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?

Advertisements

Paleo Chicken Zoodle Soup

At the end of December, I caught the cold that was going around. I wasn’t the only one though, as almost every single member of my family and all my friends were down with it as well. When I was sick, the one thing that I was craving was soup. There’s something about a hot soup that just makes any cold or cough a little bit better. I’ll admit that I’m a big soup fan year-round and am constantly making soups to have on hand. While I often opt for pureed vegetable soups, when I was sick I was craving chicken noodle soup. Not only is it proven to make colds better but it’s a classic. Of course, being gluten-free makes things a little difficult as I couldn’t run to Whole Foods to pick some up, and the canned gluten-free stuff just isn’t very good. So I decided to make my favorite recipe for chicken zoodle soup, using spiralized zucchini as the noodles. It’s one that I’ve perfected over the years and thought it was finally time to share it with you. I promise that you won’t miss the wheat noodles and even my Grandma, who’s often dubious of gluten-free/paleo foods, loves it! The best part is that the recipe only takes around 30 minutes so you won’t have to be sniffling and stirring at the same time.

Paleo Chicken Zoodle Soup GGGF

Paleo Chicken Zoodle Soup

Gluten-free, dairy-free, grain-free

Ingredients

  • 1 Large Yellow Onion, chopped
  • 10 Small Carrots, chopped (approx. 3 cups)
  • 3 Stalks Celery, finely chopped (approx. 1 cup)
  • 7 Small (Or 4 Large) Zucchini, spiralized
  • 3 Cloves Garlic, minced
  • 2 Chicken Breasts, shredded
  • 8 Cups Vegetable or Chicken Broth
  • 1/2 T + 1 t. Dried Oregano
  • 1/2 T + 1 t. Dried Basil
  • 1 t. Dried Thyme
  • 1 1/2 t. Sea Salt
  • 1 t. Pepper
  • 1 T. Olive Oil

Directions

  1. Chop both ends from a zucchini and spiralize, using the blade with the small triangle holes. Continue until you have spiralized all your zucchini and set aside.
  2. Chop onion, celery and carrots and mince garlic and set aside.
  3. Heat 1 T. olive oil on high heat in stock pot.
  4. Add onions and sauté until they become slightly golden and soft.
  5. Add 3 cloves minced garlic and sauté together for 1 minute.
  6. On medium heat, add carrots, celery and vegetable broth. Heat together for 5 minutes.
  7. Add your zucchini noodles to your pot on medium-high heat for about 10 minutes, stirring to combine every 5 minutes which will get easier as your noodles cook down.*
  8. Add in chicken and spices and let cook together for 5 minutes or until vegetables are soft.

*When you first put the zucchini noodles into the soup it will look like you have way too much. Don’t worry though because as zucchini are 95% water, they reduce in size dramatically and will become soft and easy to eat in the soup.

Paleo Chicken Zoodle Soup Close-Up GGGF

Question:

-What do you crave when you have a cold/flu?

Real Talk: When Jokes Have Consequences

The month of May is Celiac Disease Awareness month and is supposed to be a time of education and support. However, lately I’ve been noticing that comedians have selected a new victim to pick on: people that follow gluten-free diets. One of Jimmy Kimmel’s recent Man on the Street style interviews asked people who followed gluten-free diets what gluten is. A simple enough question in theory and yet almost no one was able to answer it. The fact that these people weren’t able to answer what gluten really is, doesn’t bother me, different people have various reasons for avoiding gluten and some might not have done their research. It was Jimmy’s comments that did, like, “maybe gluten just doesn’t exist” and “some people can’t eat gluten because of medical reasons, which I get- it annoys me– but I get it.”

Look, I get it, Jimmy. A joke is just a joke, right? It’s all in the name of fun. Or is it? My problem isn’t that comedians have chosen to focus on making fun of people on gluten-free diets. I wouldn’t choose it, but I also wouldn’t like them to poke ‘fun’ at any group of people. My issue is with the public perception of it. The more people that see these segments (and Jimmy’s alone has 2.5 million views), the more people start to think that being gluten-free isn’t serious. And for some people, I realize that it’s not. I know it’s “trendy” now and the latest health food fad and that’s ok. But for those of us with Celiac disease, it’s something entirely different.

In the past seven months, I’ve been glutenized twice at restaurants. The first time was at Whole Foods, supposedly the mecca of healthy eating. I purchased a soup that said it was gluten-free, read the ingredients list three times and left the store. I specifically chose the soup because I thought it had the least chance of cross-contamination as they have only one ladle per soup. I ate my soup on the way to a movie and within minutes, was throwing up in the bathroom. Tears were streaming down my face and I was screaming from the excruciating pain. I was on the floor of the lobby of the theater and basically had to be carried out to the car and rushed to the Emergency Room. At the ER, it took doctors three doses of very strong medicines to stop the pain. I was dreadfully sick for about a week and almost missed Christmas. But here’s the part that people don’t realize. It took me months for my body to recover. For people with Celiac disease, gluten doesn’t just cause outward symptoms, it’s actually damaging the villi in the small intestine which allows for absorption in the body. Finally, months later, my body slowly started to recover. Then a little while ago it happened again. I am so careful about what I eat and there are very few restaurants that I trust, but there is one Italian restaurant that has a gluten-free menu that has always been safe for me. I ordered plain grilled chicken and vegetables and explained Celiac disease at length to my waitress and told her how extremely sensitive I am to gluten. She said that she understood and would hate for me to get sick on her watch and said she would tell the kitchen.

20-minutes after I ate, I was screaming and crying in pain again.

Now the common thread in both instances was that the meals I purchased did not have gluten in the ingredients. So both reactions were from cross-contamination. If you are new the world of a Celiac, you might not know, but it only takes 1 crumb to make someone with Celiac horribly sick… one single crumb!

And yet if the cooks in the kitchen had watched Jimmy Kimmel or watched and read other numerous comics and jokes on the topic, they might think that someone is making this illness up. That the person they are serving can’t really be that sensitive and it won’t matter if they use the same work area as where the bread was sitting, or use a spoon that was touching wheat noodles to stir a soup or use the same pans that the pasta was just cooked in. It is all really that easy to cross-contaminate and has dire consequences. Every time someone with Celiac disease eats at a restaurant, they’re putting their lives in the hands of the cook. And it’s really scary. It makes it extremely difficult to enjoy a meal without being nervous, both for myself, and as I recently found out, my family too. Everyone just kind of holds their breath and you hope that they took your order seriously. I understand that some people may wonder why people with Celiac go out to eat at all if it’s such a big risk. It’s just that so much of our culture and getting together is meeting for meals that to eliminate that really bars you off from something you used to enjoy. Plus, as much as I enjoy cooking, it’s also really nice to have someone else prepare a meal too.

I can take a joke, but I draw the line when it could be the very thing that compromises someone’s health. Let’s face it, what people hear infiltrates their thoughts and they might find themselves at a party, contaminating the one gluten-free item or in a kitchen rolling their eyes at the thought of taking special care to make sure a dish doesn’t come into contact with gluten. I think that there are far funnier subjects that we can be discussing, rather than someone’s serious illness. Let’s change the conversation.

*This isn’t to say that all restaurants and bakeries don’t take it seriously and I will being doing spotlight posts on some great establishments that do!

2012 Wrap Up

Hi lovelies! I hope that you all had a fantastic holiday season and had a wonderful time ringing in the New Year. I’m so excited to show you some pictures from both holidays and the fantastic gluten-free/dairy-free dishes I made for Christmas Eve, including one that my family declared is now an essential for every future holiday. But before we get to that, I thought it’d be fun to look back on some of the highlights of 2012. Sometimes reflecting on a year can be difficult but having a blog makes it easier!

Also, I wanted to draw your attention to two brand new pages on GGG that are on the top menu. I’ve added a Fashion page where you can find some of my past outfits and What to Wear Wednesday posts and a Parties page, devoted to some of the fun parties my friends in the city there- definitely a place to start when trying to think of your next party idea!

January Highlights:

screenshot3

I started off the year with a bang when I flew to New York to model for Loft’s denim guide. I had an amazing time at the shoot and was lucky enough to spend the weekend with my best friend enjoying everything NY has to offer… including an amazing brunch at Sarabeths! I hope another NYC visit is in my future soon! Later in the month, I celebrated my mom’s birthday by attending the National Ice Skating championships which were absolutely amazing! I have so much respect for those talented athletes!

February Highlights:

In February, I started cooking things that weren’t already prepped by Trader Joes and realized how much I enjoyed it and that it was possible to cook healthy meals even when I got home from work late! I made Southwestern Quinoa Filled Zucchini and one of my all time favorites Sweet Potato Veggie Chili. Of course, sweets made an appearance as well when I made Slutty brownies for book club.

DSC00652

March Highlights:

In March, I attended my mom’s best friend’s afternoon tea– it was a wonderful time to catch up with family and friends and everything was delicious! I also went to a fun fashion event with my girlfriends- the opening of the San Francisco Alice & Olivia store!

DSC00737

 

April Highlights:

My April highlight is obvious- taking my Grandma to Las Vegas to celebrate her 87th birthday! It was a complete surprise and even after my parents and Grandma arrived in Vegas, she had no idea that my brother and I were joining in on the fun too! We went out to delicious meals, explored and my mom even took her to see Donny & Marie! It was a weekend full of memories I’ll always treasure. During this month, my mom, Grandma and I also did a photoshoot which was so much fun!

photo(73)

 

May Highlights:

Looking back, I think May was one of my favorite months this year! I got to hold a baby pig, attend a fantastic Derby Day party (complete with a grilled cheese and mimosa bar) and the most exciting part- go to Indianapolis for the Indy 500! As a huge Indy fan, this was actually the first race I’d been to and it set the bar super high for all future races. It was such an exciting, fabulous time and I loved sharing it with my mom and Daddy Jeff.

June Highlights:

Much of June went undocumented because it was a big health-issues month for me consumed with lots of appointments trying to figure out what was going on with me. But there were still some highlights like attending the Bachelor Auction (see my friend Katie’s blog for a post on it!) and attending Grease the Sing-A-Long at the Castro theater with my girlfriends!

July Highlights:

After kind of a rough June, July was an awesome month. My brother got engaged and we had a surprise engagement party (the wedding is in May and I’m a bridesmaid!) Later in the month, I went to see the Jean Paul Gaultier museum exhibit, went wine tasting in Napa and attended a Bachelorette Finale party, Olympics party and book club brunch! It was a very social, fun month!

DSC01152

 

August Highlights:

In August I had Jury Duty which I loved (but didn’t get to be picked as part of the jury-darn), created a recipe for healthy summer ratatouille, went to the Indy race in Sonoma, and did a little modeling at the SF store for LOFT and got a chance to preview their fall collection!

photo(116)

 

September Highlights:

September (my birthday month) was full of lots of fun things! I went wine tasting in Napa again, went to San Francisco’s Fashion’s Night Out and a Giant’s game. The birthday celebrations took over the last two weeks of the month and I was showered with love at my Birthday Dinner Party, a family celebration at a favorite restaurant and the most amazing LA reunion trip with my college besties.

DSC01444

October Highlights:

October brought fun social events like 7×7’s Hot 30 party, my friend’s Halloween party where we all dressed as Disney princesses, and an amazing trip to LA for the O! You conference with my mom as a birthday treat! I still owe you a post about that and this is a good reminder!

10-31-2012 9-46-18 AM

November Highlights:

The month started off great with a visit from one of my best friends who now lives in DC! It was so fun to have her here and reminded me how much I missed her! I also absolutely loved cooking Thanksgiving dinner even though it was my first one being gluten-free and dairy-free. It was so much fun to try new recipes and make delicious foods for my family.

photo(135)

December Highlights:

December was a very busy month but full of lots of fun activities like a visit from another best friend, going Oyster shucking in Tomales Bay, celebrating my friend Ashley’s birthday with a fun party, and of course Christmas and New Years Eve! Blog posts on much of the aforementioned soon!

photo(150)

 

What didn’t make the blog

I mentioned here and there about my health struggles but the extent of which wasn’t ever covered and I’ll probably keep it semi-private. However, what you all do know is that I was finally diagnosed with celiac and am no longer in constant pain! I’m seeing an amazing doctor and am so thankful for my parents who stood by me tirelessly as I endured many a hospital visit and change of plans. I’m on the road to recovery and feeling very excited for what’s sure to be a wonderful 2013.