Good For Me and Good For You: New Day Gluten-free Cafe STL

20170414_143528The first time we walked in to New Day Gluten Free, my daughter with Celiac took in a slow, long breath, pressed her face against the case and stared for a full two minutes. When a New Day worker approached and asked if she needed help, she looked awed and breathed, “I can eat anything I want here. My mom doesn’t have to ask the chef or anything.” Safe to say, it was a good day for her.

The baked goods include muffies (small muffins that are almost all top), cake pops, cookies, brookies (brownies + cookies), cupcakes, cakes, cheesecakes, and tarts. The kids’ favorite is an enormous Chipwich, two huge, flat chocolate chip cookies with buttercream and rainbow sprinkles between them. Mine was the chocolate chip muffie. Soft, plush muffins with melty chocolate chips and a sugar crust, I will be ordering them every time we go back.

There is an extensive breakfast menu full of biscuits and pancakes, which is great since Celiacs are usually relegated to eggs, bacon, and fruit at breakfast joints. We came at lunchtime and ordered breadsticks, cheesy garlic bread, cheese pizza with bacon, a meatball marinara sub, and grilled cheese and tomato soup. Clearly, we were feeling Italian that day.

The breadsticks were the highlight of the meal for me, but the pizza was a close second. They were warm and soft, perfectly seasonsed, and served with a marinara sauce that had just the right amount of herbed intensity. The pizza was foldable and chewy, a win-win in a world of crumbly gluten-free crusts. The garlic bread had a hint of grainy after-texture, but my parents and kids didn’t notice. The grilled cheese was buttery, crunch on the outside and gooey on the inside, with salty cheese spilling over the sides of the crust. The tomato soup was creamy, tasting of summer and winter both at the same time.

New Day gets extra points for serving local sodas from Excel Bottling. Next time we go, we’re going to be taking home a tray of cinnamon rolls. They have a case with take-and-bake breads, pastas, sweets, and soups. They also take orders for school-safe snacks and birthday cakes.

The food here made my parents (who always eat their Wheaties) and my gluten-free daugther happy. They’re putting out great products for everyone, not so-so products for people who can’t eat wheat. Feel free to suggest bringing your friends who eat gluten — they’ll happily enjoy New Day’s bread and baked goods. I’m grateful they’re here in St. Louis.

Italian Stuffed Eggplant

When I was in college, I paid my for my tuition by serving diners at an upscale Northern Italian restaurant called Twilight’s Ristorante. The executive chef, John, served an appetizer he called Melanzane Rotella, or rolled eggplant. This thing was so addictive; the staff ordered it for dinner almost nightly. I learned from John that the secret to this dish is the same ingredient which makes tira misu so delectable — mascarpone cheese.

When my daughter was diagnosed with Celiac Disease, this was one of the few dishes I had in my arsenal that was gluten-free. It has always been one of my family’s go-to meals, and it’s the one that people request the recipe for most often.

Here it is, folks. No need to ask anymore. Andiamo a mangiare.

Italian Stuffed Eggplant

Serves 4 to 6

1 large purple eggplant, sliced lengthwise with a mandolin or sharp knife

olive oil, as needed

kosher salt, as needed

1 8-ounce package mascarpone cheese

1/2 cup frozen loose leaf spinach

2 teaspoons minced garlic*

white pepper, to taste

1 egg

1 32-ounce jar your favorite marinara sauce

1 – 1.5 cups shredded mozzarella

Preheat oven to 350F. Coat 2 cookie sheets with a thin coating of olive oil. Place eggplant slices on sheets; don’t overlap as much as possible. Sprinkle with kosher salt. Bake until soft and pliable, about 15 – 20 minutes (depends on thickness of slices).

While your slices are roasting, mix the cheese with one egg, 1/2 cup spinach, garlic, another big pinch of sea salt, and some white pepper.

Prepare a 9×13 pan by coating it lightly with olive oil. When the eggplant is soft, place one slice in the 9×13 pan. Spoon about 2 tablespoons of the cheese mixture onto one end of the slice, then roll it up, being careful not to burn your fingers. (I usually use a fork and spoon to roll the first half; the second half is usually cool enough to handle). Repeat this with each piece of eggplant until you have a tray full of stuffed, rolled eggplant.

Top the rolls with the full jar of marinara and sprinkle with cheese. Bake for 30 minutes. Serve immediately with a salad.

Writing this blog post is making my mouth water. 

*I used pre-packaged minced garlic packed in olive oil from Aldi. 

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Cheap Places for Gluten-free Products

Gluten-free products are cost-prohibitive. It’s inexpensive to eat gluten-free if you buy whole foods like rice, eggs, potatoes, meats, fruits, and vegetables. But if you want pre-packaged snacks and treats like crackers or granola bars, you’ll be paying more than twice per box compared to wheat-based products. The best way to have your cake and eat it too is to shop at ALDI or Asian markets.

The above photo is from a display at an ALDI in St. Louis, Missouri. Normally, their gluten-free products are spread throughout the store, marked so they’re easy to find. This ALDI is trying a new approach with all their GF products in a large, separate end cap. Check out their offerings — everything is under $5 per box or bag. More importantly, their GF products are tasty. They’re not the best on the market, but they are above-average in taste and texture. I got this grocery cart full of GF products and other household necessities (pictured below) for $180. In my area, this same cart full of food would have cost me around $300 at my mid-range grocer.

If there is no ALDI near you, your best bet is your local Asian supermarket. I can get 16 ounces of rice flour there for $.99, compared to the $4.99 I pay for 24 ounces of it at my local mid-range supermarket. All the products at the Asian market in my neighborhood have ingredient, allergy, and nutrition information stickers in English on each bag or box. Many products are marked if they’ve been prepared on shared equipment as well. Read labels carefully to decide if a product is safe for you.

We have discovered some delicious GF snacks at our Asian markets that neither ALDI nor any other area grocers carry, like these adorable sweet rice crackers pictured below (it’s basically a cookie, y’all). They come in packages of two, so they’re perfect for my daughter’s lunch box.

What grocer is your favorite for GF products?

 

P.S. ALDI did not pay me to write this blog; I’m an actual fan.

Easy Yeasty Doughnuts

Doughnuts. Food of the gods. The absolute worst thing to have to give up when you’re Celiac. I’m not going to lie: no GF doughnut tastes like Dunkin Donuts, but these come wicked close.

This is one of those posts where I did the leg work for you and found you the best GF doughnut recipe on the ‘net so you don’t have to search and waste your ingredients trying all those recipes. I did that for you. I tried recipes from a couple different blogs, and Nicole from Gluten Free on a Shoestring had the one that turned out the best.

However, she uses a time-consuming method to prepare them that involves rolling and cutting into shapes. I don’t need my doughnuts to look perfect, and I’m low on time. Instead, I scooped the batter into a large plastic zip-top bag, snipping off one of the corners. Next, I used a piece of parchment paper about the size of a sheet of notebook paper and folded it twice. I sprayed that with oil and piped doughnuts onto it one at a time, sliding them into the hot pan for frying. Ta-da! All the doughnuts in half the time. I also used my own flour blend of white rice flour, brown rice flour, tapioca and potato starches and powdered milk, and the doughnuts came out perfect. Click here for the dough recipe.

Nicole topped hers with a honey-based glaze, which I’m sure is delicious, but I was looking for something BAD for me, people. Something chocolate. And man, did I ever find it. My family has declared this the best icing recipe in the universe. As in all planets, not just Earth. We’re confident that this is true. I found it at Handle the Heat; click here for the recipe. I also took some right out of the oil and shook them in a bag of confectioner’s sugar (only use 100% cane sugar people) so my little ones could have a choice.

You’re welcome.

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Cocoa Crispy Treats

Sugar-free, Delicious Treats

I’m at Target last week looking for the best gluten free cereal on the market: Mom’s Best Crispy Cocoa Rice. And — gasp — they’re out! Even the tag is gone! In its place is One Degree Sprouted Brown Rice Cacao Crisps. I look the box over: gluten free? Check. Delicious looking? Check. Super healthy? Double check!

I get these puppies home, cover a big bowl of ’em in some 1%, dig in and blech. Now, I have a wide palate; I love almost all food, and I was not expecting this to be like Mom’s Best because, well, what could be as good as that? I was expecting more of a cardboard-y health food, but this wasn’t carboard-y; it was just gross. The texture was good, but the flavor was too strange for me to stomach.

I wasn’t about to throw it out, though. I’ve tried my fair share of gluten free pre-packaged foods and had more misses than hits. So, I did what I always do, and made lemonade out of these lemons. The best friggin’ lemonade I’ve ever had!

OK, moving on from the lemonade metaphor, this cereal is the most amazing base for delectable snacks. (Desserts? Snacks? I can’t decide which to call them.) Basically, I made cocoa crispy treats that are sugar-free and daaaaayum delicious. Mr. Picky McPickerson, pictured above, ate half the pan. Enjoy.

 

To Make Me:

4 cups of One Degree Sprouted Brown Rice Cocoa Crisps

1/2 c honey

1/2 Simply Nature Creamy Almond Butter

1/2 tsp salt

1 tsp vanilla

Prep a 9″ square pan by spraying with oil. Measure the cereal into a large mixing bowl. In a saucepan, boil the honey over medium heat for one minute, then stir in the almond butter, salt and vanilla. Pour this hot mixture over the cereal and stir until combined. Press this into the pan firmly using the back of your spoon or your hands if you can handle the heat. Refrigerate for 1 hour. Bring back to room temperature, cut, and serve.

 

How Do I Handle Potlucks and Parties?

and Mediterranean Shrimp & Tomato Bake

Oh glory be, you finally figured it out! You know what was making you or your kid sick: gluten. Stupid stupid gluten. You’re so happy; bring on the health!

But wait – our society is built around food with friends. Crap. What the heck are you supposed to do at barbecues, potlucks and parties?

  1. Bring your own salad dressing. Get those little packets of Newman’s Own dressing and stow some in a plastic tub in your glove compartment. You will be able to enjoy the salads at social gatherings.
  2. Bring your own sweets. You should always have a stash of sweets in your car. I like Aldi’s LiveGFree Double Chocolate Brownie Soft Baked Cookies. You can keep a box of these in your glove compartment (or in your child’s classroom) for times like baby showers where the adorable little stork-shaped sugar cookies are making you want to rush over to your favorite GF bakery and go to town.
  3. Let people know. I know it seems hopeless because even well-meaning people who attempt to make you something GF mess up and you get sick from eating it. But a lot of times, it works! My daughter’s friends’ parents have been incredibly kind, buying GF waffles for sleepover breakfasts and serving eggs and bacon for dinner. People at church started bringing croutons on the side or plain baked potatoes with toppings on the side for potlucks. Most people want to be accommodating.
  4. Don’t be shy about saying ‘no’ if they tried but you’re suspicious they missed something. Just be as kind as possible when you do it, and everyone will get over any hurt feelings. (And if they don’t, well, what can you do?)
  5. Ask if you or your kid can go first. Tell everyone you’ve got just a few things to choose from that are safe to eat and if those things are gone by the time your turn at the table comes around, you’ll be left hungry.
  6. Make a huge portion of something delicious that just happens to be gluten-free. The picture above is from my cooking club with my pal Grace from Taste with Grace. I brought along my go-to potluck dish (recipe below) and it was a hit, even with seafood-averting Midwesterners.
  7. When all else fails (surprise ice cream sandwich party in your kid’s second grade class!), promise yourself you’ll have a GF version later. And then eat it when it’s safe.

Mediterranean Shrimp & Tomato Bake

8 beefsteak tomatoes, cut into fourths

2 Tbls olive oil

sea salt

2 tsps minced garlic

1 – 2 pounds raw, peeled, deveined jumbo shrimp*

1 -2 Tbls lemon juice

1 4-oz pkg crumbled feta

2 c basmati rice, prepared as directed

Preheat oven to 350F. Get the rice cooking. Toss tomatoes in oil, garlic and salt and bake in 9×13 pan for 20 minutes. Meanwhile, peel the shrimp and toss them in the lemon juice. Use 1 Tbls lemon juice per pound of shrimp. Remove tomatoes from oven and stir shrimp in. Top with crumbled feta. Bake for 10 more minutes or until shrimp are just pink and shaped like a letter “C.” Serve all this goodness over rice.

*Please buy sustainably procured shrimp. I want my great grandchildren to be able to enjoy shrimp. Also, our American fishermen need our support. Here’s more information on that: Seafood ChoicesALDI’S seafood chain, and Behind the Business of Shrimp Farming.

A2: new (kid-friendly!) gluten-free cafe

There is a game-changing restaurant in St. Louis. A2 is a gluten- and casein-free cafe. When we told our daughter that we were going to a restaurant where she could order anything she wanted from the entire menu, she almost fainted from shock and joy. She is seven; have I mentioned that?

She chose pizza because…well, pizza. Except, with all due respect to the owners Audra and Audrey who I love for opening this place, this stuff shouldn’t be called pizza. It’s just not pizza. It’s a cooked dough topped with sauce and cheese, sure, but it’s not pizza. The dough is reminiscent of a thick, crumbly paste that was baked just enough to make it edible. Skip the pizza here…

…but come for the sandwiches, salads, drinks and baked goods! These ladies have hit the mark with the breads, scones, and dairy-free brownies. I got the Monte Cristo, which is French Toast Loaf (read: cinnamony goodness) around turkey, bacon, an egg (the egg isn’t listed on the menu but came on my sandwich and everything is better with an egg). It’s drizzled with local honey. My son’s grilled cheese on a baguette was soft of the inside and crackly on the outside, just like a baguette should be. The cabbage slaw is crisp, fresh, and tangy. The Italian Soda was on point.

I was so excited I forgot to take pictures until we were almost through. But as you can see from the one I did snap, they have a kids’ menu and crayons. We even got vanilla scones to take home and have for breakfast the next day, and they actually taste like scones, people. For reals. Delicious.

A2 is at 1330 Washington Ave., St. Louis, MO 63103 — 314.266.3225

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