Last week, we stopped by Presto Pasta after checking out ukuleles at Jenson Guitar and Music Co. The first thing I noticed at the counter was a big display saying that they had tons of GF choices. They use Mariella Gluten-Free Pasta, a corn pasta from Italy. Additionally, they have the GF sauces to choose from marked for ordering ease. After speaking with the employee about cross contamination, she got the manager who assured me that they would “nuke the pasta” so there would be no worries about a shared pot or colander. I suppose that is where they get the “presto” in Presto Pasta. I had the Pasta with Puttanesca sauce as I was told it was pretty spicy. I personally didn’t find it spicy or flavorful for that matter. However, they get points for providing an easy, safe and quick option for GF pasta.
I felt like I won the jackpot a couple of weeks ago when April Peveteaux, the mastermind behind Gluten is My Bitch, sent me her newest cookbook that is out TODAY! I was totally going to buy it anyway since everything she writes makes me feel like I am not a crazy person for having to eat gluten-free. I was also skeptical though since I am a look-at-the-pictures, get-intimidated-by-recipes kind of cookbook reader. Since this book doesn’t have pictures, I figured I was screwed.
After getting some recommendations as to which recipes would be easy enough for me to execute and could be eaten by our GF, vegetarian, peanut and sesame seed-free household, I got to work. The first recipe I tried was the Cheesy Quinoa Broccoli Mac since it had the word cheesy in it.
I am not kidding when I say that this was the EASIEST recipe to follow. Bonus points for the fact that my 15 month old ate it without a struggle. Since making it the first time, I’ve made it again but with even more cheese because you can never have enough cheese.
I got a little cocky since the cheesy mac was so easy to make and attempted the Spinach Enchiladas, complete with homemade enchilada sauce. This was way more labor intensive than the cheesy mac, but still totally doable. Aside from a rookie mistake of trying to blend the sauce ingredients in a small food processor rather than a large blender, everything went off without a hitch. My husband was very skeptical when I told him I made everything since he said it was restaurant quality.
I was batting 1000, so I figured I would try one of the appetizers. The Polenta Crostini with White Beans and Kale looked pretty straightforward. Once again, I was the lauded at the dinner table. And once again, I had a 15 month old eating something healthy… willingly.
April’s book is full of tips, resources, meal plans and of course, lots of yummy recipes. Below is how to make my new go-to meal!
reprinted courtesy of April Peveteaux, The Gluten-Free Cheat Sheet: Go G-Free in 30 Days or Less
Cheesy Quinoa Broccoli Mac
Once I made this for my daughter’s class when we were demonstrating what could be made with a box of vegetables from the CSA our school supports. It was gone in 5 minutes flat.
PREP TIME: 15 minutes
COOK TIME: 30 minutes
2 cups water
1 cup quinoa
½ cup gluten-free vegetable stock
1 cup broccoli, chopped
1 cup cheddar cheese, shredded
- Bring water to boil in medium saucepan. Add quinoa once water is at rapid boil, and turn down heat to low. Allow quinoa to cook for 20 minutes.
- Turn heat under quinoa down to lowest setting to simmer. Immediately add vegetable stock and broccoli to saucepan and cook for 5 minutes.
- Add cheddar cheese and combine until completely melted. Remove saucepan from heat and serve.
MAKES: 6 servings
If you are visiting Charleston, you MUST make Five Loaves Cafe one of your stops. This casual, allergy friendly restaurant went above and beyond in accommodating our tricky group. After letting them know about our dietary needs, they brought out “normal” bread and oil and a separate plate of GF bread and oil. The bread wasn’t anything special (I believe it was Udi’s), but the fact that they served it along with its own safe olive oil was awesome. I had read that their soups were great, but I was having a hard time deciding between the six gluten-free choices so I went with the three soup sampler. I chose the potato, cheddar and broccoli, the tomato tarragon with crabmeat and the carrot ginger. They were equally yummy and the perfect size. For my main dish, I had the Pumpkin Seed Encrusted Salmon.
Even though I didn’t taste much of the pumpkin seed, the salmon was cooked well and the accompaniments were light and fresh tasting. We couldn’t resist ordering their gluten free carrot cake for dessert.
This was a very good decision. We made quick work of the cake, finishing the meal on a high note. The menu at Five Loaves was so accommodating that we ended up getting take-out from there another day. I had the Rueben Sandwich on GF Bread which was pretty darn tasty… so tasty in fact that I ate it too quickly for a picture. There were about ten other things on the menu that I would have tried if we had more time in Charleston. It is so nice to find a place where you have as many choices as anyone else!
Anytime I am in the South, I have a craving for shrimp and grits. And so, when we knew we were heading to Charleston, I started researching which restaurant had the best shrimp and grits there. Hominy Grill kept coming up, but to my disappointment, the recipe that had been posted online showed that they used flour. Nevertheless, we went there anyway as it came highly rated as a breakfast restaurant. On their menu, they have gluten-free pancakes listed. Once I talked to our waitress, I didn’t feel comfortable ordering them since they used the same flat top for everything else. It also sounded like it was a very small kitchen that happened to be very busy at the time. When I told her that I really wanted the shrimp and grits, she said they could make those gluten-free for me. I am so glad that they did. These were unbelievable. Along with the shrimp, there were scallions, mushrooms and bacon served over cheese grits. Oh god these were good. I don’t think I gave myself a second to breathe as I inhaled the dish in record time. It is very clear that this restaurant has both a local and tourist following, and for good reason. Because of that, try going on a weekday when the crowd is a bit more manageable!
I just got back from my first visit to Charleston, South Carolina where we attended a friend’s wedding. As we were there with a group a friends, we all rented a house together through airbnb. It was my first experience with airbnb but I loved it. If you need a recommendation for a house to rent, I have one for you! Close to the house we rented was a great spot called Dellz Uptown – a vegetarian, vegan and gluten-free friendly restaurant. Most of the food here has a Caribbean influence which was very appealing to me. I ordered the Turkey Goddess Wrap with a GF wrap and no sauce just to be safe. The wrap held together amazingly. This was definitely one of my favorite spots during our trip. I am still regretting that we didn’t make a return trip!
On Friday we went to see Pitch Perfect 2 at Paseo Nuevo. Right next to the movie theater is the newly opened PizzaRev. I had read about this chain being good about limiting the chance of cross contamination so we decided to give it a try. As soon as I let the gentleman at the counter know that I had celiac, he went straight into a very well rehearsed routine. He changed his gloves and explained to me that he would be seeing my pizza through the entire process rather than passing it down the line like the other pizzas. As I remarked that it was very cool to see them take it seriously, his coworker chimed in to say that it was very important to limit chances of cross contamination. Yay PizzaRev! Rather than use the sauce that they use for the other pizzas, he used a squirt bottle and clean ladle. As he went down the line, I asked about the meats. They are all GF except for the meatballs. Since the GF pizza is put on a tray within the oven, he explained that they put oil on the bottom so it crisps up a bit.
We ordered the Margherita Pizza and the Taco Pizza without the chorizo. I preferred the Margherita which had tons of fresh garlic. The taco pizza was okay. We ordered it as is so that we could try it as it was intended. I think that next time I would add some jalapeño to it for a little punch.
We really enjoyed the crusts they used. Upon asking we learned they were from Venice Bakery. They do cook the pizzas in the same oven as the normal pizzas and they do use the same ingredients on the line (like Chipotle) except for the sauce. There is definitely still a risk of cross contamination. However, I felt much more confident eating here than I do at other pizza places in Santa Barbara. It was so refreshing to see staff that had been properly trained how to keep my food safe!