Saturday, June 22, 2013

Dunkin' Donuts gluten-free options, yay or nay?

Earlier this year Dunkin' Donuts announced it would be testing some gluten-free products in a few of it's stores, and now it looks as if by the end of the year, we can expect to see them nationwide at their stores.  They will be offering gluten-free cinnamon sugar donuts and gluten-free blueberry muffins that are baked in a dedicated facility and individually packaged to avoid cross-contamination.

After reading Gluten Dude's post this morning, I am in full agreement... I just don't see this as exciting, at least not to me personally. I get it, there are people out there jumping for joy, and I can see how it would be great for special occasions, or for children who are no longer told they can't eat anything there when other kids are able to indulge.  Or when your child is at a birthday party watching all of the other kids enjoying donuts.  Sure, the donuts may not be warm and freshly baked, but they are something.

But will you eat them?

I won't.

Maybe, when I was first diagnosed, I would have been in the excited club,  and ran over to Dunkin' Donuts to try one, but not now.  Mainly, I didn't go to Dunkin' Donuts before I was diagnosed with celiac, so why would I go now?  I don't need to be adding something packed with calories, and non-pronounceable ingredients which I wasn't eating in the first place.

And, let's talk a little bit about the calories.... gluten-free items are often higher in fat and sugar so that they can keep up with the gluten-filled counterparts in taste and texture, and this is definitely true with the Dunkin' Donuts offerings.  The cinnamon sugar donut will be packed full with 320 calories, which is more than their gluten-filled glazed donuts (260 calories)!  Their blueberry muffin will contain 400 calories!  I don't know about you, but that doesn't sound like a deal for me.  That's a meal's worth or non-nutritious calories.

I have read several announcements online about this new introduction to the gluten-free world, and what gets me, is when the media makes Dunkin' Donuts out to be offering healthier options.  This is misleading.  Call it what it is...yes, they are providing options for those who are gluten-free, and kudos for that!  But, this is not a healthier option.  These items are still packed full of sugar, fats and non-pronounceable ingredients, so they can stay "fresh" in their plastic packaging.

The most important thing to realize is that, yes, celebrities might be touting the gluten-free "diet" as a way to loose weight.  The new gluten-free donut and muffin at Dunkin' Donuts will not help you loose weight like a celebrity, or even a non-celebrity for that matter.

Is it nice to have a gluten-free alternative when everyone else at the office or a birthday party is able to dig into that warm, jelly-filled donut...sure it is!  I am not denying that one bit.  But, if you weren't going to eat it before, why would you eat it now.

What are your thoughts on Dunkin' Donuts new gluten-free menu items?  Yay, or nay?

Monday, June 17, 2013

Are the trendies giving gluten-free a bad name?

We all know how "gluten-free" is a buzz word now.  It seems it is easier than ever to find "gluten-free" labeled packaging at the local grocery store chain.  Restaurants are labeling more food "gf" to try and attract more customers.  But is this helping us?  Or is it making more people just roll their eyes?

I get so excited when I see places near me offering "gluten-free" donuts, or "gluten-free" fries, or "gluten-free" pizza, and when anything on their menu is specifically labeled gluten-free.  It gets me giddy with excitement, even if I wouldn't normally eat a donut, or fries.  I like to know if I want them, I can have them.    But then when it comes down to it, and I am at the restaurant and I ask if their menu items are really gluten-free, and fried in a dedicated fryer, I get a response that is more and more common lately: "No, we do not use a dedicated fryer.  Our gluten-free items are not appropriate for people who must be gluten-free, or who have celiac."  I want to say a big...What the F*&k!!??? Seriously??????!!!!

Yes, you heard that correctly...I am told, they are not for people who actually *need* to be gluten-free. Well, wow.  So, basically, these places are printing up these menus, putting efforts into social media and marketing for those that are gluten-free by choice, not those of us who are gluten-free because it is medically necessary.  And apparently, these restaurant owners don't mind.  So, when I go to a restaurant now and see the lovely "gf" or whatever symbol they are using to denote a dish is gluten-free, do I believe it?

I mean really, people who are gluten-free because it is the "in" thing, because they want to stay away from carbs....are they the ones who are really ordering donuts and fries?? I can't imagine someone who is gluten-free because it is trendy eating food like this. They would be ordering a salad, and grilled fish....gluten-free, maybe, but not ordering some item using replacement flours.

And because of so many people wanting to eat gluten-free, when I am ordering at a restaurant, how do I know people will take me seriously when I say I need to eat gluten-free.  Maybe they will roll their eyes and think I am like all the other people doing it for fun.  Now, I feel I must say I have an allergy, so it is taken seriously.  Do servers need to think we will go into shock when ingesting gluten to be taken seriously, and that we are not just following some fad because it is fashionable?

Is it fair that anyone can slap a gluten-free label on their menu?

When you see a menu item labeled as gluten-free, do you feel safe, or do you feel you need to investigate just a little bit more?

Do you think the gluten-free craze it helping to bring awareness, or do you think it is a hinderance on the people who really need to be gluten-free to be healthy?

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Parmesan Parsnip Fries

We all like French fries, who are we trying to kid, but sometimes it is nice to mix it up a bit, and maybe be a bit healthier.  Sure, we miss the days when we could go through the drive-thru and eat our favorite fast food fries, but really, homemade is so much tastier.  These are baked and not fried.

If you have never had a parsnip before, think a carrot on steroids.  They are a root vegetable, and located near the carrots or the turnips in the produce section.  They look like a bigger carrot, but they are white, and a little tougher to cut.  They have a nice sweet, earthly flavor.  In addition to making parsnip fries, I also like mashing them with some potatoes for some extra pizazz!

I use parsley in this version, but feel free to play around, and add whatever you have around or in your garden.  You can also leave off the parmesan for a vegan version.

These are pretty easy to pull together, and make a great side dish with just about anything.  Last night, I served this with our Summery Pea Soup with Fresh Herbs.

Parmesan Parsnip Fries

2 lbs of parsnips, cleaned, peeled and sliced into "fries" (see photo above)
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 teaspoon fresh ground sea salt (regular salt will do too)
1/2 teaspoon fresh ground pepper
2 tablespoons finely grated parmesan
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh flat Italian parsley

Pre-heat oven to 425'

In a large mixing bowl, toss the sliced parsnips with the olive oil, salt and pepper;

Place parsnips in a roasting pan, in a single layer;

Cook for 20 minutes;

Sprinkle the parmesan on the parsnips, toss the parsnips and cook for an additional 15 minutes or until done;

Take roasting pan from oven and sprinkle parsnips with chopped parsley, toss again;

Eat while warm. You won't even need ketchup!


Monday, June 10, 2013

Summery Pea Soup with Fresh Herbs

I love soup, and I might be able to eat it 24/7/365!  Usually, when I think of pea soup I think of heavy, chilly weather worthy split pea soup.  I will be first to say, I love split pea soup as much as the next person, but Atlanta, in the summer, isn't the time to have rib-sticking split pea soup, so I thought it would be fun to have a lighter version for summer.

The first thing Z said when she sat down for dinner, "it's green."  You betcha' it's green, it's full of peas and fresh herbs!  I will admit, I used frozen peas.  Because while I am all for shelling peas and using super fresh ingredients, I just didn't have the time.  If you do, great, if not, frozen peas will be just as delightful.

This is a pretty simple and quick dinner to put together, and I am already looking forward to having leftovers tomorrow.

You may be scared to use so much mint and cilantro, but don't.  Trust me, it will not taste like candy cane soup.  The herbs help create the summery, refreshing feel of the soup.  If you do not have mint or cilantro on hand, you can be creative and use basil, or whatever you are feeling like at the moment.

This recipe can also be easily be converted to vegan, just omit the step with the cream.  The potatoes will thicken the soup enough without it.

Summery Pea Soup with Fresh Herbs

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 cup onion, chopped
5 cups broth (my favorite is "chicken bouillon" by Celifbr - gluten-free and vegetarian)
2 packages 10-oz frozen peas
1/3 cup chopped fresh mint leaves
1/3 cup chopped fresh cilantro
2 small red potato, peeled and chopped into 1-inch cubes
1/8 cup heavy cream, could also use sour cream, or Greek yogurt (these are all optional)
fresh ground salt & pepper to taste

Heat olive oil in your favorite soup pot on medium heat;

Add the onions and sauté until softened, about 8 minutes;

In the meantime, boil the potatoes in a saucepan for 12 minutes or until tender;

Add the broth to the onions and heat to a boil.  Add the frozen peas and cook for 4 minutes;

Turn off the heat and add the chopped herbs;

When potatoes are finished, use a slotted spoon and add the potatoes to the soup;

Using an immersion blender, or working in batches with a traditional blender, blend the soup until smooth on slow speed (be careful not to fill the blender too much, or you will have hot green soup all over your kitchen and you);

Return the soup to your soup pot.  Stir in the cream/sour cream/yogurt if you are using.

May be served very warm, or can sit  for a bit and served at room temperature.

I served this soup with Parmesan Parsnip Fries.


Sunday, June 9, 2013

Return to being meat-free?

(I am going to ask for comments at the end, so please be prepared to write something)

Yesterday was a very lazy Saturday, so lazy that I never got out of my pajamas or even put in my contacts.  Z was feeling blah, so it was an excuse to stay in, catch up on reading, work on some crafty fun, and watch some movies.

We watched the 80s classic, Girls Just Want to Have Fun, which Z got a real kick out of.  She loved the clothes and the hair.  And I will admit I loved it as much as I did when I saw it in the cinema in 1985, Z saw it as an old-fashioned version of the series Shake it Up!  After the fun 80s nostalgia, I decided to watch something a bit more "educational", and put on the documentary Vegucated, which promotes a vegan lifestyle.

Vegucated is like many other documentaries I have seen before on the benefits of being meat-free and the atrocious treatment of animals.  I assume it is kind of preaching to the choir, because die hard meat and potato eaters will probably not be swayed. I love it, but I am sure there are many who would not consider to watch it as they are flipping through Netflix.

I was a vegetarian for almost 5 years after I had my daughter, though I did eat fish once in a while, so technically, I guess you can say I was a pescatarian.  After I was diagnosed with celiac, I gradually started eating bits of meat here and there.  It started because I would be at parties and BBQs, and there was very little to eat unless I brought my own food, so I ate a bratwurst here, some smoked turkey there.  From then on out, I probably eat meat about once every two weeks.  So compared to people who can't fathom a meatless meal, it is still relatively little, but I am still eating it.  Z likes meat and sees it as a treat, so about once a month I will make pork carnitas, meatballs, tacos or chili.

I try to stay on the periphery of the grocery store, and try to limit the buying of processed food items.  When Z asks for a snack, I give her fresh cut fruit, or yogurt.  Though, she won't refuse cheddar bunnies (who would?)  I try to visit farmers markets as much as I can, and I buy my meat at Whole Foods, which makes me feel like I am getting "happy" meat, but really, how "happy" and humane is it?

In the documentary Vegucated, what stuck with me most was a a scene where someone called an organic meat company asking how the animals were treated, how the cows were castrated, what happened to animals who were sick, how they killed animals...and guess what??  It wasn't much different that conventional methods!!  Animals are not given painkillers, they are killed with metal rods through their brain, baby boy chicks are killed alive, because they are not needed, chickens beaks are burned down, and I could go on and on...but you get the point.

Many of us have seen something like this before, and we know in our subconscious what really happens, but we try and push it out of our minds, because hey...we like bacon, we like pot roast, we like our Thanksgiving turkey.  And I do too!  I am not trying to pretend I don't.

So, how do we know if a small, organic farm is actually small enough that they treat the animals humanely?

I don't think I could be completely vegan, I do love yogurt and eggs, and while I know these animals are also included in the group above, I am just not sure it is realistic for me to think I could cut out all animal-based foods.  But, I have cut out meat before, so I know I could do it.

I know if I could go completely gluten-free there is really no other eating habit I could not accomplish.  In the past couple of months, I have cut out many of the processed foods I was still holding onto. I have cut out pasta, bread, crackers, chips (of course I may have an occasional chip at a party), cut down on tofu to once a week, even rice, which I love!  I always say I could live on rice and cheese, risotto is my favorite all time food, but I have stayed away from rice since March. And just a side note..cutting out these foods, finally allowed me to shed some pounds! Whoo hoo!

I am still baking...but I am giving it away, and not eating it.  I realized, I just love the act of baking.  And I am holding onto our traditional of Sunday pancakes.

But the focus of this post is meat, and how I really want to cut it out.  I don't think I would have a problem with it if I know it is form a humane, local farm, but I don't want to eat it otherwise.  I feel I am already very conscious about the food I buy (I try not to buy conventional veggies from outside the US), but I am going to be even more so (and buy more organic veggies/fruit that are from Georgia and the Southeast).

Please don't think I wrote this post to be preachy, it is just really a stream of consciousness about my own thoughts about meat and cheese.  I feel I have lots of research I need to do, before I know what really is "happy" meat, and does it even exist outside of me hunting and killing it myself?

I am very curious to know the thoughts of others?  How do you feel about meat?  What is most important to you regarding what you eat?  Please post your honest comments.  Thanks!!