Sunday, August 7, 2011

Catching up!

Well, clearly life with a Giggler doesn't leave much time to blog - but I've had some amazing gluten free fare the past 6 months or so. I hope to provide details soon (even some photos) but here's a summary:

April 2011-  Phoenix to/from Tucson Arizona (3 pizza's in 3 days...):
pizza, pizza pizza!

  • Picazzo's (Tempe): decent pizza - crust was a bit thicker than we'd like but overall a good bite- needed more sauce. The garlic cheese bread was sooo yummy but extremely rich. I'd pass next time and save calories for the pizza and one of their GF desserts.
  • Eclectic Pizza (now renamed "Renee's Organic Oven") (Tucson): good - prefer our old standbys at home better but would definitely go there again. Extremely nice staff there too.
  • Barro's Pizza (Casa Grande) - googled this one on our drive back to Phoenix and were we lucky! Great stuff - lots of tasty sauce, good crust. Yum.


May 2011- Kauai, Hawaii

  • Sweet Marie's-  don't miss this bakery if you are on the island. Marie is a wonderful person and makes delicious treats. Her business is very busy and not just with folks who have to eat gluten free - that says a lot. We were arriving on a Sunday when her store was closed but we were able to meet her on the beach after we landed to pick up our pre order of cookies, muffins and an incredible Triple Chocolate Explosion cake to celebrate Mother's Day/Our anniversary. All were excellent but our absolute favorite was the Triple Chocolate Explosion - it's a steamed chocolate cake (think tender and chocolatey), with white chocolate mousse covered with a thick chocolate ganache. We drove back down to her shop later that week and bought several of the smaller chocolate explosion cakes, plus more brownies, coffee cake, cookies and muffins. So good. On an interesting note, Marie does not use tapioca starch - a staple in my recipes, but rather found a superfine rice flour in northern California. I hope to try that flour someday if I'm ever able to get it in smaller amounts than 25 pounds.
  • Nanea Restaurant and Bar at the Westin up in Princeville - We stayed at the Hanalai Bay Resort for a week which did not have a restaurant at the time (waiting on permits - maybe it's open now...). At any rate we drove over to the Westin and was thrilled to find their restaurant had a gluten free menu with a ton of delicious things to order. Service was superb. We sat outside both times with a view of the swimming pool and a small fountain which thrilled the Giggler. Our top picks were the spinach salad and grilled Ono. Loved the Lava Flow too.
  • Postcards Cafe (Hanalei): wonderful place, make a reservation. We loved everything we had there and while they did not have a gluten free menu, they were able to accommodate us. 
  • The Dolphin (Hanalei): Good location but the food was just OK. We'd go to Postcards (across the street) in a heartbeat over this place. The Ono was overcooked, and we just felt rushed the whole time. Too loud, too busy. But we didn't get sick.
  • Grand Hyatt Kauai (Koloa): amazing resort with resort wide gluten free menu (contact their Social Ambassador Joshua on their Facebook page for a PDF of the menu). We will be back! Amazing grounds, best pool ever, friendly staff. The Dock near the pool had many reasonably priced options to feed ourselves and our toddler which made life much easier for us. The Yum Cha restaurant at the Golf Course had a huge gluten free menu- they even had wheat free tamari at the tables. We loved everything we tried there and will definitely be back. BTW for the best travel deal around, look into the Hyatt VISA card - when we signed up we got 2 free nights at this hotel - an over $800 value for a $75 annual fee.


July 2011- New York City:
What do you think of when you think of NYC food? Deli and pizza? Well, for the gluten free, it's not off limits, and it's delicious too! We are convinced the northeast does gluten free a notch above the rest of the country. Maybe there is a higher concentration of gluten free folks around to drive competition and up the quality of the product. Wow. Wow. Wow.

  • Mozzarelli's Pizza: We got there just before closing but were able to grab a ton of slices of pizza to go: cheese, pepperoni, veggie (which we did not try) and a pesto/spinach pizza. Great thin, tender and slightly sweet crust with the crunch/crispiniess we love just on the edge. Even though we did not get to enjoy our slices until after a quick cab ride back to the hotel, they still held up great. Mozzarelli's is also a retail location for My Dad's Cookies - imagine walking into a pizza place and finding stack after stack of packages of gluten free cookies: chocolate chip, black-n-white, linzers, graham crackers dipped in chocolate, I could go on but time is short. It was positively overwhelming - especially after a day long flight where we had to bring all our own food in a small cooler since there was nothing GF along the way. They also had in the refrigerated case (as we left - wish I had seen these when we ordered) chocolate cake, cheese cake, carrot cake, OMG. And it was all delicious - you could not tell it was GF. I had not had a black and white cookie since my teens and these were perfect miniature sized cookies. I will be back - in fact, I  may order online if I'm able.
  • Bloom's Deli - just around the corner from our hotel at Grand Central station, Blooms also had a huge gluten free menu where we were able to enjoy a burger on a GF bun, traditional NY sandwich on GF bread, delicious fries, deli pickles and so forth. This was not something I had imagined we'd be able to experience on our trip. Check it out.
  • New York Central at the Grand Hyatt Hotel at Grand Central Station: our hotel room rate included breakfast and both mornings we were lucky to be served by Ann, who knew exactly what was safe for us on the menu and even brought us some gluten free toast. Yes - gluten free toast - also at the same level of quality of all we had experienced on this trip. Light and tasty toast- just like real (wheat) bread.
July 2011 - Boston, Mass
  • Stone Hearth Pizza: wood fired, thin crust pizza. A bit denser than we'd like but good sauce and toppings. They also have baked goods from Glutenus Miniumus (see below) which are outstanding.
  • Uno Chicago Grill: Surprisingly good gluten free fare - we went there once for take out and once for lunch, then had take out from their Poughkeepsie NY location later in the week. Great crust - a bit sweet, tasty toppings. Definitely better to have in person than take out (the sauce absorbs as it cools) but one of the better gluten free pizza's we've had. They also have a ton of other gluten free entrees on the menu (chicken tikka masala?) we have yet to try. The lentil and black bean soup was very tasty and the giggler was well into enjoying it until she saw our pizza arrive. Banana's Foster for dessert - yes! Oh, and if you are looking for a take out bargain, see if they are offering their double deals - we got 2 gluten free pizzas for almost the price of one.
  • Wagamana (Boston)- right in Feneul Hall, this was a great place for a light lunch with the Giggler. Several of their rice dishes could be made gluten free and were noted on their menu. We started with a bowl of edamame, some fried rice (which the giggler devoured) and a spicy shrimp with noodles dish with an extra side of steamed broccoli mixed in. Not the best asian food we've ever had but respectable. It was nice to get some vegetables in our tummys after so many days of pizza and ice cream.
  • The Fireplace Restaurant (Brookline) - Nice place, a bit small, definitely get a reservation. More for adults than toddlers but the Giggler was happy to walk around our booth. Lobster rolls with gluten free bread were incredible, but to be honest I can't remember what else we ordered. 
  • Glutenus Minimus Bakery - Belmont, MA: For the perfect peanut butter chocolate chip cookie, look no further! You will find a rich chewy peanut butter cookie with solid hunks of chocolate. Their dense fudgy brownies are killer as well. The chocolate chip cookies were just OK (I prefer my Mrs Fields recipe), and their french bread worked well on the road for ham & cheese sandwiches at the rest stop. The yellow cupcake with cherry butter cream was nothing to write home about but it was not bad- reminded me of the betty crocker GF yellow cupcake mix. We also ordered from their web store the following week and can highly recommend the double chocolate mint cookies - fortunately the dozen came in 2 6 cookie packages so the hubby and I each had our own pack to ration. I also bought a box of their pizza crust mix so I'll write about that once I've tried it - if we had time we could have tried the crust at Zing Pizza in Cambridge - something to do next time we're in town. Oh, the cranberry scone was also good although a bit dry. 

July 2011 - Poughkeepsie, NY
  • Soul Dog - don't miss this place! My mom had bought a frozen loaf of their bread for us to take on the road to Boston - very good bread. Sort of eggy taste, very soft, and held up well when toasted. We also stopped there after walking across the Hudson river. The giggler downed her hot dog w/ yummy soft gf bun (her first hot dog in a bun - those udi's hot dog buns just don't compare at all). We sampled their jerk fries and regular french fries- both delicious. We will have to try the sweet potato fries next time we visit. Oh, and their pizza was very good as well - it has that "real NY" sauce and cheese that I remember from growing up in NY. The crust was tasty, a little sweet, but a bit softer than I 'd like. If they worked on getting the bottom of the crust a bit crispier this will move to #1 on my gluten free pizza top 10 list. Baked goods were also good - the chocolate chip cookies had good texture and flavor - chewy with a lot of chocolate chips. We were split on the brownies - the hubbie did not care for the oil after taste - it sort of reminded me of a shrink wrapped brownie I used to buy out of a vending machine decades ago. The giggler and I also split a piece of carrot cake with cream cheese frosting - also a huge hit. If  you are visiting or traveling through the mid Hudson valley, this is a must do if you want to feast GF. Be sure to check out their web site for hours though - in the summer they are only open Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays but you can get some of their goods at local markets - all listed on their web site. One thing about Soul Dog - their flour mix has chickpea flour but I swear I was unable to taste any bean aftertaste at all - they really have gotten it right. I may order some of this flour mix from their site.
  • Bonefish Grill - we had dined at a Bonefish Grill in Nashville a couple of years ago - this was the same experience. Good selection on their gluten free menu, good salad, tasty although a bit over-seasoned fish. Great creme brule for dessert. 

August 2011- hot off the press!
  • We were in a rush to get the giggler home to bed but did not have dinner yet so we called our local BJ's Brewhouse to order some GF pizzas to go (which were absolutely cooked to perfection BTW). When I placed the order I was asked if I wanted to add a gluten free pizzookie! For those of you who have been to BJ's prior to going gluten free, you will recall the pizzookie is freshly baked cookie topped with ice cream. I have really missed that dessert- and now they have a gluten free version. We added it to our to go order and it was packaged with the ice cream in a separate container so we could keep that cold while keeping the cookie hot. We also reheated the cookie a little in the toaster before serving. The verdict? I loved it - lots of soft chewy cookie/dough with little chocolate chips and rich vanilla ice cream. The hubbie thought it was just OK but loved the ice cream. The giggler couldn't resist helping me eat my ice cream but wasn't interested in the cookie. Thanks BJ's - I will definitely be ordering that again!!!

Friday, February 18, 2011

Gluten free sandwich to go?

My employer does not have a cafeteria or restaurants nearby so we have the option of ordering food from waiter.com. When I noticed that Erik's Deli was on the list for today's "early lunch" delivery, I leapt at the opportunity to try ordering one of their delicious gluten free sanwiches which they put on Rudi's multigrain bread. Note that the waiter.com menu makes no mention of a gluten free bread option so I had to enter my own comments and hope that someone would read it:

"On GLUTEN-FREE bread instead of roll* If you are out of the gluten free bread please cancel this order."
Fortunately the comment worked - and I immediately knew that indeed it was on gluten free bread:





Next time I will ask them to separate the bread from the filling so I can toast it when it arrives using my toastabags (and so it does not break up into pieces during transit).

But it was quite tasty!

What other gluten free foods don't do well for take out?

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Gluten Free Chicago!

I just returned from almost a week in Chicago to attend a family event- including an extra day snowed in by a blizzard. It turns out Chicago, especially the northern  suburbs is a great place to be gluten free. We had some incredible eats, and some disappointments. I'll do my best to summarize here.

Pizza!
Of course I will start with the results of our pizza tour. Unfortunately we were unable to try *all* the offerings, but that was due to there being too many options out there- such a great problem to  have.

Marcello's
The top honor for best Chicago pizza goes to Marcello's. We visited the restaurant in Northbrook and were offered a full gluten free menu including pizza, pasta, salads and even a dessert "pizza". We ordered one thin crust (for the Giggler), a pan pizza with sausage, a side of roasted vegetables and a berry "dessert pizza".

Marcello's pan pizza is a bit on the small side, but very flavor packed. Next time we're in town we'll be back and each get our own. The crust appears to have some cornmeal in it and a hint of sweetness. It was the perfect crispy yet tender consistency with delicious toppings. A home run for sure. If only they had stuffed pizza too!

Here is the pan pizza-
 Marcello's thin crust pizza was just OK - the sauce and cheese were tasty but the crust itself was sort of rubbery in the middle. The Giggler wasn't interested either- I guess we have successfully bred a pizza snob, oh, I mean connoisseur. Here is the thin crust:

The roasted veggies were a great combination of red bell pepper, carrots and zucchini - a perfect complement to the pizza.

The dessert pizza was the same delicious crust but topped with fresh berries and some sort of syrup. We had thought we had ordered a brownie pizza but must have misspoken - we will have to check that out next time. 

We will DEFINITELY return to Marcello's!

By far our best gluten free meal of the trip was at Wildfire. After tasting the fresh warmed ROLLS, (yes, fresh gluten free bread at a restaurant!) I went to make a reservation for the following night but alas, due to the blizzard they called us the next day to cancel. At any rate, Wildfire rocks. Please please please Wildfire - open a restaurant in Silicon Valley - PLEASE! 

Here are the rolls:

We spent some of our time chatting with one of the Lincolnshire's owners - Ross Buter, who explained how Wildfire became such a great place for the gluten free to dine. The north side of Chicago has a large percentage of Eastern European Jews (both myself and my husband also have this ancestry BTW) - and in case  you haven't figured this out when you meet up with other celiac's/gluten sensitives, celiac disease is quite common in this population. So after several years of getting repeated requests to alter certain menu items to be gluten free, Wildfire decided to officially create a gluten free menu. In terms of bread, they started out with the Kinnikinnick rolls but later decided to come up with their own recipe -and at that they succeeded. In fact, after the hubby took his first bite of bread, he exclaimed" You have GOT to be kidding me!". It was that good.

We then decided to try the pizza, because we are pizza snobs - and they keep part of their wood oven gluten free. The verdict: a tasty pizza but probably not something we'd order again. It's more of a "California Pizza Kitchen" type pizza with a soft crust, a lot of cheese and virtually no sauce. But still good stuff. 


Wildfire also has a pasta dish on the menu - see below. It was fabulous. Penne pasta with shrimp, tomatoes, Parmesan, some sort of white wine sauce -really good stuff. The Giggler was downing this big time. I will definitely order this again. Mind you, Wildfire is known as a meat and potatoes kind of place and we were thrilled without even tasting their staples. But we will be back!
 Now the hubby is going to kill me but I did not snap a photo of the flourless chocolate cake. I think he went into a depression when Wildfire called to cancel our reservation for the following night due to the blizzard because he could not eat that dessert again. A delicious molten mound of gooey chocolate goodness with extra sauce and a mound of ice cream on top. The perfect ending to a perfect meal. Thank you Wildfire!

Chicago's Pizza and Pasta
 OK, here was the trip's gluten free disappointment - during my extensive research prior to the trip, I found the only place on the planet (I think) where you can order a gluten free stuffed pizza. So of course it was our first stop - and the worst. The crust was a decent consistency - crispy, but exuded that gross beany aftertaste. We are just not fans of the garbanzo based doughs. The sauce and toppings were fair but overall that crust was just inedible. And for pizza freaks like us to say that, it had to be pretty bad. But I'll give Chicago's snaps for trying - I always appreciate anyone who will offer safe food to us, but it was a disappointment.

The thin crust we ordered for the giggler was also disappointing - same nasty aftertaste, and a rubbery crust. We won't be back, but thanks for trying.



We also dined at the local Red Robin - a place we frequent out in Silicon Valley so I won't mention the details. When Wildfire canceled our reservation we ended up at Champps for dinner that night - they have a gluten free menu as well but the food and service was quite disappointing - that and despite putting a "gluten allergy" warning on our order, they delivered our steaks with crispy onion strings on top - so needless to say the meals were sent back and the Giggler got quite cranky as it ended up being a very long night for mediocre steak.

Deerfield's Bakery
My sister in law was kind enough to leave a basket filled with gluten free goodies at the hotel - many varieties of Glutino's pretzels plus 2 packages of cookies from Deerfield's Bakery. My pre-trip research alerted me to Deerfield's and I was thrilled to get to try their goods. All in all fine offerings, although I do prefer my own creations. After hearing about the impending blizzard I decided to stop at the local Deerfield's to stock up on more goods: 2 more kinds of cookies, a big brownie, blueberry coffee cake, granola and 2 baguettes. One thing to keep in mind: Deerfield's gluten free goods are all frozen so if  you are on the go, be sure to have some toasta bags and aluminum foil in hand just in case you need to use a gluten-laden oven or toaster. Although most refreshed nicely on a plate in the microwave. The biggest winners: the granola  - finally, gluten free granola as yummy as the stuff I make from scratch, the chocolate dreams cookies - fudgy cakey consistency, and the mini-baguettes. I heated the baguettes before leaving for the airport, filled them with cheddar and turkey breast, then wrapped them in foil. We ate them at the gate - very satisfying - good chewy crust. The disappointments? the triple chips cookies - too whole-wheat like (could be from quinoa flour?) and the blueberry sour cream coffee cake - too crumbly- I much prefer my recipe. But even with the misses, I wish there was a Deerfield's around here.

I never had time to try Sweet Ali's bakery in Hinsdale - next time.

Grocery Shopping
I visited a Dominick's and a Sunset Foods supermarket- both had great selections of gluten free goods.

So dear readers, where have you eaten gluten free in Chicago and where do you recommend we visit the next time we're in town?

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

The Holy Grail - Gluten Free Chicago Stuffed Pizza

That's what the hubby calls gluten free Chicago Stuffed Pizza. Since going gluten free I have tried time and time again to produce something close to our favorite glutened versions:

  1. Patxi's (Palo Alto, California) - who would have thunk? Great sauce, crust (whole wheat to boot - who knew it was poison?) and toppings - not as heavy as its Chicago counterparts. Oh how we miss Patxi's - we used to go there all the time but alas, when you walk in the first thing you see is a huge mound of flour so it's off limits to us now that we know better.
  2. Giordanos - best overall combination of crust, sauce and toppings. pure heaven.
  3. Edwardos - similar to Giordanos - a near 2nd
  4. Lou Malnati's - not stuffed but has the best sauce overall
  5. Zachary's (East Bay/SF Bay Area) - great unusually chunky sauce
  6. Piero's - also very good stuffed pizza
  7. Gino's East - tasty but not as much of a fan of their corn meal crust
What is Chicago Stuffed Pizza? Well, it's in a deep dish pan but is more like a pie - you start with a base crust, then add the cheese & "toppings", followed by a thin crust on top, then cover with rich tomato sauce. My mouth waters as I type these words...

In Search of the Holy Grail
When we first found out we could no longer eat gluten,  I googled and googled for gluten free pizza, then gluten free Chicago pizza. The only thing I could find was Lou Malnati's Crustless pizza so I promptly ordered a 3 pack which was delivered, packed in dry ice, several days later. The verdict? Too meaty. Instead of a crust they put the pizza on a huge slab of sausage. Creative, but really not a pizza, And our favorite part of Lou Malnatis- the sauce? Well, there was hardly any on it. But during that same purchase I also decided to buy one of their pizza pans - so I could try to create what did not seem to exist - the holy grail, gluten free Chicago Stuffed Pizza.

Finding the right crust recipe
I've made a lot of pizza dough the past 3 years - from recipes I've found online, recipes in cookbooks, dough mixes, and I've yet to find the perfect dough - something with a little breadiness but still crisps up nicely and has some flavor. I have yet to settle on a winner yet but here are the ones I've tried so far in order of preference:
1. Bob's Red Mill Pizza Crust mix: this one surprised me as most Bob's mixes are disgusting - the only reason this one works for me is because it is void of that nasty bean flour that you find in their cookie and bread mixes. The hubby and I are huge chocolate chip cookie fans and I had to throw out the whole batch of the Bob's chocolate chip cookies because they were simply inedible. But I digress...


2. Chewy Gluten Free Pizza Dough - this was the first recipe I tried and it took me months to try it because I was searching all over the SF Bay Area for Guar Gum. I finally ordered some directly from Bob's Red Mill. I now know I can substitute Xanthan Gum too although the GF Girl & the Chef's new cookbook uses both in many recipes so I'm kind of puzzled again. This one makes a good thin crust too if you're able to roll it out thin enough. 

3. Pizza crust recipe from The Gluten Free Gourmet bakes bread - very tasty but just too bready - I may try this one again now that I know how to roll out the dough (see below). BTW, the French bread recipe in that cookbook rocks - my all time favorite with a few minor changes. I'll write about that one someday.

4. The recipe I can no longer find - I will need to do some more Googling - I actually found one a few months ago on a blog that was actually quite tasty- it included gluten free beer, but that tang was a bit too strange for the hubby - but I'd make it again. I'll update this post once I find it.

5. The mysterious pizza crust recipe you can't find in the new Gluten Free Girl & the Chef Cookbook. I had read about this recipe on their blog and was so excited when I saw the image of a perfect thin crust pizza on the cover- but look in the index or recipe list for the word "pizza" and you're out of luck. Talk about frustrating. Here I am with an infant, working, cooking all our meals from scratch and I am wasting my time flipping page by page through this cookbook. But I did find it - it's the cracker recipe. If you look on the left margin there is a brief mention that it makes a good pizza crust. But it called for corn flour which I did not have, and Guar Gum which I had run out of. So I ordered cases of them from Amazon- I sure wasn't going to waste another 2 months searching for Guar Gum (Ok, I did check out a few local groceries before I gave up and went to Amazon). The verdict? It was OK. I don't think I rolled it out quite thin enough so I want to try the recipe again now that I've figured out the rolling part of the puzzle (read below). BTW this cookbook has the best pancake recipe ever- "Seasonal Berry Pancakes". I had to buy a case of Teff flour from Amazon for that one but oh was it worth it. I make these all the time and it's one of the Giggler's favorite snacks. I use frozen cherries we harvested last spring and tangerine juice from our Christmas harvest. In fact I'm making them tomorrow. Yum!!

6. At least 4 or 5 others which I have put out of my mind - they just didn't cut it. BTW, if I had a worst gluten free site I would put the Culinary Institute of America gluten free cookbook's pizza dough recipe. In addition to the crust being disgustingly rich and sweet, the author directed me to use a piping bag to pipe the crust into a big spiral. What a mess that was. No, I can't think about that anymore. Let's move on.

Rolling out the Dough
I am assuming most of you have dabbled with gluten free dough so I don't need to mention it but I will anyway - what a mess. Sticky, gummy - how many interseting evenings I've had with mishaps with trying to roll out the dough. Directly w/ a rolling pin? Good luck with that. How about parchment paper? Not really. Tortilla press? Maybe for a personal size. But I've finally got a method that works - lightly oil your hands with olive oil and pat around the ball of dough. Now put it on a silicon baking mat. Gently put a 2nd silicone baking mat on top of the first. Now roll out gently with a rolling pin. Why did it take me 3 years to figure that one out?


Finding the right sauce (August 2015 update)
When I first wrote this post in 2011, my favorite sauce was Muir Glen Organic Pizza Sauce which I used to buy regularly at Whole Foods for both thin crust and stuffed pizzas. Unfortunately, my local Whole Foods no longer carries it. However, Classico has started making an amazing pizza sauce which I can buy at my regular grocery stores! It's delicious.  I prefer the traditional sauce to the fire roasted but they are both good.
The Stuffing
For Chicago Stuffed Pizza purists, true stuffed pizza means Spinach and Mushrooms or Spinach and Sausage fillings. I usually do a pure spinach or spinach & (chicken) sausage. The secret to a good spinach filling is to cook down the spinach first - either in the microwave or on the stove. Then let it cool a little so you can grab it in your clean hands and squeeze out the water. Chop it up into fairly small chunks - maybe 1"x1". Then put in a bowl and add some garlic, parmesean and plenty of mozzarella. Then crumble in some sausage if you'd like. BTW for my latest attempt I decided to use 2 big bunches of kale I had from our organic farm CSA which held up very nicely although made the dish more of a kale pie than a stuffed pizza, but sure was yummy. Next time I'll stick to one bunch of kale or spinach, and double the mozzarella.

Assembling the Pizza
Here are the steps I've found work best...

  1. Preheat your oven to 500 degrees F. I tried using a pizza stone which is essential for thin crust pizzas but really N/A for stuffed. So feel free to leave out your pizza stone.
  2. Take a rolled out piece of dough and drape over your oiled deep dish pizza pan. With oiled fingers, carefully press the crust into the side of the pan.
  3. Pre-bake the crust in the oven for 10 minutes
  4. Add toppings - they should be just above the rim of the pan, with the mound slightly higher in the center
  5. Take a rolled out piece of dough and gently drape it over the top. Gently press down on top of the toppings. With your fingers or a knife remove the excess dough and press the edges into the outer crust. If you do too good a job at sealing the crust you may want to add a few air vents. You will want this layer of crust to be slightly concave to prevent the sauce you will add later from spilling over the edges.
  6. Reduce heat in the oven down to 400 degrees F. Bake the pizza for another 20 minutes
  7. Pour/spread sauce over the top layer of crust
  8. Bake for another 10-15 minutes
  9. Remove the pizza from the oven and let it cool say 5-10 minutes
  10. With a spatula, carefully slide the pizza out of the deep dish pan onto a big cutting board.
  11. Cut with a chef's knife and enjoy!
Photos of the Kale & Sausage stuffed pizza - used Muir Glen pizza sauce and the Bob's Red Mill pizza crust mix. The verdict from the hubby: good crust consistency, needs lots more cheese and still a long way from the holy grail... but still good!
 



We are off to Chicago soon and after much googling have found one restaurant who claims to have gluten free stuffed pizza -Chicago's Pizza - so watch this space for a review!

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

A pause before breakfast... Rudi's Gluten Free Cinnamon Raisin Bread

When I first went gluten free over 3 years ago, I really missed a good piece of bread. First I bought some of the brown rice breads at Trader Joe and Whole Foods but to be blunt, they were disgusting. Dense, crumbly, no taste, no softness. Then I tried Kinnikinnick sandwich bread, hamburger rolls and pizza crusts which were much better but almost too soft,  kind like Wonder Bread for the gluten free community. So I started baking which enlightened me to the fact that there is such a thing as great tasting gluten free bread. But breadmaking takes time (even when I use my Zohirushi bread machine) and although I always try to have a few pieces in the freezer I always end up with a few weeks here and there without bread in the house. Enter Rudi's. No, not Udi's - who is also a fine bread and excellent pizza crust maker, but Rudi's. I first had Rudi's multi-grain bread at Erik's Deli as they have recently started offering gluten free sandwiches. It was very tasty. So when our local Sprouts market had their gluten free sale and I saw Rudi's Cinnamon Raisin bread in the freezer, I just had to try it. Boy am I glad I did. This stuff is the real deal - after my first piece, toasted with some peanut butter on top, for the first time since going gluten free I could not recall what a glutenous piece of cinnamon raisin bread tasted like - it was that good! So I've found a new staple for my freezer. Thanks Rudi's!

What's your favorite commercial gluten free bread and why?

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Fresh Choice -no longer my choice

Fresh Choice was an early favorite of mine when I first went gluten free although it's always been a love-hate relationship. In case you are not familiar this long time bay area chain, Fresh Choice is an all-you-can-eat salad, soup, potato, bread fruit, etc buffet - with most emphasis on the salad bar. Prior to having to eat gluten free I used to prefer Sweet Tomato's (same chain as Soup Plantation) due to their pizza and breads but after going gluten free I switched to Fresh Choice because Fresh Choice actually listed allergens for each dish - that and I could no longer eat the pizza or bread from Sweet Tomatoes. The labels were so helpful- but also frustrating because we started to get used to disappointment when something that was labeled gluten free had been contaminated by something sitting along it's perimeter. After filling out numerous surveys and even a chat with corporate we started to see some of the gluten free foods rearranged such that they were on the back row such that it would be difficult for neighboring dishes to contaminate it so we had high hopes that Fresh Choice would remain an option for us.

But last night I was glutened at the Sunnyvale Fresh Choice (the original store #1, no less) - fortunately I did not notice an actual reaction but I learned after just one bite of the chicken breast I had plucked from the gluten free chicken spot that the chicken was in the wrong spot -and it was teriyaki - with gluten in the soy sauce. Fortunately I had just nibbled on a very small piece I had broken up for  The Giggler but it was very traumatic - less for me and more because I had just given the Giggler some - and we wanted to wait until she was old enough such that blood screening tests could more accurately detect if gluten is an issue for her.

I know - as a member of the celiacbayarea group always says "eating out is risky" but what pushed me over the edge was the Fresh Choice manager's non-chelant reaction when we realized I had been glutened. What was her reaction? "Oh, you must have taken it from the wrong spot". Uh, NO.... people who have food sensitivities are very careful and in addition to reading the ingredients twice just to make sure, know I took the chicken from the gluten free spot. But both varieties looked nearly identical - including the parsley garnish, and they were not labeled. When the hubby and I suggested they make them look different and label them, the manager's response continued to be "you took it from the wrong spot".

So, farewell to Fresh Choice. I guess if I want a salad I'll stick to the BJ's Brewhouse Santa Fe salad, Spinach Salad from Amici's or make my own at home.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Eating out - it doesn't have to be scary!

When I first found out I could no longer eat gluten, finding a safe place to eat out was so difficult. As an introvert, the thought of having to speak with a server, manager, gasp- even the chef to see if they understood what gluten is let alone make sure they practice safe food prep practices was terrifying. So those first months we mainly frequented places who had actual gluten free menus, like PF Changs and Outback Steakhouse. Every so often I would need to go somewhere for a business meal or out with friends where there was no such menu so I would carefully research it - first on local boards to see if anyone else had tried going there, then I'd look at the restaurant web site. Finally, if I thought I'd actually try to go there, I would call them during late afternoon when they would not be busy and ask to speak with the manager. I'd quiz them on various things like whether they had gluten free offerings, and if so, would ask "does it have soy sauce?". Most would have no idea that many soy sauces have wheat so that would be my first trick question. I'd then ask about whether they use shared food prep areas. If I finally felt confident that they knew what they were talking about, I would get a detailed list of what I could order, such that when I arrived I could order from that list, refer my server to whomever I spoke with on the phone, and sometimes ask the chef to come out and confirm with me. I still need to follow this drill on occasion but thankfully there are now far more restaurants out there who understand what cooking gluten free means, and gluten free menus are popping up all over the place.

Here is my current list of favorites. Over time the list to the left will change and I will create new posts as I try new places. I hope you find this helpful when you are looking for somewhere safe to eat.

BJ's Brewhouse
One thing I find quite funny is most of the food I would order out prior to going gluten free was actually one of the few gluten free things on the menu. It is as if my body was steering me toward safe food all along. Case in point: BJ's Brewhouse. What did I order before going gluten free? The Santa Fe Salad without tortilla strips(with blackened salmon & Cajun shrimp - the hubby and I would split this), or the BBQ chicken salad without fried onions. And what do you know? BJ's gluten free menu lists both salads as safe IF you order them the very way I did. Amazing huh! Of course, BJ's has also added PIZZA which is just delicious - far better than their original pizza we tried once pre-gluten free days. So now when we go it's always tough to decide whether to get the salad, the pizza or both (and bring a box for take out or go mid-afternoon so we can call the meal a "Linner". I also always order (and previously did too) their Berry Burst (hard) Cider-  in the "taste" size (I think it's 6oz). My only complaint with BJ's is parking at their Cupertino location - we never go during an evening - our best bet is a weekend mid-afternoon stop. The servers are very kind and  each time we go the manager comes over to review our order and let us know they are preparing it in their gluten free area. Finally, the Cupertino location we frequent is very comfortable. We love sitting in one of their comfy booths - in fact, before we had a custom booth built for our kitchen we used to go to BJ's specifically so we could go sit in one of their booths and read. Of course, now that "The Giggler" (our daughter) comes along, no more reading for us. Oh, and if someone from BJ's is reading this, can you please please please please please offer a gluten free pizookie??? That is the one thing we do miss about BJ's prior to going gluten free!

Thai Pepper
I fell in love with Thai food when I moved to the bay area over 20 years ago. I've been making red and green curry's for years using the Thai Kitchen curry pastes and knew those recipes did not include any gluten, but it took awhile before I had "the talk" with my favorite Thai restaurant "Thai Basil" in Sunnyvale. However, something had changed there- the food did not seem as delicious as it was before I went gluten free. So instead I continued to make my own Thai food at home. Then, work threw us a baby shower and a fellow celiac co-worker recommended Thai Pepper. If you tell them you cannot have wheat or soy sauce (since most soy sauce contains wheat) they will go over your order with the chef and make sure it is gluten free. Since then we have ordered tons of take out and have also been there for dinner, always receiving absolutely delicious food.  I can't even go into what my favorite dishes are because we have ordered most of the menu and it's all good. The hubby's favorite dish is chicken larb made spicy. I think my favorite is either the summer rolls with peanut sauce or the Massaman Peanut Curry Chicken. Try this place - you will not be disappointed. The only other Thai restaurant I have liked as much (possibly more...) is Typhoon! in Portland Oregon. Oh, that was some good stuff! If it were local it would be on this list for sure!