A Gluten-free Thanksgiving

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Happy belated Thanksgiving, everyone! I hope yours was filled love, joy and lots of food.

I get a lot of questions, especially around the holiday time, about what I am able to eat for holiday meals.

Basically, I can eat everything a non-gluten allergy person can with a little tweaks here and there.

These are the items my Thanksgiving meal consisted of:

-Turkey

-Canned Cranberry Sauce

-Green Bean Casserole

-Sweet Potato Casserole

-Stuffing

-Mini Apple Pies

I wouldn’t blame you if you had to wipe the drool from your mouth after reading that list. I did.

Already gluten free: the turkey (no gravy), cranberry sauce and sweet potato casserole. IMPORTANT: Some turkey brands are NOT gluten free. So, you need to research before you buy. We used a Jennie-O turkey.

The green bean casserole was made gluten free by using gluten-free cream of mushroom soup. Also, the crispy onions placed on top were made using Bisquick Gluten-free Mix and other ingredients.

The stuffing was made gluten free by using gluten-free baguettes.

The mini apple pies were made using a recipe out of the Blackbird Bakery Gluten-Free Cookbook: http://tinyurl.com/apa6zf9. I highly recommend purchasing this book!

See, it is possible to have a gluten-free Thanksgiving meal!

*If you would like any of the recipes, please feel free to comment on this post and I’ll send them to you.

A Long Distance Shout Out: Rollin’ Oats of St. Petersburg, Fla.

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Rollin’ Oats Market and Cafe Logo

Rollin’ Oats is always on my list of places to go when I visit home, which is located in St. Petersburg, Fla.

It has two locations:  one in Tampa, Fla., and the other in St. Pete, Fla.

My mom and I had to pay it a visit on Wednesday to pick up some last-minute items for Thanksgiving. Yes, even though I have a gluten allergy, I was able to have a Thanksgiving meal.

The store offers a plethora of items that cater to allergies of all kinds. The gluten-free items it carries make me feel like a normal human being again.

I can pick up baguettes, bagels, breads, tarts, cookies, mixes and more at this wonderful place. It’s hard not to walk in and run through the aisles shoving handfuls of items into my cart. That is why I go with my mother — Ole’ Money Bags.

It also has a little café that offers gluten-free sandwiches, wraps and baked goods.

If you ever find yourself in the St. Pete or Tampa area, please visit Rollin’ Oats.

Actually, even if you aren’t close to the area, you should drive a ways to get to it so that you can stock up on items that are hard to find elsewhere.

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As you can see from the above photo, I was able to pick up pumpkin-cake mix, baguettes, tarts, Italian breadsticks and mushroom soup. 

Karma Cream: Simply delightful

Karma Cream is an adorable little organic ice cream café that includes various drink options, baked goods and sandwiches.

It is located at 1025 W. University Ave. It is open until 2 a.m. every day, which makes it the perfect place to study if you are sick of the library. It offers Wi-Fi for customers to use. It has a small seating area that makes for a great study spot.

The place is very quiet and chill. My blood pressure went down as soon as I walked in the door.

I got a medium size of the pumpkin and chai flavored ice cream with homemade whipped cream on top. Its ice cream is very rich and smooth. The pumpkin tasted like real pumpkin and the chai tasted the way spicy chai is supposed to.

I got the organic dairy ice cream, but it also offers organic vegan flavors, which have a soy, coconut or rice milk base.

The ice cream flavors it has are very unique. S’mores, Honey Lavender and Tin Roof are just some of the flavors that can be found at Karma Cream.

It’s pretty easy to spot what you can’t have at the café. No sandwiches, baked goods, beer or ice cream with cookies in it.

If you are able to stick around, get your order put in its cute mugs and bowls. I did and it made me feel right at home. If you can’t, it has 100 percent plant based compostable to-go supplies. Yay, ecofriendly!

If you are looking for a cute place to stop by to get some ice cream or coffee, put Karma Cream on your list of places to try.

Here is the link to its site: http://www.karmacream.com.

Mochi: Always there when you need it

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Having a bad day? Go to Mochi. Having a good day? Go to Mochi. Are you alive and breathing? Go to Mochi.

There are three Mochi locations in Gainesville. One is on Archer Road in the same complex as Bento and Chipotle. Another is located on University next door to Cantina and across from campus. The other is located in downtown Gainesville.

Just about everyone in Gainesville knows what Mochi is. For those who don’t, it’s a frozen yogurt place.

Here is the process when you walk in: You usually get asked if you want sample cups, grab them. You then walk over to the dispensers and try as many flavors as you want.

Check the ingredients! It has the ingredients of each flavor placed above the dispenser. There are some that may contain gluten/wheat. Make sure you check.

After you fill your cup up as high as it can go, walk over to the toppings area. If you aren’t sure about any of the toppings, make sure you ask. There are candy bars and other toppings that contain gluten.

I always end with a few large pumps of hot fudge. You then place your cup on a scale where it is weighed. Mochi charges by the ounce.

My Mochi addiction has subsided. It does flare up every once in a while.

Mochi is that light at the end of a very dark tunnel. It is the place that you run not walk to. It is the place that makes life seem, eh, not so bad.

Okay, I may be exaggerating, but it is really good. Pace yourself, young grasshopper. If you don’t, you may get addicted like the girl who goes twice or more a week. Cough. Cough.

The Top: Worth the wait

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I showed up at The Top with a large party at around 8 p.m. Those were the two reasons why we had to wait over two hours to get a table. By the time we got our food, I was close to chewing my own arm off. Luckily, the food was worth the wait.

The Top is located in downtown Gainesville at 30 N. Main Street.

The menu isn’t that large, but there are options for us gluten-free folks. Heads up: It doesn’t have a gluten-free menu. You have to ask the waiter or waitress about each item, and they then have to go and ask the cook if it is gluten free. This process takes a while, so be ready.

I ordered the black pepper crusted steak with a rosemary shiitake brandy cream sauce with a side of fries and asparagus. I asked the waiter to double check the cream sauce to make sure it’s gluten free. It is.

That steak. Oh, let me tell you. It was one of the best steaks I have ever had. The peppercorn crust makes it spicy, but I like it spicy. The cream sauce is delicious. They made regular fries and asparagus taste out of this world.

Now, I am Italian. I want my food when I want my food. If I’m hungry, I need to be fed immediately. This experience tested my nerves big time.

I would gladly go and wait two hours all over again. The food was that good.

Keep in mind this place is very popular. Arrive as early as you can to save yourself a long wait.

The meals are fairly priced. That price doesn’t include tax, drink or tip.  It’s about what you would pay for a meal at any restaurant.

This meal is probably the best I have ever had in Gainesville. Ever. Please head to The Top as soon as you can. You won’t be disappointed.

Out of all the restaurants I have visited in Gainesville, The Top is currently my number one. I will definitely be returning soon.

**Thank God ketchup is gluten free. As you can tell from the picture above, I really love ketchup.

Blue Highway: Cheer up! There is no need to be blue here

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I went to Blue Highway expecting to be disappointed yet again by another gluten-free pizza, but I left pleasantly surprised.

Blue Highway can be found at 13005 SW 1st Road in the Tioga Town Center.

I got a chance to sit down with the manager, Seth Schmer, and ask the questions that a gluten-free person would want answered.

Its gluten-free pizza has been on its menu for less than a year, and was added due to a large amount of requests for a gluten-free pizza option.

The pizza crust is not made at the restaurant. Surprisingly, it gets its crust from Sami’s Bakery, which is the same as Satchel’s – the pizza I don’t like. I know! It’s crazy! It uses the same crust, but the pizzas taste so different.

This could be because of preparation. Schmer said that the cooks tried different cook times to make sure the pizza was not undercooked or overcooked. Whatever they did worked.

Sami’s, as I said in my previous post on Satchel’s, doesn’t promise that its pizza crust is gluten free. It makes items in the same facility that also creates items that are not gluten free. This is one reason that Blue Highways is replacing Sami’s crust with another, Schmer said.

It is switching companies to one that only makes gluten-free items in its facility, so there is no fear of cross-contamination, Schmer said.

Schmer said that he and other employees tried many different crusts and found Sami’s to be the best at the time. He said that they didn’t want to give their customers a pizza crust that they themselves wouldn’t eat.

When the prepared pizza crust makes its way to the Blue Highway kitchen, it is kept away from flour as much as possible. They cook the pizza on a pan separate from their other pizzas.

At Blue Highway, I was accompanied by three of my friends: Morgan Evans, Emily Snyder and Chelsea Courson.

Evans is gluten intolerant. She enjoyed the pizza at Blue Highway.

“This is the best gluten-free pizza I have tried so far, and I plan on returning,” Evans said.

Snyder and Courson don’t have gluten allergies but chose to get the gluten-free pizza.

Choosing to be gluten free is a healthier alternative, Snyder said.

After listening to my interview with Schmer, Courson gained a greater respect for the restaurant.

“They took their time making sure the pizza tasted good. That means they care about their customers,” Courson said.

We all shared two gluten-free pizzas: one Greek and one with pepperoni and pineapples. Blue Highway is not shy with its toppings and gave us plenty.

The pizzas weren’t expensive. You pay the same price as their thin crust ($8.50) and then add two dollars to that. Each topping is an additional $1.50.

The restaurant also has gluten-free pasta, which is imported from Italy. It’s made from corn flour, and Schmer finds it saltier than regular pasta but doesn’t taste much of a difference between that and regular pasta.

I left Blue Highway with a full stomach, happy wallet and cheerful attitude. The pizza was great and the staff was super sweet. I highly recommend this restaurant.

Here is the link to its website: http://bluehighwaypizza.com.

Satchel’s Pizza: I guess it depends on the person

When you combine the words Gainesville and pizza, Satchel’s Pizza comes to mind.

Satchel’s is located at 1800 NE 23rd Ave. You can’t miss the place. Its iconic van out front, which has tables inside so you can actually eat in it, will tip you off.

Here is the link to its menu for those with allergies: http://satchelspizza.com/swf/menuMore/menuMore.html.

It doesn’t have a “gluten-free pizza”. It does have a millet and flax crust that you can add your choice of toppings and sauce too. For liability sake, the restaurant can’t say it is 100 percent gluten free.

I got the millet and flax crust with BBQ tempeh, red onions and pineapple. This is similar to the pizza crust I got at Napolatano’s. You can find my review of that restaurant if you scroll down to earlier posts.

I find the crust to be bitter. The toppings and sauce were very good, though. The crust was very crunchy.  It was so crunchy that I had to slam my knife repeatedly into the pizza to cut it in half. It provided entertainment for my friends.

IMPORTANT: I reacted after eating this pizza. My mouth became very itchy and red immediately. Here are some explanations that may or may not have caused this.

First, I have read that if you have sensitivity to gluten then you probably are sensitive to soy. I got BBQ tempeh, a soy product, on my pizza. I believe I am sensitive to soy.

Second, the menu specifically says, “contains traces of gluten” by the millet and flax pizza. I talked to Satchel himself and he told me that they get their pizza crust from an off-site location that may have cross contamination in their facility. Also, Satchels is a pizza restaurant, so flour is everywhere and may get on the pizza while being prepared. The link to this off-site location, Sami’s Bakery, can be found on the page I provided a link to above.

Third, I may be sensitive to something other than what I listed. It is difficult to narrow down why one reacts, so I am listing every possibility for your safety.

Something I find highly irritating is the fact that you can’t get a slice of gluten-free pizza anywhere. You have to get the whole 12- or 14-inch pizza. Unless you only hang out with a gang of gluten-free friends, this is a problem.

The price was high. For the size and ingredients, I guess it’s just expensive. Every time I order a gluten-free pizza there is a moment of fear because if I don’t like the pizza, I will be throwing away $20+ out the window.  Being gluten free is expensive, and I feel restaurants should understand this and accommodate us. All I can eat is a slice. All I want is a slice.