Monday, July 25, 2016

Terrific Toasted Tofu - Meatless Monday

I like tofu. I'm not a vegetarian, but it's a great inexpensive source of protein. 

I find this to be odd, because I despised it when I was in college. My college roommate was a vegetarian and was always trying to get us to eat it. And other interesting dishes. I distinctly remember something called the Enchanted Broccoli Forest. I don't remember the dishes being all that magical. But I digress.

My favorite way to eat it is in a stir-fry, after it has been baked in the oven. I've found a way to make the outside crunchy while keeping the inside flexible. It pairs beautifully with Asian sauces and the tofu doesn't get soggy in the dish. Even with leftovers.

My secret?

I.M. Healthy Corn Flake Crumbs. Or their Tortilla Crumbs. They're both favorites. :)

Here's how you do it. If you've never tried tofu before, it's packaged in a small container in water. (I buy the Simple Truth Organic Extra Firm Tofu at my local Kroger. It's less than $2 for a 14 oz package.) To use it, you have to squeeze the extra water out. I usually place the tofu between two cookie sheets and stack plates on top. (Someday I might get fancy and but an EZ Tofo Press like my friend Cindy Gordon uses.) I usually place a few paper towels underneath to sop up the water too.

Once the water has been squeezed out, I slice the tofu in half, hamburger wise. (If you're an elementary school teacher, you'll totally understand this reference.) I then cube the tofu, usually into 16 pieces. so when you're done with both halves you should have 32 tofu cubes.

I lightly coat the cubes with oil and then toss them in a mixture of I.M. Healthy Corn Flake crumbs and Parmesan cheese. I use a 1 to 1 ration, and find 3 tbsp of each is enough for a 14 oz block of tofu. (You could also do just corn flake crumbs if you're a dairy-free eater.) After the pieces are coated, place them on a cookie sheet and bake them in a heated 350 degree oven for 25 minutes.

When they're done, add them to your favorite dish. I like gluten-free Teriyaki with lots of sauteed vegetables and pineapple if I have it around. You could even leave this in long sticks and use them as a vegetarian substitute for chicken fingers. Use your imagination!

** I was given the corn flake & tortilla crumbs to review. My opinions and me recipe are my own.**

Friday, July 22, 2016

American Gluten-Free: Living Life to the Fullest

I like getting packages in the mail. Don't you? With the advent of the Internet and electronic mail, it seems the only things we get anymore are bills. That and circular ads you just through in the trash. 

Subscription boxes like American Gluten-Free make getting things in the mail a LOT more fun. 
Just look what came inside the July box I received! Who wouldn't love graham crackers and a roasting stick for S'mores? Dried chickpeas?! Count me in!  

The idea behind the Foodie Box is to send you items that you can use to make a meal. They also have a Discovery box with smaller samples so you can get a little taste of the gluten-free dairy-free glory. Everything in these boxes are also "Junk Free." All items are free of artificial flavors, colors or chemicals. Every items is free of genetically modified ingredients as well. 

My husband did foil packets using the Mediterranean Organic Sun- Dried tomatoes and grilled chicken using the Denny Mike's Chick Magnet seasoning. Delicious! Dinner for two is served!

And since I was a good girl and finished all of my dinner, we made S'mores. I'm totally in love with the roasting stick with the retractable tines. I was SUPER excited about the Natural Decadence graham crackers, as I've seen bloggers raving about them. Really good. I want to point out the Theo chocolate bar did not come in the box. It contains dairy. 

Nom Nom Nom! 

Tonight I used the Andean Dream Fusilli to make a great pasta dish. I was really impressed with how well this gluten-free pasta helped up. It had a great texture. I topped it with grilled brussel sprouts, sauteed onions and mushrooms, chickpeas, cherry Craisins, Kalamata olives, Feta cheese and the Garlic Gold Lemon (No Vinegar) Vinaigrette. It was amazing, although it was a bit peppy. he Garlic Gold dressing has quite a kick to it! 

 Visit the American Gluten Free website to learn more about Erika's story, and see the great things they put in their boxes. Sign up quickly before they send out their next order. They ship on the 27th!

** I was supplied with a box for free to review. My thoughts and opinions are my own.**

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

No Rest Until Gluten-Free Means Celiac-Safe

Picture from
This is how I feel sometimes when someone says what they offer is Gluten-Free. 

Sometimes is seems the cause of Celiac Disease takes one step forward and two steps back. The FDA has finally listened to our cries, and declared a definition for "gluten-free."  But a manufacturer doesn't have to send test results to the FDA before placing that on a box, so we still have to investigate every product, and be the ones to tell the FDA that something is wrong. Eateries say it all the time about items on their menu that are made in shared kitchens without proper precautions. It leaves me wanting to say a few choice words that aren't fit to be said in public.

We've been trained to read labels. We know the words for gluten in all it's forms - wheat, rye, barley, malt, farro. We've relied on the label to keep us safe. Some manufacturers sometimes print "may contain" statements on packaging, which the FDA also doesn't regulate. Sometimes I feel that for all the extra information, we're still in the dark. I hate the dark.

Case in point. Sami's Bakery. If you're unfamiliar with them, they are a bakery in Florida that makes bread and crackers with Millet and Flax. If you were to read the ingredients label, there are no ingredients that would signify gluten. Safe, right?

Tricia Thompson of Gluten Free Watchdog originally had their products independently  tested back in 2011. At that time they tested in the THOUSANDS of parts per million. At that time, Sami's included the disclaimer that the bread  "Contains traces of gluten, wheat or yeast." Tricia worked hard to bring about awareness, and let everyone know that these products were unsafe to eat if you have Celiac Disease. She alerted Sami's Bakery about her test results as well.

And here we are in 2016. Five years later and we're still fighting the same battle. Tricia tested these products again, and they averaged 70,000 PPM OR MORE per sample. Sami's replied they "changed our disclaimer in March of 2016 to “Contains Gluten, Wheat and Yeast”. We also make it known to our customers that if they have a wheat allergy, sensitivity to gluten, or are celiac, NOT to consume our products.”

It's not enough. I just went to a cafe this past week that uses their bread exclusively for their gluten-free sandwiches. I know of a 100% gluten-free health food store that was selling this bread up until this information was shared with them. (Within 24 hours they have decided to remove the products from their store, and alert everyone on their email list.) I'm knowledgeable and keep up on latest research, trends and connect with dietitians. Not everyone has that same knowledge base though. How many are eating things that they shouldn't because we trust the term "gluten-free?"

It's made me wonder recently if I should only eat things that are certified gluten-free through a third party organization. I know it's  expensive for small mom & pop places to go that route, but provides extra security that products have been tested by an independent, neutral lab that gets no kickbacks or financial benefit from their result findings. (This being said, one of the organizations had an issue with their certification labels, so we still have to be vigilant.)

This is why Tricia Thompson and Gluten Free Watchdog are so important. I'm so in awe of how tirelessly she works to keep the Celiac Community safe. If you don't already subscribe to her service ($5/month) I highly suggest doing so. (And she's not paying me to say that either.) I realize through this situation how much she truly puts her neck on the line. We need more people like her.

WE need to be those people. We need to graciously educate restaurants, health-food stores and manufacturers. We need to approach concerns in private so real conversation can take place. We need to report troubling issues and concerns to the FDA. We need to band together to work for a cure, be a resource in our communities, and not rest until "gluten-free" means "celiac-safe."

Now pardon me as I contact another company being carried in another health food store that I'm certain is made in a shared facility without proper precautions. Serenity now. 

Monday, July 18, 2016

Franklin USA

Gazebo in Franklin, Michigan
It seems no matter where I roam, I come across a city named Franklin. I guess I shouldn't be surprised. Most of these towns are named after Benjamin Franklin, one of the founding fathers of our country. In every state I go to, all of these Franklin locations have a nearby gluten-free connection.

Franklin, Tennessee

Located just outside of Nashville, Franklin has the most charming downtown area. Go during the fourth of July and there's a small carnival that has fun for the whole family. There is a really great mall with lots of shopping and a play place for kids. Franklin, Tennessee is where you'll find Burger Up Cool Springs (which is much more allergy aware than their Nashville location) and Mellow Mushroom. The Find Me Gluten Free app lists many more restaurants with gluten-free options that I'd like to research more for the next time I go to Tennessee.

Franklin, Indiana

Franklin is about 20 minutes south of Indianapolis, and is home to Franklin College. Neat fact- it was the first college in the state to admit women. The big draw for gluten-free eaters is Suzy's Teahouse & Bakery. This 100% gluten-free shop makes wonderful sweets, but a major feature is the homemade mini-quiches and the plethora of teas from which to choose. When you're finished with your lunch, take a walk along their green ways that run the length of the village. And if you're a music fan, stop at Frank's Guitars around the corner.

Franklin, Kentucky

Located 25 miles south of Bowling Green, there are admittedly no great gluten-free restaurants here. You can stop at Chaney's Dairy Barn between Bowling Green and Franklin, which was voted best ice cream in the entire state of Kentucky. They don't have gluten-free cones, but the staff was great about getting out a fresh tub of ice cream and a clean scoop, without missing a step. Neat facts about Franklin, Kentucky- June and Johnny Cash were married there, and Kentucky Downs horse racing track is located in Franklin. This European-style turf race course is voted #2 in the country.

Franklin, Ohio

Like most other cities named Franklin, this one in Ohio is small and nestled approximately 30 miles from a major metropolitan area. Franklin, Ohio is located 25 miles south of Dayton. In Dayton you'll find Arepas & Company, a restaurant that specializes in Columbian comfort food. Everything on their menu is corn-based and gluten-free, except for their Tres Leche Cake. This means you can eat fried empanadas, plantains and bunuelos to your hearts content! Looking at these pictures makes me want to go back there right now! Who's up for a car trip?

Franklin Michigan

After finding so many cities named Franklin on our adventures, I had to look to see if there was a Franklin in Michigan. Sure enough, it's in Oakland county just north of Southfield. We stopped at Farmhouse Coffee & Ice Cream, where I was pleased to find they had gluten-free cones! After enjoying our treats and a small walk to the downtown gazebo, we took a 3 mile drive down to Southfield to Renee's Gourmet Pizzeria new takeout location. (Renee's is a 100% gluten-free and nut-free pizzeria.) We chose to order a calzone, since it could be eaten by hand and we were on a road trip adventure. It was big enough to feed us both!

So what's your favorite Franklin? Does your state have a small town feature that deserves a shout out? Write me a note in the comments and maybe that's the next state I'll visit!

Friday, July 15, 2016

Louisville : Gateway to the Gluten-Free South

As seen along Bardstown Drive. Photo courtesy of MI Gluten Free Gal.

If you live in Michigan and you're heading south past Indiana, more than likely you will pass through Louisville, Kentucky and the Ohio River. You will notice the Fleur-De-Lis throughout the city, an iconic reference to the King Louis the 16th, from whom the city gets it's name. Maybe this is where the city and the people get their charm. Everyone there is just so nice.  And very allergy aware. 

I'm sure one could easily spend days discovering Louisville, but I only had an afternoon. So I asked my fellow blogger, Karen (a.k.a. The Celiathelete) to share some of her info as well. I couldn't have pulled off this post without her, so be sure to check her page out as well! 

Where To Eat

Annie May's Sweet Cafe 

Sandwich with roasted red pepper spread and a side of mac n' cheese.Photo courtesy of MI Gluten Free Gal.

Annie May's Sweet Cafe is Louisville's only 100% gluten-free cafe and bakery. You can find everything on the menu from pizza to mac n' cheese to sandwiches. I especially loved the roasted red pepper spread on my sandwich.Then there's the large case of some of the most tempting desserts you' ever seen. Cupcakes, cheesecake, cookies and more. Check out their Facebook for other specialties, and click the link above for my full restaurant review! Note- They are closed on Sunday and Monday.

Steel City Pops 

I love the counter at Steel City Pops. Photo courtesy of MI Gluten Free Gal

One of the most intriguing places in Louisville HAS to be Bardstown Road. There are so many eclectic and interesting stores and restaurants. We spent our afternoon strolling along, and happened upon this Steel City Pops popsicle shop. I figured that all of their "regular" fruit pops were gluten-free, but imagine my surprise when I learned their cookie pops were as well! I was so excited I could have hugged someone. My husband has the limited edition Chai Latte pop, and I had the Strawberry Shortcake cookie pop. It took me back to my childhood days of eating Good Humor bars. Squee!  
They do a lot to give back to their community and the world, which is uber cool. 

Must eat ALL the popsicles. Photo courtesy of MI Gluten Free Gal

From here on out, we're going to have to rely on Karen's expertise. Take it away, Karen! 

Roots/ Heart & Soy 

Photo Courtesy of Heart and Soy Restaurant

When it comes to mindful, compassionate food in Louisville, Ky, look no further than the side-by-side establishments of Roots and Heart & Soy, also on Bardstown Road. Each restaurant is independent from the other in menu and atmosphere. Roots is filling the void of Louisville’s lack of upscale vegetarian dining. Heart & Soy provides fast, casual vegetarian food inspired by Asian street food. They both share common values of vegetarianism, health and community awareness. Heart & Soy also houses Kentucky’s only tofu manufacturing machine which is FANTASTIC!! The owner and the staff are all very knowledgeable about food allergies and all menu items are clearly labeled.

Dragon King's Daughter 

Photo courtesy of The Celiathelete

Another Bardstown Road gem is Dragon King’s Daughter. This Asian restaurant serves up a truly original cuisine – a fusion of East and West flavors. The menu has everything from sushi to tacos. There is, honestly, something for everyone. This establishment has a comprehensive and extensive gluten-free menu, including most sushi rolls. They also keep gluten-free tamari on hand. The lemongrass miso soup is not to be missed! 

Sweet N' Savory Food Truck

Photos courtesy of The Celiathelete

For the past couple of years, Louisville has cashed in on the food truck scene. One of the best ones around is Sweet ‘N’ Savory, a 100% gluten-free food truck. They specialize in gluten-free crepes, gelato, and smoothies. Choose from savory crepes like their Chicken BLT, Breakfast Special, or the Eccentric. Their sweet crepes include Banana Nutella, Chocolate Strawberry, or the Taste of Derby sweet crepes. The new owner’s wife has Celiac Disease, so he understands the importance of safe-to-eat food. Doesn't the Salted Caramel Gelato look delicious?! 

What To Do

Louisville's Waterfront Park and The Big Four Bridge 

Opened to the public in February 2013, the Big Four Bridge links Louisville’s Waterfront Park to Jeffersonville, Indiana over the Ohio River. This bridge was built as a railroad bridge in 1895, and decommissioned in the 1960's. Since reopening as a pedestrian bridge, it has welcomed over 1.5 million visits per year. The bridge is a 2 mile round-trip walk and a great way to enjoy what both Louisville and Southern Indiana offers. Walkers, runners, and bikers alike are all welcome to enjoy the passage over the Ohio River. Children can play in two different parks along the waterfront, one which contains water cannons, spray misters, and other water fixtures. 

Cave Hill Cemetery 

Cave Hill Cemetery is an extensive (296-acre) Victorian era National Cemetery and Arboretum located on Baxter Avenue. This cemetery contains many prominent citizens, whose graves can be located by following painted lines on the road, or by the map available at the office. Prominent citizens include Colonel Harlan Sanders (KFC), George Rogers Clark, and, most recently, Muhammad Ali.

Kentucky Derby Museum 

If there is one thing Louisville is known for, it’s The Kentucky Derby. The Kentucky Derby Museum celebrates the tradition and history of that famous horse race. Located adjacent to the historic Churchill Downs Racetrack, the museum aims to excite and educate all visitors about the entire Kentucky Derby experience. Go on a weekend when the track is open and take in the entire horse racing experience. Derby hats optional. :) 

Mega Caverns 
My (Margaret) neighbor grew up in Louisville. When I asked her family about neat things to do there, her husband quickly mentioned Mega Caverns. One of the largest caverns in the United States, it's home to a ropes course, zipline, bike park and more. Area businesses even store items down there because it a constant 58 degrees year roudn. At Christmas time a 17-mile stretch is decorated with Christmas lights and you can drive your car through!

Hopefully Karen and I have given you enough ideas to get you started on a great gluten-free getaway in Louisville! There's way more to see, like Carmicheal's Bookstore next to Heine Brothers Fair Trade Coffee. Maybe grab gluten-free pancakes at one of the Wild Eggs locations for breakfast. Share with me your other favorite adventures in Louisville, so I'll have some place to stop next year! 

Monday, July 11, 2016

Annie May's Sweet Cafe Removes Bitterness of Food Allergies

Living with Celiac Disease or other food allergies can make life difficult, especially when traveling. I'm always asking questions- "Do you have a dedicated gluten-free fryer? Do you use a separate prep station for your gluten-free pizza? Do you use soy sauce in your products?" 
Sometimes I feel like the gluten-free gestapo. 

Luckily, all that worry and concern eases away at Annie May's Sweet Cafe. Everything at this bakery and cafe is 100% free from gluten, soy, peanut, and tree nuts. Many of their items can also be prepared dairy-free. It's such a relief to be able to walk in and let your guard down, to just be a "normal" person and order off the menu like everyone else. And that's exactly why owner Annie May  McGill opened this business. Having to deal with food allergies herself, she knew the struggle and wanted to open a place where everyone can eat safely. (They do use milk and eggs on premises.) 

We stopped at Annie May's on our way back from Bowling Green, Kentucky. I've been waiting for years to stop  here, as it's never fit into our schedule on past trips to see our niece in Nashville.  I may or may not have been stalking them on social media. :) 

Although it was a little early in the day, my husband and I chose to order lunch. I ordered the sandwich with mac n' cheese, and the hubster ordered half a pizza, and we shared our meals. I enjoyed everything, especially the sandwich. The bun was SO good, and the roasted red pepper spread they have really made the sandwich stand out. The hubster, who doesn't have to eat GF, was thoroughly impressed with the macaroni and cheese. Creamy and delicious, it was hard to make myself share it. Everything was reasonably priced as well!

Of course, as the business name implies, they're really known for their sweets. Cupcakes, cookies, and cheesecake, oh my! Plus there are brownies and a specialty called a Chewy Louie. This is a mixture of cake and cookie pieces stuck together with sweet ooey, gooey goodness. To see more of their delicious baked good, check out this news interview they did with KET

After much deliberate thiought, we left with the Neapolitan Chewy Louie and the Classic cupacke. The classic is a throwback to the Hostess cupcakes that many of us might miss from our childhood. With a rich chocolate cake, chocolate ganache topping, creamy filling and that distinctive white swirl, it definitely makes you feel like a (very happy) kid again. 

So if you're taking a gluten-free getaway near Louisville, make sure to add this to your itinerary. They open Tuesday - Saturday at 9 am and close at 5 pm, except for Saturdays when they close at 2 pm. They are not open on Sundays or Mondays, so be certain to plan your trip accordingly! Don't live nearby? They do ship! Check out the link to their website below. 

Annie May's Sweet Cafe 
3110 Frankfort Avenue 
Louisville Kentucky 40207

Friday, July 8, 2016

Gluten-Free Grand Rapids- Endless Opportunities and Adventures

Do you live a gluten-free lifestyle and want to know what to do in Grand Rapids?
Where do I begin? There's SO MUCH to taste, see and do! It might be the best place in Michigan. 

Photo courtesy of MI Gluten Free Gal
Anna’s House
I love Anna's House. From the decor to the staff to the gluten-free menu, it's all wonderful. I'm not the only one who feels that way. Anna's House was chosen as Michigan's Best Breakfast Joint, according to MLive. Practically their whole menu is available gluten-free. They use locally made gluten-free bread from Kind Crumbs for their sandwiches and Candied Pecan and Banana Stuffed French Toast. Doesn't that sound amazing? They have multiple locations, so find the one nearest you.

Photo Credit - Will Hinton, husband of GF Mom Certified

Brick Road Pizza Co
I love being able to go to a restaurant that meets the needs of all my friends with food sensitivities. Not only do they offer gluten-free pizza, pasta and burgers, they offer dairy-free and vegan options as well. I was so excited that I was able to order gluten-free breadsticks with my pasta! Please note that this is not a 100% dedicated gluten-free restaurant, but they take precautions to prevent cross-contact.

Photo courtesy of MI Gluten Free Gal

Noble Restaurant
Noble is located just outside of Grand Rapids, in Wyoming. This small diner, listed in my Top 10 Gluten-Free restaurant list, has lots of charm with great food at reasonable prices. Owner Andrew Llampa has created a menu that is free of artificial colors, flavors, MSG, high fructose corn syrup and artificial nitrates. He uses as many organic ingredients as possible and almost everything is made from scratch. Even the coleslaw! But don't think it's all made up of health food. His gluten-free fried chicken and waffle sandwich and his made-from-scratch sweet potato fries are to delicious! They're only open until 2:30 p.m. daily, so don't dawdle in getting there!

Grand Rapids has more than just great restaurants. There are a lot of great gluten-free bakers in the area as well. Hall St. Bakery has two separate kitchens, one of which is totally dedicated to gluten-free baking. All gluten-free baked goods are wrapped and sealed in that room so that there is practically no chance of cross-contact. They are widely known for their amazing gluten-free cinnamon rolls, pictured above. Allergic to peanuts? This bakery is 100% peanut-free, as the owner's son has a peanut allergy.

All summer vacations deserve ice cream. Frosty Boy in Grand Rapids on Plainfield is a sweet treat paradise for all of those with Celiac Disease and gluten sensitivity. They even have dairy-free ice cream! The big draw is the gluten-free toppings they have, like gluten-free chocolate sandwich cookies, vegan gluten-free chocolate chip cookie dough and gluten-free waffle cones. It makes me want to make the 2 hour drive simply to go here!

Shopping and Attractions

Obviously there is SO much more to life than food. There are so many great places to visit. Here's a list of just a few of them.

Fulton Street Artisan Market
I always think farmer's markets are exciting. You get to talk to the grower or farmer that picked the food they're selling to you. It's like they've invited you into their home. In the summer, Fulton Market is ripe with fresh peaches, blueberries, flowers and more. They're open Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday 8am - 3 pm throughout the warmer months, with alternate hours in the winter.

Downtown Market
The Downtown Market is more than just another farmer's market. (Although there are additional outside vendors in the summer.) The permanent indoor structure is home to high-end and unique vendors like Love's Ice Cream and Grand Traverse Distillery and Oddest Supply Co. apparel shop. On the back side of the market is Slow's BBQ, a third location for the Detroit based restaurant. From the rooftop inside the market you can see a beautiful view of the GR skyline.

Frederik Meijer Gardens
When I think of Frederik Meijer Gardens, the word Magic comes to mind. Whether it's the butterflies in the spring, the international Christmas trees in winter or the simple beauty of the flowers in their varying habitats, it always leaves me in awe. For the young and young at heart, my favorite might be the child gardens outside of the main building. With water features, tree houses, walking trails and other features, I could play out there all day.

John Ball Zoo
So many adventures await at John Ball Zoo. This year, 2016, marks their 125th year of making memories for young and old alike. Visit the chimpanzees, touch a stingray, and explore the Crawford Tigers of the Realm exhibit. There are playgrounds within and without the zoo, as well as many picnic areas outside the park where you can bring your own gluten-free meals.Their tortoise salad, made with greens, fruit, sweet potatoes and beet chips is gluten-free. Each salad purchased donates $1 to the Tortoise Conservation!

Grand Rapids is also famous for events that go on year round. Art Prize in the fall (which is completely free!) and Gilda's Laugh Fest in the spring are two that draw thousands, but check out the Experience Grand Rapids event website to learn about more! 

So what's your favorite place to eat, shop and play in Grand Rapids? With so much to see, I'm sure I've missed a bunch. What places would you recommend to visitors and tourists?