Sunday, January 29, 2012

T's Bar in Andersonville

Dining out in a large group can sometimes be a pain. I've learned to flag down the waiter on his first trip to the table (while everyone else is just picking up the menu) and hand over my Triumph dining card, explain that I'm gluten and lactose intolerant, and ask for suggestions. It's a rhythm I'm used to at this point. When dining out with a large group after church one Sunday, the rhythm was interrupted. The waiter said the head chef just stepped out but as soon as she returned, she'd be over to talk with me. A few minutes later, the head chef and I were talking about food I liked and how she was going to prepare it! Normally, I'll settle for a plain chicken breast and veggies when out, but she was getting excited about the flavors and her excitement was contagious. We talked through a dish - salmon over a bead of steamed spinach with tomatoes and roasted pumpkin seeds. About ten minutes later, she stopped by the table again and asked if I would like a plain potato - she was making them for mashed potatoes and at that point in the process they were safe for me to eat. The food arrived along with everyone else's and was delicious. I had a colorful plate with food that was created with me in mind. The food was wonderfully seasoned and I cleaned my plate. And when the check came, I was pleasantly surprised by seeing my order as "chef's special" - listed at the same price of the other entrees.

I am extremely happy to have such a positive dining experience at a neighborhood bar restaurant - especially one that my church friends frequent! T's Bar and Restaurant is located at 5025 N Clark in Chicago in Andersonville. Their menu is awesome and inspiring - I'm planning on making chili tots myself so I can have a gfcf version! Even as just one face in a group of over a dozen, I had amazing service and I cannot wait to return!

Other restaurants take note - this is how gluten free dining should be!

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Butternut Squash Soup

I needed a hands-off meal today, so I turned to my underused slow cooker. I found a great recipe for Butternut Squash soup that is dairy free, gluten free, and incidently, allergen free! The inspiration for the meal started before the recipe, so I made it without apples and cloves, but it still tasted great!

The ingredients are simple enough: chicken broth (straight from my freezer), 1 butternut squash, olive oil, onions, apples, salt, pepper, nutmeg, cloves, coriander, and cinnamon. For the recipe, visit A Year of Slow Cooking's entry. My struggle with slicing the squash was the same as with spaghetti squash - take the biggest knife I have and cut the squash on my lowest workable surface (my kitchen table is several inches lower than my counters so is my go to spot for dangerous knife skills) and carefully try to not cut my hand off. I feel like a guillotine would be appropriate for this task...why hasn't someone made it?

About four and a half hours later, the soup was done cooking. I used my immersion blender and it took only a minute or two to transform chunks of squash and onions into a thick yet creamy soup. Topped with Italian parsley, this soup truly hit the spot on this chilly night. And can I mention how cheap this was to make? It probably cost less than a dollar for each generous serving!

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Ian's Fish Sticks

Growing up, I HATED Friday's in Lent. We were Catholic so that meant my mom cooked fish. I only tried fish sticks a few times and then refused to ever eat fish again. That lasted from probably the age of six or seven until I was in my mid twenties and about to take a cruise with my family. I was newly gluten free at the time and realized I better learn quickly if I was allergic since my dining options would be limited. Turns out I absolutely love fish and I had a ton to eat (including some of the freshest fish) on the cruise.

Ian's Fish Sticks are gluten, wheat, milk, casein, egg, nut and soy free. Phew - what a mouthful! They are delicious and the ingredient list is only familiar ingredients - no fancy, hard to pronounce, chemical names here! The fish sticks are beyond easy to prepare - they heat up in the microwave in about a minute. I've had them with salads and just by themselves - either way - they are tasty! It is a bit of a financial splurge ($5.99 for an 8 oz box at Whole Foods), but the product is great. And I'm sure much better than the fish sticks of my childhood!

Their website is super helpful - you can search for products that are free of your allergens. When I searched for gluten, wheat, milk and casein free, there are 16 products listed - all of them were foods I thought I would never be able to have gfcf and still taste great!

Monday, January 2, 2012

Dairy Free Cookie Exchange: Fudge Balls

This year, I was thrilled to participate in a dairy free cookie exchange. Bloggers nationwide were swapping recipes in holiday cards (those travel much easier than actual cookies). My recipe came from Steph at DairyFreeOmnivore.

When I got my card, I nearly cried: I've never made Gluten free cookies before & it took me a while to get this right. A complete stranger was adapting a recipe for me so I could enjoy one of her holiday favorites! That's the epitome of the holiday spirit right there! Receiving the card with a hand written recipe on an index card was a true delight. Along with baking the Fudge Balls. (Steph wrote an entry on this recipe - the instructions are great and are super easy.) She had great success with Gluten Free Pantry's all purpose flour. I used the Silvana Nardone blend from Cooking for Isaiah.
I took this dessert to a New Years Eve party. Since the powdered sugar can get a little messy, each ball was placed in a mini cupcake liner. So simple yet so delicious! Everyone at the party loved it! This is a great way to get a dairy free and gluten free chocolate fix!