Santa Barbara Gluten-Free Eats and Treats

I was lucky enough to spend the long weekend in Santa Barbara visiting dear friends and attending a wedding. I always love to travel and try new places, but with Celiac that can be a slightly nerve-wracking experience as there sometimes aren’t a lot of safe, gluten-free options. I went into the weekend really excited but expecting to subside on bars and snack foods (if you need ideas, check out this post) but was so pleasantly surprised to find that Santa Barbara is an incredibly gluten-free city! In fact, I would say that they are even much more accommodating than the Bay Area. Rather than do full Gluten-Free Spotlight posts on each restaurant, I thought I’d round up the restaurants in a handy post for any of you planning to visit!

Mesa Verde

Mesa Verde

My first meal of the trip was at Mesa Verde, a cool, farm-to-table restaurant that apparently was Santa Barbara’s first vegan restaurant! If vegan restaurant is synonymous in your mind with a hippy, dated restaurant, Mesa Verde couldn’t be farther from that idea. Rather, it has low lighting and clean lines and the plating is all beautiful, with Chef Greg Arnold creating “visually arresting compositions using imaginative vegan ingredients.” For my meal, I went with the Macro Bowl (rainbow chard, quinoa, grilled cabbage, kale, broccolini, shishito peppers, romesco, tahini, chimichurri) and left out the white beans and hummus as I don’t eat beans. This was seriously one of the best meals I have had since going gluten-free and I don’t say that lightly! When cooking I usually think of using one sauce but I’m re-thinking that strategy as the combination of romesco, tahini and chimichurri was seriously unreal. It was a huge portion and I ate every single bite because I loved all the flavors so much. It had the perfect amount of heat and was complex and delicious. If everyone could eat meals like this one, I think that we’d have more gluten-free/vegan believers out there!

Pickles and Swiss

When we stopped for a quick lunch the next day, we went to Pickles and Swiss, a cafe who’s tagline is “fresh bread and produce every day, nothing frozen, nothing deep-fried, gluten-free, no fillers, no nitrates, no artificial flavors or transfat.” Basically, it’s a cafe that actually believes in healthy eating and makes it easy and accessible. Normally at a cafe I would only order a salad due to cross-contamination of bread, but the staff at Pickles and Swiss was amazing. I spoke with the manager and he explained to me that their gluten-free bread was made locally and showed me the ingredient list and I was happy to see that it isn’t made with corn flour or dairy. I did a custom sandwich with Boar’s Head turkey (all Boar’s Head deli meats and cheeses are gluten-free) and they even heated up the bread on a special, gluten-free tray in the oven and were totally aware of cross-contamination. The sandwich was delicious and a rare treat and I would definitely stop in again.

Alchemy Cafe

Alchemy Cafe

Alchemy Cafe is connected to the Alchemy Wellness Center & Spa and is definitely a hidden gem. As you walk into the restaurant it feels a little like leaving the world behind and entering a more zen-like space. The menu is local, organic, healing, seasonal, vegetarian cuisine. One thing that is not mentioned on the menu or website, however, is that the entire menu is gluten-free, with the exception of one roll they offer and they are currently looking for a locally-made, gluten-free bread that is 100% organic. Upon hearing that I could have basically anything on the menu, my eyes lit up, as this pretty much never happens! I debated long and hard between sweet (buckwheat crepes made without any cross-contamination!) and the Thai curry. I ended up going for the latter and it was absolutely delicious and creamy and paired it with a green juice. My best friend went for the Alchemy Rolls (rice paper wraps with fresh carrots, avocado, sunflower sprouts, basil, cilantro, mint and cashews served with creamy Thai dressing) and after tasting them, I can agree that they were fantastic as they were light but packed with yummy, fresh ingredients. I also tried their Vanilla Coconut Macaroon and Almond Butter Goji ball and both were great for when you went a sweet way to finish the meal!

Backyard Bowls

backyard bowls

I’m a huge fan of acai bowls and frequent a few places in the Bay Area, so I was excited to try Santa Barbara’s version, Backyard Bowls. Because I can be slightly high maintenance when ordering an acai bowl (I wish there was a “create your own” option) I modified the Berry Bowl by leaving out the apple juice, bananas, blueberries, granola and honey and added almonds, coconut and cacoa nibs, the latter of which are my latest obsession! It was delicious and although I missed the greens which are in the ones I get normally, it was like a treat for breakfast and perfect for an on-the-go kind of morning.

Question:

-What’s your favorite foodie city?

-Any other gluten-free friendly cities I should know about?

Must-Have Appliances for the Gluten-Free Home

As a kid, I was fascinated by infomercials. While most people would change the channel, I loved hearing about all the amazing cooking gadgets out there and the numerous things these tools could do. I was constantly telling my mom all the new things we needed and how they would make life so much easier. What can I say, they worked on me. As an adult, my love of infomercials has waned (do they still exist in the age of DVR?) but my love of kitchen gadgets has not. Over the past few years of having celiac and multiple food allergies, I’ve fallen in love with cooking and finally found a way to justify having lots of kitchen gadgets. I have many that I love and own, not to mention a few on my wish list, but the below are my top three that I think are essential for gluten-free cooking. They will expand your options, allow you to get lots of nutritious vitamins and make your life all around more delicious.

Breville Juicer

Breville Juice Fountain

One of my all-time favorite things is a green drink. Not only do I love the taste, but they are the perfect way to get so many essential vitamins and nutrients. I’ve tried lots of bottled green juices from the grocery store and while most were good, none have been as delicious as fresh green juice made at home. A few years ago, my family decided we wanted to buy a juicer and after reading countless reviews, we settled on the Breville Juice Fountain Elite from Williams-Sonoma.  It’s super powerful and has a wide mouth meaning you don’t have to pre-chop a bunch of ingredients! We also love that it extracts 30% more juice than other models meaning the money you spend on produce isn’t wasted. We love it so much that my brother and his wife purchased the same one as well! (If you are trying to decide which juicer is best for you, Williams-Sonoma has a great juicing resource page that can help!) I’ll admit that it took a few tries to fine tune the perfect recipe, but what’s so great is that you can easily adjust it to suit your tastes! If you like your juices sweeter, try adding an apple, or if you prefer it tart, go for a lemon or lime or if you like a little kick (or are feeling a cold coming on) add in some fresh ginger! I’ll be sure to share my favorite recipe soon but I can tell you it is a combination of kale, spinach, collard greens, celery, parsley, green apples, lemon and ginger. If you are new to juicing, it might seem a little intimidating, but really the hard part is the prep work. To save time when you are in a rush, separate out your ingredients and prep them as much as you can in advance and store them in separate bags. That way, when the juice craving sets in, it will only take a few minutes to make! I’m a huge fan of green juice, but my family also loves carrot-orange juice. While that’s not my personal fave, I save the pulp and make muffins from it that are amazing and full of nutrients! Juicing at home is definitely cost-efficient too as the pre-bottled stuff can run up to $11 a bottle! It is such a great step to take for your health as juices are easy to digest and absorb (super important for celiacs with damaged small intestines) and full of anti-inflammatory properties.

Vitamix Blender

Vitamix

 

One of my most used appliances has to be my Vitamix. I used it yesterday morning to make my protein smoothie and last night to puree some delicious Cauliflower Leek soup (recipe from Stupid Easy Paleo). While enjoying the healthy yet creamy soup, I got to thinking about how I survived before my Vitamix. I wanted one for years but could never seem to justify the price. But that was all before I knew that the cost per use would be so low because I use it on a daily basis! Thanks to the super powerful motor, it makes creamy smoothies that leave no sign of ice cubes or spinach behind. It also allows you to make really thick smoothies which are perfect for a smoothie/acai bowl without adding tons of liquid. For pureeing soups, it’s just the best too. After a 2nd degree burn a few months ago thanks to my immersion blender/crock pot disaster, I’ve been pureeing in the Vitamix, accident free! Not only does it keep the hot liquid contained, but it purees within seconds. Oh ya, and the motor is so strong that it heats up the soup too. I mean, can it get any better than that? It’s also great for Paleo baking recipes that call for using a nut butter as a base (like these Lemon Poppyseed Muffins) because it combines the thick nut butter with the other ingredients way better than my arm ever could! If you are debating a food processor or a Vitamix, I completely recommend the Vitamix because it really can do everything a food processor can.

Spiralizer

paderno-spiralizer

Spiralizers are all the rage these days and for good reason. After all, turning vegetable into noodles is ideal for people following healthy or restricted diets! I’ve never been a big pasta person anyway, but gluten-free rice pasta was just never something I craved. But now that I use zucchini noodles for a base, I eat traditional noodle based dishes all the time. Zucchini noodles are the base of the Paleo Pad Thai I love and it’s a great recipe to start with for anyone who isn’t convinced about noodles made from squash. I also was on a Chicken Zoodle Soup kick last year and it’s the perfect thing for when you are sick. This past year I’ve expanded my spiralizing with the help of Ali from Inspiralized and have found that spiralized butternut squash might just be my new favorite thing. It also is the definition of guilt-free eating because you are ultimately eating a big plate of vegetables. I use the Paderno Spiralizer which is easy to use and a cinch to clean up. As you can see in the picture above too, it also makes three different types of noodles which is great depending on the dish you’re preparing.

Question:

-What’s your must have kitchen appliance?