Rebecca's Gluten Free Blog

Gluten Free in the Upper Midwest

French Meadow (update) May 27, 2010

French Meadow Restaurant has been making great strides in integrating gluten-free foods into their menu, so I wanted to write an update.

when you walk in, there is a table as you walk up to the register (at lunchtime only, as they use wait-staff for dinner), and it has their gluten-free cookies, brownies, cupcakes, and possibly some bread. there’s also a little menu of all their gluten-free items, split into breakfast, lunch and dinner. I was shocked to see that one GF dinner option (available after 5pm) was crab cakes! since those are almost always made with bread crumbs, I was thrilled to see that I could have them!

I believe they’ve labeled the gluten-free menu items for a while now, but the list has grown from 1-2 items to a dozen or so. in fact, the items marked gluten-free aren’t even an exhaustive list. the reason being that they’re now doing what I’ve been hoping they would~ they’re using their gluten-free bread in their menu offerings! (hopefully they’ll label those menu items soon as GF pending bread substitutions to make it easier, but since they make most of their stuff there from scratch, they’re very knowledgeable about allergens and ingredients).

I learned this when someone told me a couple of visits ago that they now serve gluten-free bread, so I thought I’d try ordering it the next time I went. when I recently went to dinner there, even though it wasn’t marked as GF on the menu, I asked if the BBQ pork sandwich would be gluten-free if we just substituted the gluten-free bread. sure enough it was! and their GF bread is very good~ not so thick and heavy. it was such a fantastic sandwich!! my mouth still waters just thinking about it. and it even came with fries cooked in olive oil, no substitutions necessary.

having gluten-free bread for sandwiches (or to accompany salads) opens up a ton of new options. I love this restaurant, it’s definitely one of my favorites.

and as I’ve said before, I’ve never been to a place that cooks their fish better than French Meadow. if anyone knows how they do it, please feel free to share!!


Organic Diva

a friend of mine showed me this website, and I was really excited. I don’t often write about products available online, but since gluten-free cosmetics and skin care items can be so hard to find, I thought this was worth mentioning.

Organic Diva has strict organic standards for the products that they offer. the Diva Shop has a special gluten-free section that you can click on in the left-hand list of categories. when you drag your mouse over the gluten-free section, you choose from several sub-categories, like sun/bug care, skin care, soaps & lotions, various make-up categories, etc.

it seems reasonably priced, and the shipping charges are only $4.95 for orders under $75 (free on orders more than $75).

for those of you who find it really difficult to figure out which personal care items are gluten-free, this could be a good source. there aren’t a ton of choices for each sub-category, but there are enough to find something to use, if you’re having trouble finding products.

plus, everything’s organic!


Disney World, Gluten-Free May 25, 2010

sorry it’s been awhile since my last post~ but I just got back from Disney World! I was really excited to go, ever since I found out that I was celiac, because I’ve heard such great things about Disney World and food allergies. and they did a great job.

it’s best for everyone, celiac or not, to make reservations for their sit-down restaurants as early as possible after booking your trip (407-WDW-DINE). when you call, let them know about your “allergy”, and they’ll note it on your reservation. I also contacted their Special Diets team and filled out a form with my dinner confirmations and listed the allergies for each person in our party. at first this seemed like it was the only way to notify them. But after changing around some reservations later on, I didn’t need to fill out the form again with the amendments. so I’m not sure that’s it’s necessary, but it certainly didn’t hurt!

the Special Diets team also sent me a TON of helpful info for the parks/ water parks that I told them I’d be visiting. so I highly recommend contacting them ( if you go. they sent forms showing which brands of specialty gluten-free products they used, and where they were available at each of the 4 parks. there were separate forms for each of the parks, where they listed what gluten-free products were available at which locations (specialty or not). they also sent me the nutrition and ingredient info on their allergen-free chicken tenders that are available throughout WDW (and very tasty!!). basically, they sent a ton of info!

also, if you have any questions, feel free to ask them. since your reservations for all of the restaurants are through the same phone number, you don’t actually get to talk to each restaurant ahead of time. so it’s nice that the Special Diets team will research your questions and let you know. for instance, I asked if any of the gluten-free pizza locations also had dairy-free pizzas, and they checked it out and told me that there’s only one place at WDW that does this: Pizza Planet at Hollywood Studios. it really helped to plan to trip out better. so feel free to ask them what you need.

the sit-down restaurants were great~ all of them will be able to accommodate a gluten-free, or other allergen-free diet. for the buffets we went to, the chef brought us around and showed us what we could eat. I’m extra cautious and prefer not to eat items that are on a buffet or otherwise sitting out with non gluten-free foods, so the chefs were very helpful in making me a plate in the kitchen and bringing it out.

at the quick service restaurants, not all of them had gluten-free options, but many or most of them did. the packet of info from the Special Diets team gave all the info on what to get and where, so I could plan ahead. sometimes we had to back-track or make a longer trip to get the gluten-free food, and it would often take longer for them to make it, but it was always tasty and worth the wait!

I was delighted that they use several items from our neck of the woods. French Meadow cookies and brownies were in many locations, including most sit-down restaurants. ironically, they were cheaper there than if you buy them at their restaurant in Minneapolis, because Disney World doesn’t charge extra for special, gluten-free foods, which is really nice! there were also some Kinnikinnick products (Wisconsin brand) used as well.

as far as vacations go, this is one of the easiest ones you’ll find, as far as coordinating your gluten-free diet is concerned. gluten-free food is everywhere, and they take it very seriously. so you can relax and enjoy your vacation like a “normal” person if you have food allergies.


Celiac Walk 2010 May 14, 2010

Every spring, R.O.C.K. hosts a Walk/ Run for Celiac Disease. this year, it will take place on Saturday, May 15th (tomorrow) at Holy Family Catholic High School in Victoria (8101 Kochia Lane, Victoria, MN). this event is a fundraiser for the University of Maryland-Baltimore’s Center for Celiac Research.

registration for the walk/run begins at 8:30am. the 5k run starts at 9:50am and the 3-Mile walk starts at 10am.

there will also be plenty of booths set up, with gluten-free food, samples and information, starting at 8:30am when registration begins. these booths are quite popular (some people come just for the food fair), so show up early if you want to do any taste-testing! there will be door prizes and raffles as well.

you can register or donate at the Twin Cities R.O.C.K. website.


Gluten-Free Ribs May 11, 2010

I’m always on the lookout for gluten-free ribs. ribs are something that I never ate before finding out I was celiac. but then in an effort to avoid more plain chicken breasts or meat patties (instead of actual burgers), I discovered Chili’s ribs and fell in love with them. I was crushed to find out that they changed their menu and that the ribs were no longer gluten-free. ever since then, I’ve been on the lookout for other restaurants that make gluten-free ribs. and here’s what I’ve come up with so far…  (for the Minneapolis/ St Paul area)

the Tavern Grill is a new restaurant in Blaine, and their gluten-free menu includes ribs.

Spasso in Minnetonka offers gluten-free short ribs.

another newcomer to the Twin Cities is Dickie’s Barbecue Pit, whose ribs and sauces are gluten-free.

Dixies on Grand (in St Paul) has both Baby Back and St Louis Style Ribs.

Outback Steakhouse also has ribs on their gluten-free menu, as do Kincaids, Q Fanatic BBQ & Grill (in Champlin) and The Sassy Pig (also in Blaine, but bring your own BBQ sauce).

Roscoe’s Barbecue in Rochester also has gluten-free ribs, but don’t get the sweet potato fries that it comes with. they have an extensive list of other sides that are gluten-free though.

Baja Sol Cantina (Inver Grove Heights and Eden Prairie) not only has gluten-free ribs available in as a full-rack meal, but also as an appetizer portion (about 5 meaty ribs). the great thing about this is that their happy hour specials (4-6pm and after 8pm) include half-price apps, including the ribs! yum! (they also have gluten-free chicken wings that are made in the dedicated chip fryer at the Eden Prairie location, which I was surprised to learn and thought I’d mention it, as this is really rare).

Wildfire (in Eden prairie) has gluten-free ribs, but bring your own BBQ sauce, as their sauce is NOT gluten-free. because of this, the ribs are not listed on their gluten-free menu. I confirmed this info with corporate, but as always, it’s good to check with your server/ manager to make sure that this is still the case.

again, Chili’s ribs are no longer gluten-free. I’ve written to them requesting they change their recipes back to gluten-free, but so far to no avail. I never shy away from being an activist~ it spreads awareness and never hurts!

if you’ve been craving gluten-free ribs, hopefully this helps!

(and feel free to leave a comment if you’ve found more anywhere else in the area…)


Angela’s Kitchen May 6, 2010

Angela Litzinger is a great GFCF chef! she has a blog called Angela’s Kitchen, filled with lots of gluten-free recipes. in fact, all of her recipes are both gluten- and casein-/dairy-free. and she’s great at integrating lots of veggies into her dishes to make them more nutritional. I reference her recipes frequently!

she also does classes at Lakewinds, as often as every month at times. I’ve been to several of these classes, and they’re fantastic. I highly recommend them. she’ll give you a packet of recipes and demonstrate most of them right there, so you can see how you like them before trying to brave it alone. she also has a lot of great cooking, prepping, and shopping tips~ I always bring a notebook along!

she’s had some great topics for these classes, sometimes it’s just recipes for either cooking or baking with seasonal ingredients. but she also has a lot of topical ones, like baking bread, dairy alternatives (which taste surprisingly great!), box lunches, etc.

I think my favorite class was her holiday cookies class. she has a basic cookie recipe that she adapts over a dozen pages into almost all the popular holiday cookies. and the samples were quite tasty!! I made a few of these for my family last Christmas, and I’m not sure they could tell the difference!

if you miss her classes, you can buy e-books of some of the recipe packets for them on her website. you wouldn’t get any of her helpful tips that you learn in class, but it’s cheaper. I just wish she had more on there, because I’ve missed quite a few of her classes lately that looked really good, and there haven’t been any new e-books  in a while.

even cheaper are the free recipes on her blog… so make sure and check it out and see what you think.  she has them categorized by type of meat/ protein. and she also has a section of slow-cooker recipes and freezer recipes. there are just tons of recipes!

by the way, I’m not affiliated with her, I’m just a fan!


Vegan Substitution Basics May 3, 2010

for those of you who also have dairy/casein allergies or issues, or anyone considering a vegan lifestyle, here are some basics that may help to get you started…

(and all of the items below are gluten-free as well, though you should always double-check before purchasing or consuming)

butter/ shortening substitutes:
Earth Balance. no need for any more~ it’s great and barely noticeable that it’s a substitute. it’s available at Whole Foods, co-ops, and Trader Joes (though I heard rumor TJ’s may not carry them anymore)

milk substitutes:
rice milk: cheapest at Whole Foods or Trader Joes, but available at co-ops and regular grocery stores as well. (my fav for cereal, plus everything’s made of soy, so it’s a nice break)
almond milk: a matter of preference, I know a lot of people who prefer this to rice milk
soy milk: best for baking or mashed potatoes (the regular, not vanilla flavored) because it’s thicker
hemp milk: I haven’t tried it yet, but heard its thicker and good for baking as well.
coconut milk: another great substitute for thicker things, including ice cream.

speaking of ice cream:
Good Karma Rice Divine brand “ice cream” is SO good, and you can’t tell the difference
Madwoman Foods, near 46th and Nicollet makes their own coconut ice cream and sells by the scoop or in freezer containers.
I’ve always thought that the book Lick It by Cathe Olson looks great if you want to try making it yourself.

chocolate chips: Food For Life brand has allergen-free chocolate chips. Whole Foods brand vegan chocolate chips are also dairy-free. Trader Joes also makes vegan chocolate chips, which I believe are made of dark chocolate.

Pizza Luce~ I believe that both their gluten-free and their regular pizza crusts are gluten-free (double-check to be sure), and they have two vegan “cheese” alternatives~ soy cheese (really good, I can never get it to melt like they can, especially good at the St Paul Selby Ave location), or “rinotta” which is made of nuts.

vegan “cheese”:
the cheese substitute they use is Follow Your Heart, Vegan Gourmet line. this is the one that Pizza Luce uses. many dairy-free cheeses still contain casein, which is a milk protein. this one is casein-free and completely vegan. it melts best if you microwave it for at least a portion of the cooking time.

egg substitutes:
if you’re vegan or have egg allergies, you can substitute an egg with either use 1 Tbl ground flaxseed to 3 Tbl water (which will make a goopy substance) or Egg Replacer (by Ener-g brand), depending on the function of the egg. a combination of both substitutes may be necessary.

Ecopolitan is a raw food restaurant, which is completely vegan, and very tasty! Pure Market Express is a new raw food place in town that makes raw food meals and are available for sale at several local co-ops, though not at Whole Foods yet. they also have delivery plans for a 7-state are ($10 fee), and will provide up to an entire week’s meals.

a great website with casein-free (and gluten-free) recipes, which could come in handy, and includes making your own dairy-free yogurt (and from that, cream cheese), dairy-free caramel, a vegan alfredo sauce, etc. is Angela’s Kitchen.

you might also enjoy the Whole Life Nutrition Cookbook, which has a lot of allergen-free recipes, and many Asian, Indian, and other ethnic recipes as well.

hopefully this helps people get a jump-start on a dairy-free or vegan diet. it’s usually quite easy to make a recipe vegan with the Earth Balance “butter” and milk substitutes. if going completely vegan, the eggs can be a bit trickier, but once you get used to baking egg-free, it should get easier.