In the event that a class is canceled by Spoon & Whisk, you will receive a full refund or transfer to another available class.
* Class fee is non-refundable, but you may give your seat away to a friend if for any reason you cannot attend.

For more information, click here.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Back from Summer Break

Well, we're gearing up for fall again. I've got to confess that the past few days, as cool as they've been, have me starting to say goodbye to summer, pack the capris and sandals away for the time being and start thinking of apples, pumpkins, and all sorts of other autumn things.

My hiatus this summer was due to several reasons. First and foremost, my husband and I have been enjoying the summer. And part of that involves me NOT cooking. We spent the majority of the summer grilling outside. A lot of the time it was nothing really special - grilled burgers or chicken for the most part, with variations of grilled veggies. Especially veggie kebabs and corn.

Some notes on quick after-work meals, though:
  • Perdue Perfect Portions chicken breasts have been a lifesaver this summer. They're vacuum-sealed chicken breasts that freeze very well. We usually get the plain ones or the Italian seasoned ones (which are great for the grill, because they're already pre-marinated and very yummy!) Best of all, the package says "gluten free!" I also found a significant price savings between Walmart and Price Chopper.
  • Kraft Free Italian dressing makes a great baste for veggie kebabs. We're partial to: mushrooms (either white or baby bella, but grilled mushrooms are a must), red pepper, vidalia onion, yellow squash, and cherry tomatoes.
  • There's no such thing as too many grilled veggies! Leftovers taste great stir-fried with rice. :-)

Anyway. Now that the weather is cooling, class has started (requiring leftovers on school nights), and winter is coming I'll be cooking quite a bit more!

Since this is my "Back from Summer Break" blog entry, I'll also add a few other updates. a.k.a. "What I did this summer since I didn't do much gluten free blogging:"
  • I had busted my knee training for a 5K race in the spring. I'm well aware of the fact that I'm the only person in existence who can require physical therapy after running. However, it's all better now and I've been happily biking and doing other sports all summer.
  • My husband and I went to Cape Cod on vacation, where I highly recommend visiting the Chatham Fish and Lobster Co. aka Marina Cuisine. Naturally gluten free fish fries, with gluten free breads and desserts. Amazing food, wonderful people, and definitely on our list of places to go the next time we visit!
  • We also attended a very nice wedding at the Links golf club in East Syracuse. They were very accommodating for my husband - while they served stations for the guests, they made up a special plate for him with chicken, veggies and a baked potato. They also pointed out all the stations that were safe for him - for example the turkey carving station. We had a great time!
  • Unfortunately, on the ride home from that wedding, we were in a car accident on the Thruway. Thankfully no one was hurt - only our car and dignity. My car chose the same week to die so we're now driving two new cars.
  • We also went to a bridal shower (well, Jack and Jill shower) at the Albany Pump Station. Again, my husband had a very nice steak cooked and delivered to him. Everyone else at our table was jealous! :-)
  • We finally checked out Yankees stadium. We had planned to tailgate in the parking lot before the game (cheaper, and easier to eat gluten free), but unfortunately, this was not meant to be! I went out of my way to pick up Bard's Beer at the Brew Crew (everyone else had Sam Adams) and forgot a bottle opener. (It was OK, someone else had one). Then the grill broke leaving us with approximately 7 lbs. of raw meat! No worries - I packed the gluten free hot dog buns in my purse and ordered two hot dogs without the buns. I got a weird look from the guy behind the counter, but we had gluten free lunch at the stadium! :-)

Anyway, that's been our summer. I look forward to getting back into gluten free blogging this fall!

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Fiber One Yogurt Winners

Congratulations Tracy and Corinne!

Readers: What other products would you like to try out if possible?

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Fiber One Yogurt - plus Giveaway

I'm always looking for good diet-friendly snack foods, so when MyBlogSpark asked me to review Yoplait's new Fiber One yogurt, I happily agreed.

Now, I'm a bit of a yogurt junkie, but I've been in an "eat as little corn syrup and high fructose corn syrup as possible" phase for the past few months so I regretfully phased "regular" Yoplait yogurt out of my diet. For a while I substituted Chobani greek yogurt, which is all natural and very good, but I can't eat it by itself. I have to mix cereal or dried fruit into the yogurt which takes time and adds a lot of extra calories.

I was happy to see that Fiber One yogurt does not contain the dreaded high fructose corn syrup, though it does contain aspartame. Plus, each container is 50 calories! I picked up a four-pack of vanilla yogurt to try.

Now, the first thing I'll say -- these containers are 50 calories because they're significantly smaller than the average yogurt you'd buy in the grocery store. That's not necessarily a bad thing, but one Fiber One yogurt is NOT going to be enough for breakfast by itself. Overall, it tasted pretty good - very similar to Yoplait, which I expected. If you like the taste of Yoplait Light yogurt, you'll probably like the taste of their Fiber One yogurt, and vice versa.

I've found that their vanilla yogurt makes a very good breakfast when mixed with approximately 1 cup of fresh mixed berries (strawberries, blueberries, blackberries and raspberries) and that lasted me most of the morning. But going forward, I'd probably keep them around as a quick snack before running to the gym for a cardio workout - it's just enough to take the edge off your appetite but not too heavy to eat before an intense workout.

Still, I'd be thrilled to take just a few extra calories instead of the aspartame. :-)

With that said: I have three, yes, three Fiber One gift packs to give away from MyBlogSpark and Fiber One. You'll get a "Healthy and Fit Weight Management Kit" containing everything in the picture to the left (and a very nice cooler pack), and a coupon for a free four-pack of Fiber One yogurt at the grocery store.

How to enter:
Leave a comment on my blog with:
- an e-mail address (fool spam bots with username at address dot com format) where I can contact you
- your favorite diet-friendly snack food. Preferably something gluten free or something that can be made gluten free (e.g. chocolate chip cookies can be made with or without gluten).

All entries must be in by Tuesday, September 1st. The winners will be chosen randomly. Only one entry per e-mail address, please!

Finally, the gluten free information and disclaimer: while I couldn't find the words "gluten free" on the yogurt packages like Yoplait displays, Yoplait and Fiber One are owned by General Mills. They have a good labelling policy for gluten and we haven't had a problem to date with products we've purchased from the company, but I e-mailed the company just to make sure. Their response:

"For products not labeled gluten free, we will always declare gluten containing ingredients if they are added to the product. If the ingredient declaration lists wheat, oats, barley, rye, or derivatives of these grains, then the product contains gluten. Examples of derivative ingredients include: malt, barley malt, organic malt, semolina, Durham, triticale, and spelt. We do not include gluten containing ingredients in the ′Natural Flavors′ or ′Spices′ on the product ingredient list. If there are gluten ingredients in our products, those ingredients are always clearly listed. If there are no gluten- containing ingredients listed in the product ingredient label, but the product does not make a gluten free claim, it is because we cannot fully assure that this product is gluten free."

If you're gluten free and not comfortable without a gluten free label on their product, stick with regular Yoplait yogurt.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Campbell's Gluten Free Update

Last year, I blogged about Campbell's gluten free list. This week, I received a letter from them in the mail explaining that due to the FDA's proposed regulations some items were removed from their approved gluten free list for further evaluation. They have since updated their list, and created the Campbells Without Gluten website to provide gluten free information to consumers.

The page redirects to a general FAQ page, but they have indeed added a "Gluten Free" tab to their FAQ. It gives a brief overview of gluten and celiac disease, assures customers of Campbell's gluten free commitment and practices, and a link to their list of gluten free products.

Rather than type the information -- which can change -- in this blog entry, I'll provide the link that Campbell's provides to their gluten free list. As you can see the major change from last November is the addition of several varieties of Prego sauce. It's nice to see Prego back on the list of safe foods! It's also nice to see the company becoming more pro-active about informing consumers about gluten free products!

The page is new, so please cut it some slack, but a couple of minor nitpicks and an atta-boy:
  • Nitpick #1: I realize that the site is new, but I'd have thought it would come up in Google search results for "Campbell's gluten free" or at the very least the awkward "Campbells without gluten" query. If you're an SEO guy from Campbell's and reading this blog, I think you have some work to do.
  • Nitpick #2: While it's great that Campbell's provides a blurb assuring customers that they're taking all precautions to ensure their gluten free products are indeed gluten free, please either tell us exactly what your practices are (testing batches for gluten, dedicated facilities, washing lines, etc.), what your definition (ppm) of gluten free is, or just leave the screen real-estate for something else.
  • Nitpick #3: Seriously, none of your soups are on the "safe" list? Why is that?
  • Atta-boy: I love the fact that I received a letter with this list at home without contacting the company for follow-up information. Campbell's customer service really impressed me. :-) Thanks (and now I can buy Prego again!)

Friday, July 24, 2009

Trader Joe's Crunchy Green Beans

Earlier this week I was in Boston for a work-related conference. Since I was already in Massachusetts, I packed a cooler in the backseat of my car and couldn't resist a pit stop to stretch my legs - and load up on some Trader Joe's goodies - in Hadley.

Unfortunately, they were out of the gluten free English Muffins that we've discovered (yum! - fortunately I still have a package in the freezer) but I was able to pick up frozen pancakes and toaster waffles, brown rice marshmallow treats, rice mac and cheese, mini tacos, taquitos, and a whole bunch of other yummy snacks. By this time it was already 5:00, lunch was a distant memory and I was anticipating worse-than-usual traffic so I picked up some things to munch on during the remainder of the ride home. Enter: Lightly Salted, Crunch Green Beans.

The back of the package has their "no gluten ingredients used" icon, and while I figured they weren't likely to be my husband's cup of tea, I shrugged and threw them in my basket along with dried, unsweetened mango slices. They're fried in canola oil, and while it seems a uniquely American pastime to make a serving of green beans 140 calories, I've got to say: they're gluten free crack. They're crunchy, salty, and have just enough sweetness to make them a completely addictive snack. I'm embarrassed to admit that I bought them yesterday and have already polished off the bag, and grateful that I only bought one bag to try out!

They're definitely on my list of must-have guilty pleasures for my next Trader Joe's visit - which, due to school starting up late next month, probably won't be for a while.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Kix Cereal

Yesterday, hubby and I were doing the weekly grocery store run when we hit up the cereal aisle (we needed to pick up some stuff at the Green Grocer, so this happened to be at the Clifton Park Walmart). He was out of cereal for the week and I had a coupon off three boxes of General Mills cereals. I figured we could load up on various versions of gluten free Chex cereals - however, we checked out the Kix cereal.

It turns out that the cereal (which previously contained oats and was off-limits) has been reformulated to contain mostly corn ingredients. Since General Mills will clearly list any ingredients that contain gluten, this looks like a safe bet. We picked up a box but haven't tried the new formulation yet -- however, it's nice to have yet another mainstream option and we're looking forward to trying them this week!

Note: Unlike the various Chex cereals, Kix does not say that it's gluten free. It's probably not made in a dedicated gluten free facility -- however, we've had pretty good luck with other General Mills cereals, namely Trix, that are gluten free but not labelled so.

The box for Honey Nut Kix also looked safe - no oats. I didn't check the box for Berry Berry Kix, but browsing around some blogs that one also appears to be reformulated.

NOW - We need corn-based Honey Nut and Apple Cinnamon Cheerios. ;-)

Monday, July 6, 2009

Happy Fourth of July and Saratoga

First I'd like to wish all my readers a belated Happy Fourth of July! I hope you spent it with family and/or friends with a ton of gluten free goodies!

Yesterday, my husband and I decided to decompress from all the Fourth of July weekend festivities – and enjoy the warm, sunny weather that’s been absent for the bulk of this summer – by heading up to Saratoga, eating lunch and walking around Congress Park and some of the shops on Broadway. I’d been told by a few friends that the Circus Café was decent and had a gluten free menu and it was on our list of places to check out, so we headed up there and asked for a gluten free menu.

If only we’d done research beforehand – their gluten free menu is available online here – we probably wouldn’t have bothered.

Chicken wings – fried in a community frier and therefore, NOT gluten free. Fries, same thing. Sandwiches and burgers with no bread. My absolute favorite, though, was the quesadillas – melted cheese, onions, tomatoes, and salsa with no tortilla. Are you supposed to pick up the melted cheese with your hands!? They had no business being on a gluten free menu. At the very least, offer a corn or brown rice tortilla or corn chips if you’re going to advertise that they’re gluten free.

They did have salads that were safe, but we wanted something special. Everywhere we go lately, the only good options are a steak or a salad, and I usually make amazing salads at home that don’t compare. We briefly debated splitting the mozzarella, tomato and basil salad with a shrimp cocktail, but decided not to. The only other options were pricey and way-too-heavy dinner options (that, admittedly, did look good, but not for lunch on an 80 degree day!). So, we abandoned the Circus Café and headed to Cold Stone where we made the best of it and ate decadent ice cream for lunch instead. :-) (For reference, Cold Stone’s allergen list is available here).

Overall though we still did have a great day, and enjoyed Congress Park!

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Enjoying a baseball game, gluten free!

Last summer, my husband and I went to Oldtimer's Day at the old Yankee Stadium with both of our fathers. Now, the four of us have gone in the past (pre celiac diagnosis) and while our wallets may not have been happy, we could always find good food. I never actually bought sushi there, but I was impressed to see that it was offered. The men always stuck with hot dogs and Bud Lite, while I was all about the frozen Minute Maid lemonades. Well, OK, and Bud Lite. :-) There's nothing better at a hot baseball game! 

Last year was the first baseball game we'd attended after going gluten free. Obviously hot dogs and beer were off the proverbial plate -- that's gluten central! I researched online and found that we could bring in sandwiches, etc. provided they were in clear plastic bags and we had no glass bottles or other contraband - still, it would be a pain in the butt for a lousy, soggy-by-the-time-we-ate-it sandwich. No, thanks. So - we decided to bring football fan culture to baseball and tailgate before the game. 

We loaded up my father-in-law's SUV with a small grill and a cooler filled with hot dogs, hamburgers, cheese and crackers, chips, and beer (yes, with gluten free buns and alcohol) and had a parking lot BBQ. It was great and I would definitely do it again, provided Yankee tickets at the new stadium were priced reasonably and we could have afforded tickets this year (Sorry, I'm not going to pay in the 4 digits for 2 tickets!)

Anyway, now gluten free people have an option - the Phillies are not only hosting a Celiac awareness night on July 20th but are also offering gluten free hot dog buns in certain sections of the Citizens Bank Park stadium. 

Now, Yankee Stadium needs to offer gluten free stuff as well! (Attn Steinbrenner: Bard's beer). ;-) 

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Whole Foods Dinner - Corn Tortilla Tacos

Last night, we had our first meal from the stock of goodies we brought back from Whole Foods and Trader Joe's. We picked up some organic corn tortillas from Whole Foods and some free-range, hormone-and-antibiotic-free ground beef from Trader Joe's. Combined with an on-hand assortment of taco sauce, shredded monterey jack and cheddar cheese, lettuce, and some jalapenos, we had taco night!

The taco shells were on the small size - about the same size as the Mission corn tortillas you can buy in the store. It's too bad that they aren't readily available in larger sizes, for burritos.

The package instructions were pretty standard; for best results heat the tortilla in a saucepan until it's thoroughly heated, and then serve. There's a fine line between cooking these tortillas perfectly and making them a wee bit too crunchy, so be careful - but when you get it right, they're 10x better than Mission tortillas. Yum! My husband, who's an absolute genius when it comes to incorporating extra cheese into a meal, melted cheddar and monterey jack on his tortillas for a melty, crunchy effect that worked pretty well.

Also - the beef that we bought really made a big difference. I don't know if it's a psychological effect of reading The Omnivore's Dilemma or not, but locally grown, non-feedlot beef just tastes so much better to me! (Though, I guess it's a bit of a stretch to call beef purchased in Hadley, MA locally grown to Albany NY, but at least we didn't do much driving out of our way to acquire the beef).

Overall: Yum!

Massachusetts Trip - Part 2

This post continues from my previous post. To read the original post, click here.

Our second day in the Cape was pretty rainy, and definitely not a day for the beach, mini golf, or any of the other outdoor activities Cape Cod is known for. What were two computer geeks to do but Google what to do in Cape Cod when it rains!? We came across this pretty interesting site, and decided on the ZooQuarium in West Yarmouth and the Maritime Museum in Hyannis. (Note: The ZooQuarium is worth checking out, especially if you have kids, but save your money and don't bother with the Maritime Museum.)

In between those events, we decided we'd grab a nice fried fish lunch. Fried, you ask? And gluten free? In Cape Cod? Heck yeah! I'd Googled around a bit and found the Chatham Fish and Lobster Co. with locations in Dennisport and Chatham. Now, two things:
  1. We made the mistake of assuming both locations had the restaurant. Not the case - the Dennisport location is only a fish market, and in order to get the gluten free fish fry you have to go to the Chatham location.

  2. It's SO worth the drive. Repeat: It's SO worth the drive.
We get there -admittedly a little cranky after making the Dennisport mistake - and finally find their Marine Cuisine restaurant/fish market. We walk in - the fresh fish market was to the right, and the restaurant was in the middle part of the building. They had a counter with all sorts of goodies - desserts, prepared foods, etc. They did all the frying and cooking behind the counter, and they had coolers and shelves all over the place where they sold different cooking ingredients - everything from sushi ingredients to batters and coatings to breads and desserts to go.

We picked up one of the menus on the counter, and asked about a gluten free menu. Their answer: anything fried. Their traditional fry batter is gluten free, so there are no worries about cross-contamination, etc. Not only that, but they have a gluten free baker on premises, so offered gluten free desserts (displayed in their dessert window but carefully packed in plastic containers to avoid cross-contamination), sold gluten free bread and rolls in their freezer case, and sell some gluten free products right in their store. Score! My husband ordered a fried fish sandwich (on a gluten free bun, $2 extra, but who cares!?) that came with potato chips and a pickle. I ordered a platter of fried whole-belly clams that came with fries, onion rings and coleslaw. EVERYTHING was safe - I could barely finish a third of my meal, it was so huge, so my hubby helped me finish and tried a little bit of everything. It was amazing - you wouldn't even know that the coating on the clams was gluten free.

After gorging ourselves on fried food, we decided to pick up some desserts to go. I picked up a non-gluten free chocolate concoction (what, my husband hates/can't eat chocolate, so he wouldn't be tempted) and my husband picked up a gluten free coconut layer cake. I also picked up a box of gluten free batter mix that I can't wait to try!

Overalll - a very nice lunch. I also want to point out that everyone there was super nice and accomodating - they didn't even blink an eye and hooked us up with ice for our cooler (so our desserts wouldn't go bad), etc.

Stuffed, we went back to Hyannis and walked around downtown for a bit, before happening upon Spanky's Clam Shack for a late dinner. We sat on the patio - it was a little slow, but great atmosphere and very strong drinks! We gorged ourselves on boiled lobster and steamers, with boiled red bliss potato and corn on the cob. I think I gained twenty pounds just writing the blog entry about all this food!

The next day, we spent the majority of the day at the beach with food we'd brought from home. Still, it was our last night so we'd decided to go out to one more nice restaurant. I would have liked to check out Salty's, but they didn't have any gluten free starch options - they only offered french fries or rice pilaf, neither of which was gluten free. The girl I talked to on the phone was nice, but I've never heard of a seafood place that doesn't serve baked potato! So instead we ended up at the Black Cat in Hyannis. They had good drinks, live entertainment, and a pretty big menu. My husband ordered a grilled swordfish steak (everything was gluten free on it) and I ordered shrimp. It was a great way to end our trip!

Finally, the last morning before we left for Albany (with a pit stop in Hadley for Whole Foods and Trader Joe's) we ate omelettes for breakfast at the Hearth and Kettle. We checked with the waitress and ordered omelettes and home fries - obviously the toast was not safe, but they offered a fruit cup instead to accommodate for it which was very nice.

Some final notes:
  • My husband and I were very impressed with how knowledgeable everyone seemed to be regarding gluten. We got pretty lucky with waitresses, because everyone we asked about gluten ingredients rattled off the ingredients in various sauces or said "oh, all our salads are safe except obviously for bleu cheese" that sort of thing. It made us feel very comfortable dining out - and we can't complain about the quality of seafood we enjoyed!
  • We visited Craigsville Beach in Hyannis. Everything we'd read about the beach said it drew a younger crowd, so we figured it would be good place to go. Well, the beach is gorgeous and we had a good time, but we found out that pushing 30 is no longer considered "a younder crowd!"
  • The Mid Cape area has both a Trader Joe's and a Whole Foods. If we do another weekend at the Cape, we'll stop there first on the way to the beach and pick up lunch foods to stash in the cooler - they looked a lot more appetizing than the stuff we brought from home!
  • We had a great time, and my husband didn't get glutened once! :-)

Monday, June 15, 2009

Massachusetts Trip - Part 1

Last week my husband and I spent a long weekend in Cape Cod.

On our way to the Cape, we visited the Wrentham Village Premium Outlets -- it's probably pretty safe to say that my husband didn't enjoy spending the afternoon shopping as much as I did, but we spent a great afternoon going to outlet stores including Barney's and Saks Off Fifth. For the information of gluten free shopping enthusiasts, there's an Uno's right outside the outlet village as well! (Incidentally - going shopping with my hubby, I found it beneficial to show my husband the prices in the Burberry outlet before taking him to see the purses in the Coach outlet). ;-)

We stayed in Mid Cape (West Yarmouth). We got there right around dinnertime and checked into the Howard Johnson in West Yarmouth. It was a little small, but the price was right, it was clean, and they offered refrigerators and an indoor pool. I'd recommend it for an inexpensive weekend on the Cape. :-) While they advertised a contintental breakfast, we brought a box of Honey Nut Chex and bought a quart of milk at a local store. That turned out to be a good decision, because there would have been no gluten free options at their continental breakfast - not that we expected any. :-)

Tired and hungry, our first stop for dinner was BZ's Mexican Pizzeria. I'd seen them online, and they offered gluten free pizza with shells from the Good JuJu Bakery. It was pretty easy to find in Dennisport. When we got to the restaurant we were a little nervous at first based on the exterior of the building -- but when we got in and ordered a RedBridge beer and one of the best strawberry margaritas I'd had in a long while, we felt a little bit better about our prospects. They offer gluten free pizzas with most toppings available - eggplant, buffalo chicken, etc. were off limits obviously because they contain flour, but everything else is fair game. My husband ordered a small gluten free pizza (12") with pepperoni, sausage and extra cheese. The crust was very thin, and so good that I couldn't distinguish it from "regular" pizza. In fact, my husband was nervous at first -- it was so good that he thought it contained gluten! The price was pretty good as well - the small pizza was $12 plus extra for toppings (a large gluten free pizza runs $20). I went off the "gluten free wagon" and ordered Mexican -- I regretted it though because the pizza was much better! Our entire meal plus drinks ran to about $40, not too shabby!

More tomorrow on the rest of our dining experiences!

Friday, May 22, 2009

Betty Crocker Cake Mix Update

A couple months ago I posted about a rumor that Betty Crocker was coming out with gluten free cake mixes. Well, good news for us gluten-freenatics, it's true! Right from the horse's mouth, Betty Crocker has added a gluten free product page to their site!

In June, gluten free mixes for brownies, chocolate chip cookies, devils food cake and yellow cake will be available in most grocery stores. Not only that, but they'll offer gluten free frostings this fall as well! (In the meantime, try my semi-sweet chocolate hazelnut buttercream frosting recipe).

Are you as excited as I am? Have you managed to snag a preview? If so, please tell us all about it!

Want to stay even more connected? Become a fan of Kats GF Kitchen on Facebook or follow me on Twitter!

Thursday, May 14, 2009

I finally jumped on the Social Networking bandwagon!

I finally joined the social networking craze and created accounts for Kat's GF Kitchen.

If you're interested in following me, you have two options:
  1. I have embedded the feed on the right sidebar of my blog
  2. If you have a Twitter account, you can follow my posting at:
  3. If you have a Facebook account, become a fan of "Kat's GF Kitchen."
Thanks for your interest and I hope to see you online!

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Massachusetts Question

My husband and I are planning to take a couple of trips to Massachusetts this summer. Specifically, to Cape Cod, Boston and Six Flags New England.

While between a list of safe options on the road and a car packed with goodies, we're good for trips. However, I'm looking for some really good restaurant options in those areas - it seems to be a shame to visit the shore and eat at chain restaurants. As I Google I figured I'd pose the question - does anyone recommend specific Massachusetts restaurants that not only make accommodations for the gluten free diet but are worth visiting? I'd appreciate it, thanks in advance. :-)

Six Flags New England is a little harder - I would love to find an option but so far have been unsuccessful contacting their food management staff regarding my questions. It looks like we might be forced to eat a huge breakfast and/or brown-bag a lunch at this point. :-(

Hannaford Healthy Living Classes

The Clifton Park Hannaford is hosting a Healthy Living Class called "Gluten Free Diet: Importance of Whole Grains!"

The first class is tomorrow, Wednesday May 13th from 10:00 - 11:30 AM, and the second class (it's the same class, not a part II) is Monday May 18th from 6:00 - 7:00 PM. Both classes are at the Clifton Park Hannaford at 9 Clifton Country Road.

If you're interested in attending, you can register at (518) 383-4136.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

An Attitude of Gratitude

Lisa recently nominated my blog for an "Attitude of Gratitude" award. Thank you so much, it makes my day when I find out someone not only actually reads the stuff I write about, but enjoys it and/or finds it useful!

As most of my readers know, I do not have to follow a gluten free diet. However, in January 2008 my then-fiance was diagnosed with celiac disease. We had just finalized the menu for our wonderful wedding at Glen Sanders and went to our cake tasting at Villa Italia when he found out that flour - among other ingredients - was off the menu for good. My Italian fiance was crushed - his favorite foods were (and still are) pasta, pizza, pasta, cookies, pasta, Italian bread... I could go on and on.

Now, any of my family, friends, or co-workers will tell you that I tend to get a little, ah, immersed in new projects. I spent hours if not days Googling. I purchased a handful of books - both general books about celiac disease and the gluten free lifestyle and recipe books. I started e-mailing and calling restaurants and food companies obsessively. I memorized all sorts of intimidating ingredients to look for in labels, conversion measurements for different types of flours, etc. I purchased a boat load of gluten free goods to try - and even more tools like hot dog bun pans, hamburger bun pans, Italian bread pans, and the like.

After our first gluten free shopping trip, spending about $300 on a whole bunch of staples and new gluten free products, I took on his diagnosis as a challenge. We spent so much money on sub-par food it wasn't even funny - I would find or learn how to make substitutes for all of his favorite foods. I started this blog that winter in order to not only keep track of my thoughts and learning process but also share my hard-earned knowledge.

As fortune would have it (quite literally!) we received a lot of great gifts for my bridal shower - new non-stick pans (because I had read that gluten can reside in the scratches), a new toaster (designated gluten free), a bread machine, loaf pans, utensils, airtight flour containers, and countless other items that I was unbelievably grateful for! Still, it was a learning experience - I experimented with different bread/cookie/cake recipes for weeks before finally finding the recipes that I wanted to use. Not all of my concoctions turned out good - some of them were downright awful and others turned out amazing. I haven't blogged about all of them (I don't know if I can be sued for posting about reverse engineering famous restaurants' recipes) but I have shared some.

Then, I started grad school on top of a full time job. Posting became sporadic (especially when working on large projects and papers) and I noticed a shift from mostly recipes to mostly restaurants and products. It is what it is, I suppose, though I keep meaning to do more with this blog "when I get a spare second or two."

So.... here goes. My list of nominees for "An attitude of gratitude."

I would love to list all of my friends here - I have a great, supportive group of friends who have made an effort to learn what my husband can and cannot have so they can invite him into their home and serve him food that he can have without fear. And they don't own blogs that I know of but I'm also grateful for Glen Sanders and Villa Italia for being so accomodating at our wedding and making it truly special - and gluten free.

Now, here are the blogs.

First I'd like to thank Lisa. I know it's a boomerang nomination, but I'd like to thank her for two reasons. First, she's the first "online" person who's reached out and contacted me after I started my blog and that encouraged me to keep at it! Secondly, she has some pretty great information, most recently about where to find gluten free Corn Chex and Bell and Evans chicken (incidentally, which I also just found back in Latham Price Chopper, yay!)

Second, I'd like to nominate A Gluten Free Guide. This is a great blog for "gluten free scoops." I found out about gluten free Betty Crocker mixes first from the Guide!

Third, I'd like to also nominate Elizabeth Barbone from Easy Gluten Free Baking. Her recipes and tricks are so useful and I love reading her blog.

Fourth I'd like to nominate Rachel from the Crispy Cook. She has great meatless or seafood recipes, and has so many ideas for veggies and herbs that I would never think of!

That's about all I can think of right now - but these are great blogs and well worth reading. Thank you for all you've done for the gluten free community!

For those of you who have been nominated, your instructions are:

* put the logo on your blog or post

* nominate at least 10 blogs that show an an attitude of gratitude (*note* I was only able to come up with four, but they are a fantastic four...don't you think?)

* link to your nominees within your post

* comment on their blogs to let them know they’ve received this award

* share the love and link to this post and the person who nominated you for the award

* tell us how you’ve come to have an attitude of gratitude

When Life Gives You Lemons...Make Lemonade!

Thank you again!!!!!!

Review: Starbucks Gluten Free Orange Valencia Cake!

Happy Cinqo de Mayo - or, in the gluten free universe, Happy Gluten Free Starbucks Day! For today Starbucks started carrying their gluten free Orange Valencia cake. It's an almond cake with the following ingredients: Whole Eggs, Valencia Orange Pulp, Almonds, Sugar, Orange Peel, Gluten Free Baking Powder, and Orange Oil. I'll admit that I swung through the Starbucks' drive-thru on my way home from work today and didn't step inside (yes, I'm part of the problem, but I was in a hurry!) but apparently there is a single, unwrapped cake in the display cake. The cakes that are actually sold, though, are individually wrapped "for gluten free goodness."

The barista who served me at the drive-thru made a comment that "Finally! We have some gluten free products!" So I am sure I'm not the only anxious customer who requested the orange valencia cake at that particular Starbucks today. I ordered two cakes and the total came to just under $4. I brought the cakes home and my husband and I had a taste test - first we smelled the cake, which had a delightful almond-orange-y smell. (Go figure, with the ingredients, right?) I then broke apart the cake and saw a very soft, moist cake - it looked absolutely delicious.

Their cake didn't disappoint. It was wonderfully rich, moist and chewy. My husband thought it needed a little something - he finally decided that more of a glaze on top would make it 100% perfect, but I thought it was great as is - anything more and it would have been too rich. It's a great pastry choice to go with a cup of afternoon coffee - gluten free or not.

Finally, the orange valencia cake rolls in at 290 calories. Considering the size of the cake, it's surprising at first until you consider the fact that it's mostly almond flour - which isn't necessarily bad for you but certainly packs a caloric punch. Our final verdict: Starbucks Orange Valencia Cake is definitely a winner, and quite possibly a regular monthly indulgence. We definitely recommend trying it! (The puggle was not allowed to partake in the taste test, as she's still on her diet - but I'm sure she would have loved it).

I only hope that Starbucks comes out with more gluten free bakery items soon too!

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Starbucks Gluten Free Update

Starbucks is finally going mainstream with gluten free goodies!

On Cinqo de Mayo, they will debut an Orange Valencia Cake that is gluten free - there will be a sign indicating that it is gluten free, and the goodies will come in individually wrapped packages to avoid cross-contamination.

More information can be found at Starbuck's food blog.

I'm really excited!

Monday, March 30, 2009

Betty Crocker Cake Mixes

I apologize if I'm feeding the rumor mill here, but it appears that Betty Crocker will be offering gluten free cake mixes this summer.

While Betty Crocker's website hasn't been updated yet, the same blog that talked about gluten free Corn Chex has a blurb about it, and you can check here for product pics and sneak-peak reviews.

If this is true, I can't wait to try it out! (Why couldn't it be available now for my hubby's birthday tomorrow!?)

Sunday, March 29, 2009

More gluten free cereals!

Well, it seems that I've been behind on my gluten free blogging. This morning I saw on Lisa's blog that gluten free corn chex is not only here, but available locally in some places! After further Googling I found that gluten free Honey Nut Chex, Cinnamon Chex and Strawberry Chex will be widely available starting this summer - in addition to Corn Chex and the Rice Chex that has been gluten free for some time now.

What wonderful news! My husband in particular is thrilled - Corn Chex was his favorite cereal and every time we go to the grocery store he looked at the label saying "WHY can't it be gluten free? It's corn!"

While the Chex website hasn't been updated with this information, it looks like the new gluten free Chex varieties will be released into the mainstream on June 1st. In the meantime, I scooped up two boxes of gluten free Corn Chex this afternoon at the Clifton Park WalMart! (Note: Old Corn Chex boxes are still on the shelves - you can't miss the new boxes, they say "Gluten Free" in huge letters on the front.) Yay, General Mills!

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Gluten Free on the Road

My husband recently attended a conference in New England. He drove, and while the conference organizers promised to accommodate his dietary needs (they didn't, but that's another topic) and he packed a Price Chopper bag full of gluten-free snacks for the hotel room, he was virtually guaranteed to have to eat on the road at least once.

With that in mind, I compiled the following list of "safe" foods (accurate as of March 2009) from various fast food restaurant websites. I guess I'll say first that this is not a complete list - I did not bother looking up food that I know he won't eat. Secondly, yes, fast food is terrible for many reasons and you can never guarantee against cross-contamination, but with those risks in mind, we're the type of people who get extremely irritable when our blood sugar levels get too low. :)

I thought Wendy's had the best information - and choices - of any fast food chain. They have a PDF you can print out, available here.

Here are the rest:

Boston Market

Entrees: Rotisserie Chicken, Roasted Turkey Breast, USDA Choice Roasted Sirloin

Sides: Butternut squash, cinnamon apples, cranberry walnut relish, creamed spinach, fresh fruit salad, fresh steamed vegetables, garden fresh coleslaw, green beans, sweet corn

Taco Bell

Entrees: Tostadas, Fiesta taco salad (chicken instead of beef, without the shell and without the red strips), Express taco salad (chicken instead of beef), Zesty Chicken Border Bowl (without zesty dressing and without the red strips) , Southwest Steak Bowl (without the creamy jalapeno sauce)

Sides: Mexican rice, pintos and beans


Salads: Chicken & Bacon Ranch (includes cheese), Cold Cut Combo, Ham (Black Forest), Italian BMT, Roast Beef, Roasted Chicken Breast, Tuna, Turkey Breast, Turkey Breast & Ham, Spicy Italian, Subway Club, Steak & Cheese, Veggie Delite.

Sauces and dressings: Chipotle southwest sauce, Honey mustard sauce, Light/regular mayo, mustard (both yellow and deli brown), oil, ranch, red wine vinaigrette, sweet onion sauce, vinegar

Burger King

Breakfast: Egg omelet (bacon, ham and sausage all OK)

Sides: French Fries (cooked in a dedicated fryer), BK Fresh Apple Fries


Salads: Premium Bacon Ranch Salad (without chicken), Premium Caesar salad (without chicken), side salad

Salad dressings: Newman’s Own Creamy Southwest Dressing, Newman’s Own Creamy Caesar Dressing, Newman’s Own Low Fat Balsamic Vinaigrette, Newman’s Own Low Fat Family Recipe Italian Dressing, Newman’s Own Ranch Dressing

Vanilla, Chocolate and Strawberry Triple-Thick Shakes

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Gluten Free Update

Many apologies for the delay in posting. Work and an intensive coursework load forced me to go on hiatus from updating this blog -- fortunately, I'm wrapping up my final research project for this semester's class and I'm looking at having much more free time! (It's funny how "only" working full-time seems relaxing after you start going back to school).

Anyway - some news and updates:

  • Sherry Lynn's Gluten Free Bakery is now open in Latham! The new location is right on Route 7, about a mile west of the Latham Circle. I didn't get to make it to the grand opening (schoolwork) but my husband and I plan to check it out this weekend!
  • Wednesday March 2th (tomorrow) the Saratoga County Food Allergy/Sensitivity Support Group will meet at KD's fish fry (418 Geyser Road, Ballston Spa). Dawn of KD's and DAFFI fame will host the free meeting and provide samples of her food. Please contact Sue at for additional information.
  • Price Chopper will be hosting a gluten free food festival next month at the Great Escape Lodge. It's April 28th from 6 - 8:30 and will include vendor samples and a cooking demonstration from Elizabeth Barbone. (To register, call 518-379-1617). I am considering attending though it's a hike for me. Has anyone been to one of Price Chopper's gluten free food festivals before? Is it worth an hour's drive each way?

Thanks for your patience and please look for new posts this week! :)

Monday, February 16, 2009

Skinny Bitch

I recently purchased and completed two books, Skinny Bitch and the sequel, Skinny Bitch in the Kitch. (I'll be honest, I bought the two as a boxed set in Target, and though I'll admit that the pop-culturist inside me was morbidly curious after seeing Victoria Beckham photographed with the book, I was more interested in the recipes). What really spurred me to buy the books, though, was the fact that one day when I was Googling where to buy Bionaturae pasta online, I saw that Skinny Bitch gave a shout-out to Bionaturae. Hey, I thought, cool! There might be some good gluten-free information!

Boy, was I wrong.

I mean, the book starts out with good, albeit strongly worded, sensible advice. You want to be skinny? OK, avoid sugar, refined white flour, alcohol, etc. etc. etc. Yes, brown rice pasta and other popular gluten free varieties are healthier for you (go us!).

Then, my opinion and that of the authors diverge. They start talking about the meat industry, the horrible conditions - written in a way that would make any PETA lover proud - and touting not only the moral righteousness of veganism, but the fact that you will never, ever be skinny unless you completely abstain from all animal byproducts. Ms. Freedman and Barnouin, you probably won't ever read this blog entry, and are laughing all the way to the bank, but please - I know that horrible things go on in industrial agriculture, slaughterhouses, and the fact that a large portion of our food industry is corrupt and awful. You want to write an expose on that, be my guest - and I'll probably be one of the first people in line to read the book. But preaching radical veganism under the pretense of dieting and losing weight is just a little too much for me.

Still, I soldiered on and read all about the horrible conditions of the meat industry - after all, I've been reading Fast Food Nation, etc. and this is just more fuel for the fire - and when I got to the part about recommending fasts and purification I decided that having an IQ over 100 means that I am not part of their target demographic. Sorry for the harsh words, but there you have it.

So, I've been sitting on Skinny Bitch in the Kitch for a few weeks now trying to muster up the stomach to actually pick the book up and read it. It's a cookbook full of vegan meals that are all reasonably healthy - a huge emphasis on good carbs and veggies. Not all the recipes are gluten free - they consider whole wheat and barley among the allowed, "good" grains - but most of them are pretty simple and could be modified to be gluten free.

I'll be honest - most of the recipes didn't really look that appetizing to me. The only one that I'd consider making with minimal modifications was the "Spicy Sushi Rolls with Avocado and Cucumber;" pretty self-explanatory. Most of the recipe titles were enclosed in quotes - e.g. "Chicken" sandwiches, "Cheese" dishes - since I'm not a vegetarian, I'd rather have the real thing than a substitute.

Overall - I wouldn't recommend the book. I plan on giving both books to my formerly vegan (and now vegetarian) girlfriend with the instructions to keep it if she thinks the recipes are useful and to donate it otherwise.