BJ’s Restaurant and Brewhouse’s Certified G-free Menu

I had received a flyer in the mail about BJ’s Restaurant & Brewhouse’s gluten-free for two dinner. I have been a fan of their restaurant for a few years now. It use to be the place where my friends and I would meet up for Friday dinners. They have a wonderful menu filled with pasta dishes, specialty salads, deep dish pizzas, and their super yummy pizookie (vanilla ice cream on top of a warm chocolate chip cookie). Oh, and did I mention their beer menu and large flat screen televisions? BJ’s is the kind of restaurant where you can take date or watch the game with friends.

The flyer sat in our “things to do” pile until  my husband and I finally went for our Friday date night dinner. We were able to get seated  before the dinner rush and asked for the gluten-free menu. It was interesting to see that one side of their menu was g-free offerings and the other was a chart composed of all their dishes and the most common allergies. Making it very simple to see what dish contained what food allergies. I had a verity of items to choose from including their version of a gluten-free pizookie! But I had my eye on the pizza!

My husband and I decided to share the barbe que chicken chopped salad (no onion strings), veggie pizza, and a pizookie for dessert. They didn’t have any gluten-free beer in-house but offered 3 different  ciders. After chatting with my husband and looking over the menu time passed and our food was on its way.

My eyes lit up at the sight of our thin crust pizza as my nose took in the wonderful aroma of my long missed friend. I was so taken by the pizza that I didn’t even look at the salad. Helping myself to a slice of and salad it was time for tasting! Trying the salad first I enjoyed the sweet BBQ ranch dressing against the crunch of the fresh lettuce. It was super tasty and I can image it to be quite filling had it been the only thing I ordered.

Next it was time for the pizza, after tasting a hand-full of mushy g-free pizza I wasn’t sure if it would hold up to my memories. Going into my first bite as a skeptic but after tasting I thought I was dreaming! It was delicious! Bit after bite I consumed my first slice quickly. I was happy to see that the middle of the crust wasn’t a mushy mess  and could hold all the toppings without wilting. Diving into my second piece I took care to enjoy it at a slower pace. I had finally found it! A gluten-free pizza that I didn’t have to make myself or lack in flavor and texture.

Noticing that they are certified GF I inquired about their g-free pizza production. Speaking to the manager, Rich C., he informed me that they have separate pans, refrigerator, bins, and utensils that are only for their g-free dishes. That the cooks are knowledgeable about cross contamination, changing their gloves and sterilizing any surfaces before use. The gluten-free items are stored in their own refrigerator and are covered with green caps. They even use separate cooking pans for the pizookie that are also green. Gluten free ice cream is only scooped with their gluten-free scooper and then booth are covered after use.

After we devoured the bar-b-q salad and pizza it was time for our pizookie. Out came a warm g-free chocolate chip cookie with two scoops of vanilla ice cream. Again BJ’s Restaurant & Brewhouse could have fooled me into thinking this was a regular cookie because it flavors were amazing.

I will gladly return to BJ’s Restaurant & Brewhouse for more of their gluten-free dishes. I would recommend stopping by and enjoying their gluten-free offerings!

Now that I am writing about it… if you’ll excuse me, I have a pizza to order.

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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!

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!