Some Restaurants Shouldn’t Have Gluten-Free Menus

Ten days ago I posted a photo on Instagram of an awesome gluten-free pizza using Udi’s Gluten-Free crust that I enjoyed at Flatiron’s American Bar and Grill in Colorado Springs. I hadn’t eaten at this restaurant for over six months because all I could ever order was salad. You all know what that’s like.

Some Restaurants Shouldn't Have Gluten-Free Menus

So imagine my surprise when I learned Flatiron’s now had a huge gluten-free menu that could also accommodate my dairy and soy and corn allergies. We’d just picked the College Celiac up from the airport and I was thrilled we went to Flatiron’s because he could eat safely. I even tweeted my appreciation. The restaurant is locally owned and I like to support neighborhood businesses.

Last night I was craving that pizza. So my husband and I went to Flatiron’s and I ordered the exact pizza I ordered ten days earlier: Veggie pizza but substitute the poblano peppers and garlic for pepperoni. I clearly stated that I was celiac and needed the pizza to be as clean as possible.

The pizza arrives with cheese, which was entirely my fault. I sometimes forget pizza typically comes with cheese! I send the pizza back and the next one arrives with no cheese and no pepperoni. Overcooked, barely any sauce, it tastes awful. And I know that Udi’s Gluten-Free pizza crust tastes good when cooked correctly.

I whip out my camera and show the ten-day-old Instagram pizza photo to the manager who says matter-of-factly, “That doesn’t look like our gluten-free crust, it looks like our regular crust.”

Here’s a photo of the one I got last night. The only difference I see is this one is overcooked and lacking sauce and pepperoni.

Bad Gluten-Free Pizza at Flatiron's

I turn to my husband. “So I guess I can eat gluten now.” I was being sarcastic. It was late and I was hungry.

The manager says, “Maybe you’re not allergic anymore, I’ve heard that can happen.”

I just stared at my husband with my mouth wide open. Here is a manager of a restaurant with a huge gluten-free menu–they even advertise 20 percent off gluten-free items on Thursdays–who clearly has no understanding of celiac disease or a wheat allergy.

I should have said something like, “Celiac disease is an autoimmune disease with over 300 symptoms and it is not reversible. The only cure is to not eat gluten.” But at that point, I just wanted to go home and get in my jammies and heat up a can of soup.  We left cash to cover our wines and bolted out the door.

Of course, as soon as I got home I tweeted about my bad experience.

People jumped to my defense and were appalled by the manager’s ignorance.  I just love my Twitter friends.

So here is what I woke up this morning thinking: If a restaurant is going to offer a gluten-free menu, every single employee must be educated and trained. They must understand what celiac disease and food allergies are, and why preventing cross-contamination is so important. They must understand that one wrong ingredient can be life-threatening. They must take their customers’ health concerns seriously.

Otherwise, don’t even bother offering a gluten-free or allergy-friendly menu.

I’d rather order that boring old salad than risk getting sick. I certainly don’t want my youngest son with celiac disease and my oldest with dairy and egg allergies to think they are ordering safely when they aren’t.

Ten days ago, I thought I’d re-discovered a restaurant I could eat in. Obviously I was wrong. Just because a restaurant has an extensive gluten-free menu doesn’t mean you should eat there. I’m pretty sure this restaurant, like so many others, jumped on the gluten-free diet movement to make a profit. If they are serious about serving their celiac and allergic customers, they’ll immediately remove the gluten-free menu while they get proper training for the waitstaff and the chefs and the managers. This experience makes me question every restaurant’s reason for offering gluten-free choices–unless I see a certification from a third-party or talk to a manager who clearly “gets it,” I won’t feel safe dining out.

Here’s the other thing that bothers me about this whole experience. As a blogger and social media guru, I recommended this restaurant to my celiac and food-allergic brothers and sisters. Less than two weeks after doing so, I realized this is not a safe restaurant to eat in. So should I stop reviewing restaurants and posting food photos on Instagram? I’m still trying to figure this one out.

Oh, and by the way, I did get sick the next morning–even after eating one small piece of the pizza.

Some Restaurants Shouldn’t Have Gluten-Free Menus appeared first on Adventures of an Allergic Foodie.

Making Mayo with Colette Martin (The Allergy-Free Pantry)

I wasn’t allowed in the kitchen while growing up so I wasn’t much of a cook when I left home. My husband will attest to that. Most of what we ate came out of a cardboard box, the freezer aisle of the grocery store, or Pizza Hut. Then there was that year, two kids still in diapers, when I got most of our food from the Schwan’s delivery guy. When my husband couldn’t button his pants and I hadn’t lost any post-pregnancy weight, I decided I needed to learn to cook.

Out came the wedding gift crockpot. We ate a lot of beef stew and chicken with potatoes for a long, long time.

No one in our young family had food allergies (that we knew of). While my kids grew into young adults, we blissfully ate all types of foods without any worries—-until yours truly developed multiple food allergies and celiac disease and eosinophilic esophagitis (an allergic esophagus).

That was the game changer.

Suddenly I had to eliminate gluten (wheat, rye, barley, spelt), dairy (no more cheese!), soy, eggs (are there eggless cookies?), and more foods. It was hard. Really, really hard.  What I struggled with most was finding the staples I relied on for decades . . .  salad dressing, mayonnaise, barbecue sauce, mustard, and marinades, to name a few. Even the staples that were supposed to be “allergy-friendly” contained at least one of my allergens or were not certified gluten-free.

I was still struggling with my new way of eating and cooking when I met Colette Martin on the shuttle bus heading to the  Food Allergy Bloggers Conference in Las Vegas. Because I knew Colette was the author of a well-respected cookbook on allergen-free baking and because she was pretty much captive on the bus, I complained to her about how I couldn’t find any decent allergy-free mayo.

Turned out she was in the middle of writing her next cookbook and she was working on a mayonnaise recipe! (I didn’t admit this at the time, but I ‘d never even considered making my own mayo from scratch! Who does that?).

Fast forward eight months. A reader’s copy of The Allergy-Free Pantry: Make Your Own Staples, Snacks, and More Without Wheat, Gluten, Dairy, Eggs, Soy or Nuts (The Experiment, September 2014) by Colette Martin arrives in the mail! Of course, I immediately flip to the mayo recipe.

Oh-oh. Sounds kind of complicated for a novice like me. First, I have to make “eggs” using flaxseed, which I just so happen to have in my pantry because I buy all the food-allergy cooking ingredients but never actually cook with them. I add water to the flaxseed and make the “eggs.”

I follow the steps to make the mayo using a hand-mixer that I’ve moved  into three houses but have never plugged in.

 

Hmmm, not so difficult after all.

Wait!  This mixture is actually starting to look like mayo! Using my finger, I put a little on my tongue. It tastes like mayo. Maybe even a little better than what I remember mayo tasting.

I decide to make Colette’s potato salad. Did I mention I have really missed potato salad since becoming allergic to eggs/mayo?

Allergy-Free Short Ribs and Potato Salad

 

 

I serve the allergy-free potato salad and short ribs to my family. I don’t tell them about the flaxseed, which might turn them off.  No one notices the mayo is eggless or made with flaxseed–they all help themselves to seconds.

_________________________________

Since that fateful day of making mayo, The Allergy-Free Pantry hasn’t left my kitchen island. Using this book, I now make my own allergen-free ketchup and mustard and barbecue sauce. I’m planning to branch out to crackers in a few weeks. For anyone with food restrictions, this cookbook will become your most-used kitchen tool. You can pre-order a copy today at Powell’s, Amazon, or Barnes and Noble.  Thank you to Colette Martin for writing this book and for sharing her flaxseed mayo and potato salad recipes (below).

Recipe from The Allergy-Free Pantry: Make Your Own Staples, Snacks and More Without Wheat, Gluten, Dairy, Eggs, Soy or Nuts, copyright © Colette Martin, 2014. Reprinted by permission of the publisher, The Experiment. Available wherever books are sold. 

Recipe from The Allergy-Free Pantry: Make Your Own Staples, Snacks and More Without Wheat, Gluten, Dairy, Eggs, Soy or Nuts, copyright © Colette Martin, 2014. Reprinted by permission of the publisher, The Experiment. Available wherever books are sold. 

 Potato Salad

Makes 10 to 12 servings

 Friends and neighbors will have no idea that this allergen-free version of potato salad was made without traditional mayonnaise or off-the-shelf salad dressings. Instead, Flaxseed Mayonnaise (page 99) is used to make a salad with added fiber and essential fatty acids—and that tastes marvelous! Add some blue potatoes, if you can find them.

 Even though this potato salad contains no eggs or dairy, be careful not to let it sit out longer than an hour; it’s the potatoes, not the mayonnaise, that contain the bacteria that can make you sick.

10 to 12 medium Yukon Gold and Red Gold potatoes, with skins, cubed

1 teaspoon salt

About 5 cups (1200 ml) water

1 medium red onion, diced

2 tablespoons diced Dill Pickles, optional

½ cup (120 ml) Flaxseed Mayonnaise (see below)

2 tablespoons chopped fresh dill

1 tablespoon chopped fresh cilantro

  1. Place the potatoes and ½ teaspoon salt in a large pot. Cover with water and bring to a boil over high heat.
  2. Lower the heat to medium and continue boiling for 10 to 15 minutes, until fork-tender but not falling apart.
  3. Place the potatoes in a strainer and run cold water over them for 30 seconds to halt the cooking. Drain the potatoes well.
  4. Combine the onion, pickles (if desired), flaxseed mayonnaise, herbs, and remaining ½ teaspoon salt in a large bowl. Add the potatoes and stir to coat.
  5. Cover and chill the potato salad for at least an hour before serving. It will keep for 3 days in the refrigerator.

Flaxseed Mayonnaise

Makes 1¼ cups (300 ml)

 Because this mayonnaise starts with flaxseeds rather than eggs, it has the benefit of being both healthier and tastier than traditional mayonnaise. Even if you aren’t allergic to eggs, this might just be the best sandwich topping you have ever tried!

 Use measuring cups with a spout to measure the oil; this will allow you to pour the oil directly into the container for your blender when making mayonnaise.

2 Flaxseed Eggs

2 tablespoons ground flaxseeds (measured after grinding) or flaxseed meal

6 tablespoons warm water

½ teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon Mustard, or ¼ teaspoon ground mustard seed

1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

½ cup (120 ml) organic canola oil

½ cup (60 ml) light olive oil

  1. Combine the flaxseed eggs, salt, mustard, and lemon juice in a working glass or the container for your immersion blender, blender, or food processor. Pulse four or five times to combine the ingredients.
  2. With the blender running continuously, pour a few drops of canola oil into the container. The slower you pour, the better. The mixture will start to become creamy as emulsification occurs.
  3. Continue blending and adding oil in a slow trickle until all of the oil is incorporated; add all of the canola oil first and then the olive oil. If the oil starts to pool on top of the mixture, slide your immersion blender up and down ½ inch, or stop pouring until the oil combines.
  4. Cover and refrigerate for up to 1 week. The mixture will set further as it chills.

To substitute

A single oil or any combination of oils (up to ¾ cup/180 ml total) can be used to make this mayonnaise, with the exception of coconut oil or palm fruit oil (which behave differently). Use less oil for a thinner spread.

Variation

Make Chia Seed Mayonnaise by substituting 2 Chia Seed Eggs for the Flaxseed Eggs.

Making Mayo with Colette Martin appeared first on Adventures of an Allergic Foodie.

Grass-Fed Beef Isn’t Always Best

I’ve been a big fan of grass-fed meat since developing multiple food allergies and celiac disease. After all, why would I want to eat meat from an animal that’s grazed on wheat, soy and corn–all three of which I’m allergic to. And with a sensitive stomach, I surely don’t want to eat meat from any animal that’s been given supplements, hormones and antibiotics.

Over the last six years I’ve noticed more and more “grass-fed” beef hitting the supermarket shelves. While almost always more expensive than the grain-fed brands, I figure my health is worth the added cost.

Then this week I was strolling though our local farmer’s market and came across Sangres Best Grass-Finished beef from a Colorado Ranch.

Grass-Fed Beef Isn't Always Best

Notice this beef from a Colorado ranch is “grass-finished”

I wondered what is the difference between grass-fed and grass-finished. Turns out not all grass-fed beef is created equal. If you think about it all cows can be called “grass-fed” as they all start out eating grass on a pasture. That’s how some brands can label their meats “grass-fed” even though they are finished on a diet of grains.  Sneaky, huh?

Grass-finished beef means the cow has never eaten a grain of grain. You can also look for “100 Percent Grass-Fed or “USDA Certified Grass Fed Beef.”  A stamp of approval from a third party, such as the American Grassfed Association, can also guarantee the grass-fed beef you are buying is the real thing. The next time you’re in the grocery store, take a look at labels on beef.

Here’s something else I learned this week: Not all bison is grass-fed. Since food allergies, I’ve often chosen bison over beef thinking all bison roam the range freely nibbling on grass. Wrong.

Is Grass-Fed Beef Always Best?

This package of ground bison from Great Range, which I bought this week at Costco, is finished with natural grains and hay. According to their website, “environmental variations on the high plains, coupled with changing market conditions, make supplemental feeding necessary to produce fresh, premium quality Bison year round.”  When in doubt, check the company website.

So where can you find true grass-fed beef?

Much of the 100-percent grass-fed beef in North America is produced on small farms and sold directly to consumers at such places as farmers’ markets, natural food stores, and specialty meat markets. These online directories can also help you locate grass-fed beef in your area:

American Grassfed Organization

Eat Well Guide 

Eat Wild

Local Harvest

U.S. Wellness Meats

Grass-fed Beef Isn’t Always Best first appeared at Adventures of an Allergic Foodie