Thursday, July 17, 2014

Product Review: Ian's Gluten Free Fish Sticks and Onion Rings

Recently, Ian's Natural Foods was gracious enough to send me two of their products to sample including their Fish Sticks and Onion Rings. Both products are not only gluten and wheat free but are also soy, dairy, egg, and nut free so they are an inviting contribution to the food allergy community.

The fish sticks were a page from my grade school cafeteria years, except with a more refined twist. Coated in cornflake crumbs, they had a crunchy outer layer not softened by dipping sauces. I love my food with a crunch, so this was a welcomed change from my earlier experiences with soggy fish sticks. The fishy goodness on the inside was also far superior to any school fish stick, being made of real fish not some mixture only made of part fish. Bravo Ian's!

The onion rings were coated with the same batter as the fish sticks, but in this instance I didn't feel the combination played out as well. I felt they were lacking in flavor, although they kept their crunchy texture and did the job as an onion rings and went well with chipotle mayonnaise. I will admit though that I had frozen and thawed this product a few times before eating them.

Overall, Ian's has a great line for the food allergen community that cook up quick and these products are no exception.

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Product Review: Glutino Gluten Free Wafer Bites

For me, summertime calls for lighter meals and refreshing snacks. I want something that packs flavor with less of the weight than my favorite winter treats. That's why I was happy to see samples of Glutino's New Wafer Bites in this month's sampler package.

These little babies come in three flavors: Chocolate Covered, Hazelnut, and Lemon. The chocolate covered ones are vanilla wafer dipped in milk chocolate, and are the perfect mix of sweet chocolate and dry savory wafer. Their hazelnut wafer bites are simpler, having a subtle nutty flavor that as Goldilocks would put it "is just right." Finally, I found the lemon wafers to be very sugary and powerful in flavor, reminiscent of a powdered lemonade mix. This isn't to say that I didn't enjoy them, but I found myself eating these slower and in smaller handfuls than the other two flavors (which let's face it is probably a good thing).

So, what's the overall verdict? These new wafer bites are the perfect spectrum of flavor for anyone looking for a light snack that still offers some flavor. Each flavor has a place in the gluten free world, offering it's own variety of taste to your snaking needs.

**Please Note: This product was provided to me by Glutino as part of their Very Important Gluten-Free Blogging Community (VIGFB) Campaign. However, the review reflects my own thoughts and tastes and was in no way influenced by this partnership.**

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

How to Not be a Terrible Restaurant Manager (or Diner) When There's a Glutening Mistake

If you follow me on Facebook you know that about a month ago I had a pretty bad experience at a local restaurant I visited for the first time for a relative's birthday celebration. The restaurant didn't have a separate gluten free menu, but they had options for gluten free pizza, pasta, and other items. Upon going through the usual spiel on the phone when making the reservation AND when we went to the restaurant we learned that they had separate prep tools and locations, and well trained staff. So, we felt safe and ordered away. Unfortunately, half way though our meal we found a dirty little secret hiding in our gluten free penne:

That right there, my friends, is spaghetti. This restaurant DOES NOT carry gluten free spaghetti...Needless to say, I was immediately concerned and brought this to the waitresses attention. What followed was several discussions with the manager that started out kind on my part but which, to my better judgement, resulted in me saying "I'll be shitting my guts out for three days, thank you." at one point because he was really grating my nerves and insulting me left and right. Rather than go through what happen verbatim, I want to use this as an opportunity to take this experience and educate restaurant staff, managers, and of course diners about the best approaches to handling such a situation.

Below you'll see two sets of tips, the first for managers and the second for diners. After some tips in both sections you'll find examples of things NOT to say, some of which were said by the manager in this conversation. 

How Not to be a Terrible Manager When There's a Glutening Mistake
  1. Don't be belittling:
    • "How is your meal, except that tiny little piece of spaghetti?", "It isn't a bit deal", "You don't need to worry", laughing in general at the situation
  2. Don't accuse the patron of ordering incorrectly:
    • "You probably didn't tell the waiter you were strictly gluten free.", "Are you sure you said you were gluten free?" 
  3. Do not deny any potential symptoms that might come about from the mistake:
    • "No, that won't happen." , "I don't think that'll be the case", "You'll be fine!" 
  4. No passing the buck, or blame shifting:
    • "This is a new waitress, she has no idea what she is doing.", "The chef must have not been in the kitchen at that time." 
Overall, restaurant managers should show empathy and concern during these situations. While it is understood that all diners "eat at their own risk" so to speak, any mistake ultimately falls in the hands of the restaurant as a whole, and the manager is the face and mind of that restaurant. You want to make a good impression, not have diners cursing at you because you don't want to take the blame. When possible, try accommodating the guest, for example by removing the item from the check.

How Not to be a Terrible Diner When There's a Glutening Mistake
  1. Don't be afraid to speak up and be assertive. 
  2. Always act with grace and professionalism. 
  3. Be as polite as possible, and kill 'em with kindness.
    • "Your restaurant is disgusting!", "Who's the idiot that made this mistake?" 
  4. Don't act entitled and expect accommodations.
    • "I need you to remake this food.", "I need you to remove this from the check immediately.
The diner has a right to bring up any mistakes or concerns, especially when it relates to a medical issue that's been clearly stated from the beginning. However, ultimately, this does not give you a right to put anyone down and make a scene because mistakes do happen. When offering any criticism try to make it constructive so it can help prevent this mistake from happening to other diners. For example, try suggesting to the manager that the restaurant consider getting improved training such as GREAT Kitchen training from the National Foundation for Celiac Awareness.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Spinach and Sunflower Seed Pesto

It is one of my favorite times of year! The season has finally come when my fridge is full of fresh produce, and I've been doing a lot of experimenting lately. Today I tried my hand at the second batch of pesto with greens other than primarily basil, and whipped up an amazing batch of Spinach and Sunflower Seed Pesto that I HAD to share. The recipe below is the same one I used with the kale, but note the modifications suggested at the bottom if you decide to go that route.

Spinach and Sunflower Seed Pesto

1 6oz bag of spinach greens
2 cups olive oil (I used half canola oil, half extra virgin)
2 tablespoons lemon juice
4 tablespoons seeded sunflower seeds (salted or unsalted)
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoon (10 leaves) fresh basil, chopped
2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese (omit for dairy free version)
1 teaspoon crushed black pepper
salt to taste

1. Mix all ingredients, expect salt, in a food processor until well blended.
2. Taste, and add salt as desired. If you use salted sunflower seeds you may not have to add salt. If you add salt, mix all ingredients for a second time. 
3. Serve immediately or transfer to an airtight container for future use. 

Makes approximately 2.5 cups of pesto. 

You can also substitute kale, as mentioned earlier. If you do this use one medium size bundle of kale, chopped and cut from the tough stem. Omit the lemon juice if using kale.

The combo of the spinach and sunflower seeds makes this a lighter dish than your typical pesto (the kale is a bit denser in flavor). It is subtle in taste, but bold in color. Personally, I think it is a peppy addition to any summery dish from grilled vegetables to cold pasta dishes. I seriously want to eat it on everything. Hope you enjoy!

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Support the Pasta Flyer KickStarter Project!

KickStarter is a perfect place to find projects within your areas of interest to support. Most recently I was notified of a KickStarter campaign for Pasta Flyer, a proposed Gluten Free popup store hoping to travel to  several cities (including New York) across the USA in the fall before opening perminent locations. Lead by Chef Mark Ladner of NYC's Del Posto restaurant, Pasta Flyer seeks to:
"...bring together our love for two contrasting cultures:  rural Italy's unhurried pasta lunches, prepared by seasoned grandmothers, and urban Japan’s bustling, quick-service ramen shops."
Customers will get to create their own pasta dishes with a variety of pasta shapes, sauces, proteins, and other toppings. They can also order salads and snacks. The best part though? Every dish is designed to be ready within 3 minutes. Yes, THREE! How awesome is that? And to top it off, Pasta Flyer will strive to keep all fruits, vegetables, and herbs fresh and local, supporting your local farmers. I know I am Freaking excited!

So, if this sounds like a good idea to you (and why wouldn't it) swing on by their KickStarter and back them before July 5th. Backers can win goodies such as a free bowl at one of the pop-up stores this fall, a t-shirt, pasta and sauce mailed to your door and much more depending on your donated amount.

See their other websites below for further details:


Tuesday, June 17, 2014

PARTICIPANTS NEEDED: Online Survey Looking at Eating Patterns in those with Celiac (Coeliac) Disease

Hello faithful readers, a researcher needs our help with a research study so I am asking for your help! PhD candidate Rosie at the University of Birmingham in England reached out to me because she is studying with a friend, and is seeking individuals with Celiac Disease to partake in a study looking at eating patterns in those with and without Gastrointestinal disease. Rosie says: 
This questionnaire looks at the patterns of eating behaviours and a variety of psychological characteristics in people with gastrointestinal disease and people without gastrointestinal disease. This can help us to identify any differences in eating patterns and gain a wider understanding of the impact that gastrointestinal disorders can have on everyday life. This information may help to improve services for those with gastrointestinal disease. The data will be completely anonymous; you do not have to provide your name. All participants will be given the opportunity to enter a prize draw for £50 in Amazon vouchers (or equivalent in your local currency). 
We're hoping that these results will help us look at  concerns about eating and weight that coeliac disease can contribute to, and what dietary advice and support people with coeliac disease may need.                                                                                               
The survey will take you only approximately 40 minutes to complete, and can be found at the below link:

As a Celiac working in the Social Work and Research field I really love seeing studies that hope to find linkages between my required diet and psychological well being. I know all too well that the two are connected, and having research to suggest how and why they are could help improve treatment of those with Celiac Disease and other GI diseases beyond diet change. I hope you'll consider taking time to participate!

Monday, June 16, 2014

Potluck Dinner Club: Picnic and BBQ foods (with a bonus Black Bean Salad Recipe)

Things are finally starting to warm up around here on Long Island so, to take advantage of this, June's potluck was Picnic and BBQ themed. We held it at a local picnic area near a beach, and it was a fun afternoon and evening. Aside from the food, we played lawn golf, listened to music, chatted, and headed to the beach for sunset. 

The food went SUPER quick, and this was less informal than the other potlucks so it was hard to catch photos of the food itself. Here's a recap of the food though:

Off The Grill:
We had a good selection of cold dishes, almost all of which were gluten free, which included: Potato salad, layered vegetarian taco dip, salsa, tortilla chips, cucumber salad (with feta, olives and onions), black bean salad, Mexican themed white rice, homemade ginger lemonade and cherry limeade, Gluten free brownies, deviled eggs, wraps (not gluten free), and quinoa salad. The homemade lemonade and limeade was to die for, and was a perfect refreshment served in individual mason jars. So good!

On The Grill:

The gentlemen took over the grills for most of the day. We had two portable grills so grilling up things we quick and simple although finding the right flame height was a bit of trouble in the wind.

On the grill we made: burgers, London broil, salmon, corn on the cob, peppers and onions, ginger lemon chicken kabobs (with peaches, peppers, and onions), grilled eggplant, grilled squash, and grilled caprese salad. 

Out of all the dishes, I thought the Black Bean Salad was a perfect recipe to share because of it's simplicity. It is a quick and tasty dish you can pull together in a pinch for a summer get together. 

 1 cup (or 1 can) cooked black beans
1 cup (or can) corn
1.5 cps diced tomatoes (or 1 can) 
1/2 cup diced red onion, 
1 minced jalapeno
juice if 2-3 limes (or 4-6 Tbs)
1/3-1/2cup diced cilantro, 
1 diced avocado
salt/pepper to taste.  

1. Mix all of the above ingredients, except the avocado, together in a seal-able bowl or Tupperware.
2. Let sit at least 1hr for flavors to mix. 
3. Add the avocado right before serving. 

(Courtesy of my friend Michelle N. (AKA Shelly))

See, simple and delicious! Next up in our Potluck Dinner Club is a cheese potluck, stay tuned! 
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