Monthly Archives: April 2012

GIG’s Gluten-Free Awareness Campaign: What’s Your Favorite GF Restaurant?

We’re coming up on a very special time of year: May, aka National Celiac Awareness Month. There are oodles of activities that happen during May, but one of our favorites is the Gluten Intolerance Group’s Chef to Plate Campaign.

To borrow from the GIG’s own description, “the Chef to Plate Campaign is a grass-roots campaign designed to help spread awareness of gluten intolerance through the use of restaurants that offer a gluten-free menu. It is free for restaurants to join. We simply ask that they post educational table tents and/or posters during the month of May—to celebrate National Celiac Awareness Month.”

Hundreds of restaurants around the world participated last year, reaching more than 7 million diners. This year there are more than 1,400 restaurants participating — more than a 50% increase from last year’s event!
Click to continue reading »

Friday Review: Baba Joon’s (Gluten-Free) Chocolate Chewies

I think I may have mentioned this one or twenty times in the past: I love it when people send me delicious things in the mail. Especially when I’ve forgotten that said delicious thing is on its way, and so one day a package just arrives with my name on it.

The most recent example? Baba Joon’s Chocolate Chewies. Yum. This photo of the bag doesn’t really do them justice, but also I ate them too quickly to get a decent photograph. Sorry folks.

So: what is a Baba Joon? What are Chocolate Chewies?

Baba is the word for father in many languages, so I think it’s a pretty safe assumption that Baba Joon is the bald man on the packaging (to the right):

A chocolate chewie (or chewy) is a one-or-two bite little burst of delicious. They fall into the family of egg white and cocoa cookies, a family I happen to love for the way it brings together the best parts of cookies and meringues and macaroons.
Click to continue reading »

Balancing the Benefits, Rumors, and Miley Cyrus’ Comments About a Gluten-Free Diet

By Zach

The rumors are out about gluten-free lifestyles being a waste of time and money for people who don’t actually have an intolerance to gluten. However, as we know, some rumors are true, yet some are not, and some are just used to fan the flames of badmouthing just for slander’s sake.  Regarding gluten-free diets being a waste of time and money heavily depends on the individual and their intentions of abstaining from gluten.

If we were to ask celebrities like Oprah and Gwenyth Paltrow, who are cheerleaders for gluten-free, they would tell us something along the lines of Miley Cyrus’s recent twitter post, which reads: “Everyone should try no gluten for a week! The change in your skin, phyisical [sic] and mental health is amazing! U won’t go back.” However, if you poll the average gluten-free goer, then you might find that some are just “In it to thin it,” which really isn’t the most practical intention. Just like Atkins, vegetarian or vegan eating habits, a gluten-free eating habit may seem like a healthier alternative, but the healthy aspects of these diets is the dedication and discipline applied to them. The fact that bacon is Atkins-friendly, Oreos are vegan and potato chips are vegetarian debunks the theory that just because you participate in these diets doesn’t automatically mean you are or will become a slim and lithe health nut.

Sugar, calories, fats and carbs are all active compounds in gluten-free foods that any conscious eater should balance throughout their diet. Of course, all these contents are not diabolical, they are essential for sustaining one’s fitness and figure. What’s deceptive about eating gluten-free is that it appears to be low-carb and seems to ward off the world of sticky sweets, which is not the case at all. To illustrate, we just published an article about all the chocolaty gluten-free items that Hershey’s has to offer, which definitely don’t skimp on the fat and saturated fats. This is to say, the gluten-free grocery store has its fair share of tantalizing temptations.

Statistics taken from a survey by Time suggest that only about 8-12% of people are gluten-free for gluten intolerant reasons (1 out of 133 being Celiacs), 50% are gluten-free to be “healthier” and 30% are gluten-free to control their weight. Despite the promotions from celebrities and whoever else, it should be noted that gluten-free and healthier eating are not interchangeable, though eating less processed foods, pizza and carb-loaded foods is usually a step in a lighter direction.

This is not to say that a gluten-free diet cannot be beneficial. In fact, a study of 3,000 people who were diagnosed with gluten sensitivity and then put on a gluten-free diet ended up feeling fewer gastrointestinal problems and showed significant signs of improvement in terms of their health. Also, whether you believe it or not, a placebo effect might play a role in why a lot of gluten tolerant people still tout the gluten-free diet. David Levitsky, a nutrition and psychology professor at Cornell University, opines “If you believe in a cause of your disorder, it becomes the cause.” He continues with, “We see this in many different studies. If you believe it, you change your behavior in the direction of being cured.”

So whether your reasons for being gluten-free are due to you actually being allergic to gluten or because you are trying to slenderize your structure, keep in mind, that you’ll still have to discipline yourself to be healthy and fit because a gluten-free diet doesn’t automatically pump nutritious foods into your body nor give you celebrity curves.

Put the Spring Back in Your Step with a Gluten-Free Exercise Diet

By Bridget

As springtime is upon us in full bloom with the beginning of April, many people re-visit their exercise regimens. This involves taking things up a notch with increasing mileage and intensity, and even setting goals to complete triathlons and half- or full-marathons! One of the toughest questions that comes with increased training is, “What can someone eat who is living gluten-free?”  Carbo-loading just doesn’t have the same meaning when pasta dinners and endless bread baskets would put you out of the race (not in it).

 Recently, race events have included Larabars and Kind Bars in their swag bags as pre-race snacks. These sources of energy are a great combination of fat, protein, and a little carbohydrate to get you going without pouring gluten-laden granola into your system. Bananas are another long-time toted snack that give you great energy and potassium, which will actually help your body cut down on cramping during training.

Another big piece of news worth noting in the gluten-free community is that Gu, the sugary sports gel that is a favorite among endurance athletes for during-race energy fill, is gluten-free! On their website, Gu ensures customers that all of their Energy Lab products are gluten-free – which is encouraging news for Celiac’s who want to train without running the risk of adverse reaction on the course or field!

As for recovery, the combination of protein and fat has actually been promoted among the nutrition community. Focusing on energy intake from fats and proteins help to rebuild and repair muscle cells that have been put under pressure during training. This lean away from carbohydrates is reassuring to us gluten-free folk, as protein and fat inherently does not have gluten! So reach for some chocolate milk, yogurt, or almonds and cashews – your body will feel well-served!

Hip-hip hooray, Hershey’s announces their gluten-free array!

By Zach

For all you gluten-free individuals out there who might be chocolate-covered bakers, sweet-tooth suckers and/or dessert devotees, you’re probably going to enjoy this long-awaited bit of news from Hershey’s. Indefinitely, Hershey’s has recited their “Check the Label” mantra to gluten-sensitive consumers, but, as of a few days ago, they have virtually been able to put that bulletin to rest. Though, for an ultra safe measure, they still recommend a quick checking.

Finally, feast your eyes on the list of Hershey’s gluten-free products that they nicely assembled for the gluten-free community. MmmMmmMmmm! Butterscotch baking chips, Almond Joys, York Peppermint Patties, dark chocolate syrups….the whole nine yards! Please do keep in mind, not all of Hershey’s candies are gluten-free and an assortment of their seasonal sweets contain gluten ingredients – like their seasonal-shaped Reese’s peanut butter cups.

Here’s to a more feasible indulgence of gluten-free sweets!

Also, Hershey’s recently went on the record to issue a press release to clear up the water about the relationship between their index of products and the gluten-free standards defined by the FDA. Below is the printed disclosure that you can find on their website regarding which Hershey’s products are qualified, by FDA standards, to be labeled gluten-free.

“Hershey is committed to providing products that meet your dietary needs, and many people today are interested in gluten-free foods.

A food bearing a gluten-free claim does not contain the protein from wheat, rye, barley, spelt, kamut, triticole, farina, vital gluten semolina, malt vinegar or protein derivatives of these foods.

For your convenience, the current products listed below have been fully evaluated and qualify as gluten free using standards proposed by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

Please note this list is not all inclusive as we have other gluten-free confections. The best way to determine if our products contain a gluten ingredient is to read our product label. This label includes an accurate, current listing of the ingredients in our products. Because, on occasion, the list of ingredients can change, we strongly encourage you to check the ingredient label on the package each time before you make a purchase.”

What To Do With Leftover Gluten-Free Easter Candy?

Oh man. Easter kind of snuck up on us this year. Did you have a nice one? I sure hope so.

Now, I saw a lot of buzz on the gluten-free blogosphere from parents who were considering candy-free Easter baskets — which is pretty neat. Still, I’m willing to bet that at least two or three of you went the traditional route and are now faced with a dilemma: what to do with all the leftover Easter candy?

Of course, the short answer is: eat it, you silly goose! Chocolate is delicious. But everyone knows that there can be too much of a good thing — and that’s where these neat ideas come in handy. There are plenty of ways to take your gluten-free Easter candy and reimagine it in new and delicious (and still gluten-free!) ways:
Click to continue reading »

PF Chang’s Expands Gluten-free Menu, Lessens Lunch Costs

There's more than just edamame on the menu!

P.F. Chang’s has long earned brownie points amongst the gluten-free community for their careful gluten-free menu: not only are there lots of options, but all gluten-free dishes go on special plates to avoid accidental mishaps.

Now, they’re poised to gain even more brownie points. According to a press release from earlier this week, their lunch menu has expanded —  combo plates served with soup or salad for less than $10 — and a special April-only Facebook app that gives people chances to win gift cards. Enough of the choices for the combo plate are gluten-free (or can be made gluten-free) to make choosing your meal a difficult task.

Perhaps even more exciting, the gluten-free menu has grown!

New items on the gluten-free menu include a Vietnamese Crab Salad, Caramel Mango Chicken, Lemon Scented Brussels Sprouts, and Crab Fried Rice. There are also two “former favorites” making a grand re-entry: Dali Chicken, and Philip’s Better Lemon Chicken.

You can read the full menu here — just click “gluten-free” at the top of the menu.

Two related notes:

1) Did you know that P.F. Chang’s also has a lower-priced / more everyday offshoot called Pei Wei Asian Diner? Not so surprisingly, they also have a very well-established gluten-free menu.

2) Looking for more gluten-free restaurants? Why not check out our handy-dandy gluten-free restaurant guide? There’s sure to be something in your neighborhood to tickle your taste-buds.

Introducing Omission: Barley-Brewed Beer for the Gluten-Free Barfly

By Zach

The Exciting Launch

Having just hit the Oregon bar scene this past Monday (April 2nd), Omission Beer is a barley-brewed gluten-free beer that was launched by the Craft Brew Alliance, which is brewed by Widmer Brothers Brewing in Portland, OR. The CEO of the Craft Brew Alliance, Terry Michaelson, shared a few thoughts on the fervency and inspiration for this new brand of Omission beer, “Developing great-tasting, authentic craft beers that happen to be gluten-free was a personal mission for our brewmaster and me, and it’s a mission that our team really got behind. The launch of Omission Beer is a game changer for Celiacs and the craft beer community. As a 12-year celiac and longtime craft beer enthusiast, I’m thrilled to introduce delicious craft beers that can be enjoyed equally by those who are affected by gluten sensitivities and those who are not.”

Mastering the Craft of Gluten-Free Beer

Creatively, most gluten-free beers are brewed with alternative reactants such as quinoa, tapioca, rice or even buckwheat. Taste-wise, these brewing techniques usually don’t hinder or disrupt the great experience of drinking gluten-free beers, though it’s a subjective opinion, but the underlying challenge for brewers is to replicate the authentic richness of traditional beer while still supplying a gluten-free work of art. Given the brand name, Omission beer definitely omits gluten, but does not omit the valuable components of yeast, hops, water and malted barley, which traditional brews of beer are made with.

Click to continue reading »

How to Fill Your Gluten-Free Grocery Cart

By Bridget

Grocery shopping was, at least initially, a huge struggle for me. Every single thing I bought or wanted to buy required that I read all the ingredients. I am continually frustrated by the fact that, although packaged foods are required to highlight their allergen information, they oftentimes do not explicitly state that they contain wheat or gluten. Therefore, I have to read every ingredient and try to decipher the “questionable food items” (re: caramel coloring or “seasonings”) for myself.

After spending many grocery store visits looking like I had some sort of eating disorder for spending an inordinate amount of time reading every food label of every food (and then reluctantly returning it to the shelf), I have finally come to realize that eating the whole foods is what’s really best for not only me, but anyone trying to eat healthier. Surprisingly, it is not any more expensive; but it is infinitely healthier.

Click to continue reading »

I Dream of Falafel Gluten-Free Review

By Zach

With the influx of alternative eating (gluten-free, vegan, vegetarian, etc.) over the years, all kinds of ethnic-based restaurants and American dining services have been gradually adapting their menus to cater to their clientele’s demand. The palette of gluten-free options for fast food and dine-in establishments is now more colorful than ever. A few weeks ago, I was privileged enough to enjoy a gluten-free sampling at I Dream of Falafel, located in downtown Chicago. Now, before you feel like this review is irrelevant to you (because you don’t live in Chicago), keep in mind that a lot of Mediterranean food has overlapping gluten-free entrees, appetizers and sides, which you can most likely order and indulge in at your local Mediterranean joint.

 I Dream of Falafel has a laundry list of great gluten-free items just waiting to be feasted on by grub-craving Celiacs. At a joint like this, a gluten-free lifestyle hardly seems limiting as tender chicken, beef, kefta (lamb), fresh falafel, authentic hummus, natural salads, golden-seasoned rice, and a savory selection of sauces are all up for grabs to stuff your stomach to satisfaction. They also have a unique take on falafel with their sweet potato falafel as one of their specialties. If you’ve eaten top-shelf falafel, you know it’s not too oily and its got a great crispy-to-substantial ratio, which their traditional falafel does. However, their sweet potato version takes on a slightly different texture as it’s more cakey, less gritty and dashed with a little bit of cinnamon, making it a memorable Mediterranean take on gluten-free falafel.

An assortment of excellent baba ghanoujeh, chickpea-creamy red pepper and/or traditional hummus served alongside your choice of protein and the piquant richness of a tomato-and-cucumber Jerusalem or fattoush salad should make any food-lover’s mouth water. To boot, they have five loaded-with-taste, gluten-free sauces to deliciously decorate your gluten-free spread. Each sauce adds its own personality, whether its their spicy tomato sauce packing a zesty punch, or their verdant raita sauce evoking a more mild, yet bold and herb-savory lushness.  Their vegetables have that coveted crispiness, their ingredients taste natural and unprocessed, and both are made fresh each morning making sure nothing is reused from the day before.

The genuinely nice service I received from Hassan and his staff, plus the succulent food I enjoyed from I Dream of Falafel could both easily deserve their own letter to write home about. As witnessed at this locally respected restaurant, gluten-free food does not have to mean bland and unoriginal menu options. You’ll soon find out, that once you start diversifying your taste buds, you’ll have more Celiac-friendly meals, which will also be the case because more dining serves within the food industry are rising to the challenge to have a menu abundant with gluten-free choices.

 

Check out the I Dream of Falafel website today.

(Photos By Kiersten)