Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Springfield (MO) gluten-free restaurant update

3 Corner Bar & Grill is a new favorite.

This past week I wrote to a few popular Springfield restaurants, asking about their gluten-free offerings. Following is the basic note I sent. You’re welcome to copy and paste it into your email or Facebook queries:

“Hi! My family would like to dine at your restaurant. I have celiac disease, however, and cannot eat gluten. I was wondering if your restaurant has a gluten-free menu or if your wait-staff can make recommendations about which dishes are naturally gluten-free.”

Here are their responses to my questions:

Gem of India’s Navi Kaur wrote:

“Hey Linda, I would say half of our menu is or can be gluten free! Just come on in and we can help you out to find your desirable meal.” 

Since I love Indian food, I will definitely give Gem of India a try. The restaurant is located at 211 W. Battlefield.

Carry your own soy sauce!
Blu Sesame-Asian Diner & Takeout also gave a favorable response:

“We do offer Vietnamese noodles that are gluten-free. Our pho is gluten-free, too. We do not have gluten free soy [sauce], but we do offer low sodium sauce.”

I also like pho, and since this restaurant is in easy walking distance from my house, I’ll be checking it out as well. Blu Sesame is located at 431 S. Jefferson Ave.

To solve the problem with Asian restaurants that don’t provide gluten-free soy sauce, I ordered some cute little purse-sized containers to take along with me. Most sushi is naturally gluten-free (excluding tempura-style and sushi made with imitation crab meat), but I’ve found that many restaurants do not carry GF soy sauce. You can order Little Soya gluten-free soy sauce or other GF soy sauce packets on Amazon.

PaPPo’s Pizzeria’s response was not to my liking: “We unfortunately do not have any gluten-free options. I am so sorry!” PaPPo’s Pizzeria is located at 221 E. Walnut (in case your gluten-eating friends want to check it out without you … )

So much for that!

Maria’s Mexican Restaurant: Since I am very familiar with Maria’s regular menu—they have many, many gluten-free offerings, my favorite being El Nacho with Chicken—I thought I’d just ask about their tamales. Their Tamale Tuesday is very popular, and I was hoping I could take part.  Here is Sophia Al-Roubaie’s response:

“Hi there. We use masa to make our tamales. Masa is traditionally gluten-free. However, it may be processed in a plant that also produces flour. Let me know if you have any other questions. Thank you!”

So the ball is back in my court regarding Maria’s. So much do I love tamales—I used to love even those greasy, high-calorie canned versions—I think I’ll take the risk and give Maria’s tamales a try. Maria’s is located at 406 South Ave.

3 Corner Bar and Grill: This restaurant has become a favorite. Chef Riad can make many of his menu items gluten-free—and he even offers a gluten-free bun for his burgers and sandwiches. I love the kebabs with rice and grilled vegetables. This restaurant is located on the corner of South and Walnut.

Rebecca Grille: Sadly this wonderful restaurant has moved away from the Springfield area.

Santa Fe Grill is now Springfield Gourmet Taco Company. Santa Fe Grill had many wonderful gluten-free selections, but they have now changed to Springfield Gourmet Taco Company. I’m waiting to hear back from them about gluten-free menu items. Located at 3120 E. Sunshine.

The HyVee dietitians are keeping a running list of restaurants with gluten-free offerings contributed by attendees at the monthly HyVee Support Group meetings. The following is the list is from the September 9, 2013 meeting. I’ve placed an asterisk beside my personal favorites.

Alexandria’s Cupcake Cottage
Arris’ Pizza
Aviary Café and Creperie*
Carlos O’Kelly’s
Cracker Barrel
Cravin’ Pizza*
Dickey’s BBQ
Enoch’s BBQ
Famous Dave’s BBQ
Farmers Gastropub
Flo Eatery & Wine Bar
Florentina’s Ristorante Italiano
Gem of India
The Grotto
HuHot Mongolian Grill
Incredible Pizza
Longhorn Steakhouse
Maria’s Mexican Restaurant*
McAlister’s Deli
Metropolitan Grill
Migulito’s Wrap & Roll
Mr. Yen’s
Muscle Maker Grill
Nonna’s *
Olive Garden
Outback Steakhouse
Red Robin*
Ruby Tuesday
Tea Bar and Bites

And you thought you couldn’t eat out!

Please let me know if you have any outstanding experiences, good or bad, at these restaurants, and I’ll pass the news along.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

As the cookie crumbles ...

Mom's Cookie Jar

My earliest cookie-eating memories date back to my preschool years. My Grandma Padgett kept homemade molasses cookies in a green hippopotamus-shaped jar on a shelf in her little kitchen. I had to climb up on the cabinet to reach them, but they were always worth the effort.

My mom’s cookie jar was shaped like a full moon. The handle on top was a cow jumping over the moon—and the cat and the fiddle and the escaping dish and spoon were poised along the bottom of the jar. This container rarely held homemade delicacies—my mom, a busy English professor, didn’t have much time for baking—but I still loved the contents: store-bought oatmeal raisin cookies, Oreos or Chips Ahoy.

My poor children, I’m afraid, didn’t find many cookies in their cookie jar, either homemade or store-bought. In fact, our family jar, which was a glass replica of a Quaker Oats box—with the Quaker Oatmeal recipe for oatmeal cookies conveniently printed on the back—was usually filled with Boxtops for Education that I had ripped off the top of their cereal boxes to send to school.

On snow days and other random occasions, however, I sometimes exposed my children to the real homemade treats—frequently those labor-intensive Quaker oatmeal cookies. (By labor-intensive, I mean they had at least ten ingredients that I was required to measure carefully. Sheesh!) I may not win any awards for being Mother of the Year, but don’t feel too sorry for them. They weren’t completely deprived.

A funny thing has happened, though. Since my celiac diagnosis, I’ve become a more frequent cookie baker. Within the first week of receiving my celiac “sentence,” my good friend Pat Baker stopped by my house to cheer me up with some fresh, homemade gluten-free Peanut Butter Cookies.

Her delicious cookies, unbelievably, contain only three ingredients: 1 C. sugar, 1 C. peanut butter, and one egg. Stir them up, drop them onto a cookie sheet, and bake them for 8-10 minutes at 350 degrees, and you have a quick treat that will make folks think you’ve slaved all day over a hot oven. (You can even make the criss-cross pattern on the top by mashing them with a fork. I’ve also pushed Hershey’s Kisses into their centers just after removing them from the oven to dress them up a bit.)

It’s Pat’s recipe that I turn to most often now. If I had owned it earlier in life, my children probably wouldn’t have grown up “cookie-free.”

Gluten-free cookies are pretty tasty. In fact, I’ll bet you can’t even tell the difference. Most recipes can be followed as written by substituting the flour with a gluten-free baking mix, such as Domata, Better Batter, or Bob’s Red Mill.

I’m including here a recipe that the National Foundation for Celiac Awareness posted this week on Facebook. I baked them today, and they’re pretty darned good, if I say so myself …

Oatmeal Raisin Cookies

1½ cups brown sugar
1⁄4 cup vegetable shortening
1⁄2 cup vegetable oil
2 eggs or 4 Tbsp. of egg replacer 
1½ cups rice flour
1 tsp. gluten-free pure vanilla extract
1 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. baking soda
2 cups gluten-free rolled oats
2 cups raisins 

Pre-heat oven to 350°F. In a stand mixer, beat together the first four ingredients. Add flour, vanilla, cinnamon and baking soda, stirring until smooth. Mix in oats and raisins until just combined.
Spoon large tablespoons of dough onto a parchment paper-lined cookie sheet, spaced 2-3 inches apart.
Bake 10-12 minutes. Cool on a wire rack and serve. Will keep in an airtight container for up to 10 days.

Note: I used 3/4 C. coconut oil, instead of 1/4 C. vegetable oil and 1/2 C. vegetable shortening.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Popcorn junkie

Buy a microwave bowl for about $9 on Amazon!
Nothing makes my mouth water more than a whiff of freshly-popped popcorn. The second I walk into a movie theater, I begin to salivate as the smell assaults me at the door. Not even the anticipation of seeing an Oscar-nominated film can deter me from passing up the theater’s concession stand.

Yes, I know that movie popcorn is just about the worst snack a person can eat! I know that the butter clogs my arteries, the salt raises my blood pressure, and the calories—well, I might as well apply them directly to my backside. But at the moment I encounter it, I don’t care. Any resolve I had before entering the theater quickly evaporates, and I find myself standing in line for the $11 treat.

Fortunately, you can make popcorn at home for a fraction of the calories and a fraction of the price. Since my diagnosis of celiac disease—actually, even before that—popcorn has been my favorite snack.

Most microwave popcorns are gluten-free, but you should always read the labels, before you indulge. A quick check of my “Is That Gluten Free?” app (which I highly recommend) tells me that all Jolly Time popcorn and most Orville Redenbacher’s, Pop Secret, and Newman’s Own varieties are gluten-free, and many, many other brands offer gluten free varieties as well. I especially love the 100-calorie packs offered by many of these companies.

To minimize calories even further, you can use an air popper. I used one for a while, but it was a pain to clean, and it added one more appliance to my overstuffed kitchen shelves—so I put it in a garage sale. I replaced the air popper with a microwave popcorn bowl that allows me to pop corn without using oil (Nordic Ware 60120). Without the oil, it doesn’t hold the salt well, and it doesn’t taste as good—but you can eat unlimited amounts of it without guilt. To improve the taste, I add a few sprinkles of Kernel Season’s Popcorn Seasoning. (I have chili lime, white cheddar, and kettle corn flavors sitting in my cabinet right now. All of their popcorn seasonings are gluten-free.)

Another popcorn trick I learned a while back is to put 1/3 cup of popcorn in a brown paper lunch bag, spray it with olive oil (you can get the sprayers at most kitchen stores or online), fold the bag over, and “pop” it into the microwave. This method still makes a low-calorie batch of popcorn, and the salt sticks a little better.

If calories aren’t a huge concern, and you like to purchase premade popcorn in tins (as gifts or for yourself), many popcorn companies have gluten-free offerings. I called our locally owned Ozark Mountain Popcorn last Christmas and found that their corn, which they offer in many amazing flavors, including butter, cinnamon, cheddar, caramel, peanut butter, dill pickle pop, and root beer, to name a few, is all gluten-free. Their website is

I found a great Popcorn Cake idea on Pinterest just before Doug’s birthday a couple of years ago, so guess what he got for his birthday! It’s easy to make the recipe gluten-free by purchasing gluten-free pretzels instead of the regular ones. (By the way, I think the Snyder’s of Hanover Gluten Free Pretzels, which you can buy at most health food stores, are better than regular pretzels!)

Find the recipe at Cookies & Cups. The web address is

If you’re a gluten-free popcorn junkie like I am, check out these recipes for Sweet & Salty Popcorn and Red Hot Chili Popcorn from The Gluten Free Cooking School. Here are the links:

I could keep popping off more recipes, but just thinking about popcorn has filled me with an uncontrollable urge to pop up and pop a bag into my microwave … right now!

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Everything's up to date in Kansas City ... and some of it's gluten-free

I love Kansas City! For one reason or another, usually to drop off or pick up a family member from the airport, I visit KC several times a year. Since we live only 2-3 hours away, we've also found it to be the perfect spot for a get-away weekend adventure.

When the kids were young, a weekend trip to KC meant playing at Worlds of Fun/Oceans of Fun, watching a Royals baseball game, or traipsing around the zoo at Swope Park.

Now Doug and I are more likely to wander around Country Club Plaza, attend a concert, stroll through the Historic City Market, or enjoy a museum, such as the excellent Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art or the amazing Arabia Steamboat Museum.

In addition to the countless tourist attractions, KC is full of wonderful places to eat—even for those with celiac disease or gluten intolerance. My list of go-to eateries is fairly short, because I tend to go back to them repeatedly, instead of branching out. Here are my favorites:

Bristol Seafood Grill: This wonderful restaurant is located downtown in the newly developed Kansas City Power & Light District. We’ve eaten at Bristol twice in recent months. They have a very nice gluten-free menu, great drinks, and a pleasant patio for outdoor dining. The last time I was there, I had a fantastic steak, fresh grilled vegetables, whipped Yukon gold potatoes, and delicious cinnamon ice cream. Oh, yes! I’ll be dining at the Bristol as often as possible. Located at 51 Eat 14th Street.

Spin Pizza: I’ve eaten here at least a dozen times. It’s my all time favorite gluten-free pizza. I always order the Mini Mia special: a personal pizza (with Portabellos and Sundried Tomatos or Kalamata Olives or Italian Sausage) and a Greek Salad. No trip to KC is complete without a stop at this restaurant. Located just off Country Club Plaza at 4950 Main Street and several other locations in the KC area.

Café Gratitude: Almost everything on the menu at Café Gratitude is gluten-free. Everything is homemade and organic—and unusual. I ate breakfast there with Doug and friends last Mothers’ Day and enjoyed a wonderful GF crepe. Doug had the dish titled “I Am Transformed”: Two corn tacos with brown rice, black beans, guacamole, salsa fresca, and cashew nacho cheese. Yum.  They offer a pesto polenta over spaghetti squash and spinach, titled “I Am Warm Hearted,” which I hope to try in the near future. Located in downtown KC at 333 Southwest Blvd.

Eden Alley Vegetarian Café: I always enjoy the gluten-free offerings at Eden Alley, which is located in the basement of the Unity Church on the west side of Country Club Plaza. I’ve had their Falafel Platter, their GF tacos, and several other yummy dishes. Always tasty, always interesting. Located at 707 W. 47th Street.

The Corner Restaurant: A fun and funky breakfast and lunch restaurant offering gluten-free pancakes, waffles and French toast!  Hooray! I recently had their GF pancakes and perfect bacon. Doug had their Mamas Fries, which, unfortunately, aren’t gluten-free. They consisted of house cut fries, sausage gravy, red and green onions, mushrooms, bacon, and diced tomatoes. So decadent that it’s probably a good thing I couldn’t eat them! Located in the Westport Plaza neighborhood at 4059 Broadway.

Eggtc: Another KC favorite for breakfast. I usually order one of their delicious omelets, like the Margarita, with mozzarella, Roma tomatoes, and basil. And they have GF toast, which is nothing to write home about—but at least it gets the jelly to the mouth. Located near the Country Club Plaza at 5107 Main Street.

First Watch: A favorite chain restaurant offering breakfast and lunch. It has a good gluten-free menu, although no pancakes or toast. Last time I ate there I had a high-calorie, but delicious Avocado, Bacon and Tomato Skillet Hash. No problems at all (except for unwanted weight gain!) Several locations, including 1022 Westport Rd.

PF Chang’s China Bistro: Chang’s has one of the best gluten-free menus I’ve found at a chain restaurant.  I love their GF Moo Goo Gai Pan. Their fried rice (several varieties) is also a winner in my book. Located at 102 West 47th Street on the east side of Country Club Plaza.

54th St. Grill: Lunch and dinner chain with good gluten-free offerings. They don’t actually have a GF menu, but they will give you a chart listing all of their allergens for each dish. They have several GF items, but I almost always end up ordering their stuffed baked potato. We visit the Truman Corners Shopping Center location at 12130 South 71 Highway, because it is on the way home, but there are several in the KC area.

Arthur Bryant’s: I haven’t eaten their delicious barbecue since I’ve been diagnosed with celiac disease, but it’s on my To-Do list. Last time I was in KC, I googled their sauce recipes and found that they are all gluten-free. KC is the epicenter of barbecue, and I fully intend to check out a few of their restaurants in the near future. Let me know if you have had any experiences, good or bad, with KC barbecue.

Obviously, I haven't gone "as fur as [I] can go" in KC, yet. Branching out is one of my new resolutions!