Gluten-Free Shopping in Scarborough, Maine

On 9-22-08 I discovered a fantastic store on Route 1 in Scarborough, Maine. It’s called Lois’ Natural Marketplace and I felt like a kid in a candy store!

If you would like to read the rest of this article, please click on http://www.celiacchicks.com/maine/ – This column appeared last September as part of the ongoing CeliacChicks Around The World feature.

For other Gluten-Free food information and lifestyle tips, check out www.celiacchicks.com

K. S. Brooks is a guest blogger for CeliacChicks.com, an author and photographer.  © 2008

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Review – Woody’s on the Water

            “Almost heaven, West Virginia,” John Denver did say.  And that’s true, I have found some wonderful gluten-free food at the Press Room restaurant in Shepherdstown, WV.  But I found gluten-free heaven itself in Tacoma, Washington – at Woody’s on the Water.

            Upon our arrival in Tacoma, I searched online for a restaurant nearby where my gluten mongering spousal-type unit, David, could get fish and chips, and I stood a fraction of a chance to find something free of wheat, soy, and the fourteen other foods that I can’t tolerate.  I didn’t go into it feeling very hopeful.  Most of the restaurants I found were extremely pricey, and the menu selections were certainly not geared to my dietary needs.  Then I found the Woody’s on the Water website – and saw, right in the left-hand side navigation bar that they had a gluten-free menu.  “This is the place!” I told David.  Finally, I was looking forward to eating out somewhere – but of course, I had a tinge of skepticism. 

            Off we went.  We followed the signs to Woody’s and arrived quite easily at the Thea Foss waterway.  Woody’s was next to the stunning waterfront Museum of Glass.  The outside of the restaurant is modern, with a large dockside patio.

Woody's on the Water, Tacoma, WA

Woody's on the Water, Tacoma, WA

            The inside is sophisticated yet still cozy, with a trendy atmosphere.  If I hadn’t seen the prices on the online menu myself, I would have thought this was a place at which I couldn’t afford to dine.

The Bar at Woody's

The Bar at Woody's

            We were greeted by a cordial hostess at which time I requested the gluten-free menu.  It’s not part of the regular menu – it is completely separate.  The table was clean, nicely set, and intimate.

Intimate Booth at Woody's on the Water, Tacoma

Intimate Booth at Woody's on the Water, Tacoma

            One of the owners, Thomas, came over.  We discussed the gluten-free menu at which time he told me his daughter was gluten intolerant, so he understood the dilemmas of finding good restaurant food.  He even offered us two different gluten-free beers.  It was the first time, that I felt relaxed and confident ordering gluten free food in a restaurant.  That was a really nice feeling.

            I had the House Salad to start.  The Balsamic Bleu Cheese dressing was an excellent and harmonious combination of flavors.  David had the clam chowder, which he said was the best he’d had since our stop in Newburyport, Massachusetts three years earlier.

             A huge plateful of Smoked Salmon Pasta arrived before me.  Perfectly cooked rice pasta, salmon, onions and cream sauce graced my palate with flavors which rivaled the best of New York City Italian cuisine.  David thoroughly enjoyed his monstrous serving of Fish and Chips as well.  We shared a Crème Brulee for dessert, although Woody’s offered a few other gluten-free specialty desserts.  Including our micro-brewed root beers, this entire meal was under fifty dollars. 

             The next morning our business meeting ended at eleven.  We needed to be in Vancouver that night.  It was a no-brainer:  Woody’s for lunch.

             I had the Smoked Salmon and Fresh Blueberry Salad.  The portion was enormous, and delicious.  Although I did enjoy it – I frankly preferred the Balsamic Bleu Cheese dressing from the evening before.  David got a bowl of the clam chowder.  I had to sneak a taste of it – it really was as good as he raved.  And I grew up in New England, so I should hope that I am a good judge!

             My opinion in a nutshell:  Woody’s on the Water is loaded with atmosphere at an elegant location, serving gourmet level food at affordable prices.  Their Gluten-Free menu offers an excellent selection of entrees, appetizers, desserts and even beer.  We were only in town eighteen hours, but we managed to eat at Woody’s twice.  That’s really how good it is.

K. S. Brooks is an author, photographer and guest blogger for CeliacChicks.com. 

Gluten-Free menu:  http://www.woodystacoma.com/index.php/menus/glutenfree/

The Crunch Factor

If you have food allergies, you know that little things can make a big difference.  Many foods, especially salads, have been ruined for me.  So when I found two alternatives to croutons for people with gluten- and/or wheat-intolerance, I got excited.

Since I have always been a fan of croutons, it was time to take the dive and try these.

The first type I invested in was the Olive Oil & Garlic Gluten-Free Croutons by the Gluten-Free Pantry.  They do contain eggs, corn and yeast.  They do also contain a lot of flavor.  I located my first package of these wheat free croutons in the gluten- free section at an NRG Organic Supermarket on the East Coast.  They were so good that I went back for more and they were already out.  They never got more in.  A couple of years later, I gave in and ordered some online.  The consistency of this package was different, in fact, they were rock hard.  I’m uncertain if they changed the recipe, or if it was just a lot inconsistency, but for some reason they weren’t as enjoyable.  The flavor of the first package was good enough, however, that I would give these a try again sometime.

One afternoon I was in the produce section at Safeway when I discovered the Fresh Gourmet Tortilla Strips Lightly Salted.  It states “Naturally Gluten Free” right on the front of the package.  I like these “Crunchy Toppings for Salad” for a number of reasons.  The list of ingredients is literally this short:  corn masa flour, safflower and/or sunflower oil, salt, trace of lime.  I like things simple.  I also like that they are easy to break up, and that they add a great crunch to salad.  I have even use them on top of soup instead of oyster crackers. 

Either way, if you are missing the crunch or that little extra substance to your salad, either of these products should fit the bill.

 

Gluten-Free Croutons

Gluten-Free Croutons

Product Information:

Olive Oil & Garlic Gluten-Free Croutons by the Gluten-Free Pantry – 5 oz. ~ $4.99

Ingredients:  corn starch, tapioca starch, water, liquid whole egg, chickpea flour, canola oil, sugar, extra virgin olive oil, xanthan gum, garlic powder, yeast, salt, spices, cream of tartar.

http://www.glutenfree.com/Gluten-Free-Pantry-Olive-Oil-Garlic-Croutons/Item129070

Tortilla Strips by Fresh Gourmet – 3.5 oz ~ $2.00 on sale.

Ingredients:  corn masa flour, safflower and/or sunflower oil, salt, trace of lime.

http://www.freshgourmet.com/FreshGourmet/Retail/html/crunchyToppings/tortillas.html

For other Gluten-Free food information and lifestyle tips, check out www.celiacchicks.com

K. S. Brooks is a guest blogger for CeliacChicks.com, an author and photographer.  © 2009

 

When Life Gives You Lemons, Make Gluten-Free Lemon Coconut Loaf

Yesterday I decided it was time to use those lemons I got on sale.  I referred to “125 Best Gluten-Free Recipes” by Donna Washburn and Heather Butt.  As I have mentioned in other articles, I’m not a baker.  I don’t want to be a baker.  I in fact loathe the complexity, chaos and clean-up associated with baking.  With that said, being wheat and 15 other foods intolerant, I have to bake if I am going to have anything to snack on other than what has become my favorite food:  ice.

The Glazed Lemon Coconut Loaf recipe can be found on page 71 in the quick bread section.  I have been experimenting with quick bread recipes, and although this is not as nutritionally beneficial as I would like, so far it is my favorite because a) by the light and moist consistency you cannot tell it is gluten-free; b) it didn’t require a pre-made “gluten-free flour mix;” and c) it uses simple ingredients, allowing bakers to add nutritional ingredients without drastically altering the outcome to the negative.  In an attempt to reduce the sugar content, I halved the amount of sugar and elected not to make the glaze.  Because of that, I probably should have reduced the amount of lemon zest, but it’s still tasty.  My quest, however, may be different than yours – I’m just looking for a quick in-between-meals snack in case my stomach starts to growl.  I’m not in the market for sweets.  Next time I plan to add walnuts or pecans and more coconut.  I can even imagine blueberries or chopped apples working well with this recipe.

Ingredients for the Lemon Coconut Loaf

Ingredients for the Lemon Coconut Loaf

 Glazed Lemon Coconut Loaf

Preheat oven to 350 (please see note below).  Lightly grease a 9×5 loaf pan.

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup            brown rice flour
  • 1/3 cup       potato starch
  • ¼ cup          tapioca starch
  • 1 cup            granulated sugar (I used ½ cup raw, organic sugar)
  • 1-1/2 tsp     xantham gum
  • 1 tbsp           GF baking powder (Clabber Girl is GF)
  • ¼ tsp           salt
  • 2 tbsp           lemon zest
  • ¾ cup          unsweetened coconut(reduce sugar 2 tbsp if sweetened)
  • ¾ cup          milk
  • ¼ cup          vegetable oil
  • 2                     eggs
  • ¼ cup          freshly squeezed lemon juice

 Lemon Glaze

  • 1 cup           GF sifted confectioner’s sugar
  • ¼ cup         freshly squeezed lemon juice

 Note:  I keep the flours and starches in the refrigerator.  The two starches tend to come out in clumps and can be hard to measure.  I have learned to pour more than what I need into the measuring cup and then spoon the overage back into the container.  Otherwise it can get somewhat frustrating and very messy.

 In a large bowl, stir together brown rice flour, potato starch, tapioca starch, sugar, xanthan gum, baking powder, salt, zest and coconut.  Set aside.

  1. In a separate bowl, using an electric mixer or whisk (I used a whisk), beat milk, oil and eggs until combined.  Add lemon juice while mixing.  Pour milk mixture over dry ingredients and stir just until combined (a spatula will work).  Spoon into prepared pan.  Let stand for 30 minutes.  (This, I believe, is one reason why the bread is so light.  Don’t skip this step.  Preheat your oven now).
  2. Bake in preheated oven for 55 to 65 minutes or until a cake tester (I used a toothpick) inserted in the center comes out clean.
  3. Meanwhile, prepare Lemon Glaze.  In a small bowl, stir together confectioner’s sugar and lemon juice.  With a wooden skewer, poke several holes through the hot loaf as soon as it is removed from the oven.  Spoon the glaze over the hot loaf.  Let the loaf cool in the pan on a rack for 30 minutes.  Remove from the pan and let cool completely on a rack.

The authors list a variation of substituting orange juice and zest for a sweeter and milder flavored loaf.  I may try that next time. 

Lemon Coconut Loaf, Right out of the Oven!

Lemon Coconut Loaf, Right out of the Oven!

I have to say, out of all the GF recipes I have tried so far, this takes the cake.  (Okay, sorry, really bad pun).  There was no labor intensive creaming butter or heavy batter, clean up was a breeze, there were no leftover ingredients (partial cans or flour mixes) and it tastes great.  I will definitely make this again.

Footnote:  If you still have lemons left over, you can try the Lemon Garlic Chicken recipe on page 110 of “the Best Gluten-Free Family Cookbook” also by Donna Washburn and Heather Butt.  It’s a simple recipe using common ingredients found in non GF homes.  I marinated for a lot longer than they recommend and the chicken came out tasty and extremely tender. 

For other Gluten-Free cooking and lifestyle tips, check out www.celiacchicks.com

K.S. Brooks is a guest blogger for celiacchicks.com, a novelist and photographer.  ©2009

Time to Make the Bread

As a human with wheat and soy allergies (and 14 other foods), I have become disgruntled with the selection of sandwich bread and other healthy snacks in stores.  Just because I can’t eat wheat doesn’t mean I want Styrofoam consistency or high sugar content.  I’m sure I’m not alone in this dilemma.  So, yesterday I broke out all my Gluten Free cookbooks and studied all the bread and quick bread recipes, hoping to identify the most  common ingredients that I could stock in my pantry. 

The books I used in my research are:  Gluten-Free 101 by Carol Fenster; the Best Gluten-Free Family Cookbook by Donna Washburn & Heather Butt; Gluten-Free Baking by Rebecca Reilly; and 125 Best Gluten-Free Recipes by Donna Washburn and Heather Butt.  These books offer Bread Machine Method and Mixer Method versions of yeast bread recipes.  Three of the four books utilize a baking flour blend that you can premix and store for more convenient baking.  Some of them have four ingredients, some of them quite a bit more.  I don’t want my pantry to look like an apothecary, so I developed the following criteria:

#1 – Ingredients must be popular and in the majority of useful recipes

#2 – Ingredients must be more readily available than eye of newt

#3 – Ingredients must be affordable

Based on the above, the ingredients that I have decided it makes sense for me to purchase are:

Brown Rice Flour
Egg Replacer
Potato Starch
Sorghum Flour
Tapioca Starch
Xanthan Gum

I spent the day in Spokane, Washington, going to a few small health food co-op stores in search of my ingredients.  They were sold out of most everything except Xanthan Gum and Egg Replacer.  I purchased the Xantham Gum for a dollar less at the second store I went to.  It really does make sense to shop around.  So, for the rest of the ingredients, I decided to shop around – online.

I surveyed every brand available through the following three online sites:  Gluten-Free Mall, Gluten-Free Trading Company, and Gluten-Free.com.  I have had good experiences with the first two, but have never shopped the last. 

The Gluten-Free Mall offers you the ability to sign in, read and write reviews, view your order history, and earn points towards purchase discounts.  Those reviews have come in very handy – I definitely recommend reading what others have written before you purchase any prepared foods.  They also have a newsletter and email alerts for sales.  Very often they have 10% of coupons via email.  They are affiliated with www.celiac.com and can be found at www.glutenfreemall.com.

The Gluten-Free Trading Company is probably my favorite.  They are a family-owned store in Milwaukee, Wisconsin which offers online shopping as well, and shipping worldwide.  The online catalog is not quite as sophisticated as the Mall, however, they do also offer a newsletter. The thing that wins me over about the Trading Company is that whenever there is a question or problem concerning my order – they call me.  And it’s always service with a smile.  They can be found at www.food4celiacs.com.

Gluten-Free.com seems to specialize more in prepared food and baking mixes.  I have not yet ordered anything from them, but their prices are competitive and they also have a sophisticated shopping cart.  They also offer e-newsletters and recipes.  You can check them out at www.glutenfree.com.

Here are my findings:

Item Price Store Brand Size
Brown Rice Flour $3.79 Gluten Free Trading Co. Bob’s Red Mill 1.5 lbs
Coconut Flour $11.43 Gluten-Free Mall Peter Paul 2.2 lbs
Potato Starch $3.69 GlutenFree.com Bob’s Red Mill 1.5 lbs
Rice Bran $2.79 Gluten Free Trading Co. Ener-G .5 lb
Sorghum Flour $4.19 Gluten Free Trading Co. Bob’s Red Mill 22 oz
Tapioca Starch $0.99 Gluten Free Trading Co. Star Lion 1 lb
Xanthan Gum $12.49 GlutenFree.com Bob’s Red Mill .5 lb

 

I included the Coconut Flour and the Rice Bran because I had seen in it some other recipes and actually also seen them on store shelves.

The other ingredients I researched but decided against purchasing at this time are:  Sweet Rice Flour and Buckwheat Flour.  They seemed to be used only in specialized recipes.

I spent hours tediously going back and forth from website to website, spreadsheet to spreadsheet and cookbook to cookbook.  I thought that if I could save one other person the headache of doing this, then it’s a good day.  If you are lucky enough to have good natural food stores in your area, perhaps this table will help you comparison shop.  Don’t forget, shipping charges are not figured in to the above prices.

I’m going to order my ingredients today, and start baking my bread and quick breads as soon as I can.  I’ll let you know if it ends up tasting better and costing less than the styro-loaves you can purchase pre-made.  I already feel relieved about taking more control over my diet.  Be healthy!

p.s. for more helpful resources, go to www.celiacchicks.com

These Products “Cut the Mustard”

Green Garden & Brianna's Honey Mustard Dressings.

Green Garden & Brianna's Honey Mustard Dressings.

I’m into salad this week.  While writing my last column, “The Crunch Factor,” about gluten-free croutons, I realized that some attention should be given to the difficult task of finding gluten- and allergen-free salad dressings as well. 

 I will warn you, most of the all-natural allergen-free dressings are not cheap.  But you get what you pay for:  high quality ingredients, healthy products, and good flavor.  For this installment, I’m going to feature Honey Mustard.

 Please keep in mind that not only do I look for gluten-free products, but I also require foods free of soy, sesame, sunflower, tomato and celery (and eleven other foods).  There are actually salad dressings out there that fit that bill, and they taste good!

The first is Briannas Honey Dijon Mustard dressing.  I had become familiar with their products over the years at a salad bar at an organic food store, as well as at my best friend’s house.  She always keeps that brand in her refrigerator, so after carefully examining the label, I took the plunge and purchased a bottle.  Although the product does not say Gluten-Free on it, I was assured by a liaison at DelSol Foods that “our vendors guarantee that the ingredients are gluten free but since we do not test here in our plant, we do not make the claim on the bottles.”  I have not had an allergic reaction to their dressing to date. 

 The Briannas dressing is tart yet sweet.  There is a zesty Dijon flavor that alternates with a distinct honey.  I have used it on salads, sandwiches, and as a dipping sauce for bland, non-marinated meats. 

 While searching for a dressing to expand my selection, I came across Green Garden Natural Honey Mustard Salad Dressing.  None of my forbidden foods were on the list of ingredients, so I brought it home.  Again, the product does not state Gluten-Free directly on the package, so I wrote to the company for clarification.  I was told “Our Green Garden Natural Honey Mustard dressing…[does] not contain ingredients sourced from these grains [that contain gluten].”

 The Green Garden Honey Mustard is a creamy dressing with a mild flavor that borders on a sweet Caesar.  There is more herb taste than mustard.  It is a nice change from the “standard” honey mustard dressing.

 I even made my spouse, who is not gluten intolerant, taste test these.  He could not tell they were gluten- and soy-free, and said there was no after-taste.  He enjoyed them both, as did I. 

 The Briannas and Green Garden Honey Mustard dressings are both fresh tasting, priced comparably, and found in the salad dressing and refrigerated sections of your local grocery store. 

 Briannas Salad Dressings are sold through supermarkets and gourmet specialty food stores nationwide and in several foreign countries.  http://www.briannassaladdressing.com

 Green Garden products are predominantly available on the West Coast at the following food stores:  Safeway, Albertsons, QFC, Haggen, Top Foods, Ralphs, Thunderbirds, Yoke’s and Rosauers.  http://www.ggfoods.com/

 So, if you are looking for good tasting, allergen-free salad dressings, these products are for you!

 Product Information:

Briannas Ingredients:  canola oil, water, dijon mustard, honey, sugar, white vinegar, apple cider vinegar, white onion powder, salt, modified tapioca starch, turmeric, mustard flour, natural flavor, xanthan gum, tocopherols, citric acid.

Green Garden Ingredients:  canola oil, water, honey, white distilled vinegar, prepared mustard, eggs, sugar, salt, cultured dextrose, spices, dehydrated onion, xanthan gum.

 For other Gluten-Free food information and lifestyle tips, check out www.celiacchicks.com

 K. S. Brooks is a guest blogger for CeliacChicks.com, an author and photographer.  © 2009