BJ’s Restaurant and Brewhouse’s Certified G-free Menu

I had received a flyer in the mail about BJ’s Restaurant & Brewhouse’s gluten-free for two dinner. I have been a fan of their restaurant for a few years now. It use to be the place where my friends and I would meet up for Friday dinners. They have a wonderful menu filled with pasta dishes, specialty salads, deep dish pizzas, and their super yummy pizookie (vanilla ice cream on top of a warm chocolate chip cookie). Oh, and did I mention their beer menu and large flat screen televisions? BJ’s is the kind of restaurant where you can take date or watch the game with friends.

The flyer sat in our “things to do” pile until  my husband and I finally went for our Friday date night dinner. We were able to get seated  before the dinner rush and asked for the gluten-free menu. It was interesting to see that one side of their menu was g-free offerings and the other was a chart composed of all their dishes and the most common allergies. Making it very simple to see what dish contained what food allergies. I had a verity of items to choose from including their version of a gluten-free pizookie! But I had my eye on the pizza!

My husband and I decided to share the barbe que chicken chopped salad (no onion strings), veggie pizza, and a pizookie for dessert. They didn’t have any gluten-free beer in-house but offered 3 different  ciders. After chatting with my husband and looking over the menu time passed and our food was on its way.

My eyes lit up at the sight of our thin crust pizza as my nose took in the wonderful aroma of my long missed friend. I was so taken by the pizza that I didn’t even look at the salad. Helping myself to a slice of and salad it was time for tasting! Trying the salad first I enjoyed the sweet BBQ ranch dressing against the crunch of the fresh lettuce. It was super tasty and I can image it to be quite filling had it been the only thing I ordered.

Next it was time for the pizza, after tasting a hand-full of mushy g-free pizza I wasn’t sure if it would hold up to my memories. Going into my first bite as a skeptic but after tasting I thought I was dreaming! It was delicious! Bit after bite I consumed my first slice quickly. I was happy to see that the middle of the crust wasn’t a mushy mess  and could hold all the toppings without wilting. Diving into my second piece I took care to enjoy it at a slower pace. I had finally found it! A gluten-free pizza that I didn’t have to make myself or lack in flavor and texture.

Noticing that they are certified GF I inquired about their g-free pizza production. Speaking to the manager, Rich C., he informed me that they have separate pans, refrigerator, bins, and utensils that are only for their g-free dishes. That the cooks are knowledgeable about cross contamination, changing their gloves and sterilizing any surfaces before use. The gluten-free items are stored in their own refrigerator and are covered with green caps. They even use separate cooking pans for the pizookie that are also green. Gluten free ice cream is only scooped with their gluten-free scooper and then booth are covered after use.

After we devoured the bar-b-q salad and pizza it was time for our pizookie. Out came a warm g-free chocolate chip cookie with two scoops of vanilla ice cream. Again BJ’s Restaurant & Brewhouse could have fooled me into thinking this was a regular cookie because it flavors were amazing.

I will gladly return to BJ’s Restaurant & Brewhouse for more of their gluten-free dishes. I would recommend stopping by and enjoying their gluten-free offerings!

Now that I am writing about it… if you’ll excuse me, I have a pizza to order.

Hello Gluten-free Cosmetics

After coming across this question:

Celiac disease: Can gluten be absorbed through the skin?

I have celiac disease. Do I need to be concerned about sunscreens, shampoos and cosmetics that contain gluten?

on the Mayo Clinic site I decided it would be best to take a peak inside my own cosmetic bag. Even though I have been cutting gluten out of my diet I didn’t know it could be lurking in my lipstick! I’m not a fan of eating my lipstick but I do lick my lips so I must ingestion some of the product. Even when putting on my blush or face powder I could get some in my mouth or leave it on my hands. Gluten is even in nail polish! It seems to be everywhere and in everything. I could have been infecting myself this whole time without my knowing.

Grabbing my cosmetic bag and pulling out my body lotion I began the never-ending task of reading ingredients. And I thought  reading food labels was challenging… this was taking it to another level. Rather then checking out every single ingredient I decided to go brand by brand. Here are some of my findings:

Searching the Nars, Orgasm Blush which is my favorite, site and found this statement under customer care:

“DOES NARS CONTAIN GLUTEN (WHEAT, BARLEY, RYE OR OATS)?

NARS does not use any gluten or gluten derived ingredients in its products. Therefore we consider our products to be “gluten free.”

This was amazing news for me! I love NARS so the buck stopped here for me. Heading out to my local Sephora, store #0082, I went to pick up some new gluten-free products from NARS. While searching for the right lip color one of their wonderful associates approached me. Yvonne asked me if there was anything she could help me with. Providing her with some quick info on my search for G-free makeup she was ready and willing to help. She ended up being the perfect associate; listening to my concerns and understanding my need for a G-free product because her boyfriend is a vegan. Thus making her very familiar with reading labels. She suggested I try Too Faced eyeliner and went to double-check that it was G-free. We found this under their site’s FAQ :

“10.  Are your products gluten-free?

Actually ALL Too Faced products are gluten-free with the exception of our Borderline Lip Pencil.”

Great! Another cosmetic brand I am able to use. Next, time to find that perfect tinted moisturizer. Yvone suggested Hourglass‘s Illusion Tinted Moisturizer. It has SPF 15 and is labeled oil, fragrance, paraben, gluten, sulfate, phthalate-free and vegan. She also loves this product because it is not only a cosmetic but a skin care conscious “utilize clinical levels of anti-aging and sun-filtering ingredients“. Nothing like a little anti-aging to go along with my SPF.

An hour after walking through the door I was leaving, with the help of Yvonne, with a bag full of gluten-free cosmetics. It was really great how interested she was in helping me find gluten-free products and went above and beyond her customer service duties. She took a real interested in the subject and was going to further research and make a G-free list for the store. Now every time I put on my makeup I will not have to worry about being exposed to gluten. Thanks Yvone for all the help!

Here are some other G-free face, skin, and cosmetic products that can be found at local drugstores.

Suave sites statement:

“Gluten is a protein found in wheat, rye, barley and processed oats. For ingredient labeling, our company follows the guidelines of the US Food & Drug Administration (FDA) and uses the International Nomenclature for Cosmetics Ingredients (INCI).

If any wheat, rye, barley or oat-derived raw materials are in our products, they would be listed on the labels. This includes any hydrolyzed protein from wheat, rye, barley or oats which may contain gluten.

We recommend that you consult with your physician as to whether use of grain derivatives in personal care products will cause the symptoms of Celiac-Sprue Disease.”

Dove‘s site statement:

“Gluten is a protein found in wheat, rye, barley and processed oats. For ingredient labeling, our company follows the guidelines of the US Food & Drug Administration (FDA) and uses the International Nomenclature for Cosmetics Ingredients (INCI).

If any wheat, rye, barley or oat-derived raw materials are in our products, they would be listed on the labels. This includes any hydrolyzed protein from wheat, rye, barley or oats which may contain gluten.

We recommend that you consult with your physician as to whether use of grain derivatives in personal care products will cause the symptoms of Celiac-Sprue Disease.”

I also found a number of different gluten-free lotions and body washes at my local health food store. They had a gluten-free cosmetics brand called Mineral Fusion, based in Denver. I didn’t purchase any of their products yet but am very interested in their Intense Hydration Facial Cream.

Wet n Wild:

Are wet n wild products gluten-free?

Most wet n wild products are gluten-free except for the following:
821A-827A Natural Blend Pressed Powder
745-749 Natural Blend Mineral Foundation and Mineral Veil
C641A MegaProtein Mascara
All other products are gluten-free.

e.l.f. email reply:

Thank you for your interest in e.l.f. Cosmetics. Our products do not contain gluten or beeswax. Please be aware, however, that we cannot guarantee that the machinery used to process our products are completely gluten free.

Sincerely,
the e.l.f. team
e.l.f. Cosmetics Affordable Luxury
Ph. 212-239-1530

Neutrogena® Naturals

Are Neutrogena® Naturals products gluten free?
Yes, Neutrogena® Naturals products are gluten free.

While continuing my search at home I came across The Celiac Diva. She has a wonderful site with plenty of G-free cosmetic information! I  would recommend checking her site out for more cosmetic information.

Our Anniversary and Cupcakes Squared

This past weekend was my husband and I’s second anniversary. But it was extra special because we celebrated it as if it was our first anniversary. (Last year he was at sea so we were unable to be together.) Packing for an eight day vacation on Coronado Island, San Diego, we waved good-bye to our place. We had a great list of boating, hiking, swimming, bon-firing, picking up my in-laws,  and making a stop at Cupcake Squared! What better way to celebrate our anniversary then with cupcakes!

While searching for G-free bakeries online I came across Cupcake Squared, in Point Loma. I don’t know how many times I have hung around Point Loma and have never come across this super cute bakery. This being our first trip to Cupcake Squared my husband and I were filled with excitement.

Robin, owner of Cupcakes Squared

Robin, owner of Cupcakes Squared

We found it to the left of a market in a little shopping center. Walking up we noticed a doggie bowl, filled with water, with Cupcake Squared engraved on it. We commented on how sweet it was for them to leave water out for doggies. Walking into the bakery we were welcomed by Robin herself (owner). I was taken by how cute the little squared cupcakes look. Speaking with Robin she told me a little bit about Cupcake Squared. They open 4 year ago and after having many customers inquiring about G-free cupcakes she decided to give it a try. After trying different mixes she ended up working with rice flour, that bakes a dense moist cake. She has a verity of different flavors to choose from and can make everything on her list but smores and cheesecake. They bake fresh every morning and the gluten-free cakes are displayed on their own tray. No, this bakery is not 100% G-free but they go to great measures to keep their products gluten-free. They use a separate mixer and cook the gluten-free products separately.

Another super great quality about this bakery is that if you call and request a gluten-free flavor, off their list of flavors, she can put it on a list to be made during the week! How awesome is that! Robin was super sweet and it was truly a pleasure speaking with her. She had made the G-free Lilikoi, vanilla cupcake with lilikoi (passionfruit) buttercream, and vanilla, hawaiian vanilla with vanilla buttercream, Almond Apricot Squares, and Cranberry White Chocolate Squares that day. She gave us a taste of the Lilikoi and Vanilla cupcakes and we quickly feel in love with the Lilikoi! The taste of the cakes were very moist and, as she said, was more of a dense consistency. The frosting was light and delicious without having an overpowering sweet flavor. These cupcakes have a lovely light flavor that keeps you going back for more bites.

They don’t just make gluten-free cupcakes but also a yummy treat called squares. To me they remind me of a thicker cookie. They would be great with coffee in the evening or warned up with ice cream on top!

It looks like Cupcake Squared has everyone’s well-being in mind. From the gluten-free, vegan, sugar-free, and even doggie customers, Cupcake Squared has something for everyone!

Cupcakes and Squares

Cupcakes and Squares

Saying good-bye to Cupcake Squared my husband and I were off to celebrate our anniversary. After spending a wonderful day of boating we set up our bonfire. Cooking hot dogs (Nathans are G-free) and sharing, Cupcake Squared, Lilikoi cupcake was a great way to finish off our day.

Thank you Cupcake Squared for playing a special part in our anniversary!

Sending a happy anniversary to my wonderful husband! Thanks for supporting me through my gluten-free trail and errors. For picking me up when I am feeling down or frustrated. And for never making me ever feel silly when crying over pizza. I love you! Cheers to another year together. 

Living with a Non-Gluten Free Family?

My G-free kitchen island. With foil covering the top for extra safety.

Sometimes I stay with my parents or sister while my husband is at sea. Every time I go over I find it more difficult to keep a gluten-free space. This made me wonder how mixed gluten and gluten-free families do it.

During a recent stay at my moms we started talking over what we can do to keep the kitchen safe for my use. And we came up with the idea of buying a kitchen island. My mom always wanted to buy one but never got around to doing it. I told her that I would buy the island if she would let me use it for my G-free items. She thought the idea was great and mentioned how handy my own cutting board space would be. And to keep it covered with foil or plastic wrap, while not in use, to prevent accidental gluten exposure. I would have a space for all my own pans, dishes, bowl, utensils, and any other goods.

I immediately jumped on the internet and started looking into kitchen islands. They can run from a hundred to thousands depending on what you are looking for. I was able to purchase one from Target for $224. It was originally around $300 but was on sale and matched her kitchen perfectly!

Now when I stay at my parent’s house I will have my own gluten-free spot. I am really lucky to have an amazingly supportive family. Thanks Mom.

Celiac and Me

After waiting months (due to a busy schedule) I finally went in for my test results. And it turns out I don’t just have a gluten allergy but (drum roll please) Celiac Disease.  After reviewing different sites, checking into symptoms, and what my body has been going through, I had a pretty good idea I would be joining the percentage of people with Celiac. So this was not a shock for me. When having a gluten allergy or Celiac Disease the treatment is similar. NO GLUTEN. The difference between the allergy and disease is that Celiac is an autoimmune disease. The problem is my body is attacking itself. So, here I am with Celiac Disease and still gluten-free.

My doc prescribed me a variety of vitamins, a probiotic, and a gluten-free diet. EPA, DHA, malabsorption, deficiency, nutrients, autoantibodies, villa, intestines, vitamins, and gut were some of the words being crammed into my head. After reviewing everything I had clear idea of what was going on in my gut. What a mess! But on the bright side… I am still here alive and kicking! I have to go back in six months for more test to see if my vitamin’s have improved.

I walked out of the doc’s office singing, lyrics to a Puff Daddy song, “Can’t nobody hold me down… ohh no, I got to keep on movin” in my head. And moving I went… to the health food store.

Lesson learned: Don’t wait forever to get test results back! I will not be making this mistake again… EVER!

2GOOD2B Bakery & Cafe

Photo taken at 2GOOD2B Bakery & Cafe in Encinitas, California

Searching the internet for gluten-free restaurants 2GOOD2B Bakery & Cafe popped up. Clicking on the link to see what G-free baked goods they offered I was unknowingly in for a real treat!

This special bakery is “always 100% gluten, corn, soy and peanut free”. Reading the bios about Mike Barbanti, Diana Mourato Benedek, and the conception of the bakery I knew I had to make a visit. Viewing their gallery and drooling over images of pizza, french toast, and cupcakes I couldn’t wait to visit. The weekend was fast approaching, my husband and I were looking forward to our upcoming visit to Encinitas where 2GOOD2B Bakery & Cafe is located.

Finally making our way up for breakfast on Saturday morning we pulled into the shopping center, parked, and jumped out with excitement.Walking into the bakery and looking right there was a display case full of cupcakes! Had I reached the G-free pride-lands? Maybe, but first a taste test. Their menu had plenty to offer including the french toast from the gallery. My husband ordered the breakfast panini and I the french toast. Both of us are fans of cinnamon rolls, so we added one to our selection.

We paid the cashier and took seat by the window. My husband and I had our eyes fixed on the cupcake display case. Feeling a little greedy we decided to pick out some mini cupcakes for home. The helpful cashier told us that if we check-in on facebook we could get a discounted price. After choosing red velvet, chocolate, white chocolate raspberry, and carrot cake our order was ready.

Having the memory of how good french toast use to taste I was ready to give this gluten-free one a try. After tasting my first bite (with my husband eagerly awaiting my reaction) I couldn’t help but smile. It was just like how I remember it… maybe even better! I happily took another bite and offered my husband a taste. After seeing how pleased I was he dove right into his breakfast panini.

Taking bites of each others meal has always been something we love doing. Each ordering a different item on the menu allowing us to taste different flavors. Since being diagnosed with gluten intolerance we have not been able to share. But not here, it was safe to share and not be afraid of my husbands fork contaminating my food. He did stop himself a few time out of habit.

Photo taken at 2GOOD2B Bakery & Cafe in Encinitas, California

Finishing most of our meal we moved on and tasted the cinnamon roll. I stuck my fork right in middle for a taste; it was so moist and delicious. Normally I expect the outside of the roll to be dry. That was not the case here, it was moist all the way through, my husband said it just might be the best cinnamon roll he had. Feeling stuffed we took the rest of our food, mini cupcakes, and half our cinnamon roll to go. Fully satisfied and with treats to go we got into the car and head back home.

After breakfast we meet up with my sister; I let my nephew and niece have the mini cupcakes. They ate them up enjoying each bite. On my next visit I will have to buy some for them and me too. Along with about a dozen of their delicious cinnamon rolls.

Visiting 2GOOG2B gave me a new outlook on eating gluten-free. I don’t have to sacrifice flavor to be gluten-free and healthy. I am lucky to have such a great bakery and cafe so close to me. I look forward to stopping by for their dinner menu!