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

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Dear Starbucks: I love you!

I have to say the month of May in Milledgeville has be pleasant. I've had lots of visits from my Randy, my Maymester class has been awesome, and I've made some tremendous new gluten-free friends here on the blog and on Twitter.

But the highlight of my month has been the introduction of the new Starbucks Gluten-Free Valencia Orange Cake, which, I gotta say it, I love. (And I apologize to Blackbird Coffee in Milledgeville for that, because you're my favorite coffee house. But you don't have a gluten-free cake for me, now do you? But I do love your coffee).

First, the whole cake is high in protein and has under 300 calories. (It is made almost entirely of eggs). Second, it isn't too sweet. Third, with the carb count, it really works okay for me as a meal (not a treat, mind you, as a meal). This post HERE has all the information on the new treat.

I also love that it is sold in individually wrapped packages, frozen. I often buy a four pack of them and take them home to my freezer. I try to stretch those four out for more than a week. At just under $8, it's really lovely.

It especially fits in well with my new eating plans. Of course, I have always lacked the baking gene anyway, with rare exception. This case is perfect for me in my world today. I could serve it to guests for dinner. I could HAVE it for dinner. Randy and Jeffrey game me two cakes for Mother's Day! Wonderful. Of course, the idea that I can go into a Starbucks with a non-GF friend and have a treat means a lot to me, too.

I simply enjoy it for so many reason.

But mostly, it reminds me of my Aunt Katie. She was really my Dad's cousin's wife, which makes her my what, second cousin"s wife, but anyway....I always called her Aunt Katie and called him Uncle Rudy. She taught at Avondale High School, and I'm mentioned here on the blog before -- They called her Mrs. Rudy, and she was a much loved home ec teacher. Anyway, the year after she retired, I hear they brought her out sitting in a rocking chair in a giant gift box at Homecoming. She was a wonderful person all around.

ANYWAY she made this cake every Christmas that she made in bite-sized mini cakes, and Uncle Rudy always delivered a tin of them to our house. We'd exchange tins, usually, with ours filled with Italian Anise Cookies (which today would be considered biscotti...but again...I'm digressing.

The annual Orange Blossom cake of my childhood is truly identical to the Starbucks GF Valencia Orange Cake. I mean, they bring be back. My Mama always kept those Orange Blossoms in the fridge, and when I eat the Starbucks Cake cold, it brings me back.

I couldn't be happier. Thank you, Starbucks, for listening to your GF community. Even if not everyone likes it, we LOVE that you've done this. So thanks. A lot.

Much love, and happy May...

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Super Gluten Free Product Roundup.

Snikiddy Snacks
A Product Review

In honor of Celiac Awareness month, I want to tell you about a product that came my way last week. If you follow me on Facebook, you know I have an unnatural addiction to a certain orange colored cheese puff. The problem is, they're not made in a certified Gluten Free facility, and I sometimes have reactions to them when I eat them (not always. And that's not a complaint, either. Nothing wrong with them, they read GF.)

And then I tried a lovely little cheese puff called Snikiddy Snacks. It's true that others in the GF world had tried them, but I hadn't, and I was so surprised when I did.

Delish. YUM. It's a Gluten-free cheese snack that taste better than a the competing product mentioned above, wiyh a much healthier panel on the back. Non-GMO. No trans-fats. 120 calories a bag. And no sugar and 1 gram of fiber. The do have corn and milk products in them...but they're wonderfully gluten and wheat free!

Did I mention YUM? I am going to try to stock up with these the next time I'm in Atlanta. A four pack is under $3, and they're sold at Toys R Us and Whole Foods, as a start.

They come in four flavors -- Grilled Cheese, Mac and Cheese, Pizza and Nacho Cheese. And they practice good practice to clean the lines between product production that might have gluten in it (they have a line of cookies that are not GF), I had no reaction, found there to be no aftertaste (except grilled cheese, of course, which was the flavor I tried) AND best of all, my fingers were not bright orange.

According to the lovely press kit (which I am so going to show off in PR Writing in the fall,) these wonderful snacks have been approved by Good Housekeeping and Real Simple Family as "good snacks." I could see many of you with little ones using these as a healthy treat.

But heck, they made a great lunch accompaniment last week (and one good breakfast). I like them a lot.

I think you will, too. And hey, GF Steve -- they're made in Boulder!

Much love, and to quote Angela Davies, "nom nom nom"

Monday, May 18, 2009

The myth of the Gluten Free meal

There's a story here from my trip to Chicago. You just have to get to it.

When I was in sixth grade, I weighed about 120 pounds and was about 5 foot 6. I was athletic, was very energetic, and didn't look pudgy at all. Yet my pediatrician made my parents put me on diet pills to lose weight.

To accommodate this, my Mother had the lunchroom ladies at Alice Street School strip my lunch tray every day of anything that might be deemed "fattening." Instead of half an egg salad sandwich, I got a plop of egg salad goo. Instead of dessert, I got a cling peach half with syrup. Instead of a scoop of rice sans gravy, of course, I got two scoops of green beans. And anything that resembled a salad was served without dressing.

I was, of course, humiliated that this happened, and I was under such watchful eyes that I daren't sneak something from a friend's tray. Nope. I was stuck with what they thought I needed or deserved. Because I was different.

I had the same feeling I had some 40 years ago in sixth grade this past weekend when I ate at the Hotel Orrington in Evanston, Ill. And to whit, my rant du jour.

As I always do when I travel to a conference or convention, I made arrangements in advance for my meals. I did this in a polite way through the host and then the convention manager. I was assured in the email conversation with the banquet manager that the hotel "knew all about gluten free cooking" and would be able to make my meal a memorable one.

Oh, it was memorable all right. And therein lies the question: How should one react when the gluten-free meal provided is SO HORRIBLE that, even though it is gluten free, that it is inedible? When the customer (me) paid $60 for a dinner that went straight to the trash because it was so inconsiderately prepared?

I knew there was going to be some problems at breakfast. I paid $25 for a continental breakfast that consisted of a vast quantity of Danish, yogurt and fruit. So I asked if there was a gluten free option available for me in place of the rolls.
Sure, the catering contact said. Anything in particular? No, I said. Chef's choice? Yes, I said.

So when I arrived at breakfast, there was nothing prepared. Sign. The server literally chased me around and asked me in a loud voice, "So what you want?" I'd made prior arrangement so there wouldn't be this scene. I hate being this kind of center of attention.... Finally, I said cheese, and he asked, "OK. What kind?" I said a little cheese of any kind would be OK. "D0 you want crackers with that," he asked. Oh hell no.

So 10 minutes later, he showed up with a dinner plate covered in chipped mozzarella and cheddar. Two pounds worth. No decoration, just a chopped plate O cheese.

Oh, I said to myself, this isn't going to be good.

At the banquet that evening, the hotel offered a vegetarian pasta dish (that I could not have) and this dish: rosemary chicken with asparagus and shiitake whipped potatoes. To me, this sounded like it could easily be made gluten free. After all, I spent $60 for this meal, so surely they could make it something edible for me.

Oh, to quote myself, hell no.

We started with the salad. I had to send back the one with croutons. They made me another one, but handed me the oil and vinegar containers to dress it myself. What's in the balsamic vinagrette, I asked? "Don't know." was the curt answer.

Then came the passage of the bread. Even Sodexho at my campus in Milledgeville, Georgia, can make a freaking effort to get me a slice of gluten free bread. There was a WHOLE FOODS two blocks away. But no, I got no bread.

So I patiently waited for the entree.

On my plate arrived a chicken breast so overcooked it crumbled into little sawdust shards when it was cut. I ate one piece and could barely swallow it, it was so dry (and there was only water to drink). I gave Randy a bit so he could see what I faced.
Dry. Overcooked. AND completely unseasoned. No salt. No pepper. No Rosemary.

(Now, I don't want to sound like Woody Allen here, but it was also about a third of the size of those the other diners had. Lousy food and in small portions...) I wondered what they were thinking.

There was no starch at all. When I asked about the potatoes, I was told they contained gluten. I pried further. WHAT kind of gluten. The captain at this point got snotty with me.

Instead of beautiful sauce and seasoning and mashed potatoes, I got: two limp slices of overcooked zucchini, four points of overcooked asparagus. Two mini-carrots, also mushy, and some broccolini that was as stiff as a wire brush.

All overcooked. None seasoned.

I complained to the server, when she took my plate still filled with food. I was ignored.

And then, dessert. You cannot have the creme brulee (all the recipes I know don't have gluten in them). You cannot have the strawberry dipped in chocolate. You can't even have the plain fresh raspberries.

No, you get a slice of watermelon. Under-ripe melons. A few grapes. And some pineapple from breakfast.

The ultimate insult was tasting the watermelon -- it tasted like raw onion. I passed it around to those sitting around me.

Now before you say, "You were just being a bitch," I'll admit it, I was. When someone promises me "no problem" on my meal, I don't expect the discards of the day. Had they said, "We don't serve your kind," then I would have taken my $60 to a place where they wanted to help. But instead, I was insulted, treated badly, and no one even cared. I promise I was quiet about it. I was also polite throughout the meal (I have witnesses).

But I wonder what that kitchen thinks gluten free really means!

I just don't understand it. I really don't. Sometimes, it's like sixth grade again. Would YOU have eaten that slop? I doubt it. I think a rule of thumb has to be simply this: When you prepare a meal for someone, it should be something you'd be proud and willing to eat yourself. Would you, for instance, be satisfied with onion-scented watermelon? I doubt it.

If you don't think you want to accommodate me, do me a favor -- don't offer. I can take it, I really can. For $60 bucks I could have a nice gluten-free steak at a restaurant down the street. Cooked to order. With a freaking potato.

I gotta be honest, few things hurt me more than promising me you can accommodate me when you can't. I'd rather you didn't promise at all, in the end.

It's true, I do still get my feelings hurt when I get visibly left out of things. You know, when someone brings in a cake and I'm the only one who can't have any. But that's different. You made me no promise and I had no expectations. Different scenario entirely.

This isn't.

I paid $60. You said you could accommodate me. You didn't. I was rolled.

There. I feel better now.

Much love, and p.s. I had a gluten free cupcake from Swirlz for dinner instead. At Swirlz, they get gluten free.


Wednesday, May 13, 2009

A slice of heaven...

A review

Yummmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm. I love Moondance Heavenly Desserts

When Shelley Ritchie of Moondance wrote and asked if I'd like to try her products and write about them on my blog, I said yes. I'm always willing to try new products! Considering I live where I do, it's a real blessing to get samples.

But oh Shelley, your products are the most aptly named products out there in gluten-free land! They are a real slice of heaven. And they really do have a home-made taste.

Heavenly. Simply Heavenly.

Moondance Heavenly Desserts is located in Cincinnati, Ohio, and sells its products in Whole Foods in the mid-Atlantic states (Kentucky, Virginia, Michigan, Ohio, Virginia, Missouri) as long as some other outlets. The mini-cheesecakes are also available for sale through Gluten Free Mall. Mine arrived frozen, and I thawed them in the fridge before eating. (OK, I admit that I ate the second brownie half frozen.)

I tried two kinds of Moondance's brownies -- one plain, and one walnut. See the picture? it doesn't lie. Those brownies are huge, decadent squared filled with dark chocolate. There's the slightest little crispy crust on the top, but the middle is dark and fudgy. One brownie is really large enough to feed two people (or four, with ice cream!), and each brownies serves three for 210 calories each serving.

Not that I shared much.

Randy had part of the plain one, and he (a huge chocolate fan) said there was NO WAY it was gluten free. But it was. Moondance prides itself on independent testing to show its products are truly GF, baked in a dedicated facility. Shelley took up gluten-free baking when she was diagnosed with gluten intolerance and because she didn't like that stuff that was available commercially. Moondance has grown since.

The mini cheesecakes. AHHHHHH. I tasted three, and each one had a distinct flavor. Randy and I shared the Butter Toffee, but I slurped down the creamy, rich Raspberry Ribbon one by myself, Oh my! Even the Traditional flavor was delish. All three had a crispy GF crust (what's a cheesecake without the crust, I beg of you?) Moondance also sells whole cheesecakes,

I understand from Shelley's communication with me that some of the cheesecakes are available in places like Maggiano's Little Italy in St. Louis. THAT would almost be worth a trip to St. Louis for me (I also love Maggiano's).

And honestly, Shelley, I'm glad we put aside our Georgia/Georgia Tech rivalry. I just wish YOU were still in Georgia! Because this is food worth a special trip.

I hope you'll visit the website and try these awesome foods. They're, well....heavenly!

Much love, and I wish I had tried the Blondies! (Some day...)

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

A gluten-free followup

May is national Celiac Awareness Month. And if you've been watching our friend Elisabeth, well, you've heard a lot about being "Gfree!"

This post offers some important information on this book.

It seems I'm not the only one with an opinion.

Speaking of opinions, tune in this weekend for a report on some wonderful food I received the other day from Moondance Bakery in Cincinnati.

Much love, and back to final grades...ick