Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Wheatless

When you have Celiac Disease, there's nothing that quite describes the feeling when you walk in to a restaurant and everything is gluten free. 
It's like a mixture of happy tears of relief and giddy school girl all wrapped into one. 
 Did I mention there were deep fried pickles and onion petals? 



On our recent trip down to Nashville we stopped at Wheatless, a completely gluten free restaurant in Bowling Green, Kentucky. I first read an article about Wheatless on the Find Me Gluten Free News Feed many moons ago, and it's been on my mental radar ever since. Luckily our path took us right past it! 

These are honestly the best sweet potatoes fries I've ever had. Ever.



And thanks to Wheatless I've had my first ever deep fried pickle!

Not only do they have fresh made meals, they also make baked goods. They bake buns and bread for their burgers and sandwiches, cookies and cupcakes for dessert, and cheesecakes and other extravagant gluten free items.They have specials almost every night of the week, including $4 Pizza on Tuesdays and Kids Eat Free Thursdays (with the purchase of an adult meal). On Sundays they donate 10% of their sales to charity.


We made a point to stop by there on the way home and enjoyed a delicious breakfast. They have the most amazing french toast, slathered in almond butter, covered in bananas, and topped with candied nuts and powdered sugar. My husband chose a healthier breakfast sandwich with fruit, which he really enjoyed.


Not only is everything gluten free, they try very hard to accommodate other food allergies as well. Whether you have food allergies or not, you definitely need to stop here.
The food is truly delicious!

Monday, August 24, 2015

New Schar Artisan Bread

"Man shall not live by bread alone..."

As someone with Celiac Disease, this holds especially true. When one is first diagnosed, you learn that your go to item for a quick meal, namely a sandwich,
 is now your sworn enemy and wants to poison you. 
So, you learn to live without bread, find creative way to make sandwiches,
 and give up on toast.

Don't get me wrong, there's lots of gluten free breads out there. But they're just not the same. Many need to be toasted before they're really edible and almost never make a great grilled cheese sandwich. 


Well, Schar is trying to reunite you with your old delicious friend without the gluten. Their new fresh, never frozen,  Artisan Baker breads are soft and ready for your sandwich fixings straight out of the bag. No toasting needed. That is, unless you want toast, which is simply smashing!


But wait. there's more!

French toast and sandwiches and grilled cheese, oh my!



( Apparently I ate the grilled cheese sandwich before taking a picture....it was delicious. )

Honestly, one of the things I like about Schar's new Artisan bread is the fact that it is new.
The new Artisan Baker bread is replacing all the original recipe bread.
While their previous bread was okay, they knew it could be better.
I like a company that doesn't just rest on their laurels and do what they've always done, that listens to customer input and strives to do better. 

If your local store was carrying Schar bread, it should be showing up on shelves shortly.
If your store isn't carrying Schar products, make sure to request them.
(Their mulitgrain ciabatta rolls are out of this world!)

**I was given these products to review but my opinions are completely my own.**

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Sonoma Flatbread's Personal pizzas

There's nothing quite like a really good pizza. This holds true even when you have Celiac Disease, but finding a gluten free pizza can be a bit of a challenge. It's even more of a challenge to find a good-for-you frozen gluten free pizza.

Thank goodness for Sonoma Flatbreads by Donatos. I've tried LOTS of frozen gluten free pizzas in over the past decade, but in my honest personal opinion, Sonoma Flatbread gluten free pizzas are the best out there. And not only do they taste great, they're made ethically with real food. They "don’t use any artificial flavors, colors, or preservatives. In addition, [their] chicken is antibiotic-free, humanely raised, and fed a vegetarian diet. [Their] uncured pepperoni is nitrate and nitrite-free."

I've previously written about their large pizzas, but I'm really excited to share with you about their new personal size pizzas. These new 6 1/2" crust pizzas come in the same flavors you've come to know and love, just in smaller just-for-you sizes. (If you crave a little bit larger pizza, they also come in 10" and 12".)


Sonoma Flatbreads recently sent me a generous case of their personal pizzas. Let me tell you, they've been a lifesaver. The end of the school year is always super busy in our household, and we used these on many occasions on the nights when we just couldn't think straight enough to cook something.

I'm also super busy on Wednesday nights at church, and on more than one occasion these small pizzas came in handy when I needed to find quick nourishment between choir and handbell practice.


I think what I love about them most as they have the perfect ratio of sauce & toppings to crust. Many other companies skimp on the toppings, leaving a large edge of crust and cheating you on "the good stuff." Sonoma Flatbreads load up on the good stuff, on top of a delicious gluten free crust.



Their pizzas can be found at Meijer stores, Walmart, Fresh Thyme and other grocery stores. And if you're available, you can meet them at the upcoming Gluten Free Food Allergy Fest in Indianapolis, Indiana.

They are also always present at the annual Celiac Conference at Nationwide Children's Hospital in Columbus, Ohio. This year's conference is October 31st, and the main speaker is Dr. Stefano Guandalini, the founder and Medical Director of the Univ. of Chicago Celiac Disease Center. This conference is packed with great speakers, wonderful vendors, AND lunch for only $35. Kids 11 an under are free and have their own exciting day of activities planned. If you'd like to see a synopsis of past presentations, you can look at my blogpost from two years ago, here.

**While I was given free product to test, I was not paid to write this post 
and my thoughts and opinions are 100% my own.**

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

What I learned on a dairy farm

As some of of you have read, I was blessed to have a tour of Hudsonville Creamery. (And if you haven't read it, you should!) They also took us on a tour of Pyle Farm, which supplies their milk and cream. I'll admit that I'm a city girl through and through, and was surprised what I learned about cows, dairy farms, and the farming industry.



10 things I learned on the farm
1. A dairy cow must get pregnant once a year to produce milk and cows are born year round.
- Yeah, I know, this should be obvious. I've been watching way too many movies and stories of sheep being born in the spring.

2. If a cow has twins, and they are one female and one male, the female cow will never produce milk and will therefore be sold. 
- Not only did I have the pleasure of visiting Pyle Farms, I was also able to visit Paulen Farms in Howard City. A member of my husband's extended family is Andy Paulen, whose family farm has been around in one way or another for over 100 years. The day we visited him, we were lucky enough to see twin calves that were born the night before. 



3. Cows are pretty shy animals and don't have top teeth.
- When I first talked to Andy, I asked him if I could pet the cows and if they would try to bite me. He told me that cows are pretty shy creatures, get nervous around large crowds, and generally don't come near enough to let you pet them. But if you are able to touch one, no worries, they can't bite. They have no upper teeth with which to pierce your skin.



4. Cows only sleep 3-4 hours a day
- As a person who easily needs 6-7 hours of sleep, this astounded me. 

5. Above 72 degrees, cows will stop eating and therefore stop producing milk.
- I actually learned this at the Pyle Farm. We were all amazed at how cool it was inside the barn, even on a hot summer day. The fans in there were incredibly large.


6. Michigan dairy farms are part of a larger co-op, because they believe in working together as an industry instead of being in competition with each other all the time. 
- In this dog eat dog world, I'm amazed that Michigan dairy farmers work together as an industry. I don't think I know of ANY other industry that does this. Michigan even has a United Dairy Industry. You can follow them on social media at @milkmeansmore to learn all sorts of facts, recipes, and learn about events.

7. Michigan ranks 7th in the entire nation for milk production and an average Michigan dairy cow produces over 2,000 gallons of milk a year. 
- And we're not just huge in milk production. We're #1 in the nation in the production of lowfat ice cream mix. And since August 19th is National Soft Ice Cream Day, we all have a lot to celebrate in this state!

8. Milk containers with the first two digit code of "26" indicates it is Michigan milk.
 - We often see notifications on Facebook, Twitter, and other places about making sure to check your produce for codes that specify it is organic. Who knew that dairy uses a similar coding system!
Image taken from milkmeansmore.com

9. While it may be controversial, raw milk is delicious
 - I know there are pros and cons to raw milk. When I was offered some raw milk to try, I will admit that I was nervous and skeptical. But in all honesty, it was delicious and full of creamy flavor. And just to state explicitly, I was not sold any raw milk- I was just given a glass to try.

10. Farming can be a very dangerous business.
 - I've known that Andy has worked long hours at his farm for a long time. Because farm work is never "done," he often misses family functions. But there are many times that farmers pay a much larger sacrifice than of just their time and talents.
Andy told me of a local farmer that died within the past few years because he was killed by a bull.
An article in Newsweek in 2014 talked about the high stress and suicide levels in farming.

I say these things not to cause uproar over safety in the farming industry. I say these things because, with the growth of supermarkets, we lose the connection to the people who produce the food we eat. We disconnect from the needs and concerns of those who make it possible for us to take in nourishment every day. It makes it easy for us to lose our sense of gratitude for what they do for us.

So the next time you drink a glass of milk, eat some ice cream, or sprinkle cheese on your pizza or salad, remember that there is someone working, literally, all the time to make it possible. Someone who cares for the animals and for our communities. Someone who deserves our gratitude and respect.


Fenton Fire Hall Kitchen and Taproom




Fenton Fire Hall has been open just over two years, and they have quickly become a much loved establishment in Genesee County. Even better, this is a restaurant that takes Celiac Disease and food allergies seriously.

Fenton Fire Hall is the 4th restaurant in the Union Joints chain. Well known for the Clarkston Union Bar and Kitchen that has been in business for 20 years, they have branched out into other towns and counties, sharing their dedication to real food and a flair for creativity. They've continued their knack for restoration in Fenton as well, turning an old fire station into a 3 story restaurant and bar that has something for everyone and a gorgeous view of the city.



I was blessed to sit down for a one-on-one with head chef John Wentworth. While John might be relatively new to Union Joint and Fenton, he's not new to cooking. He's been cooking since he was 13, working in his father's hotel, and honing his craft at culinary schools here in the U.S. and in Italy. And while he's been around the country, he follows the same "local" concept as the other Union Joints restaurants. Whenever possible, local products are purchased for their meals and they strive to work with Michigan distributors. The corn tortillas for their Beef Flank taco bar are proudly made in Detroit. They even use local honey procured by an employee who does bee keeping as a hobby!

So let's talk about the gluten free menu. The first thing that I notice, and appreciate, is the printed warning that they used shared fryers, and therefore their fries and other deep fried items are not safe for celiacs. Actually, it says it in three different spots on the menu. While I appreciate a dedicated gf fryer, I also appreciate a company that is honest and forthcoming right off the bat.



While the Fire Hall is most known for their brisket, pulled pork and other proteins, I decided to sample their seasonal chili and their Shaved Brussels Salad. An added note about their meats that are smoked- they do meats separately and wash down grills in between times. So if you have a pork allergy like my husband, they've got your cross contact issues covered!

The seasonal chili right now is their 3 Bean Veggie. Loaded with navy, black and lima beans and a spiced tomato broth, it is well paired with butternut squash and roasted red peppers. The mix of the sweetness of the butternut squash marries well with the smokiness of the broth.



The Shaved Brussels Salad is, in a word, amazing. Caramelized Brussels sprouts are mixed with dates, semi-soft goat cheese and grilled onion. Toasted walnuts are tossed throughout and topped with a whole grain mustard vinaigrette and served warm. While I had the small portion, I could easily make a meal of the large and enjoy every single bite and still want more! Left alone this is a vegetarian dish, but it can also be topped with pork, chicken or salmon.


Their gluten free menu is pretty extensive. They have two gluten free appetizers, ample meats and sides, and sandwiches and burgers that can be served on an Udi's bun. And I have it on good authority that they are working on a gluten free version of their famous macaroni and cheese.

 
And for dessert they have ice cream. This isn't just any plain ice cream. This is ice cream they hand make with LIQUID NITROGEN. It's made in small 9 gallon batches that can be whipped and completely frozen in 6 minutes. While you can get a scoop of ice cream at the restaurant, you can step outside just a few feet way and go to their ice cream stand, Pumphouse Custard. They usually have a selection of 16 custards at a time, but have a rotating list of 34 flavors throughout the year. It is clearly notated on their menu board which flavors are gluten free, dairy free, and which ones contain nuts. They have designated water wells that hold designated scoops for serving nut containing ice creams, all of which are kept in a separate freezer Seeing this about blew my mind and I had to take a picture! 



The flavors are creative and delicious. The strawberry balsalmico had me hesitant, but it may just be the most amazing strawberry ice cream I've ever had. The balsalmic heightens the strawberry favor without getting in the way. The Lemongrass Coconut Milk dairy-free "ice cream" was amazing (and quite possibly my favorite.) It tasted like a luscious custard with a sweet kiss of lemon that doesn't make you pucker.

My final decision and full scoop was their Faygo Rock and Rye Ice Cream topped with Pop Rocks. It doesn't get more Michigan than Faygo, and the pop rocks were a sweet reminder of childhood. Even if Fenton is 3- minutes from our house, I will DEFINITELY be going back to try more of their frozen masterpieces. (Just a note, although it's not gluten free, their carrot cake ice cream is made with a cream cheese frosting base that sounds mesmerizing. These folks are true culinary geniuses!)



Before ending our time together, I asked Chef John Wentworth, "what's the one thing that you want people to know about this restaurant?" He stated the building and it's location. This building has been standing guard over Leroy St since 1938, and training some of the firefighters that are still working in the department today.

Each of the three levels have their own distinct decor, but still tied together with themes throughout. Each level features outdoor seating, while the third floor is all rooftop seating. The second floor has outdoor seating that overlooks Leroy Street and it's small town charm. The 1st floor is a complete bar with 48 taps, most of which are Michigan beers. Chef John says that while the gluten free beers that they offer may change up, they usually have 3-6 gluten free beers available. The outdoor seating outside the bar overlooks the river and community gazebo, and is heated throughout the fall.



I also asked Chef John the following specific question- How is your staff trained in food allergies and food prep so as to prevent cross-contact? Here was his extensive and thorough answer:

"Our servers first verbally let the kitchen know [that there is a guest with a food allergy].   When the server rings in the order, our tickets note that there is an allergy on that guest's meal and what it is.  At this point we asses if there is enough information and take steps to prevent cross contamination - clean utensils, cutting board, pans, etc. If more information is needed, one of the chefs will go and speak with the guest to ensure accuracy and let the guest know we are doing everything possible with their safety in mind."
"During opening a new joint, [Chef Aaron] instills the importance of how these allergies are to be taken very seriously. Throughout training, he tests the staff with his own allergies, with orders and questions.  He is always testing and instilling the importance of these allergies with the staff in all of our joints."

All in all, I'm reassured that Fenton Fire Hall can accommodate my gluten free needs as a person with Celiac Disease, and I would feel safe recommending it to others!

**While I was not compensated for my post, I was not charged for the food that I ate. 
All of my opinions are solely my own


Thursday, August 6, 2015

Quick and Easy with Path Of Life

I recently met the Path of Life team at the GFAF Expo in Chicago. Their staff was so friendly and their products were so good. And I think the reason I like them so much is because their products are exactly what their slogan says - "simple. wholesome. natural." I recently won some of their products through their #HealthyFriday contest on their Instagram page. Look at all they sent me!


If you've never heard of the Path Of Life brand, they sell frozen quinoa, frozen vegetable, and frozen fruit packages. Oh, and frozen CHOCOLATE covered fruit as well! 

While the frozen quinoa and vegetables are okay on their own, I think they really shine when paired with other ingredients for a truly memorable meal. As we don't have a Chipotle near us (yet..), I've recently been making "burrito bowls," all the burrito fixings in a bowl, served with some sort of grain. Just looking at that beautiful picture makes me want more....



I also paired their Kale & Butternut Squash with roasted chicken, chickpeas and Italian cheese. Kissed with a sprinkle of balsalmic vinaigrette, it was incredibly delicious. Just looking at this picture is making me salivate.  


I was really intrigued by their Southwest Quinoa. Not only is it mixed with black beans and corn, it has happy little bits of mango just waiting to surprise you. I don't usually like mango, but I could definitely go for more of this. It did pair nicely with the Southwest Vegetarian Tamale Bites we purchased at Aldi. 


So, where does one find these wonderful products? They can be found at Meijer and WalMart locations, at least in my area. Use their store locator to find out where you can purchase them!



Thursday, July 9, 2015

Yumbutter

I've never met a nut butter didn't like. It's good on toast, pancakes, waffles, bagels, on a spoon.....

While at the Chicago GFAF Expo, I was introduced to Yumbutter, a line of nut butters that are unabashedly trying to change the world. Seriously, it's on their website, and on all of their packaging. :)


Yumbutter comes in many flavors, but they were highlighting and sharing their organic "Superfood" GO pouches at the GFAF Expo. They come in three flavors - almond butter, peanut butter and sunflower butter. The fellas at Yumbutter were gracious enough to share their sunflower and peanut butter pouches with me.


There are so many things to like about Yumbutter. First, I love that it comes in a pouch. One of my biggest problems when traveling to a family member or friend's house, is the issue of cross-contamination in peanut butter. You know what I mean - they dip their knife in the peanut butter, spread it on their non-gf toast, stick the knife back in the jar- and it becomes a haven of gluten-filled poison for my belly. 

But au contraire mon frere - with this squeeze pouch, this never happens! Happy dance! With this pouch I can just squeeze it right into my mouth if wanted.
(One less knife/spoon to dirty!)

Of course there's the issue if you squeeze out too much...

Wait, too much peanut butter? I don't think such a thing exists!
(So scratch that last thought.) 

Second, I love their desire to change the world. They call their mission "Holistic Responsibility." What is that you ask? Aside from making great tasting nut spreads, they support organics and fair trade, and they use their profits to feed people (not just their pocket books.) They're also a certified B Corporation, a group of businesses that believe that they should be using their businesses to better the world.

 Through their "Buy One : Feed One" initiative, every purchase you make from them helps to feed a malnourished child in Guatemala. They work with a group called Primeros Pasos to feed and give medical treatment and education to children and their families in an impoverished area. 

Third, I love the taste. Of the two that I've tried, I actually like the sunflower butter the best. Each of their Superfood varieties contain chia, hemp seed and goji powder to amp up the nutrition. Their Superfood varieties have at least 6 grams of protein, 250 mg of Omega 3's, and a touch of fiber. It also contains lucuma powder, which is the dried version of the lucuma fruit, grown in South America. This fruit has additional B vitamins and beta carotene, and is often used as a low glycemic sweetener. Check out this video by Phil Lempert to learn even more about its health benefits!

And love. These products are made with love. Says so on the ingredient label. 


Sunflower butter is often a popular option for those who are allergic to peanuts. Because Yumbutter also makes peanut butter, I reached out to them to ask about their cross-contact policies. The lovely Alana shared with me the following information:

"Our Sunflower Butter is made in a peanut free facility, but not a tree nut free facility. We use the standard machine cleaning process between batches, and therefore cannot claim any special steps to avoid cross contamination with anything other than peanuts. Thus, we consider our Sunflower Butter allergen-friendly, but if you have a huge allergy to nuts, we always [suggest] err[ing] on the side of caution."

If you are looking for a sunflower butter made in a completely nut free facility,
you might want to check into Sunbutter.

Yumbutter makes many other intriguing flavors, such as Cran & Coco (cranberry and coconut), Spicy Thai (made with cumin, turmeric and other spices) and Creamy Peanut Butter that's blended with sunflower.

So where can you find these world changing nut butters? You can find it in their home state of Wisconsin, use their store locator to plug in your own zip code,
or shop right from their website. 


So what is your favorite nut butter? Which of Yumbutter's products are you most eager to try? And what's the "weirdest" thing your friends say you put peanut butter on?

Sunday, July 5, 2015

Canyon Bakehouse - Bagels and Bites

I remember when I was 1st diagnosed with Celiac Disease and had my first gluten free bagel. It was small and hard and reminded me a bit of a hockey puck. 


Thank goodness that Canyon Bakehouse has created a better bagel! 

They recently introduced their new Plain and Everything bagels. And not only do they have that great bagel chew on the outsdie and soft interior, they're also full of whole grains. 
They're free of gluten, dairy, soy and nuts, as well as artificial fillers and additives. 
  They're also made with eggs, organic agave and free of GMO's. 
Their products are made in a dedicated gluten free facility, and they test all ingredients 
before they enter the facility, as well as test their final products.  They test under 5 ppm.


 Canyon Bakehouse was gracious enough to send me a package with both of their new bagels. I used the Everything bagels to attempt to recreate my favorite sandwich, the Vermaire, made at Marie Catrib's, a restaurant in Grand Rapids, Michigan.

Picture above is Canyon Bakehouse's Everything Bagel with cream cheese, cranberries, Provolone cheese, spinach, and lean turkey meat. It was so delicious!

I also used the Everything bagel as a bun for my burger. The "savory blend of garlic, onion, poppy and sunflower seeds" added a nice compliment. While it was creative, their buns are definitely better for this.


Bagels are not the only new thing that Canyon Bakehouse has released. In their first foray into sweet baked goods, their brownie bites are a hit. They feature a deep chocolate flavor without being overly sweet. One bite has 110 calories per 0.7 oz bite, has no trans fats and only 1 gram of saturated fat, and is made with non-GMO cane sugar- no HFCS! They were tasty a la mode with my non-dairy banana "ice cream."

I will say that for such a small bite that they are high in calories, as sugar is the first ingredient. These are definitely a once in a while, which is a stroke of will power, as it would be easy to sit down and eat all 9 in the package in one sitting!



If you'd like to learn more about the rest of the products that Canyon Bakehouse makes, 
you can read more here about the first time they shared their products with me. 
You can purchase their products at the larger Target stores as well as purchasing them online.  You can also sign up for their "Bread Club" and get regularly scheduled shipments to your home!

***While I was given free product to review, I was not paid for my comments.
My thoughts and opinions are completely my own.***