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Friday, June 29, 2012

Old Chicago

Old Chicago is a tricky place to enjoy gluten-free eats - but it's possible!  I've only ever eaten the Italian Nachos but I always ask them to sub-in the corn chips from their regular nachos.  This turns out wonderful and it's what I usually order even though it's an appetizer.  Also - Old Chicago always has Woodchuck - a sweet apple cider beer and occasionally they have Redbridge - Anheuser-Busch's gluten free option.  At least here you can drink beer and nosh down on nachos just like everyone else!  


I love this dish with pepperocini, sausage, pepperoni, cheese & pizza sauce!!  

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Pasta Amore!

Lunch dates use to be a nightmare for me and made me quite nervous.  I have always had jobs/careers where networking is a must and required lunch dates.  Early in my career, when I was less confident in myself and my food disability - I had a hard time committing to lunch meetings because 1) I didn't want the client to suggest their favorite restaurant and it end up being impossible for me to eat there 2) I didn't want to look silly sitting there NOT eating and 3) I didn't want my client to see me making a huge fuss over preparations, menu alterations, or end up sending something back.

I realized that I needed to be the first to speak up - I would only suggest 1 or 2 places where I knew I could eat successfully and hoped my client would choose my offerings not suggestion somewhere completely different.  This usually worked and I became much more confident for lunches.  I made sure we went to a restaurant where I was comfortable and could order with little fuss.  I tried to never make conversation around my "food disease," "food allergy," or "food disability."  Sometimes it comes up and I explain briefly but never details.  "Yes, I'm gluten-free."  Leave it at that.

Pasta Amore is a lovely italian restaurant in Rockbrook Village (Omaha) that makes gluten free pasta in house.  I met the family that owns the restaurant through my previous job and have enjoyed safely eating there.  The pasta is the only specifically gluten free item they offer, but the owners & waitstaff are very educated on gluten free eating.  They always have wonderful suggestions for menu items to try and do their best to allow my to eat "special" in a normal setting.

There is nothing like being able to eat in an italian restaurant.  Italian is one of the few ethnic cuisines usually off limits to Celiacs so finding a restaurant where you can safely eat gluten free pasta in public is awesome.  I avoided Italian restaurants for a good three years because of one horrible experience (more about those later) but now I love lunching at Pasta Amore.  


Last week during a lunch meeting, I ordered my usual gluten free pasta but I tried the red pepper sauce for the first time - it was absolutely incredible.  All the peppers retained their integrity and favor after being cooked all together - so delicious!  The order was so large I took some to go and ate it for supper that evening. 


Pasta Amore E Fantasia on Urbanspoon

-Justine



Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Brown Rice Pasta


This is the brown rice pasta I use the most.  I believe you can purchase this brand or at least a very similar brand at HyVee but it's much much cheaper at Trader Joes.  When I cook for my friends and family most cannot tell the difference between regular pasta and gluten free pasta.  This has a very natural consistency and holds up well.  My only quip is that it seems to absorb more sauce - so take note when baking with it or dressing it in pasta salad.  

Monday, June 25, 2012

Butterscotch Krispies

It's been years since I've eaten rice krispy treats.  I know this sounds silly, rice krispies should be gluten free.  However they are not, along with a long list of other things that SOUND gluten free.  Yes, rice is gluten free but most rice krispie cereal is sweetened with malt barley (a huge gluten free no no).  

BUT, Kellogs Rice Krispies now come in gluten free!  You have to watch the boxes, they set them right next to the regular ones at the grocery store - Hyvee always has them.  Not always easy to find at other places - especially Target.  

YAY!  feeling normal - able to shop in the regular cereal aisle :)  

My friend Lisa makes these bar cookies and I find them insanely addictive:


These are too easy. 

Melt together 1 regular size jar of peanut butter and 1 regular size bag of butterscotch chips.  (melt over very low heat on the stove or very slowly in the microwave).  Pour over 6 cups of rice krispies.  That's it!!  Press into a 9x13 pan.  Let them set up in the fridge for as long as you can wait.  Enjoy!

*I use Skippy super chunk peanut butter or Trader Joes Chunky salted peanut butter.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Homemade Pudding

My family has been deeply supportive of my food disability.  They seem to go out of their way to make sure I have something to eat at all family gatherings and are always checking up to me to see how I'm doing with my "special diet."

My mom most of all has been wonderful though my entire gluten free journey, I think this is mostly because she knew how sick I was for years and how much I battled with food being such a painful enemy.  My mom makes many many wonderful dishes for me to enjoy when I'm home on the weekends.  Here is one I love straight from the Better Homes & Garden Cookbook circa 1971.


It's titled Vanilla Pudding:  (we never eat vanilla pudding)  Always Coconut or Butterscotch.

3/4 cups sugar
2 tablespoons cornstarch 
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 cups milk
1 well-beaten egg
2 tablespoons butter
1 teaspoon vanilla 

In saucepan, blend sugar, cornstarch, and salt; add milk.  Cook and stir over medium head till thickened and bubbly.  Cook and stir 2 minutes more.  Remove from heat.

Stir small amount of hot mixture into beaten egg; return all to hot mixture; cook and stir 2 minutes more.  Remove from heat; add butter and vanilla.  Pour into bowls.  Chill.  Makes 4 servings.  

*For coconut:  Add about 3/4 cup shredded coconut when you add the butter & vanilla.

*For Butterscotch (my fav): Substitute brown sugar for regular sugar and increase butter to 3 tablespoons.  

*For Chocolate: Increase sugar to 1 cup and add two 1-ounce squares unsweetened chocolate along with the milk.

Enjoy!!

Friday, June 22, 2012

Dark Chocolate Almonds

Found these at Trader Joes recently. Salty, chocolately, delightfully not too sweet and just enough crunch. They're lovely for snacking - and almonds do you can technically consider them healthy! Better grab someone to share them with or you'll eat the whole container :)

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Ticos

Ticos is a great gluten free option in Lincoln.  The wait staff is very attentive and management has dedicated some serious time to developing their gluten free menu.  I've always felt safe eating at Ticos and haven't ever had any problems that I can remember.  They do have a separate gluten free menu to look at - but you can just order off the regular one also.  This is a place where you can go with friends or family and all eat together without feeling singled out - you can feel normal and eat normal - I think that's what I love most about Ticos.... well and I just can't get enough of their spicy salsa.  I could probably bottle it and drink it :)





Tico's Mexican Restaurant on Urbanspoon




Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Broccoli Sausage Summer Pasta


Here's a quick easy pasta dish - easy for week day lunches and easy to freeze!

I buy HyVee brand brats - you can usually find them on sale if you watch for them.  For this dish I used 2 green onion brats and 2 italian sausage brats.  I have check multiple times and these are gluten free and safe to eat!  To prepare them - simmer brats for a bit in a covered skillet until heated/cooked through.  Then drain the water from the pan - add a little oil.  Turn up the heat, add the brats back in and cook for color!


Let the brats rest for a bit.  In that pan where you cooked the brat - sauté some diced onions.  I buy already diced onions at Trader Joes.  One package should do.  This will be the base of your sauce.  In the mean time - cut up one head of broccoli and slice up 2 lemons.  Toss the lemons & broccoli in a little olive oil and dust with black pepper - put in the oven to roast at 375 for however long it takes for the pasta to cook and the sauce to finish. 

Get the pasta cooking in boiling water.  I use either brown rice pasta or corn pasta from Trader Joes.  You can find a wide variety at Hyvee also but they're a little more expensive.  Once the pasta is almost done - scoop out about a cup of the starchy pasta water and set aside.  Drain the pasta once cooked.


Broccoli and lemons are roasting in the oven, pasta is cooked or still cooking.  In the pan where your onions are now sautéing - cut up the brats into bite sizes and add them back to the pan.  Turn up the heat.  Add one small scoop of Trader Joes crushed garlic.  Pour in about 3/4 a cup of the starchy pasta water you saved out.  Let this come to a high simmer.  Add the juice of 2 lemons.  Just let it cook for a few minutes until it reduces slightly.

To finish - put the pasta back in its cooking pot.  Take the broccoli and lemons out of the oven and add to the pasta.  Pour the sausage sauce over the pasta and toss all together.  Serve hot or cold, great to freeze or dish up for lunches.  Enjoy!!

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Gluten-Free Bible

This is my well-worn copy of the gluten-free bible.  Still probably one of the best and most informative books out there on gluten-free living, I read this entire book front to back the day I was diagnosed.  I've never looked for an updated version but the theory & information is still the same.  I would suggest it to anyone who has celiacs and anyone who is supporting / advocating for someone gluten-free.

You should be able to find a copy at Barnes & Noble or for sure on Amazon.com.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

For Lily

I'm re-dedicating this blog to my dear friend Lily and her adventure to find peace within the gluten free food world. Being gluten free is not a fad diet, it's not a detox, it's not a choice. Being gluten free is a life altering change as a result of your body rejecting gluten as a foreign enemy. All celicas understand the benefits of being gluten free and the sudden lifting of burdensome symptoms - an incredible clarity of feeling healthy for the first time - it still doesn't make it easy. Being gluten free is NOT easy in any way - it's a constant battle with food, ingredients, labels, wait staff, and daily life.

I hope to share my journey here, my recipes, my favorite places, and help make things just a lily bit easier :)