New Gluten-Free Offerings at Starbucks

mixed_case_largeThere is some good news to report regarding the gluten-free options at Starbucks. Sorry – I’m not announcing that the company is introducing another gluten-free pastry. Many of us have been hoping that Starbucks would come up with something to replace the delicious Valencia Orange gluten-free cake. The release of the new cake last spring was big news in our community and when Starbucks announced the cancellation of the cake via Twitter, it didn’t go over too well. There was a petition to bring back the cake started on this blog. It seems like Starbucks listened, but needed to do what made sense for the company dollar wise, which is only fair to them. All of the gluten-free items they chose to offer have a very long shelf life. This should lead to less waste and less profit loss. Let’s face it, Starbucks has been hit pretty hard by the current economic climate and a lot of baristas were put out of work over the last two years.

home_productsWhen the company finally announced their new gluten-free offerings – a second round if you will – I tried to look at the bright side of things. Many people want to buy snacks like KIND bars, Food Should Taste Good chips or Lucy’s Cookies to enjoy with their lattes at Starbucks. For people that always have dried fruit, bars and other snacks in their cars, there isn’t a draw to purchase the new items at Starbucks. For the full Starbucks gluten-free product list, check out Gluten-Free Philly’s post. There are nut free and dairy free options this time around.

Most of the gluten-free snacks that Starbucks is bringing in are very popular with the gluten-free crowd. Though I’ve not sampled everything, I personally very much enjoy the KIND bars, Food Should Taste Good chips and Lucy’s Cookies.  Starbucks explained after the discontinuation of the Valencia Orange cake that gluten-free consumers wanted something more healthy than cake to eat. That is not true for everyone, to say the least. In these difficult economic times, it’s tough to rationalize spending more on a KIND bar at Starbucks than the ones packed in our car storage compartment at all times.

The latest news from Starbucks is great for everyone that does want to be able to buy something to eat at the coffee house. It’s smart business for a large company like Starbucks to accommodate gluten-free, vegan and organic minded consumers with these new food options. According to the Restaurant Guide, 120 other chain restaurants already have gluten-free options. Many people will enjoy these products from Starbucks and that is certainly good news. Having something is better than nothing is the motto of some people. For those of you who are excited by the Starbucks gluten-free news – ENJOY!

Burger King Releases Gluten Sensitive List

Gluten-free Apple Fries
Gluten-free Apple Fries

When the press release from Burger King about their new “Gluten Sensitive List” came out last week, it would seem like good news for the gluten-free community. However, things are not always as simple as they seem. The list includes French fries which are only gluten-free if cooked in dedicated fryers. I decided to check with my local Burger King about the issue because when large companies send out mandates to their franchisees, it only means something if the locations do as they are told. The Burger King near me stated they did have a dedicated fryer for French fries, but they did not seem to know what gluten was. This is to be expected in a fast food restaurant, of course. Wendy’s and Steak-N-Shake both have gluten-free chili I’ve never spoken to anyone at either chain who had a clue about what gluten was.

In addition to French fries, some meats, cheese, egg dishes, veggies, sauces, beverages, fruit and condiments are on the Burger King “Gluten Sensitive List“. Possibly having another safe place for gluten-free fries is a very big deal.  Always one wanting to know what the real deal is, I decided to give the the fries at Burger King (that has a dedicated fryer) a try. While my husband enjoyed his shake I ate almost the entire medium container of fries. The fries, at least in the batch I ate, didn’t cause me any problems. This is not to say that all fries at Burger King should be assumed to be safe.

Even at locations with dedicated fryers mistakes can be made simply by someone throwing chicken tenders or onion rings into the wrong fryer. This can happen at any place that has a dedicated fryer, of course. Everyone should do what works for them when it comes to dining out. Some people never eat and some rarely do so.  Others like me eat out often and do so successfully because we learned the many things one needs to know in order to dine out safely. People are always telling me how much they love our Restaurant Guide because it lists so many gluten-free restaurants. That part is great but for me personally, the most important part of the guide is the information about how we, gluten-free consumers, have to know what to ask about and discuss with restaurant staff. Most importantly it explains that we have to be our own advocate when choosing to dine out.

People who prefer to skip the fries at Burger King can enjoy the apple fries which are just apples cut up to look like fries. What a great idea for kids of all ages! Amy over at Gluten-Free Living has some comments about the new Burger King “Gluten Sensitive List” which is worth reading. The post also provides some interesting details about the McDonald’s French fry issue.

UPDATE: Burger King’s corporate office sent me the following information to explain their new gluten sensitive list:

The Gluten Sensitive List is meant to be a guide for our guests with gluten sensitivity, providing foods and ingredients on the BURGER KING® restaurant menu in the U.S. that do not contain wheat, barley, oats or rye. The Gluten Sensitive List is not intended for people with severe gluten intolerance.

The information on the Gluten Sensitive List is based on suppliers’ ingredient lists and is as complete as possible at the time of publication (December 2009). However, actual gluten content of these foods and ingredients may vary, depending upon the supplier, product handling, and each restaurant’s food preparation practices.

[Burger King Corp., its franchisees, and employees, do not assume responsibility for a person’s sensitivity or allergy to any food item provided in our restaurants.  Please always consult your healthcare practitioner for questions regarding your diet.  We encourage anyone with food sensitivities, allergies or special dietary needs to communicate any specific food handling requirements to the server or restaurant manager and to check on a regular basis to obtain the most up to date information about our food before you order.]

After reading that information, it doesn’t seem clear why the company decided to go to the trouble to create the list in the first place. But if you feel like skipping Burger King, there’s still good news, because the Restaurant Guide has gluten-free options from 120 national and regional chain restaurants.

Easy Breezy Gluten-free Mac-n-Cheese

cheesetopping__SL500_AA252_While shopping at our mainstream grocery store here (Publix) I came across the Kraft Macaroni & Cheese Cheese Topping. Since Kraft always lists gluten in all forms in their ingredient labels, I carefully read the ingredients and sure enough – no gluten was listed. The container says to sprinkle the topping on fish sticks, potato chips, baked potatoes, chicken nuggets, hot popcorn and vegetables. It also suggests stirring the topping into chili, soup, rice, scrambled eggs, grits and mashed potatoes.

The product does not say to use the topping for pasta, but that is the only thing I was interested in it  for. Obviously, the average consumer would just buy the Mac-n-Cheese dinner kit instead of using this topping to make mac-n-cheese. Not being an average consumer, I threw the container into the basket and hoped for the best.

About two years ago, someone told me about this topping and said they used it to make gluten-free mac-n-cheese but the ingredients back then included MSG. Though MSG is gluten-free, I avoid it for other reasons. I’m not sure if other ingredients in the product have changed but for sure no MSG is listed on the label now. It’s so exciting to see both gluten and in many cases MSG disappearing from food labels these days!

Our standard macaroni pasta these days is the Andean Dream brand. The pasta is pretty much the texture of wheat pasta and the taste is also excellent. We have found it to be the only pasta that is edible cold and use it in pasta salad. Others report that corn pasta works for pasta salad, but a close second to Andean Dream for us (for cold pasta) is the Ancient Harvest quinoa/corn blend.

IMG_0044I was flying blind making mac-n-cheese with the Kraft Cheese Topping since I had no idea how much of the powder to add to the pasta. After draining the cooked macaroni, I added a few tablespoons of milk and two tablespoons of butter. Then I shook a little Cheese Topping into the pan and mixed it all up. It wasn’t really orange enough looking so I added a little more powder. I set the pasta aside while I finished cooking pan seared chicken. After thinking that I might have added a little too much milk to the mac-n-cheese, it ended up being the perfect consistency. The terrific news is that the taste of the dish was pretty close to the regular Kraft mac-n-cheese dinner. Both the gluten eater in the house and I thought a little more Cheese Topping would have made the pasta perfect, but it was very good as served.

One of the reasons I was wary about adding too much of the Kraft cheesy type powder to the pasta was that it has a LOT of sodium in it. If the dish was too salty, it would still pass my taste test but the gluten eater in the house would not like it. For whatever reason, the powder isn’t very salty tasting, regardless of the sodium content. I could have added a third more powder to the dish and it would have been just fine.

The next day I took the left overs and heated them up and added about a teaspoon of the Cheese Topping. It was just like the mac-n-cheese of my youth – perfect! We will be using this to great mac-n-cheese for the occasional side dish and to make our Tuna casserole from now on. Mrs. Leepers gluten-free mac-n-cheese dinner is pretty good but the gluten eater thought it was way too salty so that led to this latest experiment for easy mac-n-cheese.

If you have a gluten-free pasta you like and find the Kraft Cheese Topping in your store, make sure and give this easy dish a try. That is of course, if you used to enjoy the Kraft Mac-n-Cheese dinner when you ate gluten. If not, then this dish isn’t for  you because it pretty much taste like the version made from the famous dark blue box!

Nathan’s Hot Dogs are Now Gluten-free!

nathans662021143_2075_1685101Gluten can be found in the most surprising places. When I heard that some hot dogs contained wheat, I thought the idea of that was simply ridiculous. Eventually I picked up a pack of Nathan’s hot dogs after my celiac diagnosis and saw the word wheat clearly listed on the package. About two years ago a Nathan’s shop opened up around the corner from us. By then, I had forgotten if their hot dogs contained gluten but a quick call to the company confirmed they were indeed not gluten-free. They don’t have gluten-free buns anyway but it might have been possible to get a safe dog – sans the bun – if the franks were gluten-free.

We prefer turkey dogs to beef or pork franks and don’t have a problem finding gluten-free turkey dogs. Still, it would be nice to have a Nathan’s dog every once in a while, as they are pretty tasty as hot dogs go. Well, now those that like Nathan’s hot dogs can enjoy them again! In the fall of 2009, the company began processing gluten-free hot dogs. There are still some gluten containing products in the stores so for now you need to check the package. If it’s a new package, you’ll see Gluten Free right on the front. See the post from Adventures of a Gluten Free Mom here with photos!

There was no other source of gluten in Nathan’s dogs before except for wheat. If you find a package with wheat listed in the ingredients, then those will have to sell out before the gluten-free items will be stocked. It’s not exactly hot dog season (in most areas) so by the time people get ready to fire up their grills in the spring, they should be able to find gluten-free hot dogs from Nathan’s. Wouldn’t it be GREAT if Udi’s had gluten-free hot dog buns by then? Talk about exciting!

It seems like every week there is a new item we find out about that no longer contains gluten ingredients but did in the past. Companies don’t often make waves with the news to the mainstream shoppers because they don’t want people to stop buying something just because it’s now gluten-free. We are still a minority market so companies have to be careful to keep their existing customers while adding the gluten-free set to their customer base.

For one, I’d like to thank Nathan’s for seeing the change in the market place and being smart enough to take advantage of it. With approximately 1 in 10 shoppers buying gluten-free food for someone in their household these days, we’ll likely see many more companies taking notice of our growing buying power. There are already eighteen companies that produce gluten-free hot dogs and franks in the Grocery Guide. If you used to enjoy Nathan’s hot dogs in your gluten eating days and are excited to try them again – please leave a comment below so the company will know how much we appreciate their decision to remove gluten from their hot dogs.

Special thanks to the celiac listserv member, Alyssa, who first announced this great news!

Announcing Triumph’s New iPhone App!

We’re excited to announce that our brand new gluten free grocery guide iPhone App is now available in Apple’s App Store. To check it out, click on the link (it will open up iTunes on your computer) or go to the iTunes store and search for “Triumph Dining.”

This new App is the iPhone version of our popular gluten free grocery guide. Like the print edition, it lists over 30,000 gluten free foods, making it the largest gluten free product listing available anywhere.

And, for the iPhone version, we worked with one of the most talented iPhone developers in the business. The result is a very fast, powerful App that’s really easy to use. One of the coolest features that we haven’t seen elsewhere is the search function – it actually updates your search results real time, as you type each letter of your query, making it easier to find what you’re looking for fast.

Go check it out on your iTunes! (This link will open up your iTunes program and take you to our app page.)