Continental Airlines Offers Gluten-free Meals Again!

Several weeks ago, we posted some disappointing news about Continental Airlines. The company had just announced some changes to their meal offerings and the gluten-free meal had not made the cut. Meals to accommodate those with special religious dietary needs would still be available, but people with gluten intolerance (or a wheat allergy) were out of luck. In our post, we suggested that people might want to contact the airline and let them know how important it is to accommodate all their passengers – including those with celiac – with a safe meal. They only serve food on long flights, but who is going to fly to Europe or Asia on Continental if they can’t get a gluten-free meal if they need one? Probably no one who has a choice in the matter.

Special thanks to Connie Sarros for the news (in her newsletter) that after so many unhappy customers contacted Continental about the discontinuation of gluten-free meals, the company had a change of heart. Gluten-free meals were added back to the meal line up for long flights. Together, we can affect change in our community. Whether we’re looking for more food choices or gluten-free restaurant options – getting involved does make a difference. What happened with Continental Airlines is proof in the gluten-free pudding of that fact. We know that several of our readers contacted Continental and apparently many other unhappy people did as well. Thanks to everyone who took the time to make their voices heard. One quick phone call or short e-mail to the company (from a lot of us) was all that was needed to make the company do a flip flop on the cancellation of gluten-free meals. Kudos to all of us!

Let’s face it, we are in the minority and yet, we created enough of a ruckus for Continental to rethink their position about catering to our dietary needs. In my opinion, the sky is the limit regarding what we accomplish once we put our minds to it. We don’t all want the exact same things in terms of change in our market. Comments on our Butterball gluten-free gravy and Bisquick posts prove that. Even so, there are some things we can all agree on. When those occasions present themselves, as happened in the case of the Continental meal situation, we can be a very powerful force indeed!

One of the biggest mistakes people can make is thinking that they alone can’t make a difference. The point is that if each person is part of a bigger group and they all have the same goal – they absolutely can make a difference. We could think about it like this. It’s easier to stick to the gluten-free diet if you focus on all the great foods you can have (both naturally gluten-free items and replacement type foods) instead of what you can’t eat anymore. If we focus on what needs to change in order for us to navigate more easily in a world full of gluten and proactively set about to be part of that change, we’ll make it easier not only ourselves, but for all who come after us. Here’s to all the great changes coming up around the bend!

Review: King Arthur Gluten-free Mixes

gf-browniesWhen the news about these new mixes came out a couple of months ago, it was rather shocking. The small Vermont based, employee-owned company has been known to produce some exceptional quality (mostly) gluten flours for over 200 years. That’s right, when the company was founded, George Washington had just been elected President. King Arthur Flour has always been a company committed to making quality products. Now, it seems they’ve set their sights on producing some fabulous gluten-free products. All of the new gluten-free mixes are also free of eggs, dairy, soy, nuts, tree nuts, fish, shellfish. They do call for eggs and in some cases, butter, like traditional baking mixes. I used canola oil instead of butter in both mixes.

Excerpt from the press release:

“We wanted to create gluten-free mixes that would not only meet the same high standards we apply to all of our products in terms of flavor and texture, but also reflect the highest standards of gluten- and allergen-free certification,” says King Arthur Flour Marketing Director Tom Payne. “We’ve brought to bear our more than two centuries of experience in baking and recipe development, toiling in our test kitchen for over two years to combine the best gluten-free ingredients in novel ways that result in gluten-free baking mixes of superior quality, consistency and taste.”

King Arthur Flour’s gluten-free baking mixes are the only major brand to be third-party certified by the Gluten Free Certification Organization, with standards twice as stringent as those set by the Food and Drug Administration. In addition, they are produced in a dedicated allergen-free facility, guaranteed to be free of the top eight most common food allergens. They are also certified Kosher by the Chicago Rabbinical Council. Says Payne, “We’re sure customers will agree these are the very best gluten-free mixes on the market today.”

First up was the brownie mix. It was easy to mix up with a bamboo spoon and I lined my pan with foil so there was very little clean up. The brownies reminded me of those I ate as a child. They are rich, moist, chewy and have a flaky top. The box says to freeze the brownies that are not eaten within three days. Ours held up perfectly for five full days. Even though the brownies tasted great right after they cooled (and while they were still warm!), they tasted even better every day after they were made, than on the day I baked them. Many gluten-free baked goods are really best the day they’re made. That means if you’re going to an event and need to take something sweet, you have to bake something that day. This is not the case with these delicious brownies. Just bake them the day before and put them in an air tight container and you’re good to go! My husband didn’t feel like sharing these brownies with co-workers so we could not get an opinion about them from glutenoids this time.

Next up was the chocolate cake mix. First of all, the mix makes a two layer cake so right away, it gets a big thumbs up just for that from me. Whoever thought of selling us mixes that make only a 1-layer cake did us and the environment (wasteful packaging) a great disservice. Very few people have a need to make a 1-layer cake and we can add. We know when we buy two mixes for $4 each, we are paying $8 to make 2-layer cake. The first time I read a mix that said it only made a 1-layer cake, I literally thought it was a typo.

cakeOK – so how was the King Arthur Flour gluten-free chocolate cake mix? Well, if you know what Devil’s Food cake tastes like, you know what this cake tastes like. It was chocolaty, moist, rich – perfect! Because I was in a rush for time, I slapped some whipped milk chocolate canned frosting from Betty Crocker on the cake. Even using canned frosting could not hurt this fabulous cake. The frosting was actually surprising good, but it’s not the same as homemade buttercream frosting, of course.

The cake was enjoyed by several gluten-free people and a couple of people that eat gluten. Everyone said they loved it and they were not just being nice. They knew I was reviewing the mix and needed their honest feedback. The following day, the friend I left the cake with took the rest of it to a house full of glutenoids and they all loved it as well. Hearing that proved to me that I can serve this delicious cake to the most finicky eaters around and they will never know it’s gluten-free unless I tell them. I’m going to have a agree with the company’s slogan – these mixes were definitely worth the wait!

The new mixes will start hitting some store shelves in June and are already available for online ordering. If you don’t see them in local stores that sell the gluten King Arthur Flour products, be sure to ask the store manager to add the gluten-free mixes to the next order from the company. While you’re waiting for King Arthur’s mixes, you can already buy various baking mixes from 24 store brands listed in the Grocery Guide. Special thanks to King Arthur for my review mixes!

Kinnikinnick’s Three-Flavored Donuts

Kinnikinnick’s Three-flavored Donuts

I have a confession to make: I love donuts. Cake, old fashioned, Krispy Kreme…put any donut in front of me and you can bet a pretty penny it won’t be sitting there for long. In general, I’m a healthy person. I make sure to stock up on fruits and veggies. I eat lots of rice, lentils, and even quinoa. I mostly eat well. But we all have our guilty pleasures.

Being something of a donut connoisseur, I approached Kinnikinnick’s gluten-free, wheat-free, dairy-free, soy-free donuts with a healthy skepticism. Logic told me that certain elements crucial to the makeup of a donut were purposefully omitted from these remarkably scrumptious-looking treats. But in the name of gluten-free goody lovers everywhere, I took the plunge and sampled Kinnikinnick’s chocolate, vanilla, and cinnamon sugar donuts. I was pleasantly surprised.

First thing’s first. If you’re the Krispy Kreme type, then these might not be for you. Kinnikinnick donuts are of the smaller, denser, cakier persuasion. That said, the cake has a lovely moistness to it, especially in the case of the cinnamon sugar donuts, which also have tiny cinnamon sugar sparkles mixed into the dough. All flavors have that sinful, buttery taste on the outside of the dough, the gentle reminder that what you’re eating has been fried in something, even if it is gluten-free, wheat-free, dairy-free, and soy-free.

The cinnamon sugar donuts are the clear winner of the bunch. As mentioned, the dough is slightly more moist, and the cinnamon sugar mix coating the outside makes for a delicious finish. The chocolate icing on the chocolate donuts is a bit lackluster, which isn’t surprising considering that its only four ingredients are sugar, water, cocoa powder, and glucose. The translucent sweetness of the vanilla icing, though comprised of similar ingredients (sugar, water, vanilla, and glucose), is somehow more convincing.

The other perks of these donuts are that they have absolutely no trans-fat, and they aren’t as ridiculously calorie-laden as some of their gluten-containing counterparts. Cinnamon sugar donuts are 170 calories each, while chocolate and vanilla run at 220 and 212 calories, respectively. Pretty good as far as tasty indulgences go.

All in all, I highly recommend Kinnikinnick’s gluten-free, etc. donuts, which are available in over 3,000 retail locations nationwide, or on their website: www.kinnikinnick.com. This Canadian baker makes donuts that are safe for anyone to eat, but taste like the real thing. Take it from a girl who’s eaten a lot of them.

Gluten-Free Recipe Roundup

Beignets - Photo courtesy of Jules Gluten Free
Beignets - Photo courtesy of Jules Gluten Free

With so many great gluten-free products on store shelves these days, many of us don’t want for much in terms of gluten-free options. This is not true in smaller communities or rural areas, of course. There are still places that are so out of the gluten-free loop, that there isn’t even a frozen gluten-free bread that tastes like cardboard available. I’m not saying people want to eat such bread, but just that many people can’t even find bad gluten-free bread to purchase where they live. Forget about finding something fabulous like Udi’s and Canyon Bakehouse breads.

Even with more gluten-free options for replacement type foods than we really need, there are still a few things I’d love to be able to buy locally that I can’t. There are other things you can’t buy anywhere, but you can make them yourself if you’re so inclined. Being someone who didn’t do much in the kitchen (except decorate it and buy stuff to put in it) until my celiac diagnosis, I’m very thankful for all the talented bakers and cooks out there who create amazing gluten-free recipes that make living gluten-free more fun! Below are a few stand out recipes for some things I get a hankering for every now and then.

  • Gluten-free beignets from Jules Gluten Free – this recipe offers instructions to make the amazing New Orleans treat dairy-free as well. It calls specifically for Jules’ Gluten-Free All-Purpose Flour, but the Grocery Guide has at least five more gluten-free all-purpose flours you can try.
  • Easy cookie crumb pie crust recipes (use gluten-free cookies) – you can use K-Toos gluten-free Oreo type cookies for an Oreo crust with these instructions. Those work great for a chocolate creme pie crust.
  • Gluten-free English muffins from Gluten-Free Goddess – this recipe is also dairy-free.
  • Flourless peanut butter cookie recipethis is actually a traditional recipe and there are no expensive ingredients in this ‘oldie but goodie’.
  • Gluten-free cheese cracker recipe from Teri Gruss – these look crunchy, cheesy and delicious.
  • Chicken noodle soup recipe from Gluten-Free Mom – portion this soup out in small batches – freeze and pull out as needed. It calls for gluten-free noodles, which are often difficult to find or expensive to buy, but the Grocery Guide lists at least 20 brands that sell tons of varieties.

Sometimes I wonder why many people think there is nothing we can eat that tastes good. Doctors are among the worst offenders of spreading that misinformation. One I encountered in my gluten-free journey actually said “you don’t want to have celiac, you can’t eat anything good ever again”. One – I can’t choose to have or not have a condition (it chose me apparently). And two – statements like that are the reason that some family members of people with celiac won’t get tested – or have their kids tested.

There are not only fabulous product choices for us these days, there are seemingly zillions of wonderful gluten-free recipes for everything under the sun. We just have to take advantage of all the gluten-free goodness available to us. Celiac awareness month will come to a close on Memorial Day. I hope everyone thought of something to do to create change in the gluten-free world – even in the smallest way. If you did something that made a difference, let us know in the comments below. If you prefer to keep your good deeds to yourself, thanks from all those you will never know you helped!

The Melting Pot Rolls Out Gluten-Free Menu

signup_bgThe Melting Pot is a restaurant we never tried when we ate gluten. This is likely due to our ‘avoid chains at all costs’ attitude back then. There are a few chains places we visit occasionally these days, but the only one that truly stands out (to us) in terms of gluten-free service is the Roswell, GA Outback Steakhouse. As explained in the Triumph Dining Restaurant Guide, the fact that a place has a gluten-free menu does not ensure they will provide you a safe meal. Unless it’s a totally gluten-free establishment, you have to know the right questions to ask – and feel comfortable with the answers you get in return.

When I found out that GIG was working with The Melting Pot to help them create a safe gluten-free menu, I double checked to make sure there was one in my area. Indeed, there are actually several in Metro Atlanta. Recently, the company rolled out their gluten-free menu nationwide. Several locations have had gluten-free options for quite a while. Even though most locations don’t serve gluten-free bread, cookies or cake, the extensive gluten-free options are still pretty exciting. The location nearest us said they’d allow us to bring in our own bread as well.

The online six page gluten-free menu includes information on the many substitutions that are required to get a safe meal there. The diners have to ask for certain things – no Rice Krispy treats, cookies or brownies for example. There are many modifications needed, but gluten-free guests will still get plenty of food to eat. For dipping sauces that call for wheat flour, diners need to request cornstarch is used. There is a list of gluten-free alcoholic drinks which includes Baileys and Godiva liqueurs.

The way the company originally started is pretty interesting. Here is an excerpt from the website:

The first Melting Pot opened in April of 1975 in Maitland, Fla. – just outside of Orlando. It was a cozy, quaint location and its first menu consisted of just three items: Swiss cheese fondue, beef fondue and a chocolate fondue dessert. However, as the restaurant’s popularity expanded, so did its menu and ambiance.

Mark Johnston, who was working his way through college as a waiter at The Melting Pot, noticed the popularity boost and – with the help of his brothers Mike and Bob – scraped together funding to open The Melting Pot of Tallahassee in 1979 (with the blessing of the original owners in Maitland… of course). The Tallahassee location grew enormously popular, and within one year its success paved the way for future franchise expansion.

The fact that there is still a location in Tallahassee is very exicting. In my opinion, “Tally” is second only to Pamama City in terms of lacking gluten-free awareness in the Florida panhandle. OK – back to The Melting Pot’s gluten-free menu. There are locations in the U.S. and Canada. Visit the website and enter your zip code to find a location near you (if there is one). Then click on your location and then menu. The drop down menu should show the gluten-free menu PDF. After reading Catherine’s rave review of The Melting Pot (the location she visited serves gluten-free bread!), we will definitely be checking out the location near us soon. We’ll be taking in the Nature’s Own gluten-free bread in to enjoy the experience even more!