Sunday, January 30, 2011

GEGGF: The Superbowl Party

Author's note: This post is geared toward someone who doesn't really know that much about gluten or the gluten free diet, but wants to accommodate for someone gluten free (SGF). It's mostly written for people like me -- I try to be as accommodating a hostess as possible and try to make sure that everyone has something to eat and isn't going to be stuck on the toilet for the next three days. This series of posts is meant to be pretty tongue-in-cheek, and there are a ton of other great options -- these are just some suggestions for that gluten newbie out there.

So, you're having a Superbowl party! (Go Green Bay -- at least, this year!) In between throwing around the pigskin, cheering for your favorite team and making sure to tune in to the Budweiser ads (usually my favorite), the Great American Superbowl Tradition is to eat yummy, high-calorie foods.

Now, you've invited Someone Gluten Free (SGF) over, and you want to make sure they have at least a little something. Neither they or the rest of your guests want everything gluten free or this to be a burden, and don't worry about having some non-gluten free items. As long as SGF knows to stay away from them, trust me, SGF won't care.

First Things First
Understandably, you're a little intimidated at the thought of "gluten free food." Otherwise, you wouldn't be reading this blog, right? Now -- before we go on, some things that you should know. These apply to all categories gluten free:
  • Cross-contamination is a Big Thing, especially if SGF is celiac. Cross-contamination occurs when something that contains gluten touches a gluten free food, making it no longer gluten free. Cross-contamination can occur in a lot of ways -- to name a few: double dipping a knife in the peanut butter jar while making a PBJ, using wheat bread in the same toaster as gluten free bread, and frying gluten free items in a fryer that previously held wheat. The rule of thumb that I usually use: If I'm serving a dip or something that's gluten free, I'll spoon some out into a separate dish for SGF before letting the rest of the crowd attack it with crackers.
  • Please ask questions! Don't know whether something is gluten free? Chances are, SGF either subscribes to gluten free product lists, is pretty adept at Google, or has already called the company/researched the product in the past. Plus, SGF usually is eager to share his/her hard-earned gluten free knowledge and is just thrilled you're asking! Please, it's not a hassle at all!
  • Please don't be offended if SGF asks a lot of questions about food you're pretty sure is gluten free. Sometimes it seems like almost everything has gluten in it. I glutened my husband (then-fiance) two weeks after he was diagnosed celiac by buying Rice Krispies. "What? They're just crisped rice! There's no gluten in that!" Ha! Yeah, right.
  • Most Gluten Free Foods Suck. Sorry, there's really no other way to put it. Some items found on grocery shelves have the consistency of a really thick piece of cardboard (or even plywood) and don't taste much better. You see bread or crackers on the grocery store shelf and want to pick it up? Step back! If you're reading this and don't know a lot about gluten free food, or SGF's preferences, it's better to stay away from specialty products. If you shell out $10 for a loaf of bread that turns out to be the exact material that airplane flotation devices are made of, SGF may feel guilty and choke down a slice, but mostly SGF will feel bad that you dropped money on expensive piece of crap.
  • That said: If you do need/want to buy a specialty gluten free product, please do research. The odds are SGF will be able to a) bring over some of his/her own stuff so you don't need to spend the money, or b) point you over to something that's better and cheaper than you were going to get anyway. It goes back to that whole "ask questions" thing.

Sure, most people at the party will be tossing back Buds all night - unfortunately, since beer is made with barley it's not gluten free. And while they do make gluten free beers (Redbridge is the most common, and can be found almost anywhere even Walmart), I'd advise not buying beer unless you know what SGF likes to drink. Some of the gluten free beers out there are nasty, and I know my husband won't touch Redbridge with a ten foot pole -- and wouldn't want anyone hunting up a whole six-pack of Bard's for him, when he's not that much of a beer drinker to begin with.

So, depending on what you know about tastes, here's a list of "safe" drink options:
  • Gluten free beer (if you know SGF likes it/people will drink it!)
  • Woodchuck (Gluten free, my hubby loves it, but I can't take it -- too sweet)
  • Wine
  • Soft Drinks
  • Hard liquor - think rum, etc.
When in doubt though? Either ask SGF or tell him/her to BYOB. That way, everyone's happy and you don't have to stress about accommodating everyone.

Chips and Dip
Chips and Dip are the biggest staple of Superbowl Sunday. So, do you have to buy a speical bag of gluten free pretzels for $5 a pop? No!

Fortunately - a lot of these super-yummy football staples are naturally gluten free without you having to do a thing!
  • Heluva Good has a list of their gluten free dips (Their French Onion has been a Superbowl tradition in my family since before we even knew what gluten was!) Served with gluten free potato chips like Lay's, it's a perfect snack.
  • Chips and Salsa or Chips and Guacamole are another favorite. Wholly Guacamole has some great salsas and guacamoles (their queso dip is NOT GF) that are marked gluten free, with gluten free tortilla chips. I'm a fan of scoops. If you want to be ambitious and make your own, all the typical ingredients are naturally gluten free: Avocados, onions, tomatoes, peppers, cilantro, and lime!
  • Veggies and Dip and Hummus are also good ideas. My favorite veggie dip is from Marzetti, who also conveniently post a list of their gluten free products.
*** Just be aware (especially with the hummus here) that if you use pita chips or anything else cracker-like/not gluten free to dip with, make sure SGF knows to avoid that particular item! Alternately, they can take a place of that first before the rest of the crowd starts digging in.

For the Cooking Type
Making a meal yourself? Think about these options which can be made naturally gluten free:
  • Buffalo Chicken Dip. This is just about one of the easiest dishes I make, and friends and family rave about it - they call it "Chicken Crack." I don't even measure stuff for it - Mix together one 8 oz. package of cream cheese, Half a bottle to a bottle of Frank's Red Hot Original (just glug it out of the bottle until you're satisfied, I'll admit I usually do the whole bottle), 2 small cans/1 large can of canned white chicken meat, dump some Ranch dressing in and 3/4 of an 8 oz. bag of shredded sharp cheddar cheese. Bake at 350 for 20 minutes. Take it out, stir, add the rest of that bag of cheese to the top, and bake for 10 additional minutes. Serve with corn tortilla chips (Again, I'm a fan of Tostitos Scoops) and celery sticks.
  • Buffalo Chicken Jalapeno Poppers. OK, you may start to see a theme here, but buffalo chicken is one of my favorite foods. Ever. I made these for some friends a couple weekends ago, and primarily used this Rachael Ray recipe. The only difference? Hubby hates bleu cheese, so I subbed sharp cheddar cheese. It went very nicely with the monterey jack, and they went pretty quickly!
  • Nachos. Pile corn tortilla chips high with cheese, ground beef or chicken, jalapenos, black olives, tomatoes, iceberg lettuce, etc. When I make this stuff I like to use the pre-cooked Perdue chicken breast slices, which are labelled gluten free. Just be careful with the sour cream topping -- I haven't seen this but have heard some nonfat varieties may contain gluten. Read the label, and if in doubt, tell SGF to stay away from it.
  • Tacos. Ortega taco shells are labeled gluten free, and if their seasoning doesn't say contains wheat, it's fine for SGF. Just see the above note RE: sour cream.
  • Chili. When I make chili I use ground beef, veggies, beans (drained), chili powder, cumin, oregano, garlic, tomato sauce, diced tomatoes (drained) and a bit of cornmeal. I brown the ground beef, put everything else in the crock pot, and let it go for a few hours. The only issue I've ever run into is that Great Value kidney beans contain an allergen warning about wheat - I stick to Goya, they're better beans anyway. Just see the above note RE: sour cream.
  • Wings. If you bake wings or pan-fry them in new oil, they're fine. Also, Frank's Red Hot is gluten free, and what better topping is there for buffalo wings??
Getting it Catered?
Catered food is both easier and harder than cooking your own. If you're catering a typical pizza-and-subs Superbowl party, you may want to take advantage of one of the following local restaurants -- otherwise, ask the company who's catering your event, and if necessary notify SGF to make his or her own meal arrangements. As usual, since the Superbowl is the busiest day of the year, it pays to make all arrangements a few days before the Big Game if you want to ensure your order goes through (that goes double for gluten free orders, I'm sure).

Anyway, here goes:
  • Benevento Pizza in Glenville carries gluten free pizza and gluten free sub rolls. (We haven't tried them yet, but their menu is on our fridge).
  • 5th and 50 in Scotia also carries gluten free pizza crust. We've tried it, and it's decent.
  • Wheat Fields in Clifton Park (and, I'm assuming Saratoga?) has a gluten free menu that includes pizza.
  • Just Me! Pizza carries gluten free pizza with crusts from Laurie's Gluten Free Goodness. Their menu states their policy about switching out pizza pans. I just heard about them and haven't tried them yet, but I'm looking forward to trying them out!
  • Nunzio's in Saratoga carries gluten free pizza (Just be forewarned that every time we've tried to get GF pizza there, it's over an hour wait. Definitely make plans to order ahead).

Not in the Capital District/Feel like a chain? Here are some more options (filtered to those that sound good for Superbowl Sunday):
These lists are not complete by far, so if your favorite gluten free takeout joint isn't included, please feel free to let me know about it in the comments!

I hope that helps you put together a great Superbowl party - fun for you, and all your guests including your SGF! And again, Go Green Bay!!! :)

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Progresso Giveaway Winner

From, the winner was commenter #9, tristatecruisers.

Congratulations! I've emailed you RE: your prize.

Thanks for reading my blog!

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Gluten Eater's Guide to Gluten Free (GEGGF) - Introduction

So, my last post where I snarked (yes, I just made that a verb, deal with it) about crap gluten free food raised some really good comments. It seems like there's almost no high-quality, processed/packaged gluten free products there are out there. (OK, there's not that much high-quality, processed/packaged non-gluten free stuff out there either, depending on your opinion, but... bear with me here).

This blog is dedicated to the group of friends and family who may have never heard of, or thought of, gluten until someone important in their lives has been diagnosed with celiac disease or gluten intolerance -- making them Someone Gluten Free (SGF). Now, unless they're like my circle of friends that includes med students and foodies, they're probably not interested in medical trials involving hookworms or the baking properties of amaranth. And while some of my dear friends keep dedicated jars of peanut butter marked GF in their pantry (love them!), that's certainly not expected of most people. Let's be honest, the question on most peoples' minds is:

"How can I go out with/have a party/go on a date without poisoning SGF?"

Well, you've come to the right place.

Going Out

How easy is it to decide to meet up for drinks, dinner or dessert? Usually, not much thought is involved other than "Let's make sure to avoid the place where the ex is bartending" or "Hey, this place has a-mazing drink specials." If you're organizing an outing and one or more of your friends is GF, this can sometimes mean spending top dollar for a dried out piece of plain grilled chicken because the cook didn't know if the marinade contained gluten. Yuck and no thanks. Fortunately, with a bit of flexibility, everyone can enjoy a night -- or day -- out.

Staying In

So you know there are some off-the-shelf things you can buy that everyone can eat. It's so sweet that you want to make sure SGF has something to eat at your event, but non-GF people sometimes don't think of all the gotcha's when it comes to gluten free. Here are a few pointers to keep in mind -- mostly because, I've gotten these questions from a lot of my friends, so I know they're common.

Over the next few days I'll be detailing suggestions for non-gluten free people on:
  • Inviting SGF to your Superbowl Party (Or: What to bring to SGF's Superbowl Party)
  • Valentine's Gifts for your SGF that won't poison them.
  • How to pick a place for drinks with SGF
  • How to pick a place for breakfast/lunch/dinner with SGF
  • How to have SGF over for lunch/cocktails/dinner/dessert
Have a suggestion that absolutely must be on these posts, or another suggestion for a post category? Comment or e-mail me: katsgfkitchen at gmail dot com.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Snarky Post: Gluten Free and Quality

The gluten free market is absolutely huge right now, and seems to be growing at a non-stop rate. Businesses both large and small are jumping on the gluten free bandwagon -- how hard can it be to make gluten free food? It seems like, without very much research at all, they substitute white rice flour for wheat flour, add a bit of xanthan or guar gum, slap a price sticker about 5x the original cost on it, stand back and say, Voila! A gluten free product for you to buy.

That's all well and good - as long as the gluten free food is palatable. All too often, I've spent $7 on some bread product to find it absolutely completely unpalatable. I can blame myself for that a lot of the time, but what really bugs me is when these sub-par products have glowing reviews online. "This is the first time I've had a bagel in 20 years!" ... But it's the size of one of my elastic hair ties with the consistency and taste of cardboard.

Really??? People - please, stop buying disgusting food just because it is there!

Of course, there are a (small) number of wonderful gluten free companies that produce products we absolutely love. When that happens, we're more than happy to shell out $5, $7, or more for a package of pasta that tastes like "regular" pasta, bread with the light, chewy consistency of the packaged breads we bought before going gluten free, convenience foods, etc. In part, this post is for these companies -- how they could add even more products to the foods we already buy and love.

With that said -- I've noticed a few big deficiencies in the gluten free market. If a company would nail one or more of these, and produce good tasting, high quality products -- they would be worth their weight in gold.

  • Saltine Crackers. Sure, we have gluten free crackers out there. Some of them aren't so bad (my husband is partial to Schar's snack crackers for cheese, and I'm a fan of the wonderful texture of Asian rice crackers). However, when you're sick with a stomach bug, nothing beats these wonderful, light, salty cracker in your soup. We already have chicken soup (mainstream chicken and rice soups, or chicken noodle available from wonderful companies like Kettle Cuisine). Jell-O and Ginger Ale are already gluten free. Someone needs to make a salty, bland, saltine-like cracker and we'll be all set.
  • Good Chinese and Japanese Food. We've had good experiences eating gluten free at Thai, Indian and Vietnamese restaurants, but Japanese and Chinese restaurants can leave a lot to be desired. Sure, some local Japanese restaurants carry gluten free soy sauce for their sushi, but why is P.F. Chang's the only restaurant in our area to realize "Hey! If I substitute gluten free soy sauce for these dishes, gluten free diners have a whole heck of a lot more choices?" Teriyaki sauce, eel sauce for sushi, ginger dressing - all of them contain gluten only because of soy sauce. I'm not asking Japanese and Chinese restaurants to use rice flour for tempura or sweet and sour meat breading here (though that would be awesome), but if you offered a gluten free menu of more than just plain sushi rolls or bland steamed food with no seasonings, you'd certainly have my business. And all the friends and family I brought in. And I'd sure shout for joy about it online. Just saying.
  • Wraps. Now -- certainly, companies make tortilla shells. We've bought corn tortillas for Mexican food (wonderfully authentic), and for sandwiches we've tried various brands of shells made from brown rice flour, teff, etc. All are extremely disappointing - they're so brittle, they break immediately. Not only that, but the consistency (especially of brown rice tortillas) tends to be a bit rubbery and leaves a lot to be desired. It would be wonderful to be able to buy a soft, fluffy, tasty wrap for sandwiches once in a while.
  • Breakfast Convenience Foods. OK, OK. I admit: I don't cook all the time. In the morning, sometimes I'll pop a breakfast sandwich in the microwave to take with me to work. It's much more quick than pouring a bowl of cereal, putting waffles in the toaster, making eggs, etc. It's also more portable than my standard breakfast of yogurt and an orange (I'd be a hazard on the road if I ate that on the Thruway!) My husband loves to do that as well, but so far the only food that he's found are Ian's Wafflewich egg sandwiches - he loves them, and can just pop one in the microwave when he's in a hurry. They're hard to find, though (The only store I can find them in around here is Uncle Sam's in Latham), and let's be honest - only one choice can get tiring. If more companies made readily accessible bagel or english muffin sandwiches that held up, tasted good, and could be easily microwaved, it would be a big plus. Even more of a bonus if they were high-fiber and protein to fill someone up in the morning!
I think this list provides some very real needs in the gluten free market.

What about you? What gluten free products do you see a niche market for? Do you think any of my requests/complaints are already satisfactorily addressed?

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Giveaway: Progresso Souper You 2011 Pack

So, who's still keeping their New Year's Resolutions? Anyone?

My goal every year seems to be to lose about a zillion pounds. This year, the stakes are even higher because I have the honor of being one of my cousin's attendants in her wedding this summer... which means I want to look good in my bridesmaid dress! Since we went on vacation for the New Year - and have a social calendar filled with fattening food - it's been hard to get back on track.

That's going to change.

I'm trying to work out more and eat healthier, and that's starting with the lunches I bring into the office. MyBlogSpark and Progresso offered to send me a health-and-fitness-themed pack and I thought it would be perfect for the theme of the New Year.

Warning: Not everything I'm writing about/in this prize pack is gluten free. Please read the label and, if you're not comfortable eating it, don't.

I am not celiac, my husband is, and I can eat gluten. However, I wasn't able to share this prize pack with him to hear his thoughts, which was disappointing. :(

They gave me five cans of Progresso Soup to try. The Weight Watchers soups that are 0 or 1 points per serving. They also sent a yoga mat and some other workout-friendly equipment.

I typically like Progresso soups... they're tasty, many of them are low-calorie, and they're very portable - I can stash a few away in a desk drawer for a lunch emergency. They're also clearly labelled gluten free when applicable, which I love (and I tend to spend more money on companies who label their goods better). However... I am not sure what to think about Progresso's Weight Watchers-approved soups.

Here are my thoughts:
  • Progresso, you're usually wonderful about clearly labelling all of your soups that are gluten free. That's one of the things I love about your company. On top of that, I love General Mills' overall policy of not hiding gluten within their labels. However, some of these Weight Watchers soups seem like they'd be gluten free -- why aren't they labelled as such?
  • One more note on gluten -- Just sayin' here, but celiacs want to lose weight too. I bet there'd be a decent market for Weight Watchers-approved, gluten free soups. Try chicken and rice, and label/modify that New England Clam Chowder to be gluten free!
  • I love the fact that these soups are low calorie, but if you're following Weight Watchers please take note. There are two servings of soup in a can. I don't know anyone who eats just half a can of soup for lunch - if I bring it to work, I'm eating the whole can. A 0-point soup can turn into 2 points or so if you eat both servings. No funny accounting and cheating on points now!
  • I think that with some of the soups (particularly the beef pot roast), they replaced fat and calories with salt. I am a saltaholic (To me, the only point of eating macaroni and cheese is liberal amounts of salt and pepper - mix it all up, then add more), and even I took pause.
  • Since they're lower calorie, I find myself hungrier sooner with these soups than other soups. Probably not a huge surprise. I definitely had to supplement my lunch with an afternoon snack of a couple pieces of fruit (say, orange and banana), and even then I was starving by 5 PM.
  • The Weight Watchers soups can't replace my favorite Progresso soups - I particularly like the Manhattan Clam Chowder, the Garden Vegetable and the Creamy Mushroom soups - all of which happen to be labelled gluten free.
Overall, when you're talking healthier work lunches that don't go straight to your waistline, non-cream soups are a no-brainer. It's certainly better than running out to a fast food restaurant and scarfing down a thousand calories in a sitting. And Progresso has some great options, both gluten free and non-gluten free, that are quick and portable. Let's be honest, I'm not going to be making homemade chicken stock on a Wednesday evening before work the next day, I'm going to be grabbing something I can tote in my purse.

So - want to try it for yourself?

Remember - Not all of these soups - if any - are gluten free.

I have a prize pack to giveaway including five Progresso soups, a yoga mat, and some other workout stuff (water bottle, aerobic bands, etc.). Want to win? Here are the rules :
  • Contest closes at Friday, 1/28/2011, at 11:59:59 (The next minute, incidentally, my birth day begins!)
  • I don't have time to hunt people down. Duplicate entries from the same person will be disqualified, and if you win but it takes me more than 30 seconds to find out how to contact you, I'll pick another winner. Your best bet is leaving your e-mail address in the comment.
  • To gain one entry - Leave a comment on this blog post, saying either what your favorite gluten free Progresso soup is, or what soup you'd like to see be converted to gluten free.
  • To gain a second entry - Become a fan of my Facebook page. Leave a comment here saying that you're a fan. If you're already a fan, great! Just leave the comment saying that.

Good luck - with both the contest and New Y ears resolutions!

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Gluten Free in SoCal - Part 2

This post is a continuation of our first few days in SoCal.

Thuesday through Thursday, we spent in the Disneyland area. As far as allergens go, everyone we spoke to was incredibly accommodating, which was nice. It was the norm to have managers come over to talk to us as soon as they found we were gluten free, and even chefs come out to assure us they had personally overseen that no cross-contamination occurred!

On Tuesday night, we walked around Downtown Disney and decided to eat at the Rainforest Cafe. While they do not have a dedicated gluten free menu we were very comfortable with the menu and selections we made. We were a little disappointed to find out that the lava nachos appetizer contained gluten :( but we had wonderful dinners, both gluten free: my husband ordered the Tuscan Chicken (no Dijon mustard), and I ordered a special that was shrimp and veggies wrapped in parchment paper. Both were extremely yummy and we left very full. (By this point, my husband was starting to get annoyed at all the souvenir alcohol glasses I was collecting, though, lol).

Wednesday, we ate breakfast at our hotel (The Anaheim Sheraton) and then went to Disneyland. We had a blast! It was off-season so at least in the morning, there wasn't much of a wait at all for rides, though it got more packed as the day went on. Now, the thing with Disneyland and California Adventure - if you go to Guest Services and request a list, they'll give you a packet that lists all the safe options at all of their eateries. It's a pretty comprehensive list, and includes pizza, hot dogs, hamburgers (both with buns), fries fried in a dedicated fryer, and a lot of other things. We ate lunch in the park - my husband ordered a gluten free pizza (there were three other people there waiting for gluten free pizzas as well, as they're made to order!) and I had a salad.

For dinner, we went back to Downtown Disney and ate at Tortilla Jos. Their menu clearly marks all the gluten free items, and they had a wonderful outdoor, heated patio which we loved. How often can we eat outside in January?? We were extremely hungry after our day at Disneyland, and we ordered a bunch of stuff - first, they come with chips and salsa. We ordered a nachos appetizer, and my husband ordered their crispy tacos while I ordered the shrimp tortillas, all gluten free.

... The problem? Portion sizes. It was WAY too much food, and our eyes were significantly bigger than our stomachs. We left stuffed and didn't eat a lot of our food.

On Thursday, we went back to California Adventure and, since we had a park hopper pass, rode on a couple of our favorite rides at Disneyland too. For lunch we ate in California Adventure, at a place that did gluten free burgers/buns and fries. We weren't that thrilled with the overall quality of the food there, but they can get away with it in the park!

For dinner on Thursday we went back to Tortilla Jos. This time, we ordered only the nachos, to share, and dessert. They had a coconut-rum flan with pineapple that was gluten free and absolutely sinful. It's worth the trip to California just for this flan. (My husband also wanted photographic evidence that my always-cold self wore a T-shirt, outside, in January. Note the awesome "Nerds Rock" shirt). ;-)

On Friday, we left Anaheim and went to Ontario. We were flying out of Ontario very early in the morning, and we wanted to stay close to the airport. Plus, I'd read all about this huge outlet mall, Ontario Mills, and just had to check it out. The mall did not disappoint - 10 wings of stores, including Coach Factory outlet (and Coach Men's), BCBG, Calvin Klein, LOFT, Betsey Johnson, Saks off Fifth, bebe, Guess, etc. Unfortunately, we didn't want to eat at the Rainforest Cafe again, and no restaurants in the mall knew what gluten was! We left the mall for lunch and found a Claim Jumper in Ontario, and then went back and spent some time at Dave & Buster's playing games (my husband deserved it, he was a wonderful sport about spending the entire day shopping).

For dinner, we tried Mimi's Cafe. We actually hadn't done any research on them, but we popped in and decided to ask if they had a gluten free menu - they did! My husband had the best steak he's had on his trip so far. I stuck with soup and salad. Excellent food and the most reasonable prices we'd seen in California.

That night we knew we'd be leaving before anything opened for breakfast, so we bought cereal, fruit and snacks from Trader Joes and a local convenience store for breakfast and on the plane. The plane ride was tiring, though, with layovers in Houston and Cleveland. Again, we hunted down food in Houston - we finally found a Wendy's where my husband ordered a Baja salad, but by the time we landed in Albany we were starving and headed straight for Outback steakhouse.

Overall -- we had a wonderful time and saw a lot of great people and sights, and I'm so glad we went. We both needed a vacation. However - I'm grateful to be home and cooking in my own kitchen too!

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Gluten Free in SoCal - Part 1

Happy New Year everyone!

One of the reasons I've been absent for a while, is that my husband and I went to Southern California for 10 days over the New Year. We had a wonderful time visiting family and exploring Disneyland and other tourist attractions, and of course eating our way through Orange County (who needs pesky New Years resolutions, anyway??) ;-)

Given the topic of this blog -- you know I'll talk about the food.

The first leg of our trip, Thursday 12/30 through Monday 1/3, involved a lot of family events. We stayed with my husband's relatives in Yorba Linda, where I must say eating gluten free has never been so easy.

Thursday we flew out to California. We had two layovers, at Dulles and in Denver. When we bought the tickets six months ago, we logically thought that the extra layovers were worth saving $500 on two plane tickets. Let me tell you - they weren't. Lesson learned. With relatively short layovers and little chance of finding gluten free airport food, I made sure to pack a ton of snacks, even if they weren't the most healthy: popcorn, beef jerky, candy (Skittles, Jelly Belly, etc.), dried fruit, KIND bars and Ian's breakfast bars were on the list. And they got us through the first eight hours of our twelve hour day, but by the second layover my husband just wanted some real food (I couldn't blame him - KIND bars get old after a while, plus we were paranoid about eating them on the plane since they contain nuts, and scarfed them down in between flights). We hunted down a shop that sold plain garden salads with nothing remotely offensive on it, and Ken's salad dressings for my hubby, and I got a fruit cup. Then -- on to the next flight.

We landed at Ontario airport and drove to our hotel, then met a large group of his family at a Chinese restaurant. My husband's godmother had made arrangements, and they cooked my husband's dinner as a clean stir-fry in a white sauce with no additives. It wasn't necessarily the most interesting meal on the planet, but at that point shrimp, veggies and rice tasted heavenly.

On Friday, we had some time on our own before meeting his relatives for a New Years party. We found a pretty awesome mini golf and gaming place called Camelot in Anaheim (this picture is the building, isn't it cool?) and at lunch at a Mexican chain called Rubios (their allergen information is conveniently posted online). It was fast food, OK for a quick meal and tasty, but not much to write home about. My husband had the Nachos Grande and I had tacos. That night his thoughtful godmother made sure that there were plenty of gluten free options at the New Years party!

Saturday, we had breakfast at the Corner Bakery Cafe. You wouldn't think that would be a great place for someone who is celiac to dine at, but their website clearly marks gluten free, non dairy and vegetarian items on their menu (Note: they aren't clearly marked in the bakery, but you can ask to see a menu). We both had egg scrambles, which were very good, and they let us substitute fresh fruit for toast.

After breakfast, we headed down to Long Beach to check out the sights, including the Aquarium of the Pacific. It's a really cool place and I'd highly recommend checking it out - kids especially would love it, because there are a lot of exhibits where you can pet sharks and stingrays and other such creatures! Right next to the Aquarium is Bubba Gump's Shrimp Co, which was on our list of places to check out (and they fortunately have a gluten free menu!) My husband ordered the Accidental Fish and Shrimp, and I ordered the Fresh Red Snapper with Lobster Butter Sauce. Both were divine. And, of course, you can't go to Bubba Gump's without their spiked lemonade. :-)

For dinner, we checked out ZPizza. They have personal-pan pizza size gluten free crusts, thin and crispy and tasty, with a ton of toppings. We both got gluten free crusts to share, my husband got a sausage and mushroom pizza and I got the California pizza. Yum!

On Sunday, we tried The Original Pancake House for breakfast - I had read about them online and found out they had gluten free pancakes, which we absolutely had to try! They were delicious, but the portions were humongous - the two of us could have easily shared one dish. We ate lunch at my husband's godmother's house, and went for a group dinner to see some of my husband's family members off - we went to a BBQ place that, quite frankly, sucked. At least in regards to their gluten free selection - their BBQ sauce had gluten in it! My husband ordered a steak.

On Monday, his family wanted to go to the Original Pancake House, so we went again! This time, neither of us wanted a huge breakfast. I wanted just eggs over easy and bacon, and my husband only wanted an omelette. Lo and behold, pancakes even come with those! We were so stuffed we didn't even want to think about lunch that day. That afternoon we drove down to Carlsbad, and checked out the outlet stores. I made some pretty decent scores, including a $200 BCBG sweater for, oh, $25. :)

However, Monday night for dinner we checked out the Claim Jumper, another restaurant with a gluten free menu. My husband was extremely excited to order the California Quesadilla, because he hadn't had a restaurant quesadilla since being diagnosed celiac. He loved it. (I ordered off the non-gluten free menu this time, so no sharing for this meal).

After this point, we said goodbye to the rest of my husband's family, and went to downtown Anaheim for the rest of our trip.