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?

Gluten-Free On-the-Go

When you have food restrictions or allergies, you often lose the option to pop into any restaurant or store for a snack when you are out and about. After finding myself starving on numerous occasions, I finally wised up to the importance of snacks. There are tons of gluten-free snacks on the market now, but since I avoid processed foods, I went on the hunt for items that were relatively shelf-stable and had very few ingredients. These are some of my favorites that have saved me from getting hangry when too many hours have passed in a situation where I’m unable to eat. I’m always looking for new snacks to add to my rotation though, so what are some of your favorite snacks when you are on the go?

GF on the go

1. Sprouts Organic Kale Chips: I’ve written about my kale chip love before, but these are my current favorite. The ingredient list is super clean and they run about $5.99 so a little less than many on the market. I really love the sea salt variety too but for a fun change, I’m in love with these spicy, crunchy chips.

2. Larabar & Kit’s Organic Bars: I’ll admit that bars are a saving grace for me, as they fill me up and give me some nutrition when I don’t have time for real food. I’m really discriminating when it comes to bars on the market as so many have tons of added sugar and questionable ingredient lists, but I love these two because they contain only nuts and fruit. Although Larabars are more well-known, I do prefer the texture of the Kit’s one a little more as it is slightly drier and this dark chocolate flavor is perfect for when I’m craving something sweet.

3. So Delicious Coconut Yogurt: I used to be a big fan of yogurt before going dairy-free and was so excited when I discovered this yogurt because it’s the perfect snack that actually will hold you over. I love this particular unsweetened one because it only contains 1g of sugar and has a clean ingredient list. Lately I’ve become obsessed with cacao nibs and I usually add some, as well as almonds and if I have time, strawberries, for a great snack or meal.

4. Bare Organic Apple Chips: When I’m at home, one of my frequent snacks is a sliced granny smith apple, but I only like them cold and sliced, so when I’m out, these Bare ones are my favorite. What I love about these particular ones, is that they only have one ingredient: apples. They also have an addicting thin, crispy texture and are perfect when I need a snack that is going to last me for more than a few bites.

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?

Gluten-Free Spotlight: Unrefined Bakery

My usual spotlights are centered around the Bay Area, but I thought it would be fun to tell you about great gluten-free spots in other cities I’ve visited. When I went to Dallas for Thanksgiving, I found some wonderful, safe places to eat, but the best was Unrefined Bakery. When I heard about Unrefined, I knew I had to check it out as they are not only certified gluten-free but they are also soy-free, all-natural and organic! As a rule I generally only eat all-natural, whole foods, so I loved that they specialize in this, making it safe food that you can feel good about. Fellow friends with other allergies, this is the place for you too, as they are 99% corn and dairy-free, as well as 80% egg-free. Basically this is a dream come true for those with food allergies. What really surprised me though, was how paleo friendly they were as well! That was something that I was so impressed with in Dallas in general, and found the city to have many more paleo offerings than the Bay Area!

Unrefined 1 GGGF

As I try to eat mostly paleo, those are the items that I really wanted to try. I’ve had paleo offerings from other places before but they are often very egg-y, due to a high number of eggs and low ratio of coconut flour. As someone who isn’t a fan of eggs, that’s not what I like when it comes to my baked goods! Unrefined got it completely right though. Their paleo pumpkin muffins were absolutely delicious! They were hearty without being dense and had the perfect amount of spice to them. I’d like to say that my family enjoyed them as well, but I didn’t share these. They were just that good! These come frozen, in a 4-pack which is ideal because preservative-free foods don’t tend to last long, so it’s nice to be able to heat them one at a time.

As it was Thanksgiving, the other items I tried were holiday specials. They offered traditional cornbread stuffing and to my delight, paleo stuffing. The paleo stuffing was absolutely delicious and perfectly flavored. It was so good that my family didn’t even realize that it wasn’t the more traditional, cornbread one! Success! Off to a great start with the muffins and stuffing, I was excited to see how their pies would fare. I tasted their dark chocolate paleo pie in-store and it was absolutely amazing, with a rich chocolately flavor and a flaky crust. If there had been room for 2 pies at my celebration, I definitely would have purchased this. Instead, I went for the paleo pumpkin pie and it was one of the best pies I have ever tasted. So good in fact, that I may have had another slice the next day before I went to the airport. And by may, I mean definitely. If you live in Dallas and are gluten-free (or just enjoy really great baked goods) run to one of their three locations. Oh, and please tell me all about it because I’m wishing I lived closer!

Unrefined 3 GGGF