Monday, June 27, 2011

Gluten Free Restaurants

Eating out gluten free is tough because you never know if you are safe with your choices.  I ordered soup at Applebee's once, ate two bowls full and then died immediately after and found out later that none of their soups are on their gluten free menu.  So, here is a guide to some restaurants that offer gluten free options.  Please add to the list!

YC's Mongolian Grill has gluten free options.  Get the rice noodles and any sauce that isn't brown (most soy sauce contains gluten) - Curry, Sweet and Sour, Garlic, Ginger, Cooking Wine, Sesame Oil, Vinegar, Spicy Mustard and Lemon Juice are all ok. 

Picazzo's Organic Italian Kitchen is amazing!  There whole menu, almost, is gluten free!

Olive Garden has a gluten free menu and so does Pei Wei and Applebee's and my favorite spaghetti place, Old Spaghetti Factory has gluten free pasta!

The only restaurants I've had trouble with are Hard Rock Cafe (surprisingly enough no one there knew anything about what gluten free options they had) and Grande Lux Cafe (owned by Cheesecake Factory) who also had no idea what was gluten free or not.

It just sucks going out to eat, and when you're traveling especially, to find gluten free options.  I have found that if I google most restaurants someone has posted something already.  Or, you can just stick to salads (which get old but are always a good option) with just a vinaigrette dressing.

If you know of any other restaurants that have gluten free options (or gluten free menus posted online), please share in the comments below!  :)

Update 9/19/11:

Went to RA Sushi Bar since this post and it was tough, sushi can have all kinds of things hidden in it.  Had to stick with just steamed rice and veggies but was able to eat the garlic sauce - so yummy.  They don't have a gluten free menu but have an allergy list so just ask.

Denny's also gave me an allergy list and I stuck with eggs and veggies, turned out to be good too!  (The waiter was kind of rude, just ask nicely and speak to a manager if possible.  Stick with it, they will come around and help.)

Red Lobster also has an allergy lsit and we had a server whose mom had celiac so he was awesome.  You can eat a lot of things there - just stick with fish and veggies or a baked potato.  Careful though, the rice pilaf has gluten.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Goodbye Bread!

Ever since I was little, I've had a faulty stomach.  I remember going places and always looking for the fastest way out in case I had to throw up.  (No, I don't throw up often and never have, but I did feel sick all the time and it just became a part of my personality to think I was going to barf.)  I always eyed the closest bathroom and made sure I could get there fast if I had to.  I envied everyone who could eat a chili cheese dog and drink however much they wanted because I never felt good when I ate badly or drank alcohol.  Ask any of my friends, if there was one thing I could trade in back then, it would have been my stomach.  I wanted a new one, and one that worked!

I told my parents for years that my stomach hurt after I ate.  And I swear I would eat something and then have to run to the bathroom just to see what I came right back out the other end, gross I know.  I thought that maybe I was missing a part of my digestion, that maybe one of my intestines wasn't connected properly.  It got to a point, at the end of high school, were I was a very skinny girl who did not feel like eating at all because everything hurt my stomach.  I have never enjoyed food, cooking or going out to eat because no matter what I did I always felt horrible afterwards.  Eating became a waste of time and I just did it for fuel, never for fun.  I didn't made anything yummy for dinner because no matter what I knew it would make me feel bad.  And, whenever I did cook or go out to eat, I certainly wouldn't eat the leftovers because I thought the dinner itself poisoned me.  Every boyfriend I've ever had got used to eating all of the food I brought home from restaurants because I swore it was the food that was bad and not my stomach.  But, none of it ever seemed to bother them like it bothered me.

About 7 years ago my mom and I went to see a gastrointestinal doctor to find out why my stomach hurt all the time (and ultimately the reason I developed an irrational fear of throwing up).  He diagnosed me with Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) and gave me a prescription for elavil a drug that used to be an anti-depressant but is now used for chronic pain.  The first time I took it I felt empty, every thought that came in my head just flew out of it, so free and easy.  I started taking it every night in hopes that I would feel better, and for 5 years I did.  I relied on this medicine and instead of fixing the problem or finding out more, I took it to ease the pain in my stomach and ate however I wanted.  Things still bothered me but I think the medicine just blocked the pain, most of the time.  

I ended up needing my prescription refilled so my husband and I headed back in to the doctor a couple of years ago.  He told me that when he diagnosed me for IBS he took blood and actually found that I had two of the three indicators for Celiac Disease, a gluten allergy.  He said that I could get the gluten test done but that it is a small surgery (they take a biopsy of your intestine) and it would only tell me that I would never be able to eat anything with wheat it in again afterwards (there is no magic pill or medicine to help).  So, I told him I would just try it myself and see how I felt.  But of course I didn't and waited two years to actually do something about it.

After we lost the baby a friend of my dad's asked if I had Celiac Disease.  Someone else I talked to also mentioned it so I looked it up and found websites like this, detailing infertility and miscarriage in women with undiagnosed Celiac Disease.  It got me thinking that maybe this is the time to try not eating wheat and I finally had a motivation other than just doing it for me (which was good enough but I thought it would be too much work).  So, I did, and we got rid of all the wheat products in our house in April:

That month, I didn't eat a lot of wheat but drank my beloved Abita Strawberry Harvest wheat beer (you can only get it from March to June in AZ!) and still ate some sauces with wheat in them on occasion (yep, gluten is a thickener so sauces, soups and seasonings use it).  But it May, I went full force because I started to feel better.  And, let me tell you, my life has changed!  I no longer feel sick after I eat, I started cooking more and more using gluten free sauces, pasta and products.  A friend of mine told me that after a couple of weeks of going gluten free that I would feel "light as a feather" and I did, it was amazing.  

Wheat products make you feel full and bread was always my comfort food.  I always ate pasta or bread when my stomach hurt, claiming it made me feel better.  But a gluten allergy can make you suffer up to three days after you eat something, so the bread I thought saved me was actually hurting me.  Lots of people have also asked me since how I will get my whole grain servings, when pregnant again, if I don't eat wheat, but I read this blog and knew it was possible (she had a happy, healthy gluten free baby!)  Whole grains can come from rice and other products, you just have to be more proactive in finding them.  It was tough at first to feel full, I was always hungry because gluten does that to your body, but after eating more protein, trying gluten free hot dog buns, bread and pasta, I felt full and more fulfilled.

It is 2011 and you no longer have to eat gluten in order to have your breads and pastas, there are so many alternatives out there.  We have found lots of products that taste just like the real thing, and after you see how good you feel, you don't even miss the wheat.  Sometimes I find myself eating gluten free spaghetti and I have to stop for a minute to remember that my noodles are gluten free, they taste just like real wheat noodles, no kidding.

Here are some of the products we like best:

You can get this stuff at Sunflower, Whole Foods, Wal-Mart and even your regular grocery store, they all have gluten free sections or food marked gluten free.  Bob's Red Mill makes gluten free cake mixes, flour and bread mixes, Annie's makes blue box mac and cheese (just like my favorite, Kraft!) and a velveeta kind, San-J makes gluten free cooking sauces and soy sauce, you can get banana bread mix, french bread mix, pancake mix (even Bisquick has a version!) and pizza crust mix, we like the Trio breakfast bars, Thai Kitchen rice noodles and the best gluten free version of pasta is Tinkyada brown rice spirals (at Wal-Mart for $2.99!).  Udi's and Rudi's makes gluten free pizza crust, bread, hot dog buns, cupcakes and doughnuts and French Meadow Bakery makes gluten free cookies and brownies.  There is a whole world of gluten free products out there, just try them and you will LOVE them!

My whole life I always hated Chinese food and Mexican food, because it hurt my stomach.  I thought it was the cheese, beans and mix of flavors but really it was the gluten.  Soy sauce, and most Asian sauces, have gluten in them (including BBQ sauce) and the tortillas were the ones killing me at all the Mexican food places.  Who knew?!
When you are making dinners that are gluten free, make sure you stock up on protein instead, so you feel full.  Tofu, greek yogurt, fruits, veggies and spinach have been life savers for us.  Here are some things we've made:

(Chicken kabobs with gluten free soy sauce, Italian dressing, balsamic vinegar and veggies.)

(Machaca from a grass-fed beef pot roast with peppers and onions.)

(Here's that pot roast, with onions potatoes and parsnips.)

(This stuff is amazing, see it below with gluten free pasta, chicken and veggies.)

(Made our own fries from potatoes and french fry seasoning with grass-fed beef burgers on gluten free buns.)

(We make these with tofu and chicken, just fry either one in olive oil and then add to Frank's wing sauce and butter and cover with feta and ranch, on gluten free buns with sweet potato tots made with gluten free flour.)

(We buy this mix at Sunflower and it makes two large pizza doughs.  Cover it with sauce cheese, veggies and grain-fed chicken meatballs and it is delicious!)

You definitely do not have to sacrifice taste, or even a bunch of money to go gluten free.  It just takes reading labels sometimes and bringing your own buns to a BBQ but it is SO worth it.  You can also eat so many things you ate before like rice, potatoes, and chips - you just may have to google some things before you buy/eat them.  Frito-Lay even has an amazing website that tells you all of the different brands of chips and which ones are gluten free!  Many companies do, and lots of message boards post about different foods, just look up something if you aren't sure.

For those of you in my life who are constantly wondering what I can and can't eat, here is some information about a gluten free diet (which someone with Celiac Disease must adhere to).  And, here is a list of all the foods I have to avoid for the rest of my life, as someone with Celiac Disease. 

This has been a life-changing journey for me.  So many people suffer from this disease and don't even know it, and I was one of them.  If you have an aversion to food, if your stomach hurts all the time, if you have abdominal pain, constipation or diarrhea, I suggest you don't wait almost 33 years to try it out like I did.  I could have been feeling better this whole time if I just would have known.  Just how many people have this disease?  Here is an article that talks about how common it is.  Some people are even going gluten free as a diet, here is a great article on how going gluten free is also a diet fad today.  (It does help you to feel/look less bloated and heavy all the time.)

So, there it is.  Who knows if this is the reason we lost the blueberry, but I KNOW that it is the reason for me feeling bad most of my life and not loving food as much as I should have.  Thank goodness it is so easy to get gluten free products now, and that companies are labeling their food so that we know if it is good for those of us with the allergy.  I don't even miss the things I used to eat, because I remember just how bad they made me feel, and it has completely changed my life.  I guess everything does happen for a reason and as I write this I feel thankful that I tried this out and it helped, even though it took a very significant and sad event in my life to make me do so, it was the push I needed.  It's funny how things work out sometimes, and hopefully now me, and our future babies, will be healthier because of it.  (And thank you to my husband, Ian, who has taken this journey with me and been so supportive, he is feeling better because of it too!)

If you have any questions about this, please post them below.  I would be happy if I can.  Thanks for listening, I hope this helps others out there, like me.  After all, this is why I write this blog, for me and for you.  :)

Monday, June 20, 2011

My talented friends.

My best friend of almost 17 years, Christine, has started making her own jewelry.  Her and her sister, Jenny, have started a business called Block & Battaglia where they sell their wares on their Etsy shop.  (Follow them on Twitter too!)

Christine is such an amazing and talented woman who has raised my favorite almost 5 year old, Espen.  She works hard as a mother and a realtor with our two other friends (of the same number of years) Christie and Jenny, at Twins & Co Realty.  (On Yelp too!)

Please head to her page and show your support if you like beautiful handmade jewelry.  And, if you are looking to buy a house, head on over to the Twins & Co website and contact them, they are the most hard-working realtors I know (I couldn't have bought our house without them!).

Thank you for supporting my talented friends, they work so hard and deserve all the best in life.  They mean the world to me.

(Hard to find a pic of just the four of us, so this will have to do for now.  Girls, send me a better one if you have one!)

Friday, June 17, 2011


Remember the days when you couldn't find a small dog at any pound? Or a puppy? Those days are over - small dogs, puppies, and big dogs young and old are crowding Craigslist, pounds, rescues and the Humane Society. If you are looking for a new pet, go here to see the ones available through them all.  

(I also wrote this post about where to go if you find a stray dog/cat, it includes a list of shelters for surrendering and adoption.)

And, until July 31st, go here for a coupon for half off a spay/neuter for your pet. It is OUR fault that pets are overpopulated, so please get yours fixed to help stop the problem.

That's my public service announcement for today. :)

Friday, June 10, 2011

Good Vibes

I was originally going to write a short post about "good vibes" but decided to take this post somewhere else.  First though, about the vibes. 

On the last day of school I finally told my students why I was gone for a week in January and why I hadn't quite been myself.  I thanked them for being so nice to the substitute, and to me, during one of the hardest years of my life.  I told them that I was pregnant from December 8th until January 22nd and then we lost the baby.  I thanked them for "bringing me back to life."  I received lots and lots of hugs (and some tears) and I could tell they appreciated my honesty.  I also asked them to send me good baby making vibes all summer so that I would have the strength to try this all again.  And, believe it or not, I'm feeling their vibes.  :) 

So, as I wrote this post in my head I thought of my word - vibes.  Ian always accuses me of using words that either haven't been used in 20 years or that no one says.  So, I thought I'd write a list of my every day vernacular here, for your enjoyment.  Here are some Allison-isms: 

vibes (can be good or bad)
energy, thoughts, feelings

kind of like vibes (can be good or bad) but a mood/feeling I get 

dogs or babies (and now all of my friends use this word!)

when something is untrue or wrong (my students actually adopted this and yelled it mimicking my high voice in class all the time)

this could be something that is yummy or something that looks good (not necessarily food) or something I like (could be anything)  

when I hear a good idea or see someone doing something I would have never thought of

this one is self-explanatory

damn it janet
when something goes wrong or you find out some bad news

punch it margaret
when Ian drives slow and I want him to go faster to make a light or get somewhere on time

geez oh petes
when you are surprised at something

judy moody (a new one)
when someone is being moody

take a chill pill
I usually say this to my students to get them to relax

see above

lose the 'tude dude
when someone has an attitude about something and I don't like it 

So, there you have it.  My many silly sayings.  I will be adding to this list over time so keep checking back and feel free to add your own to the comments below! 

Oh, and send me those "good vibes," I still need them!  :)

Friday, June 3, 2011

A Weekend Getaway!

I first heard Lykke Li on my Yelle Pandora station (thanks Christine!) and fell in love with her song Everybody But Me.  After going to the Yelle concert (and having a blast), I went to Lykke Li's website to see if she was ever going to play in Arizona so that we all could go.  On her show page I noticed that every single one of her California concerts was sold out (months in advance) and that she wasn't coming to Arizona any time soon.  So, I bought two tickets for her Portland show because my Dad has an apartment there, and all my besties live there, so if I decided to go I would have a place to stay and people to see.  If I didn't go, I could just sell the tickets on ebay because I was sure that it would sell out.

After talking to my friend Christie about the tickets, she agreed to go with me (she's up for anything, one of the things I love about her).  And, I knew I would be on summer break (which meant I was up for anything too) so we had a plan.  We found cheap tickets and were off to Eugene, with a 2 hour drive to Portland and then off to see our show!

The morning before we left I was really nervous for some reason.  I couldn't sleep and woke up just feeling scared of something.  Without telling Ian any of this, he gets on the computer and while he is cleaning up he plays Bob Marley's Don't Worry and Bobby McFerrin's Don't Worry Be Happy.  How did he know I was worried?  Too funny.

It was a super fun trip, short but awesome.  Ian and I usually go to Oregon for the 4th of July every year so this trip allowed me to see the people I would normally see during the summer and travel with a friend to see a show that most people don't get to see.  (Plus, I got to see Matt twice this year because of his trip in February so I was excited!)  Traveling with a good friend and seeing two of my best was reason enough to go! 

(Stopped in Salem to see Christie's friend, Veronica, who works at Mac and we got our makeup done!  What a way to refresh from a two hour plane ride and hour car ride!)

(I opted for a summer, sun-kissed look.  It was a lot of makeup for me!)

(Then we stopped at the Coach Outlet on our drive to Portland and I almost bought this cute purse but am glad I didn't so I had money to spend on other fun stuff - feathers!)

We took 7 hours getting to Portland from Eugene, normally a two hour drive.  It was so much fun just taking our time an having nowhere to be.  Matt was still at work so we knew we had some time to just hang.  When was the last time you allowed yourself to do something like that?  We finally got to Portland, and to my Dad's apartment and settled in, getting ready for a night out.  Once we coordinated with Matt, we went to Dot's, a tradition we didn't even mean to make but somewhere we go every time I come in town, and ate.  They have the best food, it's definitely not good for you, but it is delicious and they have vegan and gluten free options.  Then, we went to the Star Bar to meet a couple of Matt's friends and then to a new H.P. Lovecraft themed bar where there were cool lasers and giant cthulhu's on the walls.  It was very goth but very cool. 

(We were so tired after this from a long day of traveling that we went back to my Dad's, hung out for a bit and then went to bed.)

The next morning we met my sister from another mother, Meaghan, for lunch at Papa G's (finally a Portland restaurant with an actual website!).  It was good but a little too strange for Christie (and maybe Meaghan too).  I got the curry and it was delicious, but they did only have vegan options and nothing for someone that eats regular stuff (and was expecting regular stuff).  I told the girls we could leave but we stayed, and I'm glad we did because I really liked it.  After lunch, Matt and I had always wanted to check out this Christmas house (Keana's Candyland) by my Dad's apartment and when Matt told me they had gluten free elephant ears, I was totally in.  Every time I go to Portland I do 4 things:  eat at Dot's, go to Saturday market, eat an elephant ear and eat a vegetarian spring roll (both food items at Saturday market).  Well, since I'm gluten free this year (I promise to blog about this soon!) I knew I wouldn't be doing the last two so I was totally into trying the gluten free version.  Well, it turned out to be like a giant piece of fluffy, not very good cake (I think I could do better) and was nothing like the real thing.  But, the house was totally worth the visit!

(My Meghan)

(Every inch of the house is covered in some strange picture or saying.  You have to really go and see for yourself, it is truly outstanding.)

(Upstairs there was even a wishing well, what do you think I wished for?!)

(Yes, this is huge and in the house.  Along with other things just as nutty.)

(After the Christmas house we went to Meaghan's house.  It was the first time I'd seen it since she bought it and it was beautiful.  An old house that she and her family are updating, so much so that you can't even tell that it was once old.  I loved it and was so happy I finally got to see it!  Here we are, friends of 30 something years.)

(Oregon has a fast food restaurant called Burgerville USA.  All of their meat is grass fed and they even have about 5 different containers for trash and none of them are labeled trash.  They care about the environment and their burgers are yummy, we had to stop!)

(They even print all of your calories on your receipt!  Don't be alarmed, mine was actually less because I had no bun.)

(Delish!  That's a real ice cream and fresh strawberry shake back there too.  So good!)

After Burgerville Christie and I had to get back for our Lykke Li concert at the Wonder Ballroom.  We got snazzied up, not as much as we would have in AZ because it was only about 55 degrees, and took off.  The place was big and the crowd on the under 21 side was small so that's where we staked out our spots to stand.  When Lykke Li came on it was amazing, there was no opening act so we waited a good hour an a half for her, but it was worth it.  She had these big pieces of black fabric that waved around while she sang, a mini drum set next to her that she banged on intermittently, tons of wind that blew all over her and a crazy amount of musicians backing her up.  Her voice was like an angel and we were so close, it was SO MUCH FUN.  One of the best concerts I've ever been to, for sure.  These pics and video do not do her justice, it's a show you have to see for yourself.

And, on Sunday, we HAD to go to Saturday market.  My favorite!

(Christie thought the gluten free one was good so I made her try the original.  It blew her away!)

(Matt's annual gyro pic.  He loves these things and lives where he can get one every Saturday/Sunday if he wants but seems to only go when I'm in town!)

(His 2010 gyro pic!)

(My gyro this year could not involve a pita was so good none-the-less!  Even though I missed out on my spring roll, this salad was totally worth all of it!)

(A girl at the market was doing feather extensions so I got one for $25.  I am in love with it and when school starts again, and I actually have people to impress, I want MORE of them!)

Let's take a moment to talk about the flowers in Oregon.  We live in AZ and have flowers, yes, but nothing like this:

(Oh, and squirrels!)

(Biggest irises and poppies I think I've ever seen!)

Every time I go to Oregon it seems like I am surrounded by guys - Ian, Matt and my dad (Meaghan works a lot so I only get a girly day once while I'm there).  So this time, we made Matt listen to girl talk and do girly things.  He took us to vintage store after vintage store, he was such a trooper! 

(Dinner at another restaurant I'd recommend, Vita Cafe.  Delicious vegan and gluten free food!  I had Asian coconut tofu something or other, yum!)

(Got me some feather earrings too!)

Stayed in on Sunday night and hung with Matt at my Dad's.  We knew we had to get up super early the next day to be in Eugene by 9:30am to make our flight, and to clean up and pack, so we went to bed kind of early.  Turns out, when we got to the airport, that our flight was delayed until 4 something so we actually had over 6 hours to kill, it was so lame.  We ran around the airport, ate at the airport restaurant (that my amazing husband called ahead to and found out what I could eat there and sent me a list) and finally our plane pulled in!

(Waiting with all of our carry-ons.)

(A cute muffin on our flight that had to wait for hours too, him and 2 cats.  Poor babies.)


Overall, a really fun trip and time spent with great friends.  I am such a lucky girl to have such amazing people in my life (I know I say this all the time!).  Matt and Meaghan are like the brother and sister I never had (I am an only) and I love seeing them any chance I get.  It was a much needed getaway after this crazy year and I had lots of fun.  Missed my husband though and was happy to see him when he picked us up at the airport!  Thanks Christie for going with me!  :)