Posts Tagged Texas

Reading, Writing, and Reviewing

    Ever since Lori asked if I could put together a class on the topic of ‘gluten-free’ for The Caring Place I have been reading and reviewing books from our local Georgetown Public Library because I believe in quality reference material. At about the same time Barb had sent me a link to a book review and the next thing I knew I was head-over-heels in reading materials both borrowed and purchased.

    Libraries have always seemed like magical places to me. All of those books on so many subjects: if I could read them all then I would certainly know everything. At least that is how I viewed the school library at Meadowbrook Middle School when I first became aware of library passes and the resulting unlimited access to all those books! OK, so now I know better but still there is so much knowledge that can be gained just by going to the library. So I have borrowed books, read books, reviewed books for the local library and on Amazon, purchased books, and donated books. If the class learns nothing from me at least there will be a rich and varied resource to fall back on.

    The assembled collection (below) covers so many related aspects of gluten that I was having trouble narrowing down the information to present. Simple, keep it simple – you can see from the list of books that I have real problems with that.

    So I decided on this approach. On the first day we meet there will be samples of home-cooked pasta and sauce using store brand GF ingredients from HEB and a sample of commercial snack food (Glutino pretzels). We will introduce ourselves and then together we will plan the next meeting around the most pressing needs of the group. And we will continue from there.

Gluten Related Reference Material at the Georgetown Public Library:

Celiac Disease: A Hidden Epidemic
Peter H. R. Green and Rory Jones

The Complete Gluten-Free Diet & Nutrition Guide: With a 30 Day Meal Plan & Over 100 Recipes
Alexandra Anca and Theresa Santandrea-Cull

The Gloriously Gluten-Free Cookbook: Spicing Up Life with Italian, Asian, and Mexican Recipes
Vanessa Maltin

Gluten-Free Kids: Raising Happy, Healthy Children with Celiac Disease, Autism, and Other Conditions
Danna Korn

Living Gluten and Dairy-Free with French Gourmet Food: a Practical Guide
Chef Alain Braux

The Gluten-Free Gourmet: Living Well Without Wheat
Bette Hagman

You Won’t Believe It’s Gluten-Free! 500 Delicious, Foolproof Recipes For Healthy Living
Roben Ryberg

Planned Donations Purchased but Currently Out on Loan:

Dangerous Grains
James Braly and Ron Hoggan

The Gluten-Free Vegan
Susan O’Brien

    Rita has been reviewing some of the books with me. Since she is also a Certified Health Coach I hope to have her lead a ‘gluten-free’ tour of a Georgetown grocery store.

Gretchen (Mom) and Rita


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HEB Gluten Free Products

    HEB is a Texas-based company with headquarters in San Antonio. This organization is very generous in support of The Caring Place (TCP) in Georgetown with their daily donations of bread and support of other TCP programs. They have also been long term suppliers of my most basic gluten-free grocery needs.

    I needed to replenish my Bob’s Red Mill gluten-free cornmeal in order to make several pans of GF cornbread to be served at the Annual Soup Supper to benefit TCP (where Don and I both volunteer). Our nearby HEB on Williams Drive carries a good selection of these products.

    While I was shopping there I decided to check out their brand of pasta that Clara had tried and told me about. I was really curious because Don and I had been on the HEB product taste-testing panel quite some time ago. Also, as a volunteer in The Caring Place food pantry I often hear comments from people trying to manage gluten-free about how expensive it is. This is what I found.

HEB Brand Pasta & Sauce - All Gluten Free

HEB Brand Pasta & Sauce - All Gluten Free

Prices on March 1, 2011:
Gluten Free Fusilli $1.99
Gluten Free Spaghetti $1.99
Garlic & Herb Pasta Sauce labeled Gluten Free $1.89
Traditional Pizza Sauce labeled as allergen: milk $1.50
Bob’s Red Mill Gluten Free Corn Meal $3.58

    I also picked up Udi’s Whole Grain Sandwich Bread while I was there since there were only three slices remaining at home from the previous loaf. Price wise this one is in my ‘luxury item’ category. But it is handy to keep in the freezer for when I don’t have time to put together something else for the carb portion of a meal or snack.

    For staying healthy, whether you must eat gluten-free or not, a balanced diet is always in order. It takes planning ahead so that the right stuff is always available: in the fridge, in the pantry, in the car, wherever. It is critical to prevent a tumble over ‘The Gluten-Free Edge’ that lurks nearby. Given that criteria I can always rationalize a ‘luxury item’ 🙂


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Udi’s Bread Arrives at H-E-B Georgetown!

Udi's Bread
Udi’s Bread


After a long wait and checking back week after week it really is here!

Georgetown 2 – Williams Drive
4500 Williams Drive
Georgetown, TX 78633

    Yesterday, Friday, 01-07-2011, I picked up a few items on the way to my volunteer shift at the local food pantry. I cruised by the frozen bread section just in case and there it was! Udi’s white bread, whole grain bread, and bagels all lined up on the top shelf, left hand corner of the frozen bread section.

    I immediately notified Clara. There is real bread, good bread, when we want it and when we need it. Don can cook French toast for our breakfast without a long lead time and sometimes complex planning.

    Yeah H-E-B and thank you ever so much for following through and making it happen!! 🙂

Gretchen (Mom)

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Walmart Remodel and Gluten-Free Section!

    Our grocery shopping list is a computerized printout of grocery items that we customarily purchase arranged by store isle and product. On the day before our every-other-week shopping expedition Don places a copy of the listing on the kitchen counter. There will be items that he has already marked that he, as chief cook, has noted that we need. I am required to add the items from my kitchen notes and we shop from this consolidated list.

    When Walmart started the remodel several shopping trips ago Don noted with satisfaction that they were leaving the grocery section alone – it’s perfect, it matches our list, so of course it doesn’t need to change. I kept telling him they would get to it. So theoretically I could have said ‘I told you so’ but that would have only caused him more stress. So I settled for ‘you’ve been in denial!’ which is marginally less obnoxious.

    The bad news is we have to completely change the list. The good news is that there is now a GLUTEN-FREE SECTION! And they have TINKYADA pastas and BOB’s RED MILL products. That was all I could check out since Husband was pushing the cart so fast the wheels were almost smoking. He tends to do that when he is irritated; usually with me for tossing items in the basket that are ‘NOT on the list.’ You may have gathered the impression that our marriage resembles an ongoing stand-up comedy routine and that would be fairly accurate.

    We are taking our comedy routine on vacation so it will be a couple of weeks before I can get back over to the store and really scope out that new gluten-free section. We are taking the notebook PC and we will have internet access along the way. So I will have time to write about new products and recipes that I have been neglecting.

Mom (Gretchen)

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Carrabba’s Italian Grill

    Carrabba’s Italian Grill  is a fabulous restaurant that I first experienced in Austin and now their location list shows 31 states! According to their history the first location was in Bryan, Texas and Chicken Bryan is still a menu favorite with customers.
    My sister Amanda and brother-in-law Eric moved to Bryan several years ago. Eric graduated from Texas A&M and he brings the concept of school loyalty to a whole new level. When I took them out to lunch at Carrabba’s in Austin he was delighted to discover that a really great restaurant had originated in Bryan.
    The downtown Austin Carrabba’s location (6406 N. I-H 35) is just a mile away from where I worked as a data analyst for several years. That was during the part of my life when chicken salad, hold the croutons, was my standard for eating out and Insalata Carrabba is an experience, way better than ordinary chicken salad!
    When my brother Chaz was in Austin for a conference I took him to dinner there after we had spent all afternoon at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center. I was tired and only wanted soup and a small dinner salad. The Mama Mandola’s Sicilian Chicken Soup came to the table with the pasta as expected. Once the waiter realized that I was picking it out and putting it on my unused bread plate he quietly told me that the soup was cooked without the pasta and could be ordered without. That was when I discovered that there were real gluten-free options available!
    Carrabba’s website has a gluten-free menu that you can download -> GLUTEN FREE MENU and while there is no gluten-free pasta or bread* there are plenty of options to keep me going back. Whenever we travel I check out the web site to see if we will be passing near any of their other locations.
    They have a disclaimer as to the perfection of their gluten-free options and the extent of their expertise in that arena. However, they have consulted with the Gluten Intolerance Group (GIG) and I feel confident that it is safe enough for me to eat there and enjoy menu options such as the Chicken Marsala.

Mom (Gretchen)

Note: *I would really appreciate if they could introduce gluten-free bread. Not that I love bread so much but their olive-oil-herb dip is so insanely flavorful.

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Zio’s Italian Kitchen in Georgetown, Texas

I love writing about it when restaurants advertise and produce amazing gluten-free food. And how hard is it when most food is naturally gluten-free? And I really am bummed out when they advertise gluten-free but fail the reality test.

Zio’s Italian Kitchen recently opened here in Georgetown and the newspaper advertised gluten-free options. Here is their ‘gluten-free’ menu on their Texas website –> GLUTEN FREE MENU. The menu begins with a single appetizer option, baked formaggio, a blend of five cheeses – topped off with grilled Italian bread; more about that later. The salads look OK as do the entrees. No desserts are listed. If you click on the dessert menu you see that all of the desserts are based on baked goods, cake, lady fingers, cheesecake with crust and standard cheesecake recipes often contain a tablespoon or two of flour.

The menus we were handed at Zio’s did not have gluten-free options listed. The waiter assured me that we could make it work. We had a newspaper coupon for a free appetizer so we thought to give it a try. I pulled out my gluten-free menu printed from the internet and before I could say a word the waiter recommended the bruschetta – “you just don’t eat the bread”. Mental alarm bells went off like crazy. I tried to ask a question about the formaggio but could never get a word in edgewise. How much confidence can you have in ordering from someone who doesn’t know formaggio from bruschetta? Isn’t ordering bruschetta and ‘not eating the bread’ sort of like ordering birthday cake and not eating the cake? We decided to skip that little drama as well as the appetizer.

There is no gluten-free pasta or bread available never mind dessert. For a salad you can request that they hold the croutons. For an entrée you can have your food piled on top of your choice of vegetables. I’ve been doing that for years and do not consider it a special gluten-free menu. My entrée choice served on spinach came in a huge bowl plainly meant to contain a generous serving of pasta. It looked pathetically small although it was enough food that I was no longer hungry.

I didn’t get sick – is that a recommendation?


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Jason’s Deli in Austin, TX

   I cannot even remember the last time I ordered a sandwich at a restaurant. Sandwiches always made me feel ill-at-ease and wishing I had chosen something else. Number 1 Son (our private little joke) Jorge and I used to eat at a Jason’s Deli in Arlington, Texas when I was consulting at some company or other in that area. My go-to selection was always The Plain Jane baked potato with all of the condiments on the side and that was a good, solid meal.
   When the pressing need for more allergy medication and the news that Jason’s Deli at the Arboretum in Austin (mere blocks away from Whole Foods which carries said medication) has gluten-free bread it was fate. Of course we had lunch there yesterday!
   When I started to order a Turkey Reuben a very knowledgeable staff person explained to me the possibility of cross-contamination because of the conveyer belt in their special oven where those sandwiches are prepared. Don’t you just LOVE it when people know what they are talking about?
   So I ordered the Mediterranean Wrap on the gluten-free bread with a side of fresh fruit. I never could sing and I haven’t danced in years but about two bites into that sandwich I felt like doing both. Copied from the menu (I brought one home with me): 98% fat free oven roasted turkey breast, roasted red pepper hummus, cucumbers, purple onions, kalamata olives, roma tomatoes and organic field greens with the gluten-free bread instead of the organic wheat wrap.
   All that remained on my plate after lunch was two toothpicks and the caps from the three wonderful strawberries that accompanied the three large chunks of perfect cantaloupe. Oh, and Don wiped a bit of hummus off my face when we were walking back to the car . . .
   To the management of Jason’s Deli – thank you and keep it up!!!! I only get into Austin occasionally but you can bet I will return for lunch at Jason’s. Oh, and wouldn’t you like to build a deli in Georgetown? Or even Round Rock? Please?


Update 4/29/2010 – This email received from Clara and Jenna, another gluten-free Mother-Daughter duo:
    What a wonderful meal we had at Jason’s this evening!  Jenna had her old fave, the Club Royale, prepared w/the wonderful g-f bread.  She promptly gobbled down the entire sandwich & declared it fabulous.  I had my old fave, the Deli Club, on the g-f bread – outstanding. 
    I spoke w/the mgr., who had helped us w/our order.  He said the bread’s been receiving very positive reviews.  This location is one of only two Jason’s test locations for the g-f bread.  He didn’t know how long the test marketing would go on.

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