Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Why I Hate the South: Gluten Free Pizza at Mellow Mushroom is too Damn Good


I'm a New York girl through and through, and we are known food wise for two things: Pizza and Bagels. I never cared so much about bagels, but to this day nearly 5 years after going gluten free I can't be near a regular pizza without wanting to devour it and/or weep. I'll even open my windows if I'm carrying a glutenous pizza to a party or something so as to not be enveloped in the smell. Regardless of the temperature. Gluten free pizza from a restaurant just gets old sometimes, as most companies use the same 10 inch rice flour pizza and you can be limited on your 'safe' toppings options. That's why I was extremely disappointed in what NY had to offer as far as gluten free pizza is concerned when I came across Mellow Mushroom

Mellow Mushroom, a chain of restaurants located primarily below the Mason-Dixon line features salads, hoagies (sandwiches), calzones, and pizza. They are MOST well know for their unique twists on traditional pizza toppings, several of which are available on their in house made gluten free crust. In addition, the crust is also vegan and they offer dairy free cheese! So if you are vegan or avoid milk, keep reading! 

I first caught a bite to eat at their Bowling Green Kentucky location last winter, and that's when the 'addiction' started. The staff was friendly and knowledgeable, and the pizza... well the pizza was the first gluten free pizza I got from a restaurant that was FOLDABLE. And it tasted phenomenal. Oh my freaking god I was excited. We ordered two pizzas: The Kosmic Karma (Red sauce base with feta and mozzarella cheeses, spinach, sun-dried tomatoes and Roma tomatoes with a pesto swirl) and Gourmet white (Olive oil and garlic base with sun-dried tomatoes, Provolone, feta and mozzarella cheeses, Roma tomatoes and onions).The pizza had a thicker crust that was crunchy on the outside but soft in the center, a perfect NY pie. The two types of tomatoes on each pizza really added depth in flavor, and the pesto was amazing! I was instantly hooked.   

Once more on that road trip we stopped to get our fix at the Durham North Carolina location. We were met with equally fantastic service and food, this time the plain pizza and the Veg Out veggie pie. This location had an added bonus of designated gluten free plates and a newer pie crust that was even thicker than the last. Apparently the company was rolling out a new recipe for their dough at this point (January 2014). 

Back in the north I spent several weeks ranting and raving about Mellow Mushroom until I got my fix again in February at one of their Tampa Florida locations and again in April at their Adams Morgan location in Washington DC. Tampa had another bonus, as they offered a few of their appetizers that used pizza crust in gluten free varieties, however neither of these had the newer crust from the Durham location so I was a bit disappointed. I must have posted enough instagram photos of my Mellow Mushroom adventures at this point though because they reached out to me offering a free pizza. On learning I was from New York they offered to send me a gift card instead, which I greedily kept in my wallet until just last week when I visited their New Orleans Louisiana location. Even after a 8 month hiatus the pizza was still as good, although the gluten free menu remained the same and the 'new' crust from Durham was still no where to be found. They also didn't offer any gluten free appetizers with the crust. 

All in all Mellow Mushroom is a great chain if you are looking for some gluten free pizza. Each restaurant, although they had varying procedures, did ensure my safety from cross contamination and I never had a reaction. What I liked most about Mellow though is that each restaurant had its own character, unlike many chains where the layout may differ but the decor is a carbon copy. Whether it was funky tie-dye decor, colorful 70s motifs or woodsy theme each design was creative and fun. I look forward to my next Mellow Mushroom experience, and thank the south for making a gluten free girls Pizza dreams! 

Friday, January 2, 2015

Winners: Celtic Celiac Holiday Bundles

It is officially 2015. It still sounds surreal to say... I hope everyone had a good holiday season, and that you are settling back into a 'normal' schedule for the beginning the year! Thanks to everyone who entered my Holiday giveaway, there were over 125 entries. I was excited to host a personal giveaway and I thought these bundles were great so I am happy you all agreed! The two winners are:

Kerrie R.

&

Jennifer C. 

You've both been messaged directly for your mailing address. Once I have that your bundles will be mailed out! Thanks again to all that entered, and a healthy and happy New Year to all of you. 

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

A Homemade Christmas: 2014

Each Christmas it seems that I become more and more 'domesticated' for lack of  better word, although I personally like to call it awesome. As I grow older more and more homemade cookies and goodies get made to bring to the various places I do during the holiday season, and Mike and I start incorporating more homemade gifts. This year I might have over done it a little bit, as I was trying to keep my spirits up with the momentum of holiday cheer. You can get into a groove baking cookies, wrapping gifts, cleaning, shopping, and decorating for the holidays and it certainly takes a bit of the stress away if you do so without having a major break down over how much you have to do. I averted the major breakdown this year, although there were a few minor melt downs, so I would say I was successful. Here's a quick recap of this years key homemade moments:

Jules' Gluten Free Sugar Cookies: Colorful and fun! Mike made these around midnight one night when I was exceptionally grumpy and couldn't sleep, helping him out cheered me right up!




Chocolate Bark: These were a  reword of some 2010 recipes, and were also made to honor m brother. We made peanut butter cup bark, walnut bark, and peppermint bark. 



Gluten Free Oreo Truffles: This is another 2010 recipe, but it has become an extended family favorite. I never said we were that healthy around the holidays!



Almond Crescents: This is a recipe passed down from my grandmother, and one that I rarely seem able to get right...

FAIL

This year however I was successful by using some random mixture of confectioners sugar and regular sugar in each batch, god only knows what the exact measurements were but they were surely potentially diabetes inducing and freaking addictive. 



Christmas Crack: Making this indulgent snack for my floor at work was a last minute decision, and probably took the least amount of time. I used the recipe shared by I'm a Celiac but used cinnamon and rice chex. I also gave each of my direct colleagues a bag of the homemade cookies.


Homemade Lavender and Pine Candles: This year we also tried out hand at candle making for the first time. It was actually pretty quick and fun! 


And the packaging was mason jar fantastic!



Finally no holiday season can be complete without having some non handmade snacks on hand for when all the cookies have been handed out. Udi's Snicker Doodle Cookies and Glutino's Peppermint yogurt Pretzels were two great snacks that got us through a few games of Cards Against Humanity with friends. 



Friday, December 19, 2014

Holiday Eats, Drinks, Merriment, and Udi's Love!

As you've probably seen if you follow me on Instagram, Twitter, or Facebook I've been participating in Udi's #EatDrinkBeMerry event this holiday season and I hope you have or will too! In exchange for spreading word of their colossally awesome giveaway, and sharing some of my own favorite Eats, Drinks, and Merriments, I was sent an equally wonderful set of their new and favorite products. Here's just a peak at the freezeable portion of their generosity:


The packaged were so brimming with product that my pantry and freezer couldn't even fit all the goodies, so needless to say there's been much consuming of this goodness. My favorite product so far? Their NEW Bean and Green Chili Burrito. It was the perfect balance of cheesy goodness and starchy fullness, with a great subtle spicy taste to boot. I am MOST excited about trying their French Baguettes. I haven't had a huge loaf like that since going gluten free almost 5 years ago. I used to absolutely love those huge garlic and mozzarella bread baguette loaves you could buy prepackaged at the store, so I see an Italian night with garlic bread in my future.

So, how could you win big from Udi's? It's simple: Just share your favorite Eats, Drinks, or Merriments with them via their contest entry form. You could also share your favorites with the hashtag #EatDrinkBeMerry via twitter or instagram. Here's some examples of how I've been using the hastag to share my favorites.

Favorite Eats: Chocolate Bark. It's so versatile, and easy to make! It also reminds me of my childhood, the second apartment I lived in with my husband, and my brother Tom who passed away suddenly last christmas Eve. I've been making huge patches this year of various barks.


Favorite Drinks: Apple Cider. I love it mulled, spiked, sparkling, hard, and regular. I even add ice cream to it AND bake with it. It's an all around wonderful drink.


Favorite Merriments: I didn't share this one on instagram but the thing that makes me happiest during the holiday seasons is long standing traditions with friends and family. For 12 years I've been meeting with my high school friends the day after Thanksgiving, so that's a big tradition that I adore.

How about you? What are your favorite ways to celebrate the holiday season with food, drink, or merriment? I'd love to hear, and Udi's will give you the chance to win over 600 prizes (including 100 packs of goodies similar to the one I received) if you share with them as well. So, #EatDrinkBeMerry and Happy Holidays! 

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Thanksgiving: On Giving Thanks to Those Passed

It's the week before Christmas, and I'm only just getting to my thanksgiving recap, but I figured it could possibly give you come Hanukkah or Christmas inspiration. It's been hard to write about the holiday season this year, every word and action reminds me of my brother Tom and his passing suddenly last Christmas eve. But I've been practicing mindfulness, trying to slow down, and trying to do little things that honor him.

Many of the ways I've been remembering him have been through cooking and food, and there were a few dishes I  made for Thanksgiving for that exact reason.  Let's recap my contributions to our meal:

Appetizer: Aside from myself, Tom was the only other food experimenter in my family. He loved sushi, and loved trying new and unique recipes. One of my favorite thanksgiving memories involves Jule's Butternut Squash soup. I made it several years ago and my brother raved about it for ages, so long as to even bring it up again last year. Unfortunately, Thanksgivings since that year haven't allowed for soup so I was never able to make it for him again. This year I made it, in his name so to speak, and even found another use for it: Make it think and it's a PERFECT gravy for potatoes and turkey!

Main Course: My brother spent a portion of his time living down south, meaning that he had a taste for anything cornbread related. Last year and this year I made Glutino's Gluten Free Cornbread Stuffing. I love the stuff in it's buttery delicious goodness. We all gobbled it down, and Tom would have been proud. 

Dessert: I made two desserts for Thanksgiving, the Snowman Buttons (Sugar Cookies with pink sugar sprinkles), and the Gooey Chocolate Merry Mint brownies. I found the dough of the Snowman buttons hard to work with, even with sprinkling lots of flour on the surface I was working on and my hand  it was incredibly sticky. However, they baked evenly and tasted great! 

The mint brownies were moist and very minty, they tasted like york peppermint patties to me. A great treat! I just wish they had been a bit thicker. The taste of mint is another reminder of my brother, one very bittersweet. 

**Please Note: The above Glutino Products were 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.**


Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Giveaway: Win One of Two Celtic Celiac Holiday Bundles

HAPPY HOLIDAYS EVERYONE! 

I'm giving away some gluten free loot, and you could be one of two winners! Through out the year I pile up some great products and coupons from faithful gluten free companies, and this year was no exception. To celebrate the holidays I've put together two identical prize packs of my favorite gluten free items including all the below goodies:

  • The Ultimate Gluten Free Living Guide from Columbia University's Celiac Disease Center: Full of tips for living a great gluten free life, great for the newer or veteran Celiac.
  • One free Udi's product coupon: Get your #EatDrinkBeMerry on by winning a free product from Udi's. Might I suggest their Cinnamon rolls or Brownie bites? YUM!
  • One free Rudi's product coupon: Grab yourself a free product from Rudi's. Deli style bread anyone? 
  • A Triumph Dining Gluten Free dining card: Make ordering gluten free in a restaurant easier by using this card from Triumph Dining that does all the explaining for you, it's even laminated! 
  • A 'Love Yourself' sticker: Okay, this isn't gluten free related but it is a great reminder we all need, especially when sometimes out body tends to fight itself. 
  • A Steadfast pin: From a newer gluten free beer company by the same name, this pin is reminder to remain unwavering in your trek towards optimal health. 

What better way to start your new year than with some free noms, increased knowledge and support, and a reminder to love yourself and your journey? Entries will be accepted until December 31st 2014. Please be sure to include your email address, I'll be emailing the two winners by January 3rd!


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Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Potluck Dinner Club: Spanish Night (With Bonus Chocolate Truffle Recipe)

November's Potluck Dinner Club theme was foods from Spain, not to be confused with Spanish foods from Latin America and other Spanish speaking regions. Although the distinction threw a few people off, the final product was a delicious array of foods that were ENTIRELY GLUTEN FREE. AND it was an informal three course meal.


The Starters: 
Manchego with grapes, a traditional Spanish dish. They even have a phrase that means "uvas con queso saben a beso", which translates to "Grapes with cheese taste like a kiss". I think manchego is beautiful, as it has a lovely pattern on the rind due to the way it is wrapped to age.


The Main Course:
Dishes included Papas bravadas (fried potato pieces with a spicy garlic and tomato dipping sauce, Gazpacho, Marinated manchego with rosemary and olive oil, Shrimp with garlic, Tuna with potatoes, onions, and peppers, and prawns wrapped in bacon.

All of this was also paired with several drinks including wine from spain, homemade sangria with pineapple, lemons and organices, and horchata (a Spanish rice drink). 

The Dessert:
The dessert was only one dish, but that was absolutely enough. These decadent truffles were a flavorful favorite for the crowd, and I've shared the recipe below. 


Spanish Chocolate Truffles
Recipe provided by my friend Carolyn 

Ingredients
1 cup heavy cream
9 oz gluten free chocolate chips
flaky sea saltOlive oil
4. Ball the chocolate into about 16 balls, most easily done by using a melon baller.



Directions
1. Heat the cream to a simmer in a small pot.
2. Pour over the chocolate in a separate bowl and let it sit for a few minutes. 
3. Slowly stir until the chocolate melts, cover and let cool in the fridge for an hour.
5. Sprinkle lightly with sea salt.
6. Keep refrigerated until ready to serve, drizzle a little olive oil over each when ready to serve.

Simple and delicious!

The next potluck is going to be Hanukkah themed, and although I'm not going to be making it I am sure the food will be great! 
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