Adventures in Gluten (and Sugar) Freedom from a southern blogger chick!

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Maybe I'm amazed...not anymore!

As Google still sends people to this page to discuss the blooming onion at Outback Roswell, I wanted to update this and tell you it no longer exists.

All extended GF food has been dropped from Outback Roswell.

Thanks for reading!

...but I have to say, I sure am happy! Kudos to Crossville Road Outback in Roswell, Georgia, for their trial period with an extended GF menu.

I'd read about it on the Delphi Celiac site, where my buddy Lori even posted details. And I honestly hoped our weekend in Atlanta would allow me to get there. I had to see it with my own eyes and taste it...

I just couldn't believe Outback would come up with a GF Bloomin' Onion.

Friday night, though, we made the pilgrimage to the Crossville Road Outback, and my GF dreams came true: I had a GF Bloomin' Onion for dinner, all to myself.

You'll see on the picture of menu above that this Outback had more than one GF offering -- Aussi-tizers included the onion, of course, Outback's signature dish, along with Coconut Shrimp, Wings, and mushrooms, too. All cooked in a dedicated GF fryer, all cooked with GF ingredients.

Oh, and pasta, made with Tinkyada GF pasta, and Kinnickinick buns for the burgers. Heaven. Nirvana.

It took a lot of planning and cooperation for this to happen at the Crossville Outback. I learned when talking to general manager Jared Molina that the extended GF menu was the brainchild of manager Julie Arens, who has celiac disease and is GF. It was Julie and owner Tom Propp who worked together to plan the menu, craft the recipes, and make the special adaptations to the kitchen to make this work.

For instance, there was that dedicated fryer for the GF foods. And Jared told me they had a special station (away from the other prep areas) where the GF meals are prepared. And each GF meal is prepared individually by a chef trained in GF cooking!

I enjoyed meeting Jared, Tom, and manager Brad Belvin that night -- each one talked to me about the care that was taken to make my GF Bloomin' Onion safe for me. They couldn't believe I would drive from Milledgeville for the experience, but hey -- when you love a Bloomin' Onion as much as I do (and miss it as much as I do!) well, it was easy to do.

And was worth it. I wanted to order a sampler of everything, but instead I got a half order of pasta and a whole onion. I took large quantities of both home because it was simply too much to eat.

And the verdict? Delicious. Crunchy and hot, the seasoning was perfect, and the onion was cooked to a perfect crisp. Served with the GF dipping sauce, it was simply.........mmmmmmmmmmm!

Jared told me to heat the remaining onion in the oven when I was ready to eat it, so instead of gobbling the rest down, I actually froze the remaining half. I hope it crisps up again when I reheat it.

I know the Atlanta GF Meetup group had dinner at Outback Sunday night, and Lori told me they had a great time. She raved over the Coconut Shrimp. Tom told me their group had ground from 24 to 30 to a max of 35. He said he was sorry he couldn't accommodate more GF diners.

I only regret I didn't get to meet Julie -- who was away training at another location -- and that this menu is a trial menu, and only at this Outback. In fact, you better hurry if you're interested in trying it. I think the trial period is up shortly.

But Julie, Tom, Jared, Brian, and our lovely server Jessica Raimonda (who kept my food away from my gluten-eating family's food) stars in your crowns for this. Jared explained to me that there was certainly risk in this endeavor -- after all, this Outback and its kitchen went out on a limb for us GF diners with the expansion. In a sense, I felt like the corporate office was upset they did -- after all, once people know about this GF Bloomin' Onion, they're going to want them at EVERY Outback.

Aren't you, friends? Admit it. You want a GF Bloomin' Onion, too!

You know what to do, right? Write to the Outback corporate office and PRAISE the Roswell Outback for its extended GF options. Encourage them to spread it to a few more. And while you're at it, encourage them to give a special humanitarian award to Julie, especially, and Tom, for creating this menu. And be sure to praise the warm and welcoming managers like Jared and Brad, and servers like Jessica, who make our dinners more special.

For that hour, I felt like I was safe, like I belonged. It was a fantastic experience, one I won't soon forget.

Much love, and go OUTBACK ROSWELL!


Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Dis n Dat...

A few things I've been thinking about in the GF blogging world...

•Cassandra, my Delphi Forums/Blogger buddy, asked me to send you all over to her blog to read about the upcoming additions to FDA labeling laws. You'll find that information HERE. This information is important to all of us in the GF world. Bless her heart, Cassandra is doing a tough battle right now with gestational diabetes, so keep her and the ladybug (my nickname for her daughter) in your good thoughts. (She has blogged about can see it when you visit her lovely blog.

•I don't know about any of the rest of you GF people, but I have been on pins and needles since Shauna James Ahern, the gluten-free girl, announced she and the Chef were expecting Little Bean. A baby is always a happy announcement to me! Anyway, she announced late last week that her scheduled c-section is this week, and she'll soon post pictures and information on Little Bean sometime this week. I love that! If you're as curious as I am, you can find that information HERE. I am so proud to say that Shauna told me she was pregnant before she posted it, and I actually KEPT IT A SECRET. I hope when little bean is older, they will all come to Tampa and we can do a book tour/cooking demo for her there. That's how it all started.

•I'd like to thank all of you who have taken up the cause of Kate and her love's adoption of their baby. I'd especially like you to continue to keep them in your prayers through all this. And you should really read her post. It's very lovely. Kate and I have been making each other cry a lot lately, that's for sure. I am auditioning for the job of Cyber Aunt Ginger. Kate even sent me a magnet she made this week with the name of my blog on it. Love it, Kate (love you too).

•Serious birthday shoutout this coming weekend to my Cyber-bro Gluten Free Steve! . I hope you have the greatest GF celebration, ever! And your card from me is in the's cute. It sings.

•On a personal note: My life is good. I'm blessed with a loving and supportive husband, son, and Daddy. I feel much love from many of you, my friends and blog readers. But without going into details, I am going through something that right now is causing me a lot of pain. It's not health related -- I promise. But if you're putting out those good thoughts and prayers for folks, would you add me to your list. I've got a dilemma that is a classic one. (Yes Julie, it's the same one. Don't worry.)

•OOH! Speaking of babies. Friday I get meet my Belizean nephew, Alexander "the great" Ellis. I've mentioned his mom Angelita, my Belizean sister, before. They'll be in Kennesaw, so I will get a chance to share in some Belizean friends and family. I'm excited! We might make it to the Roswell Outback, too, to have a GF Bloomin' Onion. I am hoping....

OH, and I want to end with a great GF recipe that our Middle Georgia GIG is sending out in a back-to-school Gluten Free news release I am working on. The recipe is a favorite of 9-year-old Bailie, whose mom Sharon is an officer in our GIG. Bailie has been GF a year. And I have to tell you, this sounds great to me! You moms of young 'uns, I think your babies would even like this one!

Bailie's Peanut Butter/Banana/Honey Roll-ups
You need: Two 100% corn tortillas, 1 banana cut in half, peanut
butter, honey. We heat our corn tortillas for approx. 1 minute in microwave
(makes them more pliable and easier to work with), then when cool spread
peanut butter (to your liking) on each tortilla. Drizzle honey over that
and lay 1/2 banana on one edge of tortilla. Wrap and "seal" with the peanut
butter. (Another version - Bailie's Daddy likes these- is to use raisins instead of
the banana).

Much love, and happy dog days of summer!

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Help Kate achieve her dream (A Sunday Blessing)

First, I want you to know that Kate didn't ask me to do this. It was my own idea.

Second, this is not something i've done in a year of blogging. But here goes.

Most of the GF community knows Kate Chan from Gluten Free Gibsmacked. I actually am proud to say that I've become good friends with Kate. She, Gluten-Free Steve and I are kind of "The Three Amigos," and we have a friendship that has moved off the blogs.

I actually first met Kate (and blogged about her greatness) when we had a little kerfuffle over at the Delphi Forums Group last fall. Kate trusted me for advice, and, well, we just bonded.

If you read Kate's blog regularly, you know that she and her love are in the process of adopting a baby. As she mentioned a couple of months ago, they are now knee-deep in the process, and we all hope that within the calendar year, their beautiful, loving arms will be filled with a baby from Seoul, South Korea. I can't wait for Katie to be the mommy. I know she, her love, and their pup will create a beautiful home for a little baby who needs someone to love him or her (they will know the sex of the baby before he or she arrives).

This week, this icon appeared on Kate's website, accompanied by this touching story. There's more to the story, as Paul Harvey would say, and let me say, that story convinced me to do this post today.

Kate, Stevie and I discussed this a bit over the past week, and we both encouraged her to tell her story. Now, you must know, Kate is a far more private person than I am (open book vs. wrapped book, actually). But she poured out their hearts into this post, and she explains the enormous cost associated with adopting a baby. It's a cost that she and her love have been literally scrimping for, for years.

I want to help. And I want you to help, too. I'm not good at asking people to give money, and goodness knows, I have very little myself right not to give. But in early fall, I'm going to have a cookbook sale, and I am going to donate what I raise from that sale (matched times two) to Kate's fund, from Randy, Jeffrey and me. Now I love my cookbooks, but I am willing to do this because my friend needs my help, and I can't wait for her to say, "This is Aunt Ginger" to a beautiful little baby.

Kate's good people, as we say in the south, and we all love what she gives to the GF community. This is me urging you to give back to her.

And stay tuned, because Gluten-Free Stevie and I are going to give her the biggest ever cyber-Baby Shower you've ever seen!

Kate, much love to you, but you already know that :-)

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Quick tips on reading labels for the Gluten Free

A few weeks ago, Jen Riordan, one of the phenomenal moderators of the Delphi Celiac Site, posted a list she composed to help "newbies" read labels for gluten.

I've talked about Jen here before -- she really is a superwoman. She's the originator of the Freakin' Awesome Tropical Chicken, and she is a great mom to a daughter with celiac disease.

I thought this list was phenomenal, and with Jen's permission, I'm posting it here today. It might help you, and it might help someone else. But it's thoughtful and easy to tuck in your pocket when you're shopping for yourself (or better yet, for someone who is gluten free).

Label Reading Made Easy
for the Gluten-Free Diet

There are long lists of ingredients that are allowed and those that are not allowed on a gf diet. In reality, since the Food Allergen Labeling and Consumer Protection Act (FALCPA), took effect in January 2006, label reading is simple. FALCPA requires that wheat always be labeled clearly, but it does not cover barley, rye, or oats.

This document discusses products that would be gluten free in ingredients, and does not speak to the potential of contamination with gluten grains during processing and manufacturing. If you are concerned about potential manufacturing contamination, contact the company for more information on their manufacturing practices. When in doubt, call the company or do not use the product.

For all meat and poultry products: any plant protein (wheat, barley, rye) will be listed. Meat and poultry are regulated by the USDA, and on 1, 1990, FSIS published the final rule, Ingredients That May Be Designated as Natural Flavors, Natural Flavorings, Flavors, or Flavorings When Used in Meat or Poultry Products. The rule stated that any plant protein that was added to a product must be listed. Therefore, for any meat product, read the label, and if the words “wheat, barley, or rye” are not present, the product is gluten free in ingredients.

For all other food products, regulated by the FDA, here are the seven words that should stop someone from eating a product immediately if they have CD: wheat, barley, rye, oats, malt, beer, natural flavors---for some of these, it means the product has a gluten protein that causes the autoimmune reaction of CD, for others, the ingredient should be investigated to determine if it is gluten based or if it would be safe for someone with CD.

1. Wheat---avoid everything with the word “wheat”
Wheat contains the gluten protein called gliadin, which causes the autoimmune reaction in those with CD. Wheat is not safe on a gf diet. All wheat should be avoided. FALCPA mandates that wheat always be listed, if present. That is, wheat can never been hidden in any ingredient in a food product. For example, for hydrolyzed protein, the label will say “hydrolyzed wheat protein,” or something similar, if it is wheat based.

2. Barley---avoid everything with the word “barley.”
Barley contains the gluten protein called hordein, which triggers the autoimmune response in those with CD.. Barley is not safe on a gf diet.

3. Rye---avoid everything with the word “rye”
Rye contains the gluten protein called secalin, which triggers the autoimmune response in those with CD. Rye is not safe on a gf diet.

4. Oats---avoid everything with the word “oats,” unless certified gf oats
Oats contains the gluten protein called avenin. In the majority of individuals with CD, avenin does not trigger the autoimmune response that gliadin, hordein, and secalin do, and therefore, in theory, oats are safe for those with CD. However, contamination with the other gluten grains during processing has been shown to be high in the commercial market, and commercial products with oats or oat flour have a high chance of having been contaminated with the other gluten grains. Therefore, they are not safe for those with CD. A product made with certified gf oats would be considered safe.

There are a small percentage of those with CD who will have an autoimmune reaction to avenin (like they do to the gliadin in wheat); it is important for anyone who is eating gf oats regularly to have antibody tests to ensure that they are not one of those individuals.

5. Malt---malt is nearly always barley; check source if not indicated on label
If “barley malt” is listed, the product should not be consumed. If “malt” is listed, it is likely to be barley, but check with the manufacturer (there is corn malt) if you really would like to use the product. If its not from a gluten grain, then it would be safe.

6. Beer---beer is made with barley and should be avoided
Beer is made with barley, and therefore not safe on a gf diet. If a product is made with gluten free beer, it would be safe, but as of June 2008, I’ve never encountered a commercially available product made with GF beer.

7. Natural flavors---check on any product with natural flavors
Natural flavors can have barley, and must be checked on. Most natural flavors are likely gf, but it is possible that barley is present and therefore, the product should be checked. While it is very unlikely that natural flavors will contain gluten, its up to the consumer to verify. If you are using a product from a company that clearly labels gluten, then you do not need to worry if you read “natural flavors,” as gluten will never be hidden by these companies.

Prepared June 2008
Jennifer Riordan

Thanks, Jen, for all you do for the GF and CD community! You're the best!
Much love, and pass me a magnifying glass!

Monday, July 14, 2008

Happy Birthday to my Randy

OK, I won't embarrass you, Randy, since you actually READ my blog, and Jeffrey doesn't. But I need to dedicate some blog space to you for YOUR birthday tribute.

Tuesday, July 15, is your birthday. You're six months older than I am. That now makes you 52.

I could follow in the footsteps of Julie Boucek and list 52 reasons I'm glad I married you and things I love about you. I could show a gallery of my favorite pictures. Since I already did a wedding picture on our anniversary, I won't show it again. My MOST favorite picture is to the right over there, of us at out reception. Joy Ashley took that one. And I can't beat the song you wrote for me on my birthday.

Instead, since we've been together for five years, let me say five important things to you today: Thank you for rescuing me. Thank you for loving me for me, without any apologies, and unconditionally, warts and baggage and all. (Actually, it has been more than baggage lately, it is more like luggage...) Thank you for marrying me and making me the happiest woman in the world. Thank you for being the terrific step-dad you are to the toughest kid in the world. Jeffrey loves you as much as I do.

And finally, thank you for being the best husband in this crazy universe of ours.

Yes, I hate it that you're there and I'm here today, but you know I wish I were there, and there will be lots of little things that will pop up on your Facebook today to remind you how much I love you.

Because truly, even though we're physically in different states, in my mind, we're always together.

Happy birthday my love. I see you there blushing.

Much love,

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Happy Birthday to my baby!

Happy Birthday Jeffrey!

Today, Jeffrey, my only son and the light of my life, you are 26 years old. Your big party is Saturday at your Dad's house, and all of us -- Me, Randy, Papa, Mary, Debbie, your Dad and your girlfriend Dee, will be there to help you celebrate. A lot of your friends from work will also be there. You've already seen your present -- an electric guitar. You're going to learn to play it at the Service Center where you work.

I'm so proud of you, Jeffrey. I know things could have been different. But I honestly could not have a better son in the world. Everyone loves you. A lot of our readers "grew up" with you, Jeffrey, and they remember watching you grow. But they didn't meet you at the beginning. So here's a little history...

You were born on a Saturday morning in Savannah, Jeffrey, and I remember how scared I was. Your Papa and both Grandmas drove down from Atlanta that morning and got there at 10:16, just before I went into the operating room to have you.
Your Dad and were young then, Jeffrey, and I know we were so worried -- after all, I'd been in the hospital for seven weeks with complications. We didn't know if you were a girl or a boy until the doctor told us "It's a Jeffrey!" at 11:20 a.m. And the first thing you did was pee in the pediatrician's face. I was just glad you were a boy, because I swore I wasn't having any more babies.

That first 24 hours were kind of scary, and I didn't even get to hold or feed you until you were a day old. I know in this picture I look really rough, and you, you're tiny...even if you did weight 7 pounds and 12 ounces. Do I look as scared I was?

I have always loved these two pictures of you when you were just a few days old. One is of you and me. This has always been my favorite picture of us.

And this one, well it really makes me miss my Mama -- your Grandma. She loved you so much Jeffrey. And Papa? He still looks at you that way today, 26 years later. We're so lucky....

A few days before Christmas in 1982 we flew to Germany to be with your Daddy. Here's one of your first pictures in Germany. I love how peaceful you are here.

Here's another cute picture of you around age 7.

And this picture was taken just before we moved to Milledgeville in 1996. It was taken on Mother's Day.

Who's your baby, Julie Boucek?

(Joy and jason, and Jenn, I have pictures of Jeffrey at both of your weddings. I wish I had them here to add now).

Anyway, I hope you have a great birthday today. We'll be celebrating all weekend.

Much love -- all my love really,

Monday, July 7, 2008

It's a small world, after all...

You know, it's a small world out there. And I'm sorry if you've got that dreadful song in your mind right now...

OK, so I was trolling the aisles at the Milledgeville Kroger tonight when I couldn't find the Kind bars, which are on sale for 8 for $10. Kind bars, with Larabars, are a staple in my diet. They're fruit and nut bars, and they keep me going for hours while in class. This is one of my favorite bars, as a matter of fact...

Anyway, no once could find the Kind bars, so the manager walked back to the section and met me there. We looked together, and he mentioned that perhaps another bar had been substituted. I said it wouldn't work, because I was "allergic to wheat," which is GF-speak for Gluten Intolerant.

"You too?" he said. Oh my gosh! A kindred spirit.

Turns out my manager is gluten intolerant, diagnosed by his doctor, for more than a year. We had a lively discussion about GF foods, about our Middle Georgia Gluten Intolerance Group's upcoming meeting, and we looked at the GF food.

He is the one I have to thank for the increased portion of GF food at my Kroger! He said he'd been there since Spring, and I had noticed we had a number of new products on the shelves, like Mary's Gone Crackers, the GF Rice Chex, some more flours, and things like this.

OK, so I told him to look at my blog for a cookbook suggestion (it's three posts down -- Roben Ryberg's"You Won't Believe It's Gluten Free" ) and a lot of great recipes (mine, in the recipe index on the right, plus those of all my GF friends, also listed on the right). I would also like to mention the Delphi Forums Group where there are LOTS of great recipes posted for free. All this is free!

And we talked about bread. Look a few posts down for the Sandwich Bread recipe. And check out Cassandra's Delightfully Gluten Free blog, for that two-minute sandwich bun I mentioned.

And all you GF guys and gals, check out that bun recipe, too. Stevie, you would love this -- it has a very eggy taste.

I just wanted to make this post as a shout-out to MY GF Kroger Manager, and say once again, it's a small world, after all.

Much love,

P.S. That pasta I mentioned is Tinkyada. They sell it at the Macon and Warner Robins Krogers. And while I'm at it, I'd love it if we could have Glutino bagels, Kinnickinick donuts, and Bread for Life brown rice tortillas in the freezer section...I know, a lot to ask for a first meeting.....

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

"Summer of Love" Product Wrapup (Two "Yums" Up!)

My time here in Tampa is almost over, sadly. I have to head back to Georgia this weekend to teach summer school. But just as I've gotten used to my "other house," I have to go back to my "other house."

So as I make the transition back, I'll be off line for a couple of days. Don't miss me and my purple birth control glasses too much, ok?

Before I slogged up I-75, I wanted to report on three GF products that I tried while down here in Tampa this summer. I am especially cautious about buying products with new grains, and at least one of these was a new grain to me.

All of them are great, and if you've not tried them I give them two "yums" up!

Product One: La Tortilla Factory Ivory Teff Wraps

I'm still not sure if my system can handle teff (or quinoa, for that matter) but my buddy Carol in the Middle Ga. Gluten Intolerance Group (shoutout to Carol) tried these at the national GIG conference and liked them. When I found some last week, I bought them specifically to make burritos, which I've been desiring.

These plate-sized teff wraps are really close to a flour tortilla and are GF. Randy and I both thought they tasted a lot like a flour tortilla. It made a lovely burrito , too. The only problem I had was I broke out in a rash within 24 hours of eating this, and I'm not sure if it was the cause.

Here's the recipe for my easy GF Burrito Filling:
One pound ground beef (I used bison meat)
One package frozen corn
One can drained black beans, rinsed
One cup of taco sauce (GF, jarred) or enchilada sauce (again, GF, jarred).

Put frozen corn in a container and microwave, dry, for eight minutes (or buy those Birds Eye steamer brand package that nukes clean). Brown meat, then add half the corn and the can of beans. Top with sauce. Stir until warmed through. Fill the teff wrap and top with GF sour cream, tomatoes, cheese, the toppings of your choice.

Product two: French Meadow Frozen GF Chocolate Chip Cookies

OK, I know most people make their own cookies, but I never have been a cookie baker. I thought this little gem was a keeper. It even passed the "eat one raw" test. AND, since it's a small, controlled amount, and it's frozen, it's easy to apply portion controls. The only drawback is the USUAL GF drawback: It's not cheap. But it gets a BIG YUMS UP!

Product three: Glutino Bagels

A few weeks ago I posted a Breakfast Casserole recipe with the Glutino poppy seed bagel as a base. With one bag, I found they are also good 1) as garlic toast and 2) just as they are, along, with a schmear. I have missed bagels, and I'm planning to buy two bags to take home. They will become a staple for me, I think, like Tinkyada pasta and the Whole Foods pie crust.

Tomorrow and Friday will be spent loading my car with hydroponic produce from Urban Oasis and my new frozen finds from Abbey's and Village Health Food Store (happy third anniversary, Village HFS, and thanks for the 20 percent discount).

Much love, and see you next week!