Friday, May 31, 2013

Gluten-Free Friday: Bald Strawberry Cafe

Awhile back, I was very excited when I was perusing my Find Me Gluten Free app and spotted an entry for a 100% gluten-free place up in Melbourne, FL called The Bald Strawberry - only about a half hour north of where I live.  A place where I could eat everything on the menu?  Sign me up!  So when we planned a trip up to Melbourne this past weekend for some errands, I knew we would have to go by there for lunch.  I haven't found too much in the way of specialty GF products around here aside from the grocery stores, so I was really looking forward to seeing what they had to offer.  

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The Bald Strawberry is located in the historic downtown section of Melbourne, which is a charmingly quaint part of town filled with unique little restaurants, bars and shops.  Only caveat is you have to find street parking, but we had no problems finding a spot very close by.  It's a pretty small place, and it seems like they mostly cater to the takeout crowd - people were coming and going regularly while we were eating lunch, but we were the only ones eating in.  It was obvious why, though, as they had a really big selection of delicious-looking baked goods and also offer custom orders.

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They are open for breakfast and lunch, and the menu was pretty basic and revolved around gluten-free waffles - they offered both sandwiches and pizza.  The sandwiches were definitely geared more towards breakfast, so both Hubs and I opted for pizzas.

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I had never even heard of the concept of waffle pizza before, but when you think about it it makes sense - it really is a good base for tomato sauce and cheese.  I went for the cheese, and Hubs got the Italian herb.  Both were really good, although we agreed we preferred the cheese as it had a little more crisp to it.  

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We also shared a piece of their vegan, gluten-free pumpkin bread, but it went so fast I didn't have a chance to snap a picture!  It was absolutely delicious, though - they warmed it up for us and it was nice and moist, with just a hint of sweetness to it.

I managed to resist the brownies and cookies, but we did buy some bread to take home in two flavors - the sundried tomato and the Italian garlic & herb.  Seeing flavors of bread beyind white and multigrain was a nice treat!  

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They have even more offerings in their bread menu, which you can preorder for pickup.  The sweet potato bread is calling my name - going to order some of that before our next trip up!

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I also was really happy to learn that apparently they have plans to open a 100% gluten-free restaurant up in Melbourne soon - definitely going to keep my ears wide open for that.  I am definitely going to be a regular Bald Strawberry customer, and hope that if you are ever in the area that you stop by as well and show them a little gluten-free love!

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Meal Plan Monday

Meal PlanCompletely forgot to post my meal plan yesterday - holidays always throw me off a bit.  But I have a lot of yummy stuff planned this week, including a new fish I've never tried before - barramundi!

Monday

  • Grilled Pork Chops & Vidalia Onions
  • Corn on the Cob
  • Baked Potatoes
  • Tuesday

  • Sweet & Sour Chicken Stirfry
  • White Rice
  • Wednesday

  • BBQ Chicken Legs
  • Zucchini Casserole
  • Ore Ida Tater Tots
  • Thursday

  • Salmon and Zucchini Baked in Parchment
  • White Rice
  • Friday

  • Pizza
  • Green Salad
  • Saturday

  • Carne Asada Flank Steak & Vidalia Onions
  • Green Beans
  • Baked Sweet Potatoes
  • Sunday

  • Grilled Barramundi
  • Green Beans
  • Yellow Rice
  • Friday, May 24, 2013

    Gluten-Free Friday: Udi's Pizza Crusts

    Happy Pizza Friday!  I do love our tradition of having pizza on Fridays, and while it's not nearly as consistent as it was in my pre-GF days, I still try to do it as often as I can.  Which means that I have tried quite a few GF pizza crusts and mixes from the grocery store, some with better results than others.  My absolute favorite is still the Against the Grain crusts, but now that the closest Whole Foods is over an hour away I've had to explore other options.

    Enter Udi's pizza crusts - they are sold in the freezer section of my local Publix, at the very reasonable price of $4.79 for 2 individual-sized crusts.  

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    They make a thin-crust style pizza, and there is no effort made to hide that fact - it says "thin & crispy" right on the package after all.  My beloved Against the Grain definitely have a more chewy texture.  But as a vehicle for hot tomato sauce and melty cheese, they do the job pretty well.

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    Bonus that they also cook up pretty quick - mine bake up in about 10 minutes from frozen.  They are also conveniently sized for a toaster oven, which I like, and they come out nice and crispy.

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    Verdict?  I find it to be a satisfying way to enjoy pizza, and Hubs has even been known to eat a slice or two without (verbalized) complaint.  The first one I made tasted sort of bland, but I find that adding a dash of salt (or, better yet, Garlic Gold Sea Salt Nuggets) makes a big improvement.  I also use top-quality Sargento cheese, which I find to be far superior to cheaper brands in terms of flavor/texture.  

    A serving is 1/2 pizza per the package, but I find that I can usually polish off the whole thing - an entire crust is less than 400 calories though so I don't think that's unreasonable for a dinner even with sauce and cheese, especially if you compare it to takeout pizza nutritionals.  

    Now I want pizza....

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    Don't you?

    Tuesday, May 21, 2013

    New Recipe Successes

    After our second move in 6 months, I was completely lacking in the desire to cook.  We still ate at home, but I stuck to familiar meals that required virtually no mental effort.  I'm still working my way back up to getting inspired to start creating my own recipes again, but I feel that it's a step in the right direction to start trying new recipes again.  Our meals, while good, were definitely boring, and it was a lot of fun to have some new flavor combinations at dinnertime again.

    Chicken Sauteed with Apples - Real Simple Magazine

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    This was basically a slightly easier version of my Chicken with Apple and Onion Sauce - a little less prep time, and less time spent putting together the sauce at the end.  I thought it came out great, and the sauce had a nice tang from the Dijon mustard.  It was also very simple and only required one pan, so minimal cleanup was a bonus.  The only change I would make would be to add some herbs - Hubs' comment after he finished cooking was "we're having tan for dinner"!

    Brown Sugar & Balsamic Glazed Pork Loin - Veronica's Cornucopia via I'm a Celiac

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    I've seen this recipe on I'm a Celiac's menu planner many times, and always thought it sounded so amazing.  This weekend, I finally got around to trying it, and I'm happy to say it was!  In my slow cooker experience I always shorten the cook time and I only had a 1 pound pork loin, so I put it in for 4 hours on low.  It was still a bit on the dry side, but not much, and the glaze did wonders for the meat.  Since the glaze is actually done separately in a small saucepan this would work well for an oven-roasted pork loin too, which is how I'm going to try it next to see if the meat stays a bit juicier.  I also spread it over some grilled chicken last night since there was a ton left over, and it was great!  It was a bit too vinegary for Hubs' taste, but he also hates vinegar, so his opinion is a bit biased.

    Red Wine Marinated Flank Steak with Cherry Tomato Caprese Salsa - How Sweet It Is

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    This was the winner of the week in our opinion, as we are huge fans of both caprese salad and steak.  I was a bit hesitant about using the wine in the marinade - obviously would be more fun to drink it instead - but I'm so glad I did, as it was absolutely fantastic.  I took the easy route on the caprese salsa and bought mozzarella that was already in bite-size pieces plus I skipped the shallot because I didn't have any on hand, so it was only a matter of cutting up the tomatoes, tearing up the basil leaves, and tossing it all together.  This is a meal I'd serve when entertaining because it's simple and colorful.  I've got leftover tomatoes and mozzarella so we're going to do a version with chicken tomorrow night - really looking forward to it!

    Monday, May 20, 2013

    Meal Plan Monday

    Meal PlanDefinitely starting to get my cooking energy back - had a lot of fun trying out new recipes this past week, which I'm going to tell you all about tomorrow, and looking forward to trying some more this week!

    Monday

    Tuesday

    Wednesday

    • Grilled Chicken with Cherry Tomato Caprese Salsa (chicken version of the How Sweet It Is recipe I made this weekend)
    • Broccoli
    • Spaghetti with Garlic and Olive Oil

    Thursday

    Friday

    • Pizza
    • Green Salad

    Saturday

    Sunday

    • Baked Chicken Breasts
    • Broccoli
    • Baked Sweet Potatoes

    Sunday, May 19, 2013

    My Weekend in Pictures

    Lots of good food and good times! My weekend in pictures courtesy of Instagram







    Tuesday, May 14, 2013

    Gluten-Free Weekend at Universal Studios

    The rides at Universal Studios are a lot of fun, but to be honest one of my absolute favorite parts of visiting the park is the abundance of gluten-free menus and well-trained staff.  As anyone who is strictly gluten free can understand, our choices are so often limited that when we have a lot of options it feels a little like Christmas.  This was our second trip to the park so I already had some familiar places I wanted to revisit, but we tried some new things too.

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    On Friday night, we headed off to Bubba Gump Shrimp Co.  They advertised having a gluten-free menu, and we were both in the mood for some seafood, so we headed there.  It's a very kitschy place, full of Forrest Gump memorabilia, and there are different sections of the restaurant designed like different parts of the movie.  They did have the promised gluten-free menu, but I was slightly disappointed to see that I had about three choices in total.  Fortunately I found something in my limited selection that sounded good - the shrimp and veggie skewers with lemon cream sauce.  They were pretty good, but nothing I couldn't have done at home myself.  Still, a nice way to start the weekend!

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    On Saturday we returned to Mythos for lunch, since it's right in the Islands of Adventure and they had some good gluten-free options clearly marked on their regular menu.  I debated trying something new, but ended up going with the same pad thai I ordered last time since I knew it was really good.  It was a hit yet again - and actually even better left over and cold, since the portion was so huge that I had plenty for a late afternoon mini-meal!

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    Dinner Saturday night was the highlight of the trip - we had reservations at Emeril's Tchoup Chop, a fantastic restaurant right in our hotel, the Loews Royal Pacific.  We loved our meal there on our last visit, so it was the first place I thought of when we booked this trip.  It was even better this time around!  They had a new offering for table munchies, these amazing light shrimp chips, that were gluten free, and the server brought a special GF orange chili dipping sauce for me.  Then we ordered a tuna roll appetizer, which was served up with gluten-free soy sauce - they even brought the bottle out to the table so I knew for certain it was safe.

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    For my entree, I chose the pan-roasted duck with mashed potatoes and broccolini.  It was already a gluten-free dish aside from the plum umeboshi glaze, but they replaced it with a different glaze that was amazing - sweet and tangy, and a fantastic accompaniment to the perfectly-cooked duck.  

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    Total home run on this one - it was a very memorable meal and the highlight of our trip!

    The next morning we decided to eat breakfast at the hotel restaurant, and when we first entered I thought I was going to be in trouble - they weren't doing the a la carte menu I had seen online, just a buffet, since they were busy prepping for a big Mothers Day brunch event.  But I ended up being very pleasantly surprised when I mentioned my issue to our waiter and he had the chef out to our table within two minutes.  The chef told me that the omelet bar would be a safe choice, and that he could prepare me some safe bacon in the back and even some hash browns done in gluten-free oil.  Music to my ears!

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    The hash brown patties I got were way better than the potato chunks Hubs got off the buffet - he ended up pilfering one of mine actually!  Luckily the chef brought out generous portions and there was plenty to go around.  They were crispy, light, and really made my breakfast something special.  Extra bonus that the table had cute little sealed mini glass bottles of ketchup - zero cross-contamination risk!  I have seen too many knives get stuck in glass bottles to free up the ketchup flow to ever use a shared one again...

     

    Our final meal of the weekend was another one I had really been looking forward to - a cheeseburger in paradise at Margaritaville!  Sure, I can eat a burger at plenty of places minus the bun, but there's just something so satisfying about being able to pick up a big, juicy burger with your hands.  Plus, not only do they have GF buns, their fries are also safe.  It was a great meal to cap off the weekend before we headed back home!

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    Monday, May 13, 2013

    Meal Plan Monday

    Meal PlanI'm starting to get bored of my go-to easy meals that have been par for the course this last month so I broke out my Evernote Food app while menu planning for the week and added some new recipes into the mix!  Definitely feel like I'm starting to get back into the groove after all the moving stress.  I think the weekend away in Orlando really helped me unwind and get into a better mindset - going to share some photos of gluten-free delights from the trip tomorrow!

    Monday

    Tuesday

    Wednesday

    Thursday

    Friday

    • Pizza (still haven't used that Mama Mary's gluten-free crust I found!)
    • Green Salad

    Saturday

    Sunday

    Wednesday, May 8, 2013

    Honey Sesame Chicken with Green Beans

    I have always been a huge fan of sesame chicken, and almost always ordered it whenever we went out for Chinese food.  The combination of crispy chicken and sticky-sweet sauce was a siren call of sugar and fat, and I loved every bite.  I haven't attempted to make it on my own much, but I watched Hubs eat some the other weekend and it kicked up some major cravings.  I came up with a fairly decent version of it for what is likely a fraction of the fat and calories of his take-out meal!

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    Honey Sesame Chicken with Green Beans

    Ingredients

    • 1 1/2 to 2 pounds boneless skinless chicken breast, cut into chunks
    • 1/2 cup cornstarch
    • 3 egg whites (I used about 1/3 cup of All Whites)
    • Vegetable oil, for pan frying
    • 1 tbsp sesame seeds
    • Fresh cilantro (optional)
    • 2 cups green beans, cut into bite-size pieces
    • White or brown rice for serving

    For Marinade and Sauce:

    • 1 1/2 cups chicken broth
    • 1/2 cup gluten-free soy sauce (recommended - San-J brand)
    • 1/3 cup honey
    • 1/4 cup rice vinegar
    • 2 tbsp sugar
    • 2 tbsp cornstarch
    • 1/2 tbsp sesame oil
    • 2 cloves garlic, crushed

    Directions

    Prepare rice according to package directions.

    Whisk together the marinade/sauce ingredients.  Add chicken to a zip-top bag and add about 1/2 cup of the mixture, making sure chicken pieces are coated.  Set the remaining sauce aside and put the chicken in the fridge to marinate for about half an hour.  

    Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Remove chicken from marinade and pat dry.  Heat a large stainless steel skillet over medium-high heat and add oil just until the bottom is coated.  

    Whisk egg whites until foamy, then toss in the chicken chunks to coat.  Next, toss chunks in the cornstarch to coat (you can do this on a plate, but easier/less messy to use a fresh zip-top bag).  

    Add chicken in batches to the hot pan and cook on both sides until golden brown, adding more oil as necessary (it's OK if not cooked through all the way - it's going in the oven while you finish up the dish).  Remove to a paper towel lined plate, then transfer to a baking sheet lined with foil.  Put chicken in oven.

    Drain oil from skillet and wipe out.  Add the reserved sauce to the skillet and cook until syrupy (about 10 mins), whisking often.  While sauce is reducing, microwave the green beans until crisp-tender (about 3 1/2 minutes).  Put sesame seeds in a small bowl and microwave for about a minute to toast them.  

    When sauce is ready, remove chicken from oven and toss into the sauce along with the cooked green beans,  Garnish with sesame seeds and cilantro if desired.  Serve with the rice.

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    Monday, May 6, 2013

    Meal Plan Monday

    Meal PlanI still feel a bit mentally exhausted when it comes to getting in the kitchen - last month was crazy, and my brain is still catching up.  Lots of easy stuff planned this week, and we're off to Orlando this weekend to celebrate our anniversary so I'm going to get to enjoy some wonderful gluten-free meals out - especially looking forward to another celebratory dinner at Emeril's Tchoup Chop!

    Monday

    • Sesame Chicken
    • White Rice
    • Green Beans

    Tuesday

    Wednesday

    • Leftovers

    Thursday

    Friday

    • Dinner Out

    Saturday

    • Dinner Out

    Sunday

    • Baked Chicken Breasts
    • Brown Rice
    • Broccoli

    Wednesday, May 1, 2013

    Eating Out Gluten Free: River Grille in Sebastian, FL

    After an extremely stressful long weekend of moving last week, I decided to surprise Hubs with a little treat as a way to celebrate finally getting settled in Sebastian.  I booked us a couple of massages, then followed it up with dinner reservations at a highly-recommended restaurant right by our new house, River Grille.  Pretty much everyone we talked to from the area said we had to go there, so I decided it would be perfect for our celebration

    Everyone was right!  We had a wonderful meal.  I didn't know much about their gluten-free friendliness going in, but normally in my experience nice restaurants are always great about accommodating my needs.  Little did I know that they were ahead of the game compared to a lot of the other restaurants that I've found around here - the menu was clearly labeled with gluten-free options (and there were lots of them), and our server was extremely knowledgeable.  They even had little extras like gluten-free crackers to serve me instead of a bread basket!  

    It was really difficult to choose what we wanted to eat as everything looked so good, but we were both really in the mood for seafood so we started with the chipotle grilled shrimp skewers.

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    Such a pretty presentation, and so tasty!  Perfectly grilled, with just a tiny bit of heat, and the fruit salsa on top was perfect.

    Next, I chose with the crab-stuffed salmon for my entree - normally I avoid anything "stuffed" due to the inevitable addition of breadcrumb filler, but I was assured that it was perfectly safe and all lump crab.  For the sides I went with the spinach soufflé, already gluten free with no modification needed, and the honey-glazed carrots.  I was trying to be healthy by getting the carrots, and they were good, but after seeing the twice-baked potato on Hubs' plate I immediately wished I had opted for that instead!  The spinach soufflé was fantastic as well, and went great with the fish.

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    One of the most special parts about our meal was pure luck - the executive chef, Michele Hennessey, who is actually pretty famous in these parts for winning several local Top Chef competitions, just happened to sit down at the table next to ours to enjoy her own dinner with friends after she finished up in the kitchen.  It was really fun hearing her talk about the wine and food on her menu, and she was friendly enough to draw us into the conversation - it was nice to talk directly to a chef about being gluten free, especially when she was clearly interested in accommodating her gluten-free guests and even requested my opinions on products that I enjoy.  Bonus - she even treated us to a complimentary dessert of delicious crème brulee and port wine!  Hubs dug in before I got a chance to snap a pic, but it was an incredible way to top off the meal.

    Now here's the sad part - this amazing, gluten-free friendly restaurant that is less than five minutes from our new house is closing in just a few short weeks!!  It's for a good cause at least - Chef Michele wants to spend more time with her family.  However her husband plans to turn the restaurant into an Italian place this fall, which I was told has plans to be GF friendly as well, so I can at least hope for GF pizza or pasta close by in the near future - which would be fantastic, as currently the only option in within a half hour of me is Domino's!

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