Hidden Charges?

My sister and her family came down to stay with us for the weekend. They really got lucky because the weather was amazing. Heading out for dinner we decided to go to my favorite pre-gluten free Italian restaurant, Filippi’s Pizza Grotto. We had planned go to there for dinner during our 4th of July vacation, but ended up eating else where. I know their pizza is not G-free but I figured I could order the anti-pasta salad (no dressing).

While waiting in line I went up and asked the hostess if they had any G-free options. She said that they offer a gluten-free pasta, alfredo cream sauces, and marinara sauce. She guided me to the gluten-free pasta section in their market (the front of the restaurant is an Italian market). Taking my name to inform our server of my gluten intolerance, when it was time for us to be seated.

After being seated I talked my order over with my server. I ordered the gluten-free rice pasta with alfredo cream sauce. My sister, brother-in-law, there kids, and my husband were having pizza (I could have cried when I saw the cheesy deliciousness)

Not to long after ordering our dinner was headed to the table. My pasta with alfredo cream sauce was not that bad. I have never rice noodles with pasta sauce before so I had to get use to the taste. I can’t see it holding up well enough to take home for left overs. I could smell the wonderful aroma of their pizza. But I made it through dinner without longing over it, breaking down into tears, drooling, or fighting myself to grab a piece. Which was an accomplishment for me.

Happy and satisfied with full tummies out came the bill. Now here is where I was confused. My pasta cost $15.45. Huh? Was I reading the bill right? When I looked at the menu I saw that fettuccine alfredo with cream sauce was $11.75 So where did my pasta go wrong? Did they charge me more for the special care? For using a different pasta? Not wanting to make a fuss over the extra $3.70 I went ahead and paid the bill.

And this brings us to today, I was thinking about my bill from last Saturday and wanted more information. I have been to other restaurants where servers have told me of price increases when ordering special items. Or I there would be an asterisk on the menu indicating and additional price.

The extra $3.70 was not putting me out, but I would have like to been aware of the price increase.

I decided to call Filippi’s Grotto this afternoon and get the info. I spoke with a very nice gentleman and proceeded to tell him my situation. That I was in with my family last Saturday night and ordered the gluten-free pasta with alfredo cream sauce. Asking him to confirm the price of their regular dish to my dish, inquiring about the difference. That I didn’t see anything on the menu informing me of the price increase and that our server (who was otherwise lovely) didn’t inform me. He said it’s not their policy for the server to inform of price differences unless asked. And that so many people have been coming with a gluten intolerance that they decided to carrying gluten-free pasta in their store. Stating that it is more of a specialty item not listed on the menu. I asked them if there was anything they could do to inform G-free customers of the price difference. He said that they reprint the menus ever few months and he would make a suggestion to add an asterisk. And that, is all I could ever ask for. Thanking him for his great customer service I hung up the phone very pleased.

This has been a great lesson for me. I am still learning so much about the G-free lifestyle and what restaurants have to offer. I know they work for the general public, but with so many G-free people out there, it doesn’t hurt to make a suggestion or ask a few question. So far every restaurant I have spoken with has been more than gracious.

Thank you Filippi’s Pizza Grotto for hearing me out. You are still my favorite Italian restaurant in San Diego. See you soon!

Chicken Bowl with Black Bean Salsa

What a busy day! I spent most of the morning at my Grandparent’s house, driving around doing errands. Followed by physical therapy for my knee (I had ACL surgery last November and still recovering). After all the driving around and working out I finally made it home!

Cleaning up I had realized I didn’t know what to make for dinner! I had not planned anything that morning so I had to come up with something quick. I tossed some chicken into a pot to cook while I thought of what to make. You can make just about anything with chicken… right?

After checking the fridge for produce I decided to toss together a chicken bowl. I cleaned some rice and put it in my rice cooker (love my rice cooker). Going back to the fridge I pulling out tomatoes, a red onion, cilantro, a white chili, and jalapeno. After chopping them I opened a can of black beans added them to the mix. It was starting to look really pretty. Mixing up my black bean salsa and added salt and pepper to taste.

Once my chicken done (reaching 160 degrees) I removed it from the pot and started to shred and season.

When the rice was finished I scooped some out and placing it in my bowl. Layering it with the shredded chicken and salsa. I had an avocado so I cut it up and added it to my mountain of goodies. Yum! My meal was complete. Quick, easy, and refreshing. I think next time I might try to add some lime juice to the shredded chicken. I was even thinking of cooking an egg over medium (in place of shredded chicken) with the black bean salsa. But I will leave that for another day.

Ingredients:

1 Can Black Beans (I used low sodium)
3 Tomatoes
1 White Chili
1 Jalapeno
1 Red Onion
3 Chicken Breast
2 Avocado
1 Bundle of Fresh Cilantro
Season Salt of your choice
Salt and Pepper to Taste

Directions:

1. Place chicken breast into stock pot, adding water and cook on medium heat.
2. Wash white rice. I used 2 cups and placed it in my rice cooker adding water as directed on cooker.
3. While the chicken is cooking chop tomatoes (salt and pepper them), white chili, jalapeno, red onion, and cilantro.
4. Open a can of black beans and rinse in colander.
5. Combine all the chopped ingredients and black beans together. Toss and season with salt and pepper to taste.
6. When chicken has reached 160 degrees remove from pot. Place in a separate bowl and begin to shred.
7. Season chicken with your season salt of choice. (I used garlic salt, garlic powder, and fresh cracked pepper.)
8. Core and remove the meat from the avocado and cute into slices or squares.
9. When the rice has finished it is now time to put together your bowl.
10. Placing rice as the first layer, add the chicken, black bean salsa, and top off with the avocados.
11. Enjoy!

Dinner in Downtown

Photo taken at Yard House Downtown San Diego, California

After a long crazy week my husband and I decided to have dinner in Downtown, San Diego. Meeting up with friends we made our way to Yard House. Having three sailors in our party, happy hour at an establishment offering a variety of beers on tap made it an obvious pick. Walking through the door I was getting ready to jump, doge, and zigzag from gluten like in an obstacle course. As soon as our server came out take our drink order I informed her of my gluten intolerance. My fellow friends were still drooling over the larger beer menu, the server said she would get me their G-free menu. The menu listed plenty of options and what to omit if you have a certain allergy. I went ahead and ordered the chicken sandwich (hold the bun), side of veggies, and Wyder’s raspberry cider. I am a huge fan of cider and very happy that it’s gluten free! My husband and friends ordered half yard of dark beers.

While we were laughing over conversation the manager came out to speak with me. I was really suprised by this. She said that my server told her I was gluten free. She wanted me to know that my order would be taken care of to provide me with a safe meal. Also asking if I had tried some of the gluten free beer they offer. I told her that I was enjoying a lovely glass of cider but hadn’t tried the beer yet. She offered me a bottle free of charge so I could try it since it’s not on tap. We were all impressed with the amount of care they were taking with  my meal; making me feel very comfortable.

Moments later the manager came out with a really cute bottle of Brunehaut Amber Ale, gluten free beer. I was super excited to taste it. I use to love a tall glass of beer at the end of the week. After pouring I took a few sips and was delighted by the flavor! It tasted just like real beer! Pyramid Hefeweizen use to be my beer of choice. Since waving good bye I haven’t welcomed another beer to my glass. But I will now happily welcome Brunehaut. My husband and his friends were interested in tasting a G-free beer so I let them share a taste in my old cider glass. They are fans of darker beers and stronger flavors but were impressed by this little bottle. They said it was a little light for them but it did have a good flavor to it and would have never guessed that it was G-free.

A few beers later and out came out food. My chicken sandwich with bacon, cheese, avocado, wrapped in lettuce, and a side of steamed veggies found its way to me. My meal tasted wonderful; followed by a sip of beer you just can’t go wrong. Our server came out to make sure that every was alright with my order and if we needed anymore drinks. It was really great how much attention they gave my meal. I will gladly visit Yard House in San Diego again.

A special thanks to their wonderful staff for giving my meal a little extra love.

Gluten is like Raw Chicken

One of the biggest problems I deal with is cross contamination. It seems like it can happen everywhere and anyone can cause it. I am so picky when it comes to making my meal. And going into restaurants is like walking into one of those spooky haunted mazes during Halloween. You are scared and a bit reluctant because you don’t know what is going to pop out and get you.

I started think about how to explain to family, friends, and restaurants servers about how important it is for me to stay away from gluten contamination. I mean just telling someone I can’t have gluten isn’t always taken so serious. Some people think that I am on a fad diet to cut out carbs and lose weight. I could go into a long explanation about how gluten is a protein found in wheat, malt, barley, and it makes me blah blah and so on for days. I really don’t mind talking about being gluten free with anyone. But sometimes there is no time for a long explanation. If I am having dinner with new friends having a quick explanation would be great. So I thought up a quick and easy way to explain how serious it is to keep from getting contaminated.

During a  conversation about cross contanimation with my mom the light bulb in my brain went off. She was telling me how she cleans the counter tops after raw chicken touches them. And that is when it hit me! Raw chicken is just like gluten! We all know the dangers of uncooked chicken and how it can make you sick as a dog on Sunday. And how you have to be extra careful to clean your cooking station to prevent illness. Not just wipe the counters but CLEAN them. And that you can’t let raw chicken touch everything because it could infect other areas. That is exactly how I see bread crumbs or reading gluten on a label. It’s like little pieces of raw chicken just waiting to jump inside my gluten free dish. Especially after myself or family members have worked so hard to keep my food away from gluten. And that’s it… how to quickly explain the importance of staying way from cross contamination. Just how raw chicken can make one sick gluten will make me sick. I know that they don’t have the same symptoms but it does give a quick understanding. So the next time I need a quick explanation I will say… think of gluten like it’s raw chicken.

Chicken Lime Cilantro Soup

 

During a late night market trip my husband and I wondered into the Mexican isle. We were looking at the ingredients of canned menudo for gluten. While I was picking up different cans my husband was amazed by a huge can of  hominy. After deciding not to buy any menudo I headed off to the ice cream isle leaving my husband and his hominy can. Picking up some Breyer’s ice cream I turned to see my husband still holding the can of hominy. He really wanted to buy this large can of  hominy; so I decided to try to make a dinner out of it.

Once home I talked with my sister about putting together a chicken lime hominy soup. We tossed some ideas at each about garlic, vegetable broth, and spinach. After speaking with her I jotted down a few ideas from our conversation to give me an outline when cooking.

And here is our creation; a  yummy bowl of fresh chicken lime cilantro soup!  I loved the fresh lime flavor with the hominy and chicken. I added the red pepper flakes for a little heat without changing the flavor of the soup. My husband and I were both really happy at how yummy this soup came out. This soup was great even during the heat of a California summer. I can only imagine how good it would taste during the winter.  I don’t know why my husband wanted that big can of hominy but I am sure glad he did!

Ingredients:

3 Chicken Breasts
1 ½ cups of Vegetable Broth
3 Cans Chicken Broth (low sodium)
1 Teaspoons. Olive oil
4 Garlic Cloves
5 Fresh Limes
2 ½ Large Onions
3 Tablespoons Dried Cilantro
1 Large can White Hominy
1 Package Frozen Spinach
Season salt
Sea Salt and Pepper to Taste
Garlic Salt to taste
1 Bundle Fresh Cilantro as Garnish
Red pepper flakes

Directions:

  1. Boil chicken in a pot and let cook until chicken reached a temperature of 160.
  2. While the chicken is cooking chop onions in chunks, finely chop garlic, and fresh cilantro.
  3. Prepare frozen spinach as directed on package.
  4. When chicken has reached 160 degrees remove from pot.
  5. After cooled shred and season chicken with pepper and season salt.
  6. Remove the chicken broth from pot into a separate container to be used later.
  7. Taking the pot used to boil the chicken bring it back to a medium heat.
  8. Add olive oil to the pot after heated add chopped garlic and chopped onions (1/2 cup to serve uncooked with meal). Let onions sweat for a bit.
  9. Before adding the shredded chicken squeeze the juice of 3 limes into the garlic onion mix.
  10. Add seasoned chicken into pot and stir coating the chicken.
  11. Combine hominy, spinach, dried cilantro, vegetable broth, cans of chicken broth, and 2 cups fresh chicken broth to the pot. (the chicken broth made while boiling came out a bit watery. That is why I had to open some cans of chicken broth.)
  12. Add garlic and sea salt to taste
  13. Let cook on medium heat for 30 min. Taste and season while cooking.
  14. When the soup is ready to serve slice the remaining 2 limes in halves. Place limes, chopped fresh cilantro, chopped onions, and red pepper flakes into small bowls and placing on table.

Add goodies from bowls on soup with a little fresh squeeze of lime into soup. Be careful when adding the red pepper flakes they are hot… and enjoy!

In-N-Out Burger

Image courtesy of www.in-n-out.com

Image courtesy of http://www.in-n-out.com

Ever since my husband moved, from Louisiana to California, his favorite places to eat has been In-N-Out Burger. And I, being a native Californian, grew up on In-N-Out. I have wonderful memories spanning my lifetime of their one of a kind burgers and shakes. Going on midnight trips for fries and a shake or grabbing burgers before heading to the beach. What’s a summer in California without a burger animal style, extra spread, vanilla shake, and fries well done? I’ll tell you what kind… its a bad summer.

After discovering my wheat allergy I sadly have not been back to In-N-Out. I was worried that their oh so yummy spread contain gluten. I just could’t bare another one of my favorites being banned. Finally, I got up enough nerve to call their customer service and ask the important question. Is In-N-Out gluten free?

After speaking with a customer service representative I found out only the bun was not gluten free. She said to inform the cooking staff of my food allergy because they use the same spatula to apply the buns to burgers. So they would use a new spatula for my burger to prevent cross contamination. Although I am concerned that bread crumbs might fall from the buns onto the grill. That is something I will be looking into when I go. Since I have to ditch the bun I can always order the protein burger that comes wrapped in lettuce. I was so happy when she confirmed that, my favorite, their beloved spread is G-free! I even double checked and asked her again. I just wanted to make sure my ears were working right. Now my husband and I can go back to one of our favorite places to eat and enjoy. So, next time I am hungry for a treat I am making my way to In-N-Out!

Portobello Mushroom Pizza

Mushroom Pizza with Sauce

It’s another hot day here in sunny California and the question is what to make for dinner?

On days when it reaches 109 degreese I don’t feel like eating anything to heavy. I decided to try a portobello mushroom pizza after being inspired from A Food Centric Life’s Stuffed Portobello Mushrooms With Roast Tomatoes and Goat Cheese. Since I have never cooked portobello mushroom before I needed some help with how to season the mushroom and cooking time. I went ahead and added my own toppings to the mushroom with what I had handy. For the original recipe refer to  A Food Centric Life and check out  Sally Cameron’s wonderful creations!

Ingredients:

Fresh Mushroom Pizza

4 Portobello Mushrooms

3 Tablespoons Olive Oil

1 Tablespoon Lemon Juice

1 Large garlic clove, finely chopped

Salt and Pepper, to Taste

Toppings:

1 Mozzarella Ball

1 Pack of Pepperonis

1 Can of Black Olives Drained

1/2 Onion

1 Fresh Tomato Sliced

1 Jar of Gluten Free Pizza Sauce

Few leaves of Basil

Directions:

The first part of this recipe is straight from A Food Centric Life.

  1. Clean the mushrooms by gently wiping the outside of the caps with a damp paper towel or brushing any dirt off with a soft brush. Next, pop out the stems by pushing them from side to side until the snap out. Then with a teaspoon, scrape the gills out until the underside is mostly clean. Place them on a foil lined rimmed baking sheet. (view A Food Centric Life for how to photos.)
  2. Whisk together the olive oil, lemon juice, shallot and garlic.  Brush mushroom caps inside and out with the olive oil mixture (or plain olive oil). Sprinkle each cap with salt and pepper.
  3. Pre-heat the broiler. With the oven rack on the second to the top level, broil the mushrooms for 3-5 minutes until they are hot and the edges are starting to brown. They will start to release moisture and get juicy. Remove from the oven.
  4. Pre-heat the oven to 375

Here is where I added my own pizza twist. I decided to make a fresh style pizza and a pizza sauce one.

  1. Fresh Pizza- After removing the mushrooms from the oven I layered it with a slice of tomato, mozzeralla, balck olives, sliced onion, and another tomato. (don’t forget to salt and pepper your tomato.)
  2. Pizza Sauce- I put one tablespoon of pizza sauce, mozzarella, pepperonis, black olives, and sliced onions on the mushroom.
  3. (Now this part was an experiment) I put the tray back in the oven until I saw the cheese melting. This took about 15 minutes.
  4. After removing them from the oven I added a few pieces of fresh basil to the tops and they were ready to serve.

I made this dish for my mom and sister and they were in love with it. The fresh pizza and pizza sauce mushrooms had two unique flavors. My mom preferred the pizza sauce one and my sister was torn between the two. They both agreed that the fresh one was light and not to filling. But they were really taken with the pizza sauce one. They said that it tasted just like having all goodies of a pizza without the bread. It was a little heavier but full of flavor.

I really enjoyed the flavor of the portobello mushroom recipe from A Food Centric Life. You could really taste the garlic and it complemented the other ingredients nicely. It was so juicy! This will be a recipe I make again and again.  I love pizza and this just might keep me satisfied.