Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Banana Bread Recipe

I love banana bread and was not willing to give up my favorite banana bread recipe. It still works great with gluten-free flour. I always use Bob's Red Mill Baking Flour, (I actually do the Amazon Subscribe-and-Save with this), but I'm sure whatever you use is fine. I do find it helpful if your serving to non-celiacs to throw in chocolate chips, extra bananas, and/or icing to help mask any gluten-free taste.This works great as muffins or cake too!



  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 3/4 cup brown sugar
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 2 1/3 cups mashed overripe bananas


  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Lightly grease a 9x5 inch loaf pan.
  2. In a large bowl, combine flour, baking soda and salt. In a separate bowl, cream together butter and brown sugar. Stir in eggs and mashed bananas until well blended. Stir banana mixture into flour mixture; stir just to moisten. Pour batter into prepared loaf pan.
  3. Bake in preheated oven for 60 to 65 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into center of the loaf comes out clean. Let bread cool in pan for 10 minutes, then turn out onto a wire rack.

A Gluten Relapse

A month or so ago, I had my worst experiences at a restaurant yet. I've had some pretty bad experiences at other restaurants but as my mom always says "All is well that ends well". This experience, however, did not end well.

I was out to lunch with my brother at Mitchell's Restaurant downtown. When the waitress came to take our order, I gave my usual speech. "Do you know or if you don't could you ask the chef- blah blah- gluten-free yada yada". The waitress came back and said that the chef suggested grilled chicken and vegetables. I knew that they have sides of rice there so I told her I'd like the chicken, vegetables, and a side of rice if it was okay for me to have. Everything seemed to go pretty well. My brother and I were talking most of the lunch so I wasn't really studying my food, rather just enjoying it. It wasn't until I got back to my desk at work that I thought to myself, "What did I just eat? Was that rice pilaf? What is in rice pilaf? Isn't it orzo? Isn't that pasta?"

I realized that I should probably just call the restaurant to be sure rather than just convince myself it was orzo if it wasn't. When I called as ask the person on the other end of the phone if she could ask the chef what was in the rice. After talking to at least 5 different people and getting responses such as "what do you mean, it's just rice" and "is orzo
pasta?" and even someone suggesting that I drive straight to the ER to take care of my self rather than staying on the phone with them, we finally came to the conclusion that I had indeed consumed gluten during my lunch experience. I emailed the manager and he promptly responded and ensured me that he would talk with his waitstaff to explain them what a gluten free diet is and how to handle it.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Eat'n Park's the place for smiling celiacs (dah do do)

After Erin from Eat'n Park posted a comment on an earlier post about Eat'n Park having a celiac friendly menu, I grabbed a friend an tried it out for dinner this week. I was fairly impressed with the experience. On the back of the regular menu, they have a menu designated for their "celiac friendly" items (http://www.eatnpark.com/menuList.asp?CategoryID=4). When I went to order, my waiter informed me that he would alert his manager of my order. The manager came to our table and went over my order with me. During my entire experience, there was only one tiny complaint I had, and I'd barely call it a complaint. The manager said she had a few question to ask me about my "allergy". I corrected her and said it was an intolerance. Then she asked how severe my "allergy" was. I'm not sure why this was relevant. It seems to me everything should be handled with great care regardless of the severity.

I ordered a burger to try out their GF buns which were surprisingly not bad- one of the better that I've tried. The manager checked on me a few more times to ensure everything went well.

Overall great experience. As I said, the only small critique was that if your menu mentions the term "celiac" there's an assumption that you understand the disease and won't mislabel it as an allergy, but now I'm just being picky!

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Subscribe and Save

My sister-in-law introduced me to Amazon.com's subscribe and save program. For many of their items that you use on a regular basis, you can sign up for a standing order to be automatically sent to your house. Not only is this program SUPER convenient, shipping is free and you even get a discount on your product! So how does this tie in to gluten-free? Well, amazon also offers loads of gluten-free products.

Here's an example of how this works for me. I'm a total breakfast person. There's two things I need within 20 minutes of waking up: food and coffee. I might as well go back to bed and try again if I fail. I had several easy breakfast meals before. Bagels oatmeal, cereal, granola-- also read gluten, gluten, gluten, gluten... So I was on the hunt for a "normal" gluten-free cereal and found Chex. Chex are awesome and normal people (my husband) eat them too! A box of Chex in the local Giant Eagle is about 4 bucks. With subscribe and save, I get 6 boxes of chocolate Chex delivered once a month for under $15 without having to go to the store! Yeah. For reals.

I also get some hard to find products like gluten-free flours and whatnot. What a great idea, both for Amazon and me! Check it out.


PS- I also use it for normal things like deodorant.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Lewes, DE is gluten-free friendly

I have a lot of reasons to love Lewes, DE. To me, it's more than just a beautiful, historic, beach town. It's where I got engaged and where I got married. This past April on my anniversary trip visit, I found multiple new reasons to love it. I think a lot of tourist locations are like this, but the Lewes and Rehoboth Beach areas were great with gluten-free accommodations. Here's a highlight of my 3 favorites (saving best for last):

Agave- not only did this wonderfully decorated gem of a restaurant have great margaritas, they also had amazing salsa with GF corn chips and a nice selection of GF menu items.

Blue Moon- Always a delicious meal. Blue Moon actually did a fantastic job catering my wedding and again exceeded expectations for my anniversary dinner. They have an amazing menu that always features fresh products and a lot of things done in house like their cured meats and sausages. The owners even brought in two gluten-free cupcakes from a local bakery for us for dessert! Mmmmm... Just writing about it makes me crave a Blue Moon meal!

Hobos- This experience almost made me cry. Finally, someone who gets me!! The entire restaurant philosophy is to take care of people with food allergies and intollerances specializing in gluten-free, vegetarian, and vegan. In fact, one of the first things they'll probably ask you is if you have any diet restriction. I asked what on the menu I could eat and they said anything! They prepare each meal separately and specifically for you. They substitute when necessary, but all of the food was great! They were so knowledgeable and the customer service was great!

Lewes will always be very special to me. If you ever get a chance to go to Lewes or Rehoboth, you'll be in great hands

On a positive note

Though there have been quite a few bad experiences, there's also been a few great experiences locally.

Yokoso: The Waterfront- All of the hibachi can be prepared gluten-free, and of course a lot of the sushi already is. Only thing to be aware of is they have the kikoman soy sauce so bring your own or go without.

Chioppino: Strip District- As is common with a lot of contemporary American places many of the menu items are already gluten-free. The wait staff was very kind and checked on everything for me.

Sababa Grill: Squirrel Hill- Though the gluten-free menu options are few, they are delicious! They were also very accommodating. We ordered hummus and they served me carrots for dipping in place of the pita.

P.F. Changs: The Waterfront- P.F. Changs has a fairly large designated gluten-free menu and they evenhave the GF soy sauce for you.

I'm sure there are other great places out there. Here's just a few I've had good experiences with. Please feel free to share any great experiences you've has as well!

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

3 Strikes for Au Bon Pain

I work in downtown Pittsburgh and am finding that gluten-free lunch options are very limited. I was doing some research to see if any downtown restaurants published a gluten-free menu. I was pleasantly surprised to see that on Au Bon Pain's website their menu includes allergy warnings for each item. I reviewed the menu before venturing to my nearest location to decide what I wanted to order. Soup weather is extremely common in Pittsburgh and I noted that there were several gluten-free soups on the menu. I headed to Au Bon Pain and ended up in a "3 Strikes You're Out" situation.

Strike 1- Of the 8 soup choices they were offering that day, only one was labeled gluten-free. The gluten-free Tuscan Bean soup seemed to be featuring pasta. Gluten-free pasta?? Possibly, but unlikely I'd say. I asked the nearest worker if there was really supposed pasta in the Tuscan Bean. He left to talk to the chef, and came back with a different label for the soup. Now, out of the 8 soups zero were gluten-free. Glad I asked. Hope no one was actually depending on the labels to be correct.

Strike 2- I went to the salad bar to order a salad that I had found in my research to be ok. I mentioned to the chef that I needed her to be careful because I needed the salad to be gluten free. "I don't even know what gluten is", she replied. I explained to her what gluten was, and said that I already checked and the salad was gluten-free as long as she didn't deviate from the recipe and was careful of cross-contamination by mixing it in a clean bowl. She seemed almost offended by what I had said and snapped back "I don't changed the recipe unless someone tells me to, and we always use clean bowls." I told her that was great and to just make the salad. As her manager walked by she threw my order slip and said "Will you make this salad, she said she wants it to be gluten-free and I don't even know what gluten is."

Strike 3- I wrote an email to Au Bon Pain stating that if they are going to advertise gluten-free products, they should #1 actually serve them when they are labeling them gluten-free and #2 make sure their employees know what gluten is. The current status of that email- no response from Au Bon Pain.

Perhaps this was just a bad experience at one location, but their disinterest in giving me the courtesy of an email response back was my 3rd strike.

Starbucks: Ok or not?

I've had some contradictory answers when trying to get to the bottom about what drinks at Starbucks are ok for someone maintaining a gluten-free diet. I actually had an interesting experience at a Starbucks. I asked the barista if there were any drinks that would be considered gluten-free. He asked what gluten was and I told him products of wheat, barley, rye, and oats. Then he confidently said, that everything should be fine because its coffee, why would they add flour to coffee. I explained to him that there might be something in some of the syrups though, so he got another coworker who suggested that I not get a specialty beverage because she wasn't so sure that any would be gluten free. I've done a bit of research on this topic. Of course, Starbucks does not publish an allergy information sheet. Just searching random websites will offer you mixed results about whether things are safe or not. Let's just clear things up. Here's the response I received from Starbucks to my gluten free question:

                    Hello Deirdre,
Thank you for contacting Starbucks Coffee Company.
I sincerely appreciate your question regarding gluten in our beverages. unfortunately, due to cross-contamination, we cannot guarantee that any of our products are gluten-free except for some of our brewed teas. All of our teas are gluten-free except for the following:

Green Ginger filterbags
Tazo Honeybush filterbags
Lemon Ginger juiced tea
Tea Lemonade juiced tea

                  Additional facts about Tazo and our teas are revealed on our website at www.tazo.com. Simply click on the "What is Tazo" link and open the FAQ/IAQ section. Each tea and herbal infusion also has its own page listed under the "Explore Our Teas" link.

So the official answer is, sorry friends, unless you want to overpay for a cup of tea that you could buy at a grocery store.... Starbucks is out for us Celiacs.

Celiac Paradise

Following my Celiac diagnosis, I met with a great dietician to get me setup on a gluten free diet. This dietician was diagnosed with Celiac 10 years ago which really helped the situation. He was able to give realistic expectations and first hand educated tips on restaurants and foods. 4 days after my new life long diet started, I found myself in what many refer to as "Celiac Paradise".

Disney World has visitors from all over the world. It's their goal to make your visit magical. Though people certainly don't go to Disney World for the food, Disney does aim to accommodate any food allergy/intolerance their guests might have. The staff is well trained on what a gluten free diet entails and does a great job working with you, earning themselves the title of "Celiac Paradise". We stayed at the Coronado Springs resort. Gluten-free muffins, brownies, pizza, pasta- they had it all. My biggest fear with the gluten-free diet was how to communicate my needs with wait staff. I'm the type of person who never sends anything back. "I ordered steak and you gave me chicken?? Oh well, it's all food." There's no getting around that now. Every waiter or waitress I get from now on needs to know that gluten-free is a necessity for me. Disney World was great practice for me. I was able get comfortable bringing that up without being worried that they wouldn't know what I was talking about. I had no issues with any restaurant on the entire Disney property. Disney earned themselves an A+ on my gluten-free experience test.

Celiac Sprue Disease

In January of this year, I was diagnosed with Celiac Sprue disease. Celiac disease is a gluten intolerance in which the only cure is a strict gluten-free diet. I've been on a gluten-free diet since February 4th and have since had some great experiences and some horrible experiences that have all been part of my gluten-free adventure. Through this blog I hope to help raise awareness about what being gluten-free really means as well as provide some reviews and tips that I hope will be of help to other people struggling to maintain a gluten-free diet. Please feel free to leave any feedback or ask any questions. I'd love to do some research to help people out.