Gluten-free: Eating out

It’s been 18 weeks since a friend and I made a pact to quit. She quit smoking, and I quit junk food and fast food. That was the original deal. I’ve mostly stuck to that, but I also added gluten to the list. I figured since I was already cutting out a lot, what was one more thing. Obviously there are health benefits to cutting out crap food, but I also was curious to see if eliminating gluten would help my stomach and eczema.

I can’t claim much difference in the skin department; my skin just hates winter, apparently. However, my stomach feels much happier: waaayyy less bloating, reflux, gas, yucky-feeling-ness.

Eating out takes a bit of planning, but in the age of smartphones you can figure out pretty quickly if a restaurant you’re considering going to has a gluten-free menu, or at least some easily-modified options. I hope to post here occasionally about eating out experiences in case anyone else is looking for gluten-free options.

Also, I should note that my daily eating is much healthier than these meals! Eating out is a special treat, so I give myself some leeway. I get enough salads and such brown-bagging it through the week. πŸ™‚

First up, pictured below, are four cheese GF pasta from The Cheesecake Factory (left) and Mellow Mushroom’s GF pizza.

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While neither of these meals can be considered health food, they both were tasty and did not cause me any tummy distress later on. The latter being the main test of whether something really was GF as advertised. Now, I’m not celiac, and I can’t say if these products might cause a problem for someone with celiac. But with my level of gluten intolerance, both meals were great for me.

The pasta was tender, and there was a liberal amount of sauce and cheese. It was not dry or tacky as other GF pasta dishes I’ve tried have been. The Cheesecake Factory has a separate GF menu, which is nice. However, the menu does note that there is no separate cooking or prep area, and fried items likely are in common oil, so FYI if you are celiac or super-sensitive.

I was super excited to learn about the GF Mellow Mushroom pizza crust. I hadn’t eaten any pizza since going GF, so this was a real treat. I’ve eaten the Mellow Mushroom pizza twice recently with no ill effects. This one was the basic GF cheese pizza with pepperoni added. The crust is tasty and crisp, thin-crust style. It doesn’t taste “weird” or anything, despite what I expected given it’s made out of bean flour and tapioca flour and other such stuff. πŸ™‚ Their website is really good about explaining the product and the measures the kitchen will take to avoid cross-contamination. It says they will use a clean apron and utensils and use a screen pan to keep GF pizza off the stone when baking. The GF crust is available in the 12-inch size.

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OK, so I’m technically not supposed to be eating candy, but I give myself the occasional break. πŸ™‚ Hey, my friend has Chan.tix to help her, so I have the occasional tiny treat and then confess, haha. Honey Bear and I visited a nice candy store, Lolli & Pops, and they had a wall of Jelly Belly, how could I resist getting a few! Buttered popcorn is my favorite! πŸ™‚

Anybody else doing the gluten-free thing? Got any eating out recommendations?

Note: I received no compensation in return for this post. I simply want to share good food experiences. Eat at your own risk, or pleasure.

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Domestic Diva-ing

The temperature has been dropping, and so all the outdoor vents needed to be closed for the fall and winter. As I was shuffling around the perimeter of my house in my flipflops, through patches of overgrown weeds and keeping one eye out for the neighbor’s pissed off dog that could easily scale the fence and eat me should he choose to do so, I was thinking about how all those little things I take for granted sure add up when my husband can’t do them.

(Normally I would have whined about it being chilly and sent him out to take care of the vents. OK, I’m not proud, but it’s true. Same with stacks of dirty dishes. The “not mine” chores.)

So with dishes and trash to take care of, and extra clothes to launder, it’s been busy but quiet the last two days. We’ve gone to a couple of Honey Bear’s doctor appointments, then spent most of the rest of the day and evening at home, chilling out, napping, doing chores and watching TV. I’ve done 6 loads of laundry. I did go out to taekwondo class last night, and the grocery store afterwards, and this led to something really strange happening: me cooking.

At the store I started feeling sorry for Honey Bear with his gimp foot (which is now infected, by the way, and he’s got antibiotics), so I bought him some of his favorite foods. I came home and made a big batch of chili, which he ate with Fritos and shredded cheddar last night, but he also has the option of chili dogs (I’m sweet, I know). Then, I made peanut butter cookies. OK, they were from a bagged mix, people, but I had to add, like, oil and water and stir and stuff! And sprinkles! πŸ™‚ I also learned that I really, really love parchment paper. Normally everything sticks. It’s just my luck. Thank goodness I finally tried the parchment paper.

In the spirit of Halloween, I got a cake mix and made cupcakes tonight. With SPRINKLES with spiders!!! πŸ™‚

My other unbiased product plug is foil cupcake liners. Just use a cookie sheet and forget about having to wash that dang muffin tin that is always burning shit regardless of how close you check it (wait, is that just me?…).

Also, today we went to Mellow Mushroom for the first time and split a pizza. His side: mozzarella, pepperoni, black olives, onions; My side: mozzarella, pepperoni, cucumbers, green peppers and feta. It was delicious. As a bonus, I enjoyed the glittery booths and “mellow” decor, and Honey Bear was digging the soundtrack: Beatles, Pink Floyd, Jefferson Airplane, Jimi Hendrix, etc.

… And now the dryer is dinging, and there are DVR’d shows to be watched. Laters.

BLOGtober Fest – Fall Foodie Friday

If you know me in real life, you are probably laughing to see that I’m writing a food post. My friends know my 2-year-old oven practically still has that new-appliance smell. πŸ™‚

But, OK y’all, I do cook some, but it’s just more likely to involve some convenience products rather than from scratch. Fall is when I really start craving comfort foods, and one of my favorite things to make is mini-meatloaves.

My up-front disclosure: I shamelessly use the McCormick Meat Loaf seasoning mix and packaged bread crumbs. It’s the closest my poor Honey Bear gets to homemade. πŸ™‚

I’m not going to plagiarize the packet’s directions, hehe, but the general gist of the thing is: Take 2 pounds of lean ground beef or turkey (or I’ve previously used one pound of each to make it a little healthier but still retain the beef heartiness) and squish it up in a completely disgusting way (I recommend food-safe gloves) with eggs, milk, ketchup, bread crumbs and the seasoning mix. To shave 30 minutes off the cooking time, I make 8 mini-loaves instead of a single large one. The minis also are perfectly portioned to pack for your work lunch.

There’s not really a way to make a mound of meat look pretty, but here’s a photo anyway:

Mini meatloaves can be made even more fall-festive by topping them with ketchup, cheese, or onion pieces to look like laces on a football. Good for a NFL watch party or before your kid plays on Friday nights.

This week I served the meatloaves with baked beans (from a can), salad (from a bag) and corn muffins (from a Jiffy mix). If you really want to blow the top off of the comfort food thing, mac-and-cheese sounds like a heavenly pairing.

Advice: Line your casserole pan with foil. Even if you buy the leanest meat you can find, there will still be a puddle of fat at the bottom of the pan, and it just rocks so much more if you can throw that right in the trash rather than clean up that nastiness. πŸ™‚