Eleven Easy Gluten-Free Go-Tos

My little sister, Ellen, has been on a path toward becoming gluten- and dairy-free, which has significantly improved her health issues. When she cooks for herself and strictly monitors for cross-contamination, the golden age of GF living reveals all its rewards. One smidgen of gluten though . . . and she’s a goner. When we were together at Christmas, I told her I’d work on a cheat sheet for quick grocery store purchases and safe items at the restaurants she has access to. Many of these are based on what’s close to my office as well–crappy fast-food where I am able to find gluten-friendly fare. I don’t condone a great deal of eating out, especially at fast-food restaurants, because home-cooking is really the only way to monitor quality of ingredients, but reality is that I will be too rushed to make my lunch two days out of the week. It’s good to be aware of my g-free options, even if they aren’t super healthy. (Links below are to the allergen pages for each restaurant/manufacturer so you can scope out the menu items that will work best for you.)

  1. Costco Rotisserie Chicken. $4.99 for a whole cooked chicken. Boom. Most of the time, you can’t even buy a raw chicken for that amount, never mind the hassle and expense of cooking it. A lonely girl like me can get a good four to five meals out of this lovely seasoned bird, and I freeze the carcasses to make my own GF chicken stock down the road. Check the label next time you’re in the store. It says gluten-free in red letters across the bottom. Holla!
  2. Wendy’s. Gluten-friendly items include the baked potato, chili, hamburger patties, and side salads (watch it with the dressings and no breaded chicken!). Sadly, Wendy’s fries are not listed as GF because they are cooked in the same oil as breaded items.
  3. Chick-fil-A. This is no help for my sister, but I want to marry Chick-fil-A sauce, so I’m putting it on the list: chargrilled chicken salad (amen), waffle fries (the choir crescendos!), Chick-fil-A sauce (a downright religious experience). Add a half-sweet half-unsweet tea, and I could die a happy woman.
  4. Qdoba or Chipotle. I don’t love Mexican. Therefore I don’t love these places. But a rice/bean/meat/veggie bowl works in a pinch, and these places make it easy to eat g-free.
  5. Gluten-Free Waffles (Van’s are my favorite). When I first cut out gluten, I ate these for dinner three nights a week. A little butter, almond butter, and a handful of raspberries, along with a couple poached eggs, made for a perfectly satisfying meal. I watch for BOGO sales and keep a couple boxes in my freezer at all times.
  6. Brown rice cakes. GF bread is spendy, and I really don’t like it unless it’s toasted. Brown rice cakes are a great vehicle for albacore with pesto and veggies, turkey and goat cheese, or whatever you might normally put in a sandwich.
  7. Kind Bars. I eat one of these nearly every morning. I only love two or three flavors (the rest are too sweet for me), and I buy those by the box through Amazon Subscribe-and-Save.
  8. Sonic. I don’t love Sonic, but in a pinch, it’s good to know you can get something that won’t derail your lifestyle. Hamburger patties, tots, and fries should be safe.
  9. Arby’s. Arby’s has a fairly comprehensive allergen sheet with some good options, including roast beef and roast turkey, side salad, and roast turkey chophouse salad. Steer clear of the fries!
  10. Quinoa. By the truckload. Almost daily. I have grown to love quinoa more than any kind of rice. I make a double batch with chicken stock on Sundays and use it throughout the week–as a heated side, cold on salads as a shot of filling protein, mooshed together and lightly fried alongside a veggie scramble, etc. Buy at Costco if possible–way cheaper!
  11. Canned soups and stock. Let’s be honest. I am not going to cook soup from scratch every week. Some nights I am going to drag my sorry rear home at 7:00 and reach for a can of soup. Thank the Lord in heaven there are options. (Are you paying attention to this one, Ellen?) Progresso has an assortment of g-free soups. Skip the creamy soups if you’re dairy-free as well. Add a piece of GF toast with tomato slices and crumbled goat cheese on top, drizzled with olive oil and balsamic, and this isn’t a half-bad meal. (Also worth noting is Campbell’s allergen document. If you don’t have access to a Whole Foods, which believe it or not, many people don’t, it’s good to know that your standard grocery store carries GF chicken stock, a staple in my kitchen.

Next time around, which will likely be in three months since that’s the frequency of posting I seem capable of, I’ll get together a list of my favorite gluten- and dairy-free bottled salad dressings–another of the challenges for someone new to this lifestyle change. (I promise I won’t wait that long, sis!)

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The Big 3-0

So, I have a confession to make. On Friday, I turned (gasp!) 30. I know, right?!

Anyway, I went into this birthday feeling more than a little trepidation. There’s something about 30. It just feels like a big milestone. And despite the fact that I have a truly wonderful life, I’ve recently come face to face with the notion that part of growing up means making big decisions, and realizing that each decision closes a door or several. I’ve made some awesome choices–I married my best friend, we live surrounded by our great families and we have strong, loyal friendships, we both have great jobs that give us so many opportunities to grow and have money for more than just the necessities. I am so blessed. But that doesn’t mean that a big milestone birthday like 30 didn’t make me take pause and look back at the choices I let go of, the dreams that I probably won’t accomplish, and the ones I still can.

So in the spirit of that, I present my “30 Things To Do In Year 30” list. These are things I don’t want to let another year go by without accomplishing. And I’m sharing it here on Gluten-Free Gluttons because quite a few of them have to do with food, health, and wellness–which means you’ll be hearing more about them!

  1. Pay off my car loan
  2. Get into a weekly workout routine—and stick with it!
  3. Write an original novel
  4. Make at least one new female friend
  5. Get completely caught up on my scrapbooking
  6. Become familiar with Photoshop (you can see my first attempt above!)
  7. Master 3 new hairstyles
  8. Complete one room in our house
  9. Go on a regular date night with my husband
  10. Learn to sew on a button
  11. Go to five Nashville landmarks I’ve never been to or haven’t been to in ages
  12. Fall back in love with my kitchen (more cooking, less eating out)
  13. Finish my house sewing projects with my mom
  14. Master 2 new impressive dinner recipes for company
  15. Finish the scarf I started knitting in 2007
  16. Tame our landscaping
  17. DIY something that scares me a little
  18. Take more walks
  19. Phone a different faraway friend each week
  20. Disconnect more—no laptop, TV, iPad, or Phone
  21.  Celebrate 30 in style
  22. Give back
  23. Get organized and stay that way
  24. Kick my caffeine habit
  25. Travel somewhere I’ve never been before
  26. Buy more farm fresh veggies at the Farmer’s Market
  27. Listen to more live music
  28. Say no and don’t overcommit
  29. Take at least 2-4 day off a month—no errands, no work, no obligations, just fun
  30. Get back on a strict savings plan

You’ll notice #21 is crossed off, because I did, indeed, celebrate 30 in style. I was showered in great gifts–including some serious bling and 2 dozen orange roses from my husband–my work friends decorated my office and took me out to lunch and brought me (apple-free) gluten-free cookies, and my husband threw me a wonderful birthday party at Eastland Cafe with 15 of my friends. They were very, very accommodating to my allergies. I had their organic arugala salad and Mahi Mahi special. yum.

They even let us bring in a beautiful chocolate and raspberry gluten-freecake from Crumb de la Crumb. The party was awesome in every way–and I didn’t feel old at all!

Then, on Sunday, I got to celebrate with my parents, sister, and aunt and uncle. My dad grilled chicken brats and my mom made my fav gf cheesy potato casserole and a gf pumpkin cake with cream-cheese icing. I am one lucky 30 year old!

Restaurant Review: The Cottage Cafe

I was lucky enough to grab lunch recently with my friends LSS of Frugal Nashville and CBR in their Bellevue neighborhood. I say lucky because I NEVER have enough time to take an actual lunch break–can I get an Amen for eating like a grown-up with conversation and courses instead of shoving a GF sandwich in my face while typing with the other hand?!

photo by the wonderful and talented Kate Murphy: http://www.katemurphyphotography.com

We chose the Cottage Cafe, which I’d been wanting to try for a long time. It’s run by Crumb de la Crumb, the same company that made my amazing gluten-free key lime infused wedding cake. YUM. The cafe is in an adorable antique shop and has a definite “Southern Ladies Who Lunch” vibe to it with floral table clothes, fruit tea, and homemade lemonade. We were so busy catching up that I didn’t take any pictures–bad blogger, I know!–but the food was pretty darn tasty. There were tons of gluten-free options and I actually struggled with what to order because there were so many choices! Imagine me squealing in delight about that!

The appetizer was crackers with cheddar jelly–basically GF crackers with a dip of sweet jelly, bacon, green onions, and fresh cheddar cheese. It was the perfect salty/sweet combo and we cleaned both plates. Then we each opted for the Grilled Cheese. In true Southern style, it was made with Pimento Cheese, Benton’s Bacon, and fried to golden brown perfection in butter. LSS had her’s with salad and CBR opted for GF tomato basil soup. I added avocado to my grilled cheese and had some chips, but I was really saving room for dessert. And I’m so glad I did…

I got a slice of their GF pumpkin cheesecake, which was light, fluffy, and heavenly. And then I got a GF chocolate Nutella cupcake and a GF lemon meringue cupcake to go to share with the rest of the GF Gluttons back at the office. The chocolate was good, but the lemon was the clear winner. The texture was perfect and it was light, fluffy, and tart and sweet at the same time.

Here’s their menu if you want to check it out for yourself. I will definitely be going back!

Mom’s Planning Kiddie Birthday Parties Rejoice!

Chuck E. Cheese is testing gluten-free products! The littlest gluten-freebie fans of the animatronic mouse may soon be able to have their birthday parties at the beloved restaurant chain while enjoying gf pizza and chocolate cake. If I were a gluten-free kid I’d be psyched.

Now, I’m not claiming that Chuck E. Cheese could ever be considered healthy, but I do think this is a gf win! I loved birthday parties there as a kid. Sure they weren’t very creative, but there was pizza, cake, a robot show, games, and you could trade in tickets for plastic prizes that feel apart within a few hours. How is that not awesome to a kid?

Sometimes us gluten-freebies just want to feel normal. Most of the time I’m cool with my dietary restrictions, but every once in a while I would love to walk into a normal chain restaurant and just order something off of the menu without asking a gazillion questions and making a fuss–and I’m a grown woman who knows and understands why that will probably never be possible (although sometimes I like to daydream about a completely gluten-free world. Sigh.) I would imagine that it’s tough to be a gf kid who can never eat the food at birthday parties and gets labeled a “weirdo” for their gf eating habits. Now they can have a completely generic birthday party at Chuck E. Cheese (only in Minnesota for now) just like everyone else.

GF Pizza Delivered?

I could get gf pizza delivered to my door in NYC and I’m sure gluten-freebies in big cities like Chicago and San Francisco may be able to do the same, but the rest of America was out of luck–until now! Domino’s announced today that they will be offering gluten-free pizza! it sounds almost too good to be true, right? Of course, only time will tell if they are able to separate their gluten-free utensils, ovens, and prep spaces from their gluten-filled ones to ensure no cross-contamination occurs. Are you willing to try Domino’s new gf pies?

Where and When We Eat Matters

Check out these incredible infographics! Who knew data about food and health could be so much fun?

I knew I ate healthier at home, but I didn’t realize that the time of day affected my eating so badly until going back on Phase 1 of Dr. Jana’s diet. But I can see it–after all, when do most people want to eat a whole bag of chips? It ain’t for breakfast, that’s for sure.

Hope y’all enjoy this as much as I did!

20% off at P.F. Changs

In case you hadn’t heard, P.F. Chang’s has a kick-butt gluten-free menu! Since it’s a national chain, it’s one I always look for when I’m traveling for a guaranteed gluten-free meal. I get promotional e-mails from them and thought I would pass the savings along to you–for anyone who wants some spicy chicken or Mongolian beef with their basketball games this weekend! Enjoy!

How to Be Gluten-Free and Still Have a Social Life

I know I usually post recipes on Mondays, but since I’m on Phase One for a while I’m not making any of my decadent comfort food favorites for a few weeks. Phase One has brought my allergies down to practically nothing–seriously, I can breathe!–but it isn’t the most exciting, food-wise. So I thought I would take this opportunity to address a facet of the gluten-free lifestyle that is often overlooked on blogs and in gf-books: How to be gluten-free without alienating your friends and family.

All too often our social lives revolve around eating or drinking. You meet friends out for dinner, are invited to parties with buffet tables laden with goodies, bring a dish to your church potluck, grab drinks and appetizers with your co-workers at happy hour, or double-date for brunch. So when you go gluten-free, these once fun outings turn into a slow and specific form of torture. Your friends want to go to a fun new martini bar or hit up a brunch spot that specializes in delicious-looking pancakes, and, while they are catching up, you suddenly can’t think about anything except snatching that doughnut off of your bff’s plate and devouring it whole–which wouldn’t be good for your stomach or your friendship. These situations can be very tricky to navigate. Here are my tips for socialzing sans gluten:

  1. Eat before you go out. I try to always eat something filling before a night out, so that I can order a small salad if there are no other gf options, and not be starving.
  2. Always keep some emergency food in your purse or car. Gf-granola or protein bars are perfect to have on hand. That way, I’m so much less likely to give into a craving and eat something that will make me sick.
  3. Call Ahead. If you know where you are going, call ahead and ask questions about the menu and how they prepare their food up front. Let the restaurant or bar know when you’ll be coming in so that they can take any measures they need in the kitchen to ensure you don’t get sick.
  4. Volunteer to coordinate nights out. That way, you can pick the restaurant and ensure you can actually eat dinner!
  5. Volunteer to be the designated driver. It can be tough to find a gf alcoholic drink option. While wine, rum, and tequila are generally safe (but always check your labels before imbibing!), gin, vodka, and cider can be harder to safely consume, and beer is out. When in doubt, volunteer to drive so no one can pressure you to drink something that may make you sick. It will also keep you from giving in and having a G&T when you know it’s a no-no.
  6. Invite everyone over to your place and treat your friends to awesome gf-food. This is a great way to get your friends excited about your new lifestyle. After all, who can criticize the lack of gluten when they are eating something gf and yummy?
  7. Don’t be embarressed. This is the hardest one for me. It’s tough to be the picky person who has to ask a bunch of questions before you can take a single bit, but the sooner you get over it, the sooner your friends will.

Speaking of your friends, not everyone will be on board when you first announce your lifestyle change. A big lifestyle change can cause some tension, especially if you spend a lot of time with your buds. Changing your life automatically will mean changes in theirs if you are attached at the hip. High school and college are particularly tough times to go gluten-free, since socializing often means coffee shops, diners, frat parties, and cheap restaurants–none of which are known for being gf friendly. Chances are your friends will fall into one of these categories:

  1. The Enabler–the Enabler will not be pleased about your lifestyle change. She may pretend to be on-board, but her true colors will show through the first time she wants to go out to eat somewhere with no options for you. This can be a case of immaturity, someone who is jealous that you haven the willpower to embrace a new, healthier lifestyle, or someone who just dislikes change, but it happens far more often than you might expect. After all, you’d assume that all of your friends would be thrilled that you found a way to be healthier, right? Wrong. This friend will encourage you to cheat on your new diet at every opportunity and will probably eat your old favorites in front of you, even knowing that you are struggling. She may make fun of what you’re eating or make comments about how gross those kale chips look. The best thing to do is ignore her and not rise to her bait. If she persists and is really snarky, you may need to have a heart-to-heart talk with her or schedule dinner with other friends until she comes around to the idea. Usually, though, this friend will come around and eventually be supportive (if prone to eye-rolling) in the end.
  2. The Doubting Thomas–this friend will be openly doubtful of your new diet and all of it’s benefits. They will probably label you a “hippie” or “hipster” when you suggest an organic, vegetarian taco place, and laugh at you when you ask the waiter too many questions. The best approach is to sit this person down and have a heart to heart ASAP. If they can’t get on board, learn to ignore this person’s mean comments or find a new dinner companion!
  3. The Unintentional Betrayer–this friend will be super gung-ho and ask tons of questions about your new diet. She’ll be encouraging and thoughtful and probably invite you over for dinner, all gf, of course. But, as much as she thinks she gets the whole gf thing, she doesn’t and chances are you will go home sick to your stomach. The best option with this friend is to plan nights out. She’ll be happy to let you pick the restaurant and split a gf-entree with you, just avoid letting her cook for you. Even numerous explanations won’t help because she thinks she understands and nothing you can say will get through.
  4. The On-Board Cheerleader–this friend is a one in a million. Not only will she ask thoughtful questions and be encouraging and supportive of your new lifestyle, she’ll do her own research and scout out yummy gf products and restaurants for you to try. She is thoughtful, meticulous, and not likely to accidentally poison you. Spend extra time with her!

The more cheerleaders you have in your life, the luckier you are, but it can still be difficult. Just remember that your true friends will come around and be supportive (even if it make take them a little while to adjust), so give them some time. If that doesn’t work, you can always try making them gf cookies, since those will get just about anyone on-board with the gluten-free way!

Restaurant Review: The Wild Cow

I giggled writing this entry’s title–not because it is at all funny, but because, I must confess,  I can’t spell restaurant without spell-check help to save my life. Seriously, I have no idea how I became a book editor with that handicap! Another confession: I LOVE eating out. I absolutely adore going to a restaurant, sitting somewhere comfy, and having a nice waiter bring me anything I want. You’d think working in restaurants as a teenager would have cured me, but I am still an eat-out addict. It just makes me happy. However, gluten-free dining out can often be more challenging than pleasurable. So, with that in mind, I’m going to give you the skinny on all my favorite dining establishments (now, that I can spell!) in and out of Nashville!

First up is East Nashville’s The Wild Cow, a vegetarian restaurant. Let me preface this by saying that I am a meat lover, but I am a frequent Wild Cow visitor anyway because the food is just that good. They have an entire gluten-free menu (just ask for it instead of the regular one) and are very helpful when it comes to accommodating my other food allergies as well.

The Basics:

  • The Wild Cow is open everyday for lunch and dinner except Tuesdays.
  • They are located in a cute shopping center right next to Jeni’s Splendid Ice Cream (yum!).
  • The restaurant has a laid-back, casual vibe so no need to get dressed up for dinner here.
  • They offer gluten-free appetizers, salads, entrees, and delicious desserts. You can check out the menu here!

My Recommendations:

The Prince Fielder Sandwich: Marinated & grilled tempeh or tofu, avocado, tomato, sprouts, cucumbers, shredded carrots, onions, vegenaise, & spicy mustard on gluten-free bread; served with one side item. The gluten-free bread is light and fluffy with a nutty texture and the spicy mustard is delicious!

 

 The Buffalo Grinder: Marinated & grilled tempeh or tofu, lettuce, tomato, shredded carrots, ranch dressing, & our homemade zesty buffalo sauce on gluten-free bread; served with one side item. The sauce has a nice kick to it, but it isn’t too spicy and the ranch dressing is really good and tangy!

 

Veggie & Quinoa Bowl: Grilled vegetable mix (includes cauliflower, broccoli, and onions) over organic quinoa; drizzled with our garlic aioli, ginger miso or green goddess dressing. I LOVE their garlic aioli and you can add grilled tofu or tempeh for a little extra protein. I’ve heard good things about each of the different sauces. One thing to note is that the veggies are pre-mixed, so you can’t ask for “no onions.”

I also highly recommend any and all of their gluten-free desserts. They change out the flavors of their cakes and cupcakes regularly, and they are all delicious. I’m an especially big fan of their strawberry cupcakes!

 

Lavender Vanilla Cupcake (non gluten-free, but their gluten-free cupcake look similar!)

 

 

 

 

 

Gluten-Free Tiramisu

 

 

 

 

 

Gluten-Free German Chocolate Cake

 

 

So next time you are craving an especially delicious and healthy meat-free meal, head on over to the Wild Cow. Just do yourself a favor, and save room for dessert!