Dessert Girl to the Rescue!

Oh, how I love this from-scratch, restaurant quality Caesar Salad. So do my friends and family. As a matter of fact, it’s my BFF’s birthday request every year. Instead of going out, every year she wants to come over and have IMG_3529me make this salad! :) It’s sooooooo good. Homemade croutons… fresh garlic… crisp romaine… freshly grated cheese… grilled chicken… YUM. But it’s not for the faint of heart; this Caesar is very robust with tangy, sharp, acidic, garlicky and salty tastes all in one bite. Intensely DEEEElicious!

While putting myself through college, I worked as a waitress in a fine seafood restaurant. So when I say “restaurant quality” I mean it literally: I learned the basics of how to make a Caesar from scratch there. Every once in a while the “Dessert Girl” for the night wouldn’t show up. (Desert Girls were usually 16-17 year olds who are too young to waitress with alcohol yet.) So the manager would beg and plead for one of us to do her job: roll out the little dessert cart and put on a little food show next to the diner’s table. Cherries Jubilee… Bananas Foster… all kinds of Crepes… and Caesar Salad. Well, all of these things rank RIGHT up there on my Top Food Hits, so I volunteered to learn how to make these delectable (and many flaming!) treats. Besides, it was putting on a show – and I’m always up for that! So while I didn’t give up my waitressing shifts (which made better tips), I often volunteered to get my flame on as Dessert Girl for a Day.

Not me in the video… just a random “How To Make Cherries Jubilee” video I found on Vimeo! :)

And boy, did I put on a show. I would add so much extra Kirschwasser I’d create HUGE flames. Oooohs and “whoa!” that would spread through the large open, dimly lit dining room like, well, cherries on fire. (I found a direct correlation between how much Kirschwasser I added to the size of the tip I’d get from the diners. So… glug glug glug! The flames kept getting bigger and bigger!!) Each night, as soon as I made one Cherries Jubilee (or Bananas Foster), there’d be a rash of orders that was hard to keep up with. It was really fun.

IMG_3528Since leaving that waitressing job I’ve made a few Cherries and Bannanas desserts for special occasions. But not often. It’s the Caesar — oh, the Caesar! — that’s stayed with me all this time. Over the years I’ve made this fabulous salad from memory and have played with it, modified it and made it my own. And since I found out about my Celiac, I’ve been modifying it to make it gluten free. I’ve researched and found all ingredients that are free from all gluten, including contamination. And to accommodate my milk (casein) allergy, I cut out the original butter for frying the croutons (using healthier oils instead) and only use raw, super-aged cheese.

So many (many!) years later, here is my current recipe for a Gluten Free Chicken Cesar Salad. It’s crisp romaine lettuce tossed with yummy homemade croutons (big hunks of fried, cheesy Bread), freshly made dressing and topped with grilled chicken. Who wouldn’t love that?!

IMG_3534 RotatedI made this for a dinner party last night, hence the post this morning. But writing all this is making me sooooo hungry…! All I can think about right now are the (fairly soggy) leftovers tempting from the fridge. Hum… Is 8:30 too early for garlic breath? Nah…!

So whip up this salad (or even better; ask a BFF make it for you!), take a bite and close your eyes to be transported to your own little restaurant. And if  you just so happen to find a place that actually makes a Gluten Free equivalent, tell us about it (in the comments below so we can all enjoy!).

And remember: always tip your Dessert Girl well for the show. :)

Gluten Free Chicken Caesar Salad Recipe

Traditionally, Chicken Caesar Salads ordered at restaurants are highly susceptible to gluten contamination. Of course there are the “regular” croutons to avoid, but there’s also grated cheeses with filler, seasoning mixes, IMG_3534 Rotatedcontaminated oils (unsafe brand made on shared lines with wheat germ oil), non-US Worcestershire sauce, unsafe marinades, chicken cooked on a shared grill or contaminated salad tossing bowls….  Phew! There are so many more things to think about than simply asking for “no croutons” when ordering this to be gluten-free at a restaurant.

So here’s a recipe of my Caesar Salad Recipe to help you have a fun restaurant experience while safely at home! I’ve taken the guesswork out of the prep and listed all the brands I know and trust or marked a “Gluten Free” before the food to indicate you should check the ingredients for potential contamination.

Click here the printable/downloadable PDF of the Gluten Free Chicken Caesar Salad recipe

Gluten Free Chicken Caesar Salad

SERVES: 6

Depending on preferences, you can add more or less of both garlic and anchovies… but 4 fresh garlic cloves and two anchovies make a nice, even, garlicky base. Do yourself a favor; don’t skip the anchovies. I detest fish but LOVE this salad with these two little anchovies!  For a table-side, restaurant style experience, prep all ingredients beforehand – including fully baking croutons and chicken – and put ingredients in separate ramekins or bowls. Wrap lemon half in cheesecloth to hold seeds when squeezing. Shave off a few large curls of parmesan cheese before grating to use as garnish.

IngredientsIMG_3528

croutons
3 cups 1″ cubes gluten-free bread (or rolls)
1/4 cup safflower oil
2 cloves fresh garlic, halved
2 TBSP Italian Seasoning – or basil, oregano & thyme (I use McCormick Gourmet)
3 TBSP Gluten Free Parmesan, finely grated

dressing
2 flat anchovy fillets packed in oil, drained (I use Cento brand)
4 garlic cloves, medium, fresh
1 large egg yolk
1/2 lemon fresh lemon juice (about 2 tsp)
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce (Lea and Perrins is GF in USA)
1/2 teaspoon Dry mustard
to taste Freshly ground black pepper
to taste Kosher or freshly ground sea salt
1⁄2 cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil (cold pressed organic is best. I use Newman’s Own)
1/3 cup GF Parmesan, finely grated

chicken
4 boneless chicken breasts, trimmed
as needed GF Italian marinade (Drew’s Italian Marinade is GIG Certified)

salad
3 heads romaine lettuce (about 10-12 cups)
as needed Extra Parmesan, for serving

PreparationIMG_3523

  • In an airtight container, marinate chicken breasts in refrigerator (for at least 30 minutes).
  • Rough tear or cut gluten free bread into 1-inch cubes. (A lot of GF bread will crumble if torn, so I prefer to cut it.)
  • Rinse lettuce, spin dry. Cut or tear into bit sized pieces.

Croutons_____
Croutons may be made 1 day in advance and kept in an airtight container.

  • Preheat oven to 350°F.IMG_3524
  • In large frying pan, heat safflower oil over medium-low heat. Add garlic halves & bread cubes.
  • Turn heat up to Medium and stir fry bread until it just begins to turn light brown.
  • Add Italian seasoning. Stirring constantly, evenly lightly brown bread on all sides.
  • Spread bread mixture onto baking sheet. Remove chunks of garlic.
  • Sprinkle 3 TBSP grated Parmesan cheese over croutons
  • Bake croutons in the middle of the oven, for 10 minutes, or until golden. Set aside.

Chicken_____

  • Over a medium fire (approx. 375°), grill chicken for 5-6 minutes per side until internal temperature reaches 160°
  • Remove and loosely cover with foil. Set aside (internal temperature should raise to 165° upon resting)

Dressing_____IMG_3529

  • In a large bowl, mash garlic cloves. Add anchovies to make a paste. (Hint: use two crisscrossed forks to mash for a smooth paste with few chunks. This is one of the most time consuming parts, but for some reason it MAKES the taste!)
  • Add egg yolk, juice from half a lemon, Worcestershire sauce, mustard and a pinch of sea salt and pepper. Mix until smooth.
  • Slowly add olive oil in a thin stream, whisking continuously until dressing is thick and glossy.
  • Whisk in Parmesan until combined.

Assembly_____

  • Slice chicken breast into strips.
  • Gently stir croutons into dressing. Briefly toss to coat.
  • Add half of romaine, toss to coat. Add remaining lettuce and combine well.
  • Garnish with parmesan curls (or extra cheese)
  • Serve with grilled chickenIMG_3532
  • Enjoy!!

Click here to download my Gluten Free Caesar Salad Recipe

Babycakes is Back!

The Babycakes we know and love has finally reopened at Downtown Disney! YAY! Under a new name and in a (slightly) new location, “Erin McKenna’s Bakery NYC” still has all the yummy gluten-free goodness that makes it worth navigating the tourist crowds and parking of Downtown Disney.

Where is Erin McKenna’s Bakery NYC at Downtown Disney?

While the Bakery is not in the official “Marketplace” anymore, it’s still in Downtown Disney not far from it’s original location. From the original location next to the T-Rex cafe (a great place to get an Omnivore Salad that’s GF and SUPER YUMMY!!), face the water, head left, go over the little walking bridge. Go past Fulton’s Crab House (you know, the big Paddle Boat on the water) and it’s right near Raglan Road (which, btw, is another great place for a GF meal!! I love being gluten-free at Disney!! They make a Celiac feel right at home and safe. Ahhhh..)

Or you can always park near Planet Hollywood and walk from the other direction. But because of all the construction, there’s currently no way to quickly get there.

For more information on Babycakes… I mean Erin’s…! yummy goodies and why they’re so great, check out my other Babycakes post here. To see what other people are saying about it, check out Yelp or Find Me Gluten Free.

Enjoy your gluten-free yummy goodies!

 

Pizza Hut’s New Gluten Free Pizza

Hum… not too sure how I feel about this. But Pizza Hut just partnered with Udi’s and been certified by the GIG to now offering two “certified gluten free pizzas” – one cheese and one pepperoni and cheese. (All other toppings are not certified – so if you’re Celiac, they’re off the table. Or… off the pizza. :) ) Here’s what Pizza Hut says:

“The Udi’s® Certified Gluten-Free crust is stored in a separate container, on a separate shelf in our fridge. The cheese, marinara sauce and pepperoni are stored in a gluten-free designated kit, and every gluten-free pizza is freshly baked on designated parchment paper in our ovens.
In addition to these storage techniques, team members who make your gluten-free pizza wear gloves and even use a designated gluten-free pizza cutter to cut your pizza to perfection.”

 

pizza2 RetouchedSo they’ve hit all my favorite buzz words “Certified”… “GIG” … “separate”… “designated.” But wait – that’s designated, not DEDICATED. I still have my (serious) reservations about this. It just seems too scary to contemplate going into a place where flour is flying around for regular pizza crusts. Wait. Maybe they don’t make the crust from scratch so it won’t be flour… I’ll have to look into this. But also, I don’t know about your local Pizza Hut, but the one that I grew up going to was staffed by an ever-revolving crew of young adults. And they don’t say anything about the GIG training the Pizza Hut staff, just that they “wear gloves.” Well… that doesn’t mean anything. What if they wear gloves, make a regular pizza and then a GF pizza? Contamination. Simply “wearing gloves” has nothing to do with gluten-free safety. Changing gloves… ensuring fresh gloves are used… those would instill more confidence. And the statement “they even use a dedicated pizza cutter” is nice, but where are they cutting it? On a dedicated cutting board? And the pizzas are “freshly baked on designated parchment paper in our ovens” – which means regular pizzas will be right next to it? Hum….

I just think this would be too risky for me. I pay with 5 weeks of pain for a speck of gluten. I just can’t see myself gambling my next MONTH+ of wellbeing into the hands of an angsty teen with authority issues. I know… I know… this is an extreme version of the probably reality. And maybe if I went and spoke to someone at the actual restaurant, I’d feel differently. Perhaps I should try that… go speak to our local manager and feel them out. Because our local Chipotle is a SCARY and unsafe place for Celiacs but our local Red Robin ROCKS and we’ve never been sick. So… maybe this needs further investigation.

Pizza Hut has a spreadsheet of all the locations that offer the Gluten Free pizzas here. They offer it at a restaurant about 20 minutes from our house… But until I look into it more, I don’t think we’ll try it? But that’s just me.

What do you think? Will you try Pizza Hut’s new Gluten-Free Pizza?

Book Review: “Gluten Free Quick & Easy” by Carol Fenster

As a Celiac with a full-time job and a family to feed every night, this simple little cookbook is the one I keep going back to for everyday meals – even after 40+ gluten-free books weigh down my bookshelves. “Gluten Free Quick & Easy” by Carol Fenster is a great recipe book full of simple, straightforward and family friendly weeknight gluten free meals. It’s full of shortcuts, time savers and tips… what to use and what to avoid.
There’s a great intro section with not only short entries on the seemingly requisite “how to navigate gluten free” and “what is gluten” topics but also ideas on how to save time in the kitchen, what to stock in your GF pantry, common GF baking mistakes, maximize meal planning and using “plan-overs” (Carol’s term for a meal plan that saves time by making things ahead – like buy two pounds of beef and brown it all, then use half that night and save or freeze the rest for another meal, like meat sauce or Sloppy Joes, thereby saving time on the second meal). There are sample meal plans – an eight week chart detailing what to have and when, so as to maximize those plan-overs. These introductory chapters only take up the first 50 pages (of 300+) but are packed with good info, regardless of if you’re just starting a GF diet or have been on one for years. And the rest of the 250 pages of the book is packed with quick and easy recipes.

Because this book is a bit older (2007) it predates a lot of the ‘fru-fru’ trends of current gluten-free cookbooks. You know what I mean? Those things that call for 4 different kinds of special-order flours that have to be sifted and refrigerated before use. Who has that kind of time?! While intricate, time and ingredient intensive recipes are nice to make once in a while, this is my go-to guide for some of our family’s everyday basics. Our son’s weekly Friday evening “Game Club” means whipping up a big, ooh-gooey batch of homemade Mac-n-Cheese for the gang of non-celiac 10-13 year old boys. It’s summarily DEVOURED without a word – a huge testament to it’s YUMMINESS! (We use Tinkyada elbows and Kraft Cheddar and add a dash of powdered garlic…)

Whenever we’re craving Asian cuisine, there’s a great Lettuce Wrap recipe (pg 149) that brings me back to those lovely days when we lived near a PF Chang’s (who has a great gluten-free menu and safe food handling practices, btw!). Hum…Now that I’m looking at it, this is actually one of the more time-intensive recipes because of all the veggies, but Carol has some little time saving tips to help minimize prep. And there’s a simple yet AMAZING Flourless Chocolate Cake recipe (pg 233) that will make the even consummate chocoholics drop their forks and roll their eyes in ecstasy. (I’m making myself hungry!)

And one of my favorite features of this book: Carol lists brands! Instead of just saying “gluten-free Asian fish sauce,” she lists “A Taste of Thai” after the ingredient. Not that things can’t change over the years and you still have to check it out by reading the label or calling. But knowing where to start is SO helpful. Newer books seem hesitant to do that, since ingredients change so frequently. But I love these brand listings!

Quick-Easy_GF_BookYummy recipes for things like crepes, drop biscuits, popovers, sauces and tons of Main Dishes will make your copy of “Gluten Free Quick & Easy” stained and worn with overuse. Recipes for Main Dishes like: Jamaican Jerk Chicken with Corn Mango Salsa, Crab Cakes, Salmon Burgers, Pork Schnitzel, Pan Seared Rosemary Pork Chops with Peaches, Sloppy Joe Wraps, Fettuccine Carbonara and Orange-Beef Stir Fry. And the desserts, oh the desserts! Chocolate Bundt Cake, Gingerbread, Pie Crusts, Cookies…! And overall most recipes are fast to make.

Serve these recipes to your non-GF friends and family and they’ll all incredulously say “I can’t believe this is gluten free!!!!” And you’ll smile and think, “And it was quick & easy!” Love this book!

 

Did NBC Fold Under Celiac Backlash?

Our Super Bowl party was super fun but as a host I didn’t get to watch all the commercials. Did NBC react to Celiac outrage and pull all gluten references? I do know that the NASCAR commercial after the (super tense, last-minute-changing) Super Bowl ended did not have the gluten reference in it! Did it only play once? If so, then they pulled it.

According to TheIndependent.com, it appears they did re-edit it to exclude the line. (EDIT: It seems The Independent pulled this post! So maybe they didn’t!!) But NASCAR tweeted about the spot with a link inviting people see the full length 2-minute version (with gluten line intact) after a shorter, 60 second commercial aired.

Read more about this here

And now it seems as though there’s a big “Get Over It!” backlash to the Celiac outcry backlash! People all over are warring over this gluten joke issue, like over on GlutenDude.com.

People don’t seem to understand that it’s hard when the phrase “gluten-free” can lump together trendy, fad dieters with those who find it medically necessary to avoid gluten. And while I agree with many out there that a single joke is just that, a joke, it seems like it might be more difficult as time goes by. Because when you add this single NASCAR joke to the multitude already out there, it becomes more difficult to ignore. From one liners by the likes of Fallon and Conan or by these newly appearing “difficult trend monster” characters in sitcoms or in movies (you know, the one’s writers are always “hilariously” writing in who incorrectly wave all food away with a single, dismissive sniff saying disgustedly “No thanks; gluten!”) it grows with each passing joke added to the pile. It be comes a Whole instead of the individual parts. A Whole that seems to be morphing into a pervading, sneering attitude of condescending towards those on a gluten-free diet… which can make it difficult to navigate daily gluten free life. A daily life which includes servers who don’t believe in intolerance or Celiac… people who dismiss what they deem “needy” or “high maintenance” requests… people who think they know better than us, the ones who live with it year in and year out… all because they’ve heard the growing number of jokes about gluten.

Phew. That was a long soapbox rant, huh?! What do you think?

 

Read the original post about this commercial here

Gluten Free Recipe: Cheesy Pizza Puffs

gluten-free-pizza-puffsAh, the Pizza Puff. Delectable little pillows of cheesy comfort that are a favorite of kids and adults alike. These springy little cushions of Gluten Free Goodness are a party favorite! 

They’re super easy to whip up so they’re great for kid’s sleepovers, watching football with dad, or just a yummy little snack for a rainy Sunday afternoon. And watch – nobody’s EVER gonna guess they’re gluten free! They’ll just say “YUM! Can I have another one?!”

Click here to download the recipe for Cheesy Gluten Free Pizza Puffs

Gluten Free Super Bowl Party Food – YUM!

Pepperoni Pizza DipOkay, so as loyal readers may have noticed I’m not much of a frou-frou cook. If there are more than 20 ingredients in a recipe and I’m usually OUT! Simple and easy yet tasty is my motto. Especially when I’m preparing for a party. So for food-oriented parties like the Super Bowl, I like to have as much variety as possible yet not spend all my time in the kitchen. I think a good variety of snacks is doubly important for us since we have a totally gluten-free household. The more our non-GF friends and fam have to choose from, the faster they’ll forget it’s all gluten-free and just think it’s tasty!

Who am I kidding…? Our new friends are always saying “Wow, these are gluten-free? BUT they taste so good!” After a time of two of leaving happily stuffed, they soon change to something like “You always make such yummy stuff” and start skipping the “gluten-free” descriptor. That’s when I know I’ve done my hosting job well. :)

So here’s a list of some Easy Gluten-Free Superbowl Party Foods. Some are super obvious and take no effort (like Crudités or Chips-n-Salsa), but I like to keep a Master Party Food List complete with which brands are gluten-free. This way I can browse though everything for inspiration and it’s easy to shop knowing which brands I found to be safe.

But since I’m fighting the flu tonight and having a bunch of people over for a party tomorrow, I’m just going to post the dishes. I’ll add the brands and recipes tomorrow.

GLUTEN FREE PARTY FOODgluten-free-pizza-puffs

– Items marked with an *asterisk might have hidden gluten, so be careful and check ingredients.
– Items followed by ( r ) have a recipe page (well, soon they will… I’m working on it now.)
– Items that have specific brands to look for are followed by ( b )

Desserts:Screen Shot 2015-01-31 at 9.18.16 PM

Bagged Snacks:

Hope you find something that your football fans will flip over!

 

NASCAR and NBC: A Celiac Dis? Or a Gluten Joke?

Have you seen the NASCAR “Gut Check” ad that’s slated to run this SuperBowl Sunday? Everyone’s all aflutter about how NASCAR and NBC are dissing people who avoid gluten.  But are they really dissing or making fun of us? Or are they – hello?! – just making a joke.

NASCAR-NBC-Gluten-Ad-TextBecause to a certain extent, I get the whole “Gluten Gut Check” joke. ‘Cause I don’t know about you, but I’m sick of people who are self proclaimed “gluten light” telling me that being Celiac isn’t hard because they skip the bun on their burger. I’m sick of those restaurant servers who believe everyone emphasizing that they’re gluten-free for medical reasons is really just part of “this whole Gluten Diet Fad.” And I’m sick of people saying “oh! I’m gluten free too!” because they only eat “sprouted wheat” or “super-fresh” bread. I’m sick of seeing people order a gluten-free meal at a restaurant while downing their gluten-FILLED Pabst Blue Ribbon beer.

So poking fun at Americans for being “soft” with this whole overused, often misunderstood “gluten thing?” Okay… maybe….

But is the statement “when our idea of danger is eating gluten, there’s trouble afoot” a good message to send our 10-year-old Celiac son? Our responsible little man who will be watching this commercial while struggling to stay completely gluten-free at a SuperBowl party? What does that say to him? To all of us who work so hard on a daily basis to avoid this pervasive little protein? Ha… ha?

But really, does this one little line in a NASCAR commercial really mean anything? Is this one of those “overly PC” or “being too touchy” overreactions? I don’t know about you, but when this Celiac heard it for the first time, that line was like a punch in the gut. Just like gluten gives. Ouch.

This backlash from the gluten-free community against the spot is an ad agency’s wet dream; people re-posting the commercial voluntarily? Getting other people who wouldn’t have seen it to not only watch this NASCAR ad, but talk about it to others; others who also may not have seen it otherwise? Well, they’re just loving posts like this one. So… you’re welcome NASCAR, NBC and Hungry Man (the agency).  :P  (Like my little post makes any difference…! lol )

So what do you think? NASCAR’s Gut Check gluten reference: “It’s just a JOKE” or “Celiac is no laughing matter”?

Gluten Free Candy Corn!

Okay, so I can’t remember the last time I had candy corn. Or allowed it in our totally gluten-free house, much to my non-celiac husband’s chagrin. He’s not a big candy guy, but it’s one of his favorites and he hasn’t been able to have it in the house for 6+ years. Because most major manufacturers, like Brach’s, contain wheat ingredients.

So I can’t even imagine the surprise that will play across my husbands face when he comes home from his business trip on Halloween to find big old heaping bowl of candy corn on the dining room table! Because I discovered (while updating this year’s Gluten-Free Halloween Candy List) that Jelly Belly makes a gluten-free candy corn!

Yay! I called the company and confirmed that yes! Jelly Belly’s plain candy corn is gluten-free!!

However, be careful!! Because the Deluxe Halloween Mix is NOT gluten-free. So be sure to only get the regular and check the bag for gluten ingredients, just to be safe.