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

Sunday, October 26, 2008

The Pure Bar (and A Sunday Blessing flashback)

I always love it when I can cross=post my GF blog and my student PR blog. This is another opportunity, at least in the first segment.

The weekend after the Atlanta GF Product Fair, I got an email for the public relations representative for Pure Bars. Paul mentioned in the email that he'd read my blog and read of my use of LaraBars, and asked if I'd tried his company's product, The Pure Bar. This epitomized my public relations axiom, "who is my audience, and why should she care." He cut right to the punch and hooked me immediately.

In a volley of emails, we established that I had not tried the bar, would like to, and would be glad to blog about them if he would send a sample. Now, when I agree to do this and agree to accept a sample, I don't ever know what to expect. But I promised him I'd be honest. That's the most I can do.

But this was a classic example of public relations done right. Paul had indeed looked at my blog, at least enough to know that I do like bars like LaraBars and Kind Bars, so I seemed a possible candidate for his pitch. He also saw that I occasionally review products (I don't solicit products to review, but I've never turned one down. That's my policy so far.) He also indicated that he knew that I would be honest about the product, or at least factual.

A few days later, i got a package in the mail. Inside was a delicious GF product AND a great example of the use of a Flickr Stream for PR purposes. It is from there I pulled (with their permission) the two images I've used here today.

How exciting. I've been wanting to teach my PR Admin class the advantages of Flickr over the other sites, and this will let me know them how a public relations person can use Flickr to load stock images. I am impressed and obviously used this tool.

In a the packet from this savvy public relations practitioner, I got three bars to try -- Chocolate Brownie, Wild Blueberry, and Cherry Cashew -- plus a lovely brochure with helpful FAQs. I also got a beautiful product fact sheet (which I plan to use in my public relations writing class as an example) that showed the six flavors below.

Of most interest to me is the product 1) has no gluten, dairy or soy. I am intolerant of all three. 2) The product is organic. This matters to me, even though I do lapse into poor eating choices often. 3) The product has 4-5 grams of fiber while packing in vitamins and omega-3s.

I tried two of the bars (saving the cherry cashew for a rainy day, I suppose) and I really, really ENJOYED THEM. The chocolate doesn't have the aftertaste that the LaraBar/Jocolat bar has, and the Blueberry -- which I ate while waiting at the airport for breakfast last Monday -- was tart and richly blueberry flavored. I liked it the best of the two. And priced in the $2.20 range, the bar is certainly worth it.

Alas, while in Tampa shopping last weekend at my favorite health food store, I came up empty on the Pure Bar. I checked their very helpful website and found that I can find them at Whole Foods (great, I shop there in both Atlanta and Tampa) and other stores such as HEB and Meijer sell them, too.

OH! And they send me a coupon! I will use that next time I buy these bars. I can't wait to try the Cranberry Orange -- perhaps my favorite flavor combo!

So here's a tip of my virtual hat to Pure Bars, as well as to Paul, the savvy PR Guy for CDI New Media/carryonpr. You represent a great product, and I'll be sure to purchase Pure Bars next time I'm at the Whole Foods near me. (P.S. I think my dear husband, aka the incredible shrinking man, would like the blueberry ones, as they fit in well with his current dietary requirements).


A year ago tomorrow, I had my surgery that determined I did not have ovarian cancer. I can't believe it has been a year, but it has been...and it has been a good one. While I've had ups and down, and medical issues continue to be, well, issues, it has been a great 365. I just remember how blessed I felt last year when we got the all clear, and the support of all my readers. I thank you all again, one year later, for being part of my life.

Much love, and enjoy a beautiful fall day!

Friday, October 24, 2008

An Outback Update

I got a phone call (an actual CALL!) from Outback Carrollwood after i posted my blog post about my disappointment there. I also sent that to the Corporate Office, so I guess they finally got tired of my complaining.

Don't get me wrong, I am greatly appreciative of the acknowledgment that I got that "Outback is working on its new GF menu." I get that, I really do. And the unit manager I spoke to was very sincere and very nice. He explained that his Outback is testing a new lower-priced menu, for the budget conscious in this economy. Bravo for you!

But I'm one of THOSE GF people. You know, the kind who expects you to live up to your advertising. You know, "No Rules. Just right?" And no updated GF menu means RULES, not right. OK?

Look, I GET IT. It costs a lot of time and money to make a GF menu happen, and it's tough to keep that updated for the GF community. And you're right, you DO have an acceptable GF menu -- MUCH more to offer than say, Applebees, Fridays, or some of the others who don't even bother to try. I suppose I should just STFU and accept what you have to offer.

But as I told the manager (who was really patient and kind with me, I assure you) when you KNOW another Outback can make something as glorious as a GF Bloomin' Onion happen, or can make something as simple as a GF Hamburger Bun happen (it's a frozen Kinnnick bun, for gosh sake. Buy a couple of packs and make a dozen people happy!) it's hard to accept a plain piece o' steak, baked potato and steamed veggies. I can make that at home.

And know what? I will, until you let me know you have your GF Menu Issues up to date. Until then, I'll save my Outback cravings for Julie and the gang at the Crossville Road, Roswell Outback (SHOUTOUT AND THANKS!).

Much love, etc.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Who's your Mama, are you Catholic, and can you make a roux?!?

This was going to be a blog about dinner, but by the time it was over, it had segued to a walk down memory lane. This post meanders...I digress.

Tonight, Paula and Jamie Deen were making onion rings, and I threw up my hands in dispair. I just couldn't stand it, so I went into the kitchen to replicate her recipe. She made the kind I really like -- thin sliced, almost onion "String" that are dusted with flour but not battered. You dust them with flour and let the juice of the onion make it stick. They cook fast and are really crispy.

I wanted those.

So I sliced up two onions, and like Paula, shook them in a zippered bag with some GF pancake and waffle mix (a brand I got at the GF Food Fest, by ****Toro, had very little sugar. I took a chance on it. It was perfect for this.) I added a heaping teaspoon of Tony Chachere's seasoning, and viola (I know, it's voila, but I think viola's funny here) in a few minutes I had a pan full of juicy crispy onion rings. I seasoned them up with cayenne pepper...yummy.

I'm still not to memory lane, but this next part is for Julie Harrell Boucek. I owe you a birthday present. Here you go:

Paula made a sauce like they serve at Zaxby's. I wanted some of that too. (Randy will love that I know how to make this!)

Homemade Zax Sauce
1 cup mayo (can use light or fat free is you're a heathen. I use Duke's whole fat).
1/2 Chili Sauce (if you eat HFCS) or organic ketchup (if you don't)
1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon (JUST A LITTLE) refrigerated horseradish (this is important for the zing of the sauce, the mouth burn.)
1 t. spicy season-all salt or Tony Chachere's seasoning salt (or a tiny pinch of cayenne pepper)
1/2 t. chili powder

I PROMISE you it tasted just like I remember Zax sauce (or the sauce at Outback), I mean it.

ANYWAY. After I ate the onion rings and sauce (I had lots of sauce left), I had to dispose of the cooled oil in my cast iron frying pan. While I was pouring out the oil, though, on the bottom of the pan I saw an inch of the most beautifully browned flour and oil mixture. I haven't seen that sight in about nine years...

ROUX! I had a cup of beautiful, perfectly cooked, chocolately brown-roux in the bottom of my frying pan!

(I haven't made roux or a pot of gumbo since I had Jenn Hill and Danny Watson over for dinner, Christmas 1999, when Jenn was editor of The Colonnade.)

So I scraped the roux into a plastic container, and this weekend, I'm going to make gumbo in my Crock pot. I have sausage, chicken, and okra in the freezer...YAY! And I'll report back...

And that, of course, comes back to my title. That was the name of a cookbook when I lived in Louisiana -- and I learned how to make a roux when I lived there. I loved the food in Louisiana -- I used to stop at a gas station in Ocean Spring, Mississippi and fill up coolers with crawfish-stuffed chickens, and andouille sausage...etc. I loved it.

And now, I'm thinking about gumbo, More to come, this weekend.

Much love, and try that sauce, Julie. You'll find the horseradish in the refrigerator section of the grocery store, usually by the eggs...


Sunday, October 19, 2008

A Tale of Two Cities (It's Sunday, I'm blessed, but this was no blessing)

OK. That's it. It's official. I am never setting foot in the North Dale Mabry Outback near our house in Tampa ever again.

And I'm sending this post to the central office here in Tampa.

Outback, your Dale Mabry Road's treatment of the gluten free menu is abysmal. Shameful.

Especially not after going to the Roswell Outback with the gluten-free menu of heaven. You should be ashamed of yourselves!

Here's what happened today. We were going to go to Mimi's Cafe,but the wait was long, so we went next door to Outback.

As usual, I asked for the GF menu (and a manager) immediately, and I also asked for a server familiar with the menu. Last time, we had a clueless wonder.

We were seated and I had no menu. The server came by in about 5 minutes and asked if we wanted an appetizer. I said I don't know, I want a menu first. A few minutes later, the manager came over with a menu and said, "OK, this really correlates with the regular menu, but here's more or less what you have available to order."

The operative word here, folks, was LESS.

Server comes up and I order a Spinach Codd Salad off the GF menu EXCEPT that is no longer on the menu AT ALL. She literally SNATCHES the menu from my hands and says, "You'll just have to order off the regular menu. I'll be sure to tell the chef to make it gluten free."

Oh really? My trust level at this moment, not so high. And the new menu has more fried items than even.

Five minutes later I order prime rib, a baked potato with butter only, and steamed veggies....And I dream of the beautiful people at Roswell Outback and the GF Bloomin' Onion, even a Kinnickinick bun for my hamburger!

But not here. Not at the second resutaurant in the chain in the home city of the franchise. NO no no. Nada.

Randy said he's tired of it, and I am too. How is it a chain, based in Tampa, can't even get an updated GF menu to its second store in the chain seven miles away? And it is obvious from the success of the Roswell store that having an extended GF menu -- even if it's only at ONE store in a big city like Tampa -- is a boon to business. When I saw Jared the manager from Roswell at the GF Vendor Fair a few weeks ago, he said his store's numbers are way up in an economy that is shrinking. That's because we members of the GF Community patronize those who take good care of us. One store in Tampa would have the patronage of a huge GF South Florida community if it would simply TAKE IT SERIOUSLY and treat us with respect. Which, like Rodney Dangerfield, I got none of today.

But no. And I left disappointed once again.

SO here's the deal, Outback. Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me. I WILL not patronize your store again until you figure out that 1) the need for a real GF menu is serious and 2) the need to update that menu once in a while is essential. In fact, I will not patronize ANY of your stores unless they can serve me a hot GF Bloomin' Onion, like my friends in Roswell can.

Nope. No more.

Much love, especially to my friends at Roswell Outback who DO get it!

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

National Blog Action Day

A week ago, I made the commitment that I would join Blog Action Day on Oct. 15 on Poverty. And since the day I made the commitment, I have been trying to decide what to write.

Wikipedia defines poverty as:deprivation of common necessities that determine the quality of life, including food, clothing, shelter and safe drinking water.

Today, in this broad discussion of poverty, I have decided my blogs must be related. You see, I teach (and practice) public relations because I love it. I'm gluten free to live. What I love and how I live are intrinsically linked, I think.

So the question of the day: How are PR, Celiac Disease, and Poverty related. And what can I do to help?

In a sense, it's simple: Celiac disease can be costly disease because it covers one of life's necessities -- safe food and drink. And it can be a burden in so, so many ways.

I admit it, I'm spoiled rotten. I have two beautiful homes, a loving family, and more food than I should have. And since I became gluten free, I have spent more money than ever on specialized food stuff that make my life easy and comfy. I am blessed, I know it. And in this economy, when our investments and jobs are on the line...I feel the pinch every single day. My employer-provided insurance covered my tests for my diagnosis of Celiac disease, including the specialist.

But then, I don't live in poverty or need.

I wonder how is it for people who do live in need AND have Celiac disease and can't afford the food, or tests, or even the occasional treat. Do they even know they might have it? That may sound like a trifle to you, but it can be huge. Celiac disease could affect 1 in 133 people, and many people have who don't know it. And the ravages from the gluten ingestation on a person with Celiac disease can be deadly -- it destroys the small intestines, can cause lymphoma, can cause other auto-immune disorders.

Imagine having a child with Celiac disease and having to depend on food bank donations to survive. Often food bank food contains wheat and the other "poisons." Imagine being on a fixed income and having to make a home gluten-free and feed yourself food that automatically costs more. Imagine having to afford hospital tests for Celiac Disease -- painful tests, annoying tests -- and having a doctor say NO because you don't have insurance. Imagine not knowing where to turn for help.

No, in all my time posting/reading/writing about the gluten-free lifestyle, I have never encountered this topic anywhere. There's a lot of people suffering in silence. In need. In poverty.

My friend Cassandra of Delightfully Gluten Free is part of the North Texas GIG, and she is always collecting GF food for newly diagnosed families. I admire that about her--heck I admire her.

I know our wonderful Middle Georgia GIG is just getting off the ground, and we're struggling -- heck, the other officers are still paying for stuff out of their own pockets since we don't have a budget. But I know those ladies, and if someone came to them and said "I need GF food for my child and I can't afford it," they'd pull something together as fast as they can, with love and care. They would address the need.

Is there a chance there could be something I could do like that? I can't reach out to all of Georgia, but I can reach out to my Georgia. I can help someone who has a need, who is hungry, and who needs to be gluten free. Here, in silly ol MillyVegas.

If this makes one person need less, then I have made a difference. And that today is my pledge.

OK, I don't know exactly what I am going to DO yet. And I think I'm going to call on some of my crackerjack PR students (those who might want to help) to help me think how I can address this need. I can't build a house like Habitat for Humanity, but I can help someone restock a kitchen pantry. I can offer guidance through my resources. And most of all, I can be a friend. More and more people are finding out they, or their children, or their parents, have Celiac disease. I know how that feels.

So first, let me make a promise: Today, my blog was accepted into the BlogHer network, and I vow to use this forum and that network to continue to spread the word about Celiac disease and offer to help anyone I can who is in need and new to CD.

And I promise to try to do more. I have been greatly blessed. It is time for me to give back.

I promise this is my project for the next Calendar Year, and I will report back soon with details.

Much love, and I welcome your thoughts and suggestions!


P.S. Happy Birthday Daddy. I love you. You and Mama taught me to give back. Thank you for that.


Sunday, October 12, 2008

In praise of old-time Fall snacks (A Sunday Blessing)

Over the last couple of weeks, I have been experimenting with some old-time snack foods. I don't know what got in to my system, but I've been in the mood for boiled peanuts, a big pot of popcorn, and apple butter. They all remind me of Fall, so I'm going to use that as my excuse. It finally feels like Fall here today. Finally!)


I don't think people appreciate old-fashioned popcorn any more. We're all so used to popping that bag filled with preservatives into our microwave, we don't realize how simple it is to make popcorn. But it can be simple. I mean, today I saw that new chick on the Food Network making popcorn as part of her high paid cooking show. So if it's good enough for there, it's good enough for here.

The thing I learned a long time ago is your portion of popcorn can be small to huge, depending on the size of the pan. You could make two cups worth in a small saucepan. I've done it.

You need a pan with a tight-fitting lid, some canola or veggie oil, and some popcorn kermels. The topping of your choice comes later -- I just want salt, most of the time.

Put your pan on the stove and cover the bottom with oil. That's the secret to no stick -- it doesn't have to be an inch thick, it just has to cover the bottom to a sheen. Then, turn the heat on high and add popcorn to make one flat layer on the bottom.

When the first kernel pops, cover the pan tightly and begin to shake it on the heat. It will pop furiously, and after about a minute, turn off the heat. It will continue to pop for about two more minutes. YOU MUST KEEP SHAKING IT OR IT WILL SCORCH (do as I say, not as I do). When it stops, pour into a bowl and salt (or butter). If you're a fan of Kettle Corn, I have made a passable sugar free Kettle Corn by adding Splenda while it's very hot.

Boiled Peanuts

I never dreamed I'd make boiled peanuts, really. I just buy them from gross-looking old men at roadside stands. But I've had a Jones for them a lot, of late. Flash back to a conversation I had with Marianne Edwards (shoutout!) and her husband, Bo Sibilsky a few weeks back. Marianne and I seem to always run into each other at the store, and she had a huge bag of green peanuts in her cart. We got into a discussion of boiled peanuts, and she said, "Bo makes them. It's really easy." So when I saw them two weeks ago at a wedding, I engaged Bo in a recipe for Boiled Peanuts (or in Georgia, Bawled Peenuts).

Which reminds me of the song we used to sing in Fifth grade music..."Eatin Goober Peas. Eatin Goober Peas. They are so delicious, eatin' Goober Peas." Sung to "Bringing in the sheaves"...but I digress.

Get a BIG pot (I used my stock pot) and put in washed peanuts to three parts water. (I made about two pounds of peanuts I think. $1.29 a pound at Kroger.) Then the tricky part -- you need a salty brine or water. Add about 1/4 to 1/2 cup of table salt (really) and, if you're into spicy boiled peanuts, a handful of red pepper flakes. I used plain on Morton's salt here, and after the 1/4 cup, tasted the water. It wasn't very salty, so I added the other 1/4 cup. It gets more concentrated as they cook, but Boiled Peanuts are about salt. Bring to a boil and reduce heat to medium so they continue to boil. Leave on for at least three hours before you taste them (green peanuts=yuk). Start tasting at three hours...I actually dished up a bowl to eat during the second part of Forrest Gump, and they were good. But I turned off the heat and let the remainders steep for a while, and they were even better. Drain most of the bring and store them in a zippy bag when cooled. I won't be eating my leftovers for a couple of days, though. I ate WAY too much yesterday and I'm paying for it big time today. My lips are shriveled from all the salt and hot pepper...

Crock Pot Apple Butter

I have always loved Apple Butter, but it has so much sugar and HFCS in it, I won't buy it any more. But fall for me calls out for Apple Butter. I really thought I'd made up this recipe, but then I looked at Cooks.Com and found a bunch more like it. But mine is a little different.

When I've made it before, I did it stove top, and it takes time and energy. So I thought, how could I go this faster? Voila!

One large (or two) jars of unsweetened applesauce (I used one I got at Wal Mat. No sugar added)
1 cups apple cider (I used Simply Juice, no sugar added). Use 2 cups for two jars.
1 cup Splenda and 4 T. brown sugar Splenda (again double as needed)
2 T. ground cinnamon and 1 T. ground cloves (OR if you have apple pie spice, you about 3 T. of that).

Place in your Crock Pot and cook all day, stirring occasionally. Scrape down sides often.

Mine made under a quart of apple butter (from about twice that amount of sauce/juice). Store in refrigerator.

Much love, and Happy Fall!

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Great GF Products Surround Atlanta!

I spent last Saturday at the Atlanta GF Product Fair, and I couldn't have planned a better day. In addition to making some wonderful new GF friends from the Atlanta Metro Celiac group, I got a chance to sample both local and national products I'd not tried before. I bought a bunch of products, too, and now my pantry is stocked for the next couple of months.

A special shoutout to my friend Lori P (from Delphi) and my GIG buddy Carol, whom I saw, and to Maureen and Allison, both of whom have daughters with CD at Georgia College! And I enjoyed meeting my tablemate Denise! She did a bangup job with those Ian's Cookies!

But what really impressed me were the local products, made by people (some with CD, some just GF) who were tired of not finding what they wanted, so they worked to make it themselves.

Here are some of my new BGFFs *best gluten-free friends. I'm including their phone numbers and URLs so you can try their products, too!

•She had a simple table, but her product was DYNAMITE. The Connor Cookie Company had the best peanut butter cookies -- GF and regular included -- I've ever put in my mouth, and believe me, I've eaten a lot of them. The operation is simple, but June Conner, my hat's off to you. You sure know how to bake a cookie. No website, but you can email June at or call 404-323-1427. Impressive, and the little girl on your package is adorable. The cost is good, too -- $5.95 for six cookies, and they have oatmeal raisin and chocolate chip, too.

•The Gluten Free Divas Bakery really has a lovely assortment of products and mixes, and thanks to them, my Daddy had a really lovely Georgia Pecan Blondies for his birthday party Saturday night. They gave me a whole tray of leftover samples for him! And he loved them! He said, "These have all kinds of good things in them!" Their mixes were delicious -- a pizza crust mix was yummy, and those blondies...But they also deliver GF cupcakes, pizza parties, and cookies in metro Atlanta and have a reasonable minimum and turnaround.

This is an outstanding young product, and I hope to support them as much as I can. And those blondies...yum!

Phone: 770-940-1946 or 770-238-9846.

•Improv*eat was right next to the Divas, and I spent a lot of time at their table, too. Improv*eat is a lifestyle company, now totally gluten free, with some very interesting product. One I couldn't resist was a coconut-meat wrap -- shelf stable, GF, made of good fiber and fat. They were sampling the wraps with filling, and a curry-flavored wrap with (grain-fed, organic) beef was delicious. They're expanding their offerings, as of this week, too.In addition to being GF, they're earth friendly (business cards on etched recycled bamboo!) and are trying to avoid the other seven major food allergens. And they're growing. I enjoyed talking with Todd Fitts, founding partner in the group, and I am impressed. Check out their offerings on the web or email Todd or call them at 404-214-9021.

•Dr. Sherri Lange, a home ec teacher who got "fed up" with the offerings on the GF market, came up with Exsqueesite Foods. Simply zip of the top of her product's bag, add liquid, and squeeze and bake. I tasted a couple of her product -- a muffin and a chocolate chip cookie, and they were delicious, and they did look easy. Sherri said she mixes the muffin mix in the morning, puts it in a ramekin and into the toaster oven and in minutes, she has a great hot muffin for breakfast! Her email is Info @, and she has cookie, cake, muffin and bread mixes, as well as flour mixes. Her mixes, by the way, are gluten free, egg free, corn free and dairy free. Her phone number is 678-937-9200.

•The cookies that Tiffany Person at The Free Cookie were really beautiful, and her arrangements were both beautiful and reasonably priced. She has really cute Red Hat cookies (for the GF Red Hatter) and others, shaped like flowers. Their cookie bouquets start at $25 each. You can contact them at (404) 536-6170 or by email at Check out the pics of their designs on their website! REALLY cute.

I'm always happy when local restaurants offer GF offerings. Of course, the fine folks from the Crossville Outback were present with samples of their GF Bloomin' Onion. I still highly recommend this Outback - it's worth the trip to Roswell for the experience. I especially loved their "We Hate Gluten" shirts! It was nice to finally meet Julie, the person who started the GF revolution at this restaurant, and to see Jared, one of the great managers again. I only regret that I couldn't go there for lunch!

The folks from Wildfire at Perimeter Center were also there with samples of a decadent chocolate cake -- GF of course. I had a few minutes to talk to special events manager Nicole, and they're ready to host your next GF dinner party! Call them at 770-730-9080 for more information. The GF menu they had on display looked delicious.

And while I'm talking about "new kids in town," Check out Legal Sea Foods by the Georgia Aquarium. They sampled an incredible GF clam chowder and promised special care to the GF diners who visited them.

All the national products there were wonderful, but you have to love the "hometown wonders."

Much love, and much success to these businesses!