August 30, 2009

Is it Taffy Apple Season Yet?

Not quite, but pretty soon! I can't wait. Last week I went to a friend's annual end of summer jazz party and after much back and forth about what I was going to bring, I decided on these little guys that we have come to call Mini Taffy Apple Treats.

I'm not sure where the original recipe came from. A friend once served them at a party and shared the recipe. They're super easy to make and taste just like taffy apples! Here's what you need:
  • A bunch of red seedless grapes (washed and dried)
  • A bag of white chocolate morsels (or a large 4 oz baking bar)
  • A large bag of nut topping (I had to use two little bags)

Melt the chocolate in a double boiler on the stove or melt in the microwave, careful not to burn the chocolate (like I did...whoops!)

Dip a grape in the chocolate so it is half covered.

Roll dipped grape in the nut topping.

Rest on wax paper.

That's it! You're done! Enjoy!

August 29, 2009

Snicky-Snacky Saturday - Gluten Free Product Reviews!

Last week I did the mother of all gluten free shopping and walked away with tons of gluten free goodies. During the week I tried out a bunch of the things I bought and found some real winners!

First off, I think it's safe to say I officially L-O-V-E Bhuja snack mix. Their slogan, "the magic's in the mix," is right on, because this snack is downright magical. I purchased a bag of the original mix figuring I'd start from the beginning before jumping into the crazy flavors like cracker, fruit, or nut. This spicy little mix contained an assortment of tasty treats: crispy multigrain noodles, crunchy garden peas, peanuts, and little strips of rice crackers. I had a few handfuls with a random raisin in there, so perhaps I got a little sampling of the fruit mix too? Who knows, who cares, because this stuff is delicious! I miss those mixture snacks like Chex Mix and Gardetto's. I would have loved to tried some of the things that came after I was diagnosed with celiac, like the Frito-Lay Munchies. Throw a pretzel or rye crisp in there and I'm done for. Bhuja mix is the comeback kid to those other snack mixes...and I'm sure tastier too! I can't wait to try the other varieties!

MmMmMm...Bhuja mix!

I have been a yogi for about eight years now, so when coming across Wai Lana's Yogi Chips, I felt I should have rolled out my Wai Lana yoga mat and done a downward dog in joy at this discovery! I think she's great and I love when I can catch her yoga segment on PBS. Something about the Hawaiian background brings a whole new definition to namaste. Anyways, these chips were pretty good! I bought the BBQ flavor, which had a smoky-mesquite taste that went along perfect with the light, crispy chip. They are actually really healthy too, well as healthy as a "chip" can be. After I weighed out the 1 oz. portion size, I was shocked at how many chips I got! If you don't believe me, see for yourself!

I'm sure I will purchase the other varieties in the not too distant future. I'm interested in the french onion and lime chili!

Looks like some of them are doing dhanurasana!

Another healthy snack I purchased a couple weekends ago at the Gluten Free Cooking Expo Vendor Fair were Garden Fields crackers. I say healthy because NINE crackers have 56 calories and a lick of fat. They are pretty big and round too! While not thick like a typical cracker, they are crispy and satisfy that "I-need-something-crunchy" craving. I bought both the original and pizza flavors. While Babs loved the original flavor more than the pizza, I tend to enjoy snacks that have a little kick, so the pizza flavor was my favorite. Spread a little cream cheese on top and you have yourself the ultimate cheese and cracker!

They look like little waffles - how cute!

I'm not sure if how "snacky" a CLIF Kid Twisted Fruit bar is, but I guess it's a sweet snack. I ate one in the car during our gluten free power shopping session, so it's a snack in my book. While a lot of fruit snacks easily found in grocery stores are already gluten free, what I liked about the CLIF Kid Twisted Fruit bar was that it was organic...oh, and DELICIOUS! No artificial flavors or colors, no preservatives, and only 9 grams of sugar? Not bad! While the lady who sold it to me thought they were a little too sweet for her, she also said, "but kids like sweet stuff." Yep, they sure do! And so do I.
Oh..sorry no "close up" pic..cuz..uh...I eatz it!

I give all these snacks the GFB (Gluten Free Betsy!) Seal of Approval. While I know I should be snacking on fruits and vegetables, it's nice to have a tasty gluten free alternative once in a while.

August 28, 2009

Brunch with the MetroCeliacs!

Earlier this week I had the pleasure of meeting up with Chicago's MetroCeliacs to learn how to cook some tasty brunch dishes. About 25 of us gathered in the kitchen/classroom of Whole Foods at Halsted and Waveland. We salivated as we watched Vicki Gainsburg, RD, LDN work her magic to create amazing cinnamon rolls, granola, vegetable frittata, and buckwheat crepes.

Sipping on mimosas, we watched her cook and bake while she answered questions some of us had. We were able to sample the finish product of each dish made. Needless to say, those were quickly gobbled up! Everything was sooo delicious! The cinnamon rolls were definitely my favorite and since we were given the recipes, I will be making those soon!

What I really enjoyed about this event was the great networking connections. When we first started, we all went around the room to introduce ourselves and share our favorite brunch location or favorite restaurant. Rumors I'd heard about gluten free breads at certain restaurants (Mity Nice Grill and Fogo de Chao) were confirmed true! I also found out new restaurants to check out (Four Season's Hotel's brunch) and products to try such as O'Dough's bread.

I had learned of the MetroCeliacs back in April when I met one of the co-founders, Jen Price, at the THRIVE Expo. She gave me her info, but it somehow got lost in all my brochures and pamphlets I received that day. Luckily I saw the brunch cooking class listed on the Whole Foods events page and was able to get back in touch. I'm so glad I did, because this event was great and I look forward to the upcoming things they have in the works!

If you're in the Chicagoland area, please join the group! Check out their blog, facebook page, and event calendar. They can be reached at

August 27, 2009

My Lipgloss Is Cool, My Lipgloss Be Poppin'! Bonne Bell Gluten Free Product List

Here's a little known fact about me: I'm addicted to Bonne Bell Dr. Pepper Lipsmacker. Like obsessively addicted. I usually buy a few at a time and stash them in several purses, at work, in random places around my name it.

A few months ago I read Jillian Michael's Master Your Metabolism and got schooled on the toxins in our environment and how they can mess up the body's hormones. I like to think I live a fairly green lifestyle. I recycle, use my reusable shopping bags, try to frequent the local farmer's market and eat organic when I can, BUT I never really paid much attention to household cleaners and even beauty products.

Despite being celiac I've never had a problem with cosmetics or toiletries. I never check my toothpaste for gluten, nor have I ever worried about lipsticks or lotions. After ten years I've never had a problem with any of that, although I know some celiacs do.

After reading Jillian's book, it made me more aware (read: somewhat scared and definitely concerned) and I am making better strides at trying to go organic, use natural products, and even possibly be checking for hidden gluten in my make-up. I bought some Yes To Carrots lip gloss and balm, and although I like their products a lot, they don't compare to my DP lipsmacker...which I still haven't given up.

I know Bonne Bell does not test on animals, but I wasn't sure how natural their products were. I visited their website and while the ingredients were listed, it didn't say anything about being gluten free. So I decided to ask. Here's the response I received:


Dear Betsy:

Thank you for your recent inquiry to Bonne Bell. We are always glad to hear from our customers, and we want to help you in any way possible.

The following Bonne Bell, Inc. products can be used by people afflicted with Celiac
disease. They do not contain any gluten containting grains: wheat, barley, rye, oats, amaranth, teff, millet, spelt, and quinoa.

  • 10-0-6 Lotions
  • All Colognes
  • Lip Lites
  • Lip Enticements
  • Lip Fashion
  • Sponge-On Sparklers
  • Shower 2000
  • Lip Lix
  • Lip Gear Lip Crayons
  • Eye Shades
  • No Shine Oil Control Makeup
  • Lip Shades with SPF 15
  • Lip Sheers
  • Nail Lacquers
  • Cosmic Cheeks
  • Lash Tints
  • Glimmer Gels
  • Roll-On Lip Smacker Shiners and Shimmers
  • Roll-On Glitter Gloss
  • Lip Gear (Matte only)
  • Lip Shox
  • Eye D’Votio
  • Splash N Shine
  • Honey Kiss
  • Glitz N Glo
  • Liquid Lines
  • Pressed Powders
  • Lip Burst
  • Lip Frosting
  • Lip Shake
  • Colorglaze
  • Face and Body Sparkle
  • Sheer Shimmer Swirls
  • Lip Smoothies
  • Liquid Lip Smackers
  • All Skittles Flavors
  • Eye Pencils
  • Lip Rush
  • Sponge on Glitter Gloss
  • Jewell Lip Smackers
  • Lip Sours
  • Lip D’Votions
  • All Clic It Colors
  • Glimmer Lights
  • Liquid Star Shine
  • Shimmer Stix
  • All Starburst Flavors
  • Lip Definer
  • Lip Shiners
  • Make Your Own Gloss Kits
  • Sweet and Sour Candies
  • Shiny Stixs
  • Candy Gloss
  • All Vita Gloss
  • Blushing Gels
  • Loose Powders
  • Concealer Stick
  • Smooth Shades


  • Original Lip Smackers
  • Sun Smackers (Including Clip N Go)
  • Megastar Lip Smackers
  • Kool Aid Lip Smackers
  • F’lip Styles
  • F’lip Glosses
  • Lip Lites Glossy Tints Balms
  • Starburst Tropical & Baja Flavored Lip Smacker Lip Balms
  • M&M Lip Smacker Balms (New Formula with Castor Oil)
  • Dasani Balms
  • Pinky Lip Smackers Balms
  • Skittles Lip Balms (New Formula with Castor Oil)
  • DPSU Lip Smackers
  • Starburst Jelly Beans Lip Balms
  • Color Kiss Lip Balms
  • Lip Smackers w/SPF

We do recommend that celiac patients steer clear of all Strawberry flavored products because vinegar is used for the tart taste.

We are always interested in trying to please our customers. We hope that you
will continue to enjoy all of our products and again thank you for contacting

Tina Brouse

The Bonne Bell Company

This is good information to have, although I'm not sure which category my Dr. Pepper smacker falls under. It's listed on the website as Dr. Pepper and Friends. I know it's been around for ages, but the original flavors have just three balms. I emailed her back and am still awaiting a reply. I just heard back. Tina says, "Yes, Dr. Pepper is one of the original ones." Blast! My favorite lippie has gluten!

Also amaranth, teff, and quinoa are gluten free, as is castor oil.

I'm not sure if I'm ready to give up my favorite gloss just yet. I haven't had a problem with it thus far, but I would like to go more organic. I've only tried a few other "natural" glosses and haven't fallen in love with any of them just yet. I do like the subtle tint of color too. Anyone have any suggestions? What's your favorite natural, organic, or gluten free gloss?

August 25, 2009

Mark Your Calendars: FREE Gluten Free Diet Teleseminar with Shelley Case, RD! and riceworks are teaming up to present a FREE 90-minute teleseminar with Shelley Case, RD on Monday, August 31st at 8:30 EST.

Shelley Case will be discussing celiac disease as well as answering your questions about the gluten free diet. You will need to register prior to the event. Information can be found here!

August 24, 2009

Back-to-School Tips for Gluten-Free Family Dinners

I stumbled across this PR release for Back-to-School Tips for Gluten Free Family Dinners. It's actually pretty cool! For $10 a month, you can get custom gluten free weekly menus, recipes, and even the shopping list from GfreeCuisine! If you're a time-crunched parent or just need help coming up with healthy gluten free meals, this is a fantastic resource!

August 23, 2009

Adventures on the Gluten Free Southside!

I was born and raised on the southside of the Chicago. I moved into the city a few years ago and through a mutual friend met Alexandra, another badass celiac chick living in the city who grew up on the north side of Chicago. We became great friends and it was very easy to get together and check out all the gluten free nooks and crannies of this fine city.

Fast-forward to February of this year. I moved back home to the southside and while we still get together all the time, we realized that we never checked out the gluten free southside together. I always talk about the great places I go, but she had never been! She hightailed it down here this weekend and I showed her the ropes of Chicago's gluten free southside.

First stop was Southtown Health Foods located at 2100 W. 95th Street in the Beverly neighborhood. Southtown Health Foods has been around forever and was the very first health food store I ever shopped at. They have a great selection of gluten free items as well as other health foods. They carry fresh produce, frozen and refrigerated items, vitamins and supplements, books and other media, essential oils and extracts, and I'm sure much more that I'm missing. They even have a smoothie bar. I ended up getting some Food for Life brown rice tortillas, a bottle of Omega-3 Pomegranate Chipotle salad dressing, and agave nectar.

Next, we were off to Beverly Bakery & Cafe located at 10528 S. Western Avenue. They carry Deerfield's Bakery gluten free products and Alexandra was looking for their baguettes. Unfortunately they were out. Those baguettes are just too popular!

Lil's Dietary located at 2738 W. 111th Street was our next stop and where we purchased the majority of our products. They carry a ton of baking mixes, crackers, pasta, cookies, breads...the list goes on. Alexandra stocked up! I just picked up a bag of Schar's shortbread cookies, a couple CLIF kids twisted fruit, and Let's Do Gluten Free ice cream cones.

We made our way out of the city and into the 'burbs for Pass Health Foods located at 7228 W. College Drive in Palos Hills, IL. I love this store! I hadn't been there in probably over a year and I'm sad I waited this long to return! They have a WONDERFUL selection of gluten free products. I was very impressed. In addition to gluten free, they have a LARGE selection of vitamins and supplements, sugar free and other special dietary and health foods. They even have a little "library" section with tables set up and a couple bookcases filled with books on special diets. They also carry a lot of beauty products, which I had a hard time resisting. I'm a total lip gloss junkie. I ended up purchasing Bhuja snack mix, which I had heard SO much about but never knew where to find it. Another great find was Wai Lana Yogi Chips which I had to get only because I lurve Wai Lana...I mean who doesn't? And who knew girl made yogi chips?! I'm excited! I also got some Dowd & Roger's almond flour and Kinnikinnick Brown sandwich bread. They filled my bag with a plethora of health magazines and send us on our way.

Next up was From From Market located at 14482 S. LaGrange Road in Orland Park, IL. They were hosting their special bread round up which was super fun! They had about 15-20 different breads to sample. They identified each bread with an animal and we were given a chart to rank the bread and add comments. The animal identifier made for not picking favorites if you had a bakery you already liked. Whichever bread got the highest rating, they plan on carrying it all the time in their store. I poured myself a glass of wine and set to work. Such hard work it was tasting all those breads! Some were just downright gross. When we finished, we were given the key with the bakeries of each animal. Turns out my favorite happened to be Andrea's Bakery with Meister's in a close second. We'll have to stay turned to see who they choose!

The bread tasting table!

I couldn't leave empty handed, so I picked up a bag of one of my favorite gluten free blondie cookies from Sun Flour Baking Co. I also found some Ian's CINNAMON cookie buttons and gluten free oat flour! I had never seen the cinnamon buttons and I'd been looking for a gluten free oat flour and was thrilled to finally find some!

All that shopping made us hungry, so we stopped at PF Chang's and indulged in some yummmmmy chinese food. I loved how they had their gluten free menu included with the regular menu. It's nice to not have to ask for a special menu and have them try and locate one somewhere in the restaurant. We got the Chang's Chicken Lettuce Wraps appetizer which was soooo good! We also split an order of chicken fried rice and the Moo Goo Gai Pan. We topped it off with the Flourless Chocolate Dome for dessert. Oh. Wow. Amazing.

We Pffff Chang'ed ourselves!

One more stop to New Vitality Health Foods located at 9177 W. 151st Street in Orland Park, IL. I had never been to this store, but recently found them online and figured I should check them out since I'd be in the area. Their website lead me to believe there weren't too many gluten free offerings, but when we got there I was shocked at how much they had! I found things there that I had never seen before. Hello, Tinkyada Brown Rice Spaghetti with Spinach? A four pack of mini one-cup servings of Pacific Organics broths? Their freezer section was filled with tons of goodies. I had already spent so much already, I just ended up grabbing a NuGo Free Carrot Cake bar with the promise to be back soon. This store was great! I also loved that they had a big selection of vitamins, supplements, and books. Plus the ladies that work there are certified nutritional consultants so they are great resources if you have questions or need help figuring out a speciality diet.

It was a whirlwind day, but so much fun! There are even a few places we missed, but that will have to wait for another day. If you're in the Chicagoland area, I highly recommend all of these stores. While they all carry a lot of the same products, each had products that were not available at the other stores, which I think is great! As I see it, why put all your eggs in one basket? Shop around and support these local mom and pop speciality stores!

August 22, 2009

Givin' it up for Blue Diamond Almond Nut-Thins!

Ooohhh goody! Time for another product review! Today we got Blue Diamond Almond Nut-Thins in Cheddar Cheese and Country Ranch.

I haven't really been a cracker eater until recently. I really love Glutino's crackers, which are the perfect stand-in for a Ritz and compliment soups very nicely. But this review isn't about them. It's about the Blue Diamond Almond Nut-Thins!

My mom and sister love the Almond flavor and have boxes of them in the house every so often. They were tasty, but I could use something with a little more flavor. Enter the cheese and ranch crackers.

To be honest, I never really knew they came in more flavors than almond. I just assumed that since Blue Diamond makes almonds, they made an almond cracker. End of story. Wasn't I surprised when I stumbled upon the entire line of Nut-Thins at my local grocery store! My eyes lit up and a smile crept across my face as I twittled my fingers Mr. Burns style.


Hazelnut, Pecan, Cheddar Cheese, Country Ranch, Smokehouse? Which do I pick?! I decided on the more snacky flavors than nutty and went with the cheddar and you already know.

The cheddar cheese was definitely cheesy. Not quite a Cheez-IT, as they had a cheese powder flavoring covering them rather than baked in. They made for a good snack, however; I preferred spreading a little cream cheese on them. I felt they needed a little something extra. Maybe because cheese goes so well with everything.

The country ranch was equally delicious. Like the cheddar crackers, these also had the powdered flavoring on them. I'm not sure if I could necessarily call them country ranch. I think these crackers are more city ranch. They kicked up the flavor making them a bold, trendsetting cracker. Very tasty indeed.

I liked these crackers and would/will purchase them again. While writing this review I kept thinking about serving them at a party. I think they would go over really well. They beat out a boring old plain cracker any day.

P.S. While looking up the links for this post, I read up on the Nut-Thins FAQs and found this little tidbit:

The ingredients used in Nut Thins® do not contain gluten. Nut-Thins® are processed in a facility that is certified by the “Gluten Free Certification Organization”. In addition Blue Diamond has every production lot of Nut Thins tested and certified for gluten.

Good to know!

August 21, 2009

Going Gluten Free Article in September Issue of Body & Soul Magazine

I love when I see articles and blurbs in magazines about celiac disease or the advantages of a gluten free diet. I get a little excited and hope that someone undiagnosed reads and benefits from the news. Even those already on a gluten free diet can possibly learn something new.

The September issue of Body & Soul magazine has a great article entitled Going Gluten Free. After reading the first couple of paragraphs, I was worried that it was just another article glorifying a gluten-free diet as a "fad" diet. As I read on, I realized that was not the case. It dispelled those beliefs and acknowledged that yes, people really DO have problems eating wheat. Thank you!

The article gives a run down of symptoms, statistics, and a few words of wisdom from Peter Green, M.D., director of the Celiac Disease Center at Columbia University Medical Center. They list some great resources, links, and even a recipe for gluten free sandwich bread!

Be sure to check it out

August 20, 2009

Fun with Polenta!

I rarely eat polenta, but when I do it's always very tasty and I think, "I should eat polenta more often." I have yet to make my own polenta from scratch, although I should as my family owns a "polenta stick" which is basically a large wooden stirrer.

I made these little quick and easy polenta pies using the basil and garlic precooked polenta, some tomato sauce, cheese and fresh basil.

Slice up the polenta and arrange on a cookie sheet. I lined my cookie sheet with parchment paper.

Add a little tomato sauce.

Sprinkle some cheese on there.

Mmm... and some fresh chopped basil.

Pop in a preheated 350 degree oven for about 10-15 minutes or until the cheese is melted.


I think these would be even better with slices of fresh tomato instead of tomato sauce, but in a pinch the sauce worked just fine.

Check out this post on the Gluten Free Homemaker's "What Can I Eat That's Gluten Free" Food Carnival!

Polenta on Foodista

August 18, 2009

Marion from Pamela's Products is my new best friend!

Seriously, this woman is DA BOMB!! Apologies for my lame 1998 lingo, but really, Marion ROCKS!! Alexandra (my celiac bestie) and I made our way out to the Gluten Free Cooking Expo's Vendor Fair in Lisle, IL this past weekend. While we would have loved to attend the cooking portion of the expo, the admission was a little too steep on our pocketbooks. We could dish out the $15 for the vendor fair though, and were mighty glad we did!

We love finding new gluten free products and we love free samples even more. Gluten free products are expensive, so I love the "try before you buy" approach of these fairs. I found several new companies with products that I love. While I wasn't able to buy everything right then and there, I was thrilled when I ran into Marcie from Lil's who informed me that she will be carrying a lot of the products in her store! Total score...she sure knows how to hook a girl up!

Here's a rundown of some of the vendors and their products:
  • Life Beyond Wheat - Their gluten free cinnamon rolls were too good to be true. Soooo yummy!
  • Meister's Gluten Free Mixtures! - I believe the words, "Shut UP!" were uttered after I tasted their angel food cake. It was better than how I remember regular angel food cake tasting. Their sandwich bread was phenomenal. I took a chocolate cookie with a powdered sugar coating "to-go" which just melted in my mouth. I will definitely be purchasing from them soon.
  • San-J - They're an old standby to these fairs, but a table where I always stop. I love their sauces and tried their new "Sweet and Tangy" variety that was just that. MmMmMMmm....sweet and tangy, indeed!
  • Gluten Free Sensations - These guys had A-M-A-Z-I-N-G granola. I was on the fence about purchasing some, but I just bought some a few days earlier! Once that is gone, they are definitely my next granola supplier. They also carried a pancake & waffle mix, and a chocolate chip cookie mix. Both were awesome!
  • Breads From Anna - First off, how cute is this woman?! She is the nicest, sweetest little thing ever! I am a longtime fan of Breads From Anna. I made gluten free brownies for non-gluten intolerant friends once, which they loved. Then I made pumpkins muffins from a Breads From Anna mix, and it was announced that "Gluten Free Pumpkin Muffins are the new Gluten Free Brownies." If anyone is going to pass up a brownie for a muffin, then you KNOW this stuff is good. This weekend I tasted her new cranberry mix, maple mix, and apple mix. All hands down out of this world! She also made a tort using her pie crust which was just ridiculous. Everything was so scrumptious!
  • Schar - Ahhh...good ol'Schar. Schar is one of my favorite gluten free brands. Their sandwich bread, dinner rolls, crispy breadsticks, and breadcrumbs are amazing. I tasted their table crackers and round shortbread cookies. Yep, just found a new substitute for those little mini cheesecakes. Until now I could never find a good replacement for a Nilla wafer.
  • Kettle Cuisine - Oh man, this soup is good! I tried the clam chowder that was soooo tasty! It's nearly impossible to find a good gluten free chowder. They also carry chicken noodle soup make with Tinkyada pasta!
  • Andrea's Fine Foods - Everything they make is delicious. I tried just about everything from the pumpkin bread to the cookies. The Gooey Truffle cookies were my favorite. Unfortunately for me everyone thought the same, because they were sold out!
  • Apple's Bakery, Inc. - I love these guys. Their cookies are so good! They had cake this time around, and I nearly died. It was incredible!
  • Better Batter - Not only do they have an adorable little logo, their batter really is better. The Better Batter brownies were divine, as were their pancakes! Yum!
  • Pamela's Products - Pamela was always my go-to gal for years before all these other mixes came along, so naturally I hold her products near and dear to my heart. I love visiting the Pamela's booth because they have everything to offer from cookie samples to measuring spoons. The Pamela's women are delightful and have so much information to share! At the THRIVE expo I walked away with recipe cards, oodles of samples, and the phone number to order my gluten free wedding cake (although I'll need to find a husband first!) This time was no different. Marion was working the table and boy, was she ever! She had the funniest stories, the most amazing cupcakes (hello, vanilla cupcake with chocolate frosting and coconut flakes!), and great tips for making the perfect cornbread. She even bestowed the granddaddy of all samples upon us - a bag of their new corn bread muffin mix, which I've been dying to try! Not only that, she gave me a Pamela's Products cappuccino mug which will be PERFECT for my mug brownie!

Thanks Marion!

There were several more tables including GoPicnic; Culinary Counseling with the Benevolent Kitchen and Dr. Stephen Wangen with his new book Healthier without Wheat. All in all, it was a great day. I walked away with a belly full of goodies and a bag full of brochures and a few products I picked up.

Since we were all the way out by Naperville, we had to lunch at Pizza Fusion. Their gluten free pizza is one of the best around. We feasted on the spinach and artichoke pie and washed it down with Green's Gluten Free Beer. The perfect end to a fantastic food-filled day!

Look forward to some product reviews of the things I bought as well as a recap of NEXT week's Gluten Free Adventures where I introduce Alexandra to the gluten free southsiiiiiiiiiide!

August 16, 2009

Lifestyles of the Rich and....Gluten Free?

Yep, it's true. Living a gluten free lifestyle is more costly than a non-gluten free one. The NY Times ran an article about it this weekend, and it's pretty interesting.

I know I sometimes complain to friends that my loaf of bread costs $6.00 and is harder to track down compared to a $1.99 loaf they can pick up at a gas station if need be. That $7.00 bag of pretzels or $5.00 pack of cookies is a luxury for me, whereas they mindlessly toss giant 99 cent bags of pretzels in their shopping carts and can purchase cookies out of vending machines.

While a gluten free diet is more pricey, you don't have to be moneybags to be on one. All fruits and vegetables are gluten free (in their pure form, watch those bags of frozen seasoned veggies) and very affordable. Rice, corn shells, dairy, beans, eggs and meats are also gluten free. Nuts and popcorn...really, the list is endless. Just get creative with your options!

I know that since switching to a gluten free diet I've not only eliminated wheat and gluten, but I've also incorporated more of those healthy, natural foods into my diet. I've really only been eating gluten free speciality foods in the past couple of years since the market exploded with GOOD tasting gluten free food. For the years prior, I just avoided all things glutenous. Since breads and snacks are more expensive and not always readily available for me, my lunches are salads filled with veggies. Snacks are fruits and yogurt. Sometimes days will go by before I have a gluten free cracker, cookie or even gluten free pasta and bread.

Yes I still indulge in the occasional gluten free goodie here and there - wait until you hear about my weekend! Unfortunately it's a little more pricey and takes more work now that I am shopping at speciality shops, but that's ok....I'm still gluten free and fabulous!

August 15, 2009

I love chocolate. I love chips. I love chocolate tortilla chips!

Holy crap! Seriously?!?!?! I thought I was dreaming when I was shopping in County Fair yesterday and saw CHOCOLATE TORTILLA CHIPS! But's true!

Food Should Taste Good has unbelievable chippies; I should know as I wolfed down almost an entire bag of the multigrain variety about a month ago. They are simply addicting. But chocolate tortilla, no...chocolate tortilla chips that are gluten free?! I think they've created a monster!

This concept isn't new to me. I remember being at a Fuddrucker's years ago and having an ice cream sundae with chocolate tortillas. I remember being weary about the chips. I tasted them, and they tasted more like a crispy cookie. Like what I would imagine one of those 100 calorie packs of Oreo Thin Crisps to taste like. Luckily I didn't get sick, so maybe they were safe.

Another time at the end of a party where I served fruit with hot fudge dipping sauce and chips with salsa, we were vultures with the leftovers. Dipping the salty corn chips in the sweet fudge sauce was by far better than any White Castle or Taco Bell mistake at 4am.

Food Should Taste Good's Chocolate Tortilla Chips were divine! Made with semi-sweet chocolate, dutch cocoa powder, vanilla, and sea salt, these chips were the perfect combination of sweet and salty. With that dutch cocoa powder and sea salt, I feel so fancy eating them!

Naturally I wanted to make a savory little dessert, so I recreated that ice cream sundae I had years ago. This time knowing it was completely gluten free and healthy (I am on Weight Watchers, ya know!)

Only 2 points when made with Breyer's Fat Free Ice Cream!

August 9, 2009

Puppy Chow with a Twist!

Last week when Borders was having their big bad super coupon sale, they had magazines $2 off. I had a hard time deciding to go with one of my favorites, Bust, or do-it-yourself. After flipping through Bust and seeing the little recipe section my mind was made up.

Kelly Carámbula wrote a yummy little article for Mom's Puppy Chow. I love Puppy Chow. More than anything. Obviously I know how to make it, but here's the twist. Mama Carámbula uses Corn Chex instead of Rice and BUTTERSCOTCH instead of chocolate. Insert drool here.

I couldn't wait to try it and this weekend I finally whipped up a batch. Definitely drool inducing indeed. The butterscotch gives it a distinct flavor and I can't quite decide if I like it more than the chocolate version. I think it's safe to say that this recipe mixed with a batch of the chocolate puppy chow would be a little taste of heaven.

Some like it HOT! - A gluten free Buffalo Chicken Lasagna recipe

It's an incredibly hot day here in Chicago. The last thing anyone wants to do is eat a warm meal, although maybe they do. Maybe they want a hot and spicy, savory carb-loaded meal. In that case, I'm your girl.

I discovered this recipe when I joined Weight Watchers last year. A clever girl by the name of Aimee over at Aimee's Adventures created it and everyone in the 20-somethings forum of the Weight Watcher's message boards raved about it.

I've changed things up a bit, substituting the whole wheat pasta for brown rice and tweaked some things here and there. I've only served it to non-gluten intolerant people and they LOVED it. Babs just tried it when I made this batch and couldn't stop saying how good it was - and she doesn't do spicy! Here is my version of Aimee's recipe that has also received rave reviews:

Buffalo Chicken Lasagna
  • 1 box of Tinkyada Brown Rice Lasagna Noodles, uncooked
  • 1 lb. Skinless Chicken Breast, cubed (I sometimes use a little more)
  • 3 cups Hunt's Four Cheese Spaghetti Sauce (that big can is 3 cups)
  • 1 cup of Buffalo Wing or Hot Sauce
  • 1 cup water
  • 15 oz. Fat Free Ricotta Cheese
  • 1 packet of Hidden Valley Ranch dip mix
  • 1/2 cup of Egg Substitute
  • 1 package of Blue Cheese crumbles
  • 1 package of Sliced or Shredded Pepperjack Cheese
  • Sour cream for topping (optional)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray a large pot with cooking spray. Cook chicken over medium to high heat until almost done. Stir in sauces and water.

In a small bowl, combine ricotta cheese and ranch packet. Add in egg substitute.

Spray a 9x13 pan with cooking spray. Spread sauce/chicken mixture in the bottom of the pan. Arrange a layer of noodles over sauce. Spread more sauce, then a layer of the ricotta mixture. Sprinkle on blue cheese crumbles. Add another layer of sauce and repeat the layering process until you end with a layer of sauce. (or in my case...cheese)

Cover with foil and bake for 70 minutes. Uncover and add pepperjack cheese on top, then bake for another 15 minutes uncovered.

Let stand 10-15 minutes before serving. Top with sour cream and enjoy!

Naturally I was so excited to eat when it was done,
I forgot to take a picture! This was my leftovers the next day
when the cheese wasn't as ooey and gooey, but
still delicious!

Lasagna on Foodista

August 7, 2009

Gluten Free Soft Pretzels!

Last weekend I made a quick stop to Lil's, my favorite dietary shop, to pick up some gluten free pasta. As much as I love going there, it's also very dangerous on my pocketbook because Marcie is constantly finding great new products to sell and I am constantly buying them! This time was no different. What did she have for me this time?

Gluten. Free. Soft. Pretzels.

As soon as she pulled the bag out of the freezer case, visions of high school lunch period came rushing back. One of my favorite lunches was buying a giant soft pretzel and either dipping it in a cup of cheese or dunking it in a pile of squeezed out mustard packets. Then I found out I had celiac and my soft pretzel days were over. Could I seriously be reunited with such a wonderful concession stand snack? I couldn't wait to find out!

While I had planned on rushing home and immediately shoveling one of the salty twisted breads into my mouth, I was sidetracked and unable to make a pretzel until just a few days ago. I decided that yes, yes I was going to eat a pretzel for dinner. So there.

Following the directions on the AllerEngery bag, I baked the pretzel for 10 minutes in a 350 degree oven. I placed my pretzel on a foil covered cookie sheet, wet the pretzel a tiny bit so the salt would stick (yes, they even come with a little salt packet!), sprinkled the salt over and baked that bad boy for 10 minutes. With very little effort and almost no time at all, I once again had a soft pretzel before me.

I was good! I can't lie and say that I wasn't hoping it would be like old times. Some gluten free stuff just isn't the same. This pretzel included. It tasted a bit sweeter (like a dessert bread) and the insides weren't as soft and doughy as a regular soft pretzel. I think baking it could be one of the reasons. I know some breads do better in the microwave than the toaster. This might be one of those "pop it in the microwave" ones where it turns out softer and mushier. I have fond memories of squeezing the bread to scrape the last bit of cheese out of cup. This pretzel doesn't squeeze so well.

Although it was very savory, I think I set my expectations a bit too high, which is to be expected. When I had my first gluten free bread 10 years ago I was expecting it to be just like any regular store bought bread. I'm sure you can imagine my disappointment when it crumbled completely and the dry breadcrumbs stuck to the roof of my mouth.

Just like the bread, I'm not giving up on these pretzels! Next one is going in the microwave. I'll report back with any new findings. In the meantime, I would highly recommend you checking them out for yourself! They really are a treat! Swing by Lil's to pick up a bag!

August 4, 2009

August Gluten Free Events! Mark your calendars!

What a month to be gluten free! If you’re in the Chicagoland area, August brings a slew of great gluten free events for everyone. Pull out your calendars and start penciling in.

August 8 – 9
Veggie Fest in Naperville, IL

Obviously veggies are gluten free, so this is a no-brainer. In addition to all the food vendors, there will also be expert speakers, events for kids, and cooking demos. A Gluten Free Vegetarian cooking demo is scheduled for Saturday, August 8th at 4:15pm and is described as:

Gluten-free Vegetarian
So many of us have intolerance to foods with gluten but we are afraid to eliminate it from our diet. If you a vegetarian, this may complicate the issue further. Please join our vegetarian cooks, who themselves have eliminated gluten from their diet, to learn the ins and outs of gluten-free cooking. You will sample their tasty creations while learning new recipes to
please your palate.

The event is FREE, runs this Saturday from 11am – 8pm and Sunday from 11am – 7pm. Check out their website for more info!

August 15 - 16
Gluten Free Cooking Expo in Lisle, IL

Now is one is VERY cool. A two-day cooking expo completely gluten free? What a fun event this will be, especially if you enjoy cooking and have been challenged with creating gluten free meals. The expo will be teaching how to prepare gluten free/dairy free recipes over the course of two days at the Wyndham Hotel.

Sessions with experts will include interesting topics such as Entertaining at Home While on a Gluten Free Diet and Money Matters: The Gluten Free Diet on a Budget, while also covering informational sessions on celiac like Why We Can't Process Wheat and Understanding Non Celiac Gluten Intolerance.

A gluten free/dairy free lunch is served both days and there are even sessions for the kids. They can learn how to order for themselves when going out to a restaurant and how to eat at a friend's house when they are without their parents.

A Vendor Fair with over 30 vendors is included in the Expo and is also open to the public for $15. Much more information can be found here!

August 22
12 - 6pm
The Great Gluten Free Bread Roundup
Free From Market in LaGrange, IL
For me, gluten free bread is a treat. It's pricey, so I don't always have a loaf of bread hanging out in my freezer. Also, not all gluten free bread is the same. Some work better for sandwiches than others.
To help you find your favorite, Free From Market will be sampling sandwich breads from over 20 dedicated gluten free and allergen friendly bakeries in the Midwest. You'll be able to taste and vote for your favorite. The bread voted the best will always be available at Free From Market.

I received this information from being on their email list and do not see it on their website yet, but I'm sure it will be updated soon. For directions and more about their store, go here!

Rose's Wheat Free Bakery Review

I would like to preface this entry by saying that I very rarely, if ever, write poor reviews. I usually bite my tongue when it comes to bad service or undesirable food. I still leave a tip after receiving terrible service. I smile and say "everything's great!" when I wouldn't even feed the food to my dog (if I had a dog.)

But this time is different. I'm only writing this because I don't want anyone to make the same mistake I did by paying a lot of money for unedible food. Gluten free food is expensive. I was so mad at myself when I left Rose's, because not only was I grossed out, but I was also out $40.

Hence, why I had to write a bad review. I posted it on and was not surprised to see other bad reviews. What I was surprised on was the fact that people still rated 3 or 4 stars, then wrote how bad the food was. Be a man and give them one star, it's ok!

Here's my experience at Rose's Wheat Free Bakery:

I hadn't been to Rose's in almost a year, so my celiac friend and I decided
to make the hike out there. I remember their pizza being delicious, as
well as their buns and pastries.

Um...apparently a lot has happened in a year. After my last trip, I
doubt I would ever go back.

We went for lunch last Saturday. When we got there, the place was
empty except for one customer. You'd think I'd have my order taken fairly
quickly, but I stood at the register while the rest of the staff talked amongst
themselves. I let it slide. I was talking to Rose when my friend
ordered so maybe they thought I wasn't getting anything...although I was
standing at the register looking around with my credit card in my hand.

We both ordered the tallgrass beef burger. I opted for the $2 fresh
chips with my order. When we got our food, we were severely disappointed.
The "tallgrass" burger tasted like it came from a frozen pack of beef
patties. It was overcooked and not very savory for being advertised as
some great organic burger. The "fresh chips" were a complete waste.
I would have rather bought a bag of Lay's than had eaten the burnt chips I
was served. The french bun was a little on the dry side and really nothing
special. Not how I remember them being before.

We should have left after that, but we decided we had to have dessert.
We each ordered a piece of cheesecake and some items to go and headed
outside to eat our dessert. I had a chocolate chip cookie dough cheesecake
that was mediocre at best. I didn't taste any chocolate chip cookie dough.
My friend had the chocolate cheesecake and after a few bites discovered
egg shells in her cake. We stopped eating and brought our food inside to
show them. Their response? " you want another piece?"
Yes, please give me more eggshell-filled cake! No apology, no
refund, not even someone scurrying over to the case to remove the others that
might possibly be contaminated.

Yikes! We headed out upset that we wasted so much money on not very
good food. I bought a lemon square, a raspberry crumb cake, a pack of
pitas, and granola to bring home with me. The lemon square was ok.
I've had better, theirs was a little too runny and mushy. A little
on the tart side too, it would had been nice if it were sprinkled in powdered
sugar. The raspberry crumb cake was delicious, I'll give them that.
It's the only reason why I'm giving two stars instead of one.

The pitas? Well...if I thought the egg shell incident was a fluke, I
was wrong. I made little pizzas with the pitas. I cut them in little
triangle pieces, which I'm SO thankful for, because when I cut into the bread, I
noticed short black hairs baked into the bread!!! I'm a blonde. I
made my meal myself. There was no way they were mine. I threw out my
dinner, as well as the rest of the $10 pack. I haven't tried the granola,
but I'll probably just throw it out. Their cooks and bakers should be
wearing hair nets, that's just gross.

If you're looking for a good gluten free bakery, head to Deerfield's or get
a cupcake from Swirlz. If you're looking for gluten free food, go to Da
. Don't waste your time here. Sorry Rose, but you've lost
your touch.

Yes. We're talking egg shells in the cake. Hair in the bread. In the words of Alexandra, "that's just tacky." It's not a sandwich you picked up at a gas station. It's a bakery. I expect more.

August 2, 2009

How much wood would a WOODCHUCK chuck, if a woodchuck could chuck wood?!

Finding alcoholic beverages that are travel friendly is sometimes a challenge for a celiac or gluten intolerant person. Although I usually bring a bottle of wine to parties, it's often drunk by others too and then when it's gone I'm out of luck. A beer run just isn't the same when you hand over ten bucks and ask for a bottle of pinot grigio. Even going out to bars can be a bummer when the only "specials" are $2 PBRs and I'm stuck paying $8 for a rum and coke.

A couple exciting months ago when the Bulls and Hawks were in the playoffs, a friend of mine won a happy hour party at a sports bar. Despite the fact that he knows nothing about any sport, nor does he care, we all went for the free drinks and adrenaline rush brought on the games. How upset was I when I learned that the only drinks for free were Bud Light drafts. Yeah...not gonna work.

Being a happy hour party, we earned some pretty good drink specials as well. While I'm sippin' my gin & juice (just kidding) I noticed Alexandra (my celiac cohort) drinking what appears to be a draft beer! *Gasp* She informs me that it's Woodchuck Cider and that cider is safe for celiacs. I'm shocked! Where have I been? Why had I not known this? More importantly, she didn't she tell me sooner?!

Well what's done is done. I visited Woodchuck's website and found that it really truly is gluten free! They claim:
Green Mountain Beverage has received numerous inquiries asking if Woodchuck Draft Ciders contain gluten. Due to these requests Green Mountain Beverage had each of the Woodchuck Draft Cider styles tested by ABC Research Corp., Gainesville, FL. We have received the analytical results confirming that all Woodchuck Draft Cider styles are naturally gluten free! (Amber, Dark & Dry 802, Granny Smith, Pear, and Raspberry).
How exciting! Last night found me heading out to Millenium Park to meet up with friends for some free music and great times. I proudly toted my sixer of Woodchuck in my little White Sox cooler, happy that I didn't have to mess with corkscrews, cups, and the like. (Although I am a fan of the mini bottles of wine as well as wine juice boxes!) The cider was delicious! Cold, crisp, and nice and smooth. Perfect for a cool summer night! I'm glad to have another option available as far as alcohol is concerned. I feel safe drinking it, seeing that I had no "celiac symptoms" afterwards.

The box even states that it's naturally gluten free!