A big thank you to Shanie Matthews at My Happy Path for inviting me to post about my celiac experience. Check out my piece here: http://www.myhappypath.com/finding-happy-in-the-midst-of-celiac-disease/. I love guest blogging and talking with folks about the journey to gluten-free!
Shanie did a guest blog post here at So What CAN You Eat? You can check it out here: http://www.clairebakerok.com/1/post/2012/06/finding-positivity-living-with-celiac-disease.html
Shanie's got a fun photo-captioning contest going on at www.facebook.com/MyHappyPath. Check it out!
This video might be the most fun one so far. The kids are are very good sports about sampling gluten-free pizza, and really entertaining. I like the pizza at Carmen's, but more than that I love that it is a totally comfortable kid-friendly place. I also love it that even though it looks just like probably a million other neighborhood pizza places on the outside, the real difference is that they offer not only gluten-free pizza, but also vegan pizza (but not vegan AND gluten-free because their gluten-free crust has dairy and eggs, but you COULD get it with soy cheese if reducing the volume of dairy is desirable.) I also love it that they know what they are doing and take care to avoid cross contamination. This is what they say on the gluten-free page of their website:
Gluten Free Pizza: Carmen's now offers a 10" gluten free pizza, available in red, white, or tomatoe pie. Since we make our own dough fresh every morning, we coud never guarantee our equipment to be sufficiently flour free to make our own gluten free products. Therefore we purchase this dough from an outside vendor, and it contains both dairy and egg. We use separate and sterile smallwares for baking and slicing the gluten free pizzas. Please don't order meatballs as a topping, since we use our own breadcrumbs when we bake our meatballs and they are not gluten free. Do not order Vegan sausage either since it contains wheat.
You can see from the rest of their gluten-free page that they take the same care with their gluten-free sandwiches. This is EXACTLY what we with celiac need to see and hear from restaurants to have confidence that we will not get sick from eating their food. How cool are they?
And how does it taste? Check out the video here. Watch my kids try to scam me out of my gluten-free pizza, like their big ol' pie wasnt't enough food.
There are a couple of problems with the whole idea of using zucchini in baked goods.
1) It's a vegetable, and it freaks my partner out that they would be a key ingredient in a cake-like product.
2) Zucchinis are a summer thing, and baking is NOT a summer thing. No one likes a kitchen that is all hot.
Still, we were recently faced with the challenge of how to use a rogue zucchini from the garden that somehow grew to be 2 feet long without us noticing. One person advised that we just chuck it into the compost. A number of folks advised savory dishes. More people suggested zucchini bread. Frankly the zucchini is big enough for multiple uses. I decided to start with a sweet baked option.
1) I needed it to be muffinable and to have paper muffin cups on hand, since we don't have dedicated gluten-free bread baking pans. (Not that they can't get clean enough to use for gluten-free baking, but you never know. Plus I hate to wash dishes and the baking cups method reduces the labor.)
2) I needed to have all the ingredients already
3) I needed to be able to believe that it had some redeeming nutritional qualities. Zucchini IS a vegetable, and I entered all the ingredients into a website to determine that there are only 115 calories per muffin, so I guess that qualifies.
As just about everyone else in the world does, I found a couple of recipes on line, then mashed together the characteristics I liked to come up with the recipe. It had eggs and raisins and cinnamon, 3 1/2 cups of grated zucchini, and I used sunflower seeds because I didn't have any other suitable nuts. I think I've revealed in the past that I am not much of a baker. I should also confess that I did something a little devil-may-care: I used Bob's Red Mill Gluten-free flour blend AND xanthan gum AND coconut oil for the first time ever in a baking project while making up the recipe as I went along. My sciency brain knows not to confound with too many variables, but what the heck. I was hopeful when the batter came out pretty tasty, though more coconutty than I expected. (duh, right?). Jenn DOES NOT like coconut, but it's a texture thing more than a taste thing. But all that zucchini might do a good coconut imitation, so I'm thinking it would not be to her liking.
I mixed it up. What I'm assuming was an effect of the xanthan gum was a weird gluey texture, sort of what I imagine would happen if I put Elmers glue into the mix. I glopped it into the baking cups. I put it in the oven at 350 degrees for half an hour. Out came what appeared to be a perfectly normal-looking tin of muffins. Sadly, however, the xanthan glue had firmly attached the muffin to the paper, making it impossible to peal a muffin and have it retain a muffin shape. At least a third of the muffin stuck and stayed with the paper. Not to be deterred, I ate what I could with my fingers, then took a fork to the paper to scrape off what more I could. Jenn tried one, knowing that it had zucchini but not coconut oil. Her report? "It tastes like a muffin." Can't argue, right?
But still, I can't in good conscience share my recipe amalgamation since the outcome were seriously-stuck-to-the-paper muffins. Here are links to the three main recipes I referred to when putting it together:
Any advice for the stuck-to-the-paper problem?
Corley is almost 11, so it is almost unusual that his first-ever trip to the emergency room was just this week. And it's not like he's not an active, let's climb on top of the treehouse, let's jump from great heights, let's do flips off the diving board kind of kid. I think he mostly lives a charmed life, which I think any parent would want for their son, even as they peek through their fingers during his feats of daring or have to look away all together when he pulls a stunt. His luck ran out at a recent end-of-school party with a weird accident on a trampoline. The conclusion from experts is that nothing is broken, but only time will tell how long it will continue to hurt. He did get a sling, which is not as cool as a cast, but it helps it not hurt so much. Plus he gets to show it off to his friends.
The golden lining of the trip first to the pediatician and then to the emergency room for x-rays is that Corley and I had a nice outing. Because my car is kind of hard to get in and out of the back seat, he got to ride in the front seat, which he loved. We had a more peer-like interaction than usual, and it was very sweet. It was past lunchtime when we got done at the hospital, so of course we needed to find pizza -- his favorite food. And we were in a neighborhood we don't spend a lot of time in, so I employed the Find Me Gluten Free app on my iPhone and identified a number of options not too far from the Bryn Mawr hospital. Turns out that the two closest ones were bake-at-home operations, and not what we were looking for. We happened to spot and pull into a Peace a Pizza, but for whatever reason, it didn't have the right vibe for Corley, so we decided to venture on. Find Me Gluten Free listed Main Line Pizza in Wayne, so we headed there.
Have to say, definitely NOT a restaurant for a romantic date (unless maybe you are in middle school and it's a group thing.) Probably not even very good for a Gluten-free Delaware County Meet-up. Not a lot of ambiance. Not a lot of seating. Not a lot of air conditioning. But when you are with your kid who loves pizza, it was perfect. Corley has a big appetite, so I didn't think sharing a gluten-free pizza would be enough food. I think I was wrong! I got him a whole medium regular pie and a gluten-free pizza for me. Tons of cheesy goodness! We both had pizza to spare and bring home. Corley really enjoyed the gluteny pie, and I really enjoyed the gluten-free one. The crust comes from Still Riding Pizza. It was thick -- more like what I remember Pizza Hut's hand-tossed pizza was like, not Chicago deep-dish thick -- and delicious. It was bread-like enough to stand on its own merits, not just as a delivery vehicle for sauce and cheese. (The leftovers were even good cold, which I don't think I've ever said about a gluten-free pizza before!) The Main Line Pizza guys talked the gluten-free talk very well, and appeared to take careful measures to avoid cross-contamination with other flours and ingredients. At first I balked at the $16.75 pricetag on the gluten-free pizza, but man, for the amount of food and the real pizza taste, I will not complain. The real test was the kid-centric taste test. Would your 10-year-old with celiac like it? Here's the verdict from my typical (but not average) 10-year-old pizza connoisseur. (Just so you know, this is the best gluten-free pizza I've ever had).
We had another fun and successful Gluten-free in Delaware County Meet-Up last night at Ariano at 114 S. Olive in Media, PA. Liz, Matt, Sara and Marlene had all eaten there before, and they gave Cathy, Karen and me the inside scoop on what to order. Since it was my first visit, I had to get pizza, despite the fact that they also do a nice gluten-free risotto that three of the group ordered. They had a number of interesting-sounding vegetarian gourmet pizzas, and I was torn between one that was portobello mushroom-centric and one that boasted cabbage. Here's their menu description: Giuseppe E Charlene -- Cabbage sautéed to perfection, with fresh Parmesan Cheese, and light tomato sauce. 10.75. *If you don’t like cabbage, It’s a must try!!! Even though I like cabbage, I'd never have thought to make it a pizza topping. Liz said that the other pizza I had my eye on was not so special, and since Giuseppe seemed to be a little less heavy on the cheese (which is a good thing for me), that's what I ordered.
It's important to note that a big run in Media was also taking place last night, the Media 5-miler. Roads were closed, traffic was snarled and parking was scarce. Big kudos to Cathy and Karen who ventured far from their home territories to join the group and who then got met with big Friday evening travel headaches! Matt had given me the heads up that reservations were definitely needed because the place gets packed. I'd also heard that it gets loud. When I saw all of the happenings in town, I worried about my group mates and I was afraid that even though I had made a reservation that we'd have a wait for a table for 8. As the organizer of the meetup I don't want anyone to have a lousy experience, so I had a little anxiety. I give that as context to note that the restaurant was lovely, we were seated right away at a big table on the 3rd floor (wouldn't have been very good if we'd had anybody with mobility issues, since it's up a spiral staircase), we had no trouble having our typical lively conversation, and our food came out fast! The only downside was that our server was not very up on the gluten-free status of foods and drinks, and when the wrong drink with suspect ingredients was delivered and tasted by one of our group, the server glibly replied, "Well, you only took a sip," with the implication being, "How sick could you get from that?" NOT the thing to say to a group of people who have congregated at a place specifically because we believe that we can eat there and NOT get sick.
At any rate, the food arrived. My pizza pictured below was not quite so red as it looks -- night had fallen, ambiance had risen, and it was served on a red plate. the crust was thin as gluten-free crusts tend to be, and it did have a little crust-burn, also not unusual for gluten-free pizza. It had an interesting flavor and was a little on the sweet side -- whether it was the sauce, cabbage or crust I'm not sure -- but it was very good. I'm usually not a big fan of sweet pizza, but this was light and delicate and nice. The crust was bendy, which I like, the flavors blended well, it wasn't heavy cheesy. The flavor a cabbage wasn't detectable specifically, so if that would freak you out, have no fear. the gluten-free pizzas were 12-inches (and cost $1 more), and because this was thin and light, I had no trouble eating the whole thing, with the exception of a small slice I shared with Karen (she and I were both at the Tomato Bistro meetup, so she wanted to compare.) For me, I think I liked the flavor of the Ariano pizza better, but the Tomato Bistro crust is more substantial and more like pizza I'm used to from my pre-celiac-diagnosis days.
Many of us, me included, had the gelato. At $2.50 for a single scoop, it was almost a no-brainer. A few folks were waxing poetic about and ordered the lemon basil, which sounded nice, but I have to admit that I have a little bias against basil or other green foods in my ice cream. I went with the hazelnut, which was a perfect end to the meal. Maybe next time I'll venture out into lemon basil land.
I will definitely eat at Ariano again for a date night, but not for family dining. The options were a bit too "too" for my "give me more bread sticks and salad and soup at Olive Garden" skinny boys, who eat by volume and weight and not by interesting flavor combinations. The restaurant is nice, the cost for dinner for two is reasonable, and Media is a fun town to walk about and see what's going on. I recommend it!