No more pity parties: how to be a great gluten free guest

The number one biggest gluten free challenge for me is what to do when I get invited over to someone’s house for dinner. I understand and value what a lovely thing it is for someone to welcome me into their home to break (hypothetically gluten free) bread. I love the intimacy of sharing a home-cooked meal. In our hyper-rushed culture, it’s so special to share a relaxed meal and to linger over it for as long as you want.

Gluten free BBQ grub on July 4th
Gluten free BBQ grub on July 4th

The trouble here is that when someone goes out on a limb to have me over, the very last thing I want to have to do is to tell them what to cook and how to cook it. It feels intrusive and critical. In my experience, however, I have found that most hosts appreciate the heads up and are happy to be accommodating. If it’s not someone I know very well, I’ll admit that I dread having to make the request. After stumbling through a few faux pas, my advice is to ALWAYS say something beforehand. If you don’t, you’ll more likely than not end up having to explain to the entire group what happens to you when you eat gluten (gross) and the host might leave the table to make you a separate meal (awkward). Better to face the music beforehand! If you’re nervous, here are my top tips:

  1. Offer to bring something. This is a perfect way to bring up your dietary needs to the host in a constructive manner. Even if they decline, they’ll know what your needs are and be able to accommodate appropriately.
  2. If it’s not a sit-down dinner, bring a snack or eat beforehand. If you’re going to a party where there will be apps and drinks, often your best bet is just to come to the party full. There might be some crudite, nuts, or something else GF, but at least for those as food-focused as I am, better safe than hungry! This is especially important for events (like weddings) with passed appetizers, which tend to be heavily breaded/fried.
  3. Use your GFFs (gluten free friends): If you don’t feel comfortable telling the host yourself, have someone else do it! This isn’t copping out, this is asking for help from those who you love and rely on. If you’re attending an event with a significant other, family member, or friend, feel free to ask them to reach out to the host for you.

It’s definitely an ongoing challenge. What do you do when you’re eating at someone else’s home? Any other tips and tricks that work for you?

Treat Yourself Tuesday: Gluten Free in Berlin, Krakow, and Prague

Happy Tuesday! I’m dedicating my second #treatyourselftuesday to my biggest treat of the summer: my trip to Europe. Click here to read Becky’s fabulous blog and learn more about why she believes in the power of treating yourself every week. Happy to be linking up!

We celebrated my last summer of “freedom” (aka no grad school) with a week and a half of vacationing and adventuring. The trip was incredible, and thanks in large part to my exhaustive (anal?) pre-research, I got to treat myself to some of the local cuisine safely and gluten freely.

1) Stop number one: Berlin! The most surprising thing about Berlin, for me, was just how much of an international city it is. People like to compare it to Brooklyn–the city is stuffed to the gills with hipsters from all over the world, cute coffee shops, clubs, hole-in-the-wall bars, and brunch places. But if you’re looking for German food, German culture, or even German people, Berlin isn’t the place. That said, it is a fascinating city and definitely one I hope to come back to.

Late night at one of the cute local bars in Prenzlauer Berg
Late night at a cute local bar in Prenzlauer Berg

Due to the influx of trendy ethnic food and English speakers, it was super easy to navigate around the food scene. We had fabulous tacos and margaritas at Santa Berlin, which clearly marks all of their gluten free options right on the menu. A great, affordable choice for a dinner out–just be prepared to wait a bit for a table.

Tacos and margs!
Tacos and margs!

Since we had so many sights to visit, Berlin was a great place to grab groceries and store them in our Airbnb kitchen.

Healthy breakfasting at our Airbnb home!
Healthy breakfasting at our Airbnb home

We stopped by LPG Biomarkt (there are a bunch of locations around the city) for groceries and it had a GIANT gluten free section. Their bread and granola lasted me all the way to Prague.

2) From Berlin we hopped on a quick flight over to Krakow. I wasn’t quite sure what to expect, but Krakow was a truly lovely little city and a pleasure to explore. In addition to a finding a shocking number of gluten free eats, some pretty magical things happened in Krakow: J and I celebrated our second anniversary and I officially accepted a new job. Can’t really complain! Onto the eats…

We got to the city late and were pretty ravenous, so we followed our hostel’s recommendation to a salad bar called Chimera. While it wasn’t a salad bar in the traditional serve-yourself American sense, the food was fresh and plentiful… and they had gluten free cake on display! I knew good things were in store. The next afternoon, we had amazing potato latkes with mushroom sauce at Cafe Mlynek, a vegetarian joint in the Jewish district.

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Our anniversary dinner at Pod Baranem, however, absolutely blew me away. I had done some research on this one and it exceeded all expectations. The gluten free menu was extensive, the service was absolutely impeccable, and the traditional Polish food was DELISH (and very reasonably priced)! I didn’t take many photos since we were busy celebrating but these pierogies were probably the best thing I ate in Europe.

Pierogies--filled with beef, cabbage, and potato! NOMS.
Pierogies–filled with beef, cabbage, and potato

Don’t skip Restaurajca Pod Baranem if you’re in Poland!

3) Our last stop in Europe was in Prague.

Beautiful Prague by night
Beautiful Prague by night

I was last in Prague 14 years ago, and it was such a treat to be back in such a magical city–especially since we got to visit my wonderful great aunt on her home turf.

J, Mom, Dad, Aunt V, and me!
J, Mom, Dad, Aunt V, and me

Finding food in Prague was a little bit tricky–the city just hasn’t seemed to embrace the gluten free trend the way that Krakow and Berlin have. Regardless, I dragged the crew to Švejk Restaurant U Karla, where I treated myself to a traditional Czech goulash with dumplings and a Celia Lager (my new favorite gluten free beer).

GF goulash and dumplings
GF goulash and dumplings

Overall, I had a fabulous time in Europe–the trip was a treat in itself, filled with lots of gluten free treats!

The BEST gluten free beer!

I’ve been a bit radio-silent on the blog front recently–for several reasons. Life has been pretty hectic recently: I moved, accepted a new job, and am starting grad school in a couple of weeks. On top of all of that craziness, I just happened to have a 2 week international vacation on the books. On top of THAT, part of the vacation (and the impetus for it) was my very dear friend’s wedding in Israel.

Still with me? To recap: new home, new job, new school, and a huge trip to a potentially war-torn area of the globe.

Putting aside all of the crazy new and exciting life things for a minute, let’s focus in on my vacation adventures. First and foremost, clearly I am home and safe. Thankfully there was a cease-fire in effect the entire time we were in Israel, so everything went off without a hitch. And we had a wonderful time during the first two thirds of our trip, which we spent in Berlin, Krakow, and Prague.

Barring a few mishaps and challenges, I ate and drank my way through Europe and Israel like a gluten free queen!! While I’ll chronicle my eating adventures in at least a couple of upcoming posts, I wanted to shout out my most important discovery: I found THE BEST gluten free beer. Hands down. I was diagnosed with Celiac at 21 and I’ve tried em all: Dogfish Tweason’ale, Omission, Glutenberg, Redbridge, Bard’s, New Planet, Trader Joe’s NGB, Estrella Damm Daura, etc., etc… and this one takes the cake.

To back up: J and I spent our second anniversary exploring the beautiful little city of Krakow.

Sunset in Krakow's main square
Sunset in Krakow’s main square

I was a little bit nervous to be somewhere slightly off the beaten path–which generally makes it tricky to find things that I can eat. Boy, was I ever wrong! This gorgeous little city was bursting with gluten free gems. When I saw this sign I knew good things were coming my way.

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Show me the beer!

Enter: Celia Lager, from the Zatecky brewery in the Czech Republic. (Sidenote: it is apparently brewed in a castle. Yes, a magical castle that brews gluten free beer. I want to go to there!) The beer was light, crisp, refreshing, and tasted GOOD–none of the metallic, sour, or vegetable-like edge that other gluten free beers have.

Apparently I was so excited I forgot how to pour beer.
Apparently I was so excited I forgot how to pour beer.

It even got two thumbs up from J and from my dad–I sometimes bring in ringers to see if something actually tastes good or if it just tastes good to me since I can’t really remember what gluten-ous foods taste like.

Ladies and gents, this one is a winner. I found it again in Prague and happily slurped down another bottle. So here’s the challenge: while the delicious treat is all the rage in the UK, the interwebs seem to be telling me it’s not available here in the US. Why oh why, Celia?? We need you here–big time!

Do they need a spokesperson? I think I would do an excellent job!
Do they need a spokesperson? I think I would do an excellent job!

Does anyone know where I can find this wondrous beer stateside? Have you ever tried it? What’s your favorite gluten free beer?

My first Treat Yourself Tuesday: NYC edition!

I’m super excited to be linking up with one of my favorite bloggers, Becky from Olives n’ Wine, for my very first Treat Yourself Tuesday!

Treat-Yourself-Tuesday-Badge

I’m cheating just a little bit because these treats are from a couple of weeks back, but I had such a wonderful treat-filled girls weekend of gluten free fun in NYC that I can’t resist sharing it.

Skyline view from the train
Skyline view from the train

We kicked things off with an out-of-this-world incredible meal from Del Posto. Since it was a couple of days after my GFF E’s birthday, we wanted to go all out and celebrate with a super fancy shmancy lunch. From the live pianist to the extremely attentive (and maybe just a touch over the top) service, Del Posto didn’t disappoint. While my lamb was a teensy bit too salty, the gluten free focaccia and pumpkin tortellini were mind blowing. They brought us some fabulous little extras in between courses and the cocktails were delish. It’s definitely a splurge, even for lunch, but absolutely worth it.

Beautiful food and company
Beautiful food and company

After lunch we walked it off with a much-needed stroll on the High Line and then met up with friends in Central Park for a free NYC Philharmonic concert. The lighting was gorgeous and I think about half of Manhattan came out to join us–it was packed!

Dusk at Central Park
Dusk at Central Park

Saturday we kicked things off with an obligatory brunch at The Grey Dog, where I had to snag a gluten free blackberry muffin and a giant iced coffee with almond milk. Not gonna lie, it wasn’t my first or last iced coffee of the weekend… #treatyoself.

Grey Dog

The rest of the weekend continued with lots of strolling, a stop to refuel with cupcakes at Tu-Lu’s, manicures, and a phenomenal performance of Matilda!

Sneaky pre-show pic!
Sneaky pre-show pic!

I’m a huge musical theater nerd, and I was blown away by the cast, score, set design, and music–it was a spellbinding couple of hours. I also appreciated how closely they stuck to the plot of the original Roald Dahl novel, which was one of my favorites growing up.

Before our bus on Sunday, we grabbed a green smoothie at Westerly Natural Market which had one of the most extensive selections of gluten free goods I’ve ever seen. They were pretty pricey, but I got some microwaveable Annie’s and granola bars on mega sale.

I love how easy it is to zip down to NYC for the weekend, and it was so wonderful to catch up with friends old and new. New York is such a mecca for gluten free deliciousness–can’t wait to be back soon!

Did you get a chance to treat yourself this week? Any favorite gluten free spots in NYC?

Sneaky Gluten

On the surface, a gluten free diet seems pretty simple: no wheat, no flour, no problem. Unfortunately, gluten comes up on ingredient lists under all kinds of tricky names and in lots of unexpected places. Here are some of the gluten-containing foods that have tripped me up over the years.

Licorice: This one really threw me for a loop when I found out about it. Often gummy candy doesn’t contain gluten, so even though they’re not my favorite, I dug into a pack of Twizzlers a couple of years ago. Second ingredient on the list? Enriched wheat flour. Be careful with candy and always, always double check ingredient lists before digging in.

Source

Farro (and spelt, kamut, durum, bulgur, and semolina): I hate to have to share this story, but this one actually first bit me in the butt at Sweetgreen, a place I dearly love and still highly recommend. I breezed through the line and ordered a salad with no croutons, no side of bread, and with a nice scoop of the “warm grains.” Warm grains = organic quinoa and farro. What’s farro? You guessed it–a form of wheat :/ Luckily Sweetgreen does have alternate gluten free grain options like spicy quinoa and wild rice, but be extra careful to make sure your grains are gluten free before you eat.

Couscous: Unfortunately, couscous is actually teeny tiny pieces of pasta–made from wheat. Luckily, there are some awesome brown rice options like this one from Lundberg.

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Source

Soy Sauce: Soy = totally gluten free. Soy sauce = contains gluten. Weird, right? Thank goodness companies like Kikkoman make tamari-style soy sauces that taste exactly the same, but are gluten free. Many sushi places have tamari if you ask for it, but I recommend bringing a small bottle of your own.

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Non-certified oats: Oats fall into a little bit of a gluten free gray area. Although oats themselves don’t contain gluten, they are very likely to be contaminated–either in the field or in the packaging facility, there’s a a pretty high probability a little bit o’ wheat has snuck its way into most oats (more about this from The Kitchn here). Be safe and always buy certified gluten free oats. I get mine from Trader Joe’s.

Seitan (and most other faux meat products): When I first got diagnosed with Celiac, I was a vegetarian. It was a rough six months until I decided to bring the meat back. One dietary restriction is enough for me! For those of you who are intrepid gluten free vegetarians, be warned: almost all meat substitutes, besides tofu, are full o’ gluten. Veggie burgers, seitan, Morningstar Farms crumbles, etc. etc. all tend to use gluten as a binder. I recommend sticking to beans and tofu.

What kinds of “sneaky gluten” have tripped you up over the years?

Gluten free on the go: picks for a quick bite

For a spontaneous adventure-loving gal, one of the most frustrating parts about being gluten free is how much advanced planning it requires. As much as I always try to have snacks on hand, it’s incredibly helpful to have a few places where I know I can grab a quick, filling, relatively healthy and affordable meal. Here are the (mostly local–yay!) chains in and around Boston where I like to grab a quick bite.

Sweetgreen: Founded in DC, Sweetgreen is hands-down my favorite salad place in Boston. I’m not a huge lettuce fan, so I love that their base options include shredded kale and organic arugula. Toppings-wise, from spicy quinoa to local feta, roasted sweet potatoes, avocado, wild rice, and tons more–Sweetgreen has something for everyone. Their endlessly customizable menu is almost entirely gluten free and their seasonal salads are to die for. One quick warning: their “warm grains” contain farro, which is NOT gluten free. Otherwise, they provide a fantastic grab-and-go salad option in Back Bay, Chestnut Hill, and Fort Point!

Hearty salads and delicious iced tea from Sweetgreen
Hearty salad and iced tea from Sweetgreen

Chipotle: Ahhh, Chipotes. How I wish I didn’t enjoy you as much as I do. Chipotle is the only national chain on this list for a reason. When I’m really hungry (think 8:30 p.m. post-workout hungry) Chipotle always hits the spot. Their salads, tacos, and burrito bowls are GF, with easy veggie and dairy-free options. Plus, they do their best to serve local, organic, sustainable “food with integrity.” This is a great travel tip too, since they’re all over the country. Eat burrito bowls and be merry!!

Clover: Clover is a Boston area chain, boasting both trucks and brick-and-mortar restaurants. They serve up some of the healthiest “fast food” you’ll ever eat: delicious snacks, drinks, coffee, and healthy meals in under five minutes or so. Pop in for an egg and eggplant or chickpea fritter platter, and I promise you won’t be disappointed. While they don’t maintain a segregated facility, the staff is super helpful and there are great GF options. Direct from their website: “We hear a lot of questions about gluten-free options. Our kitchens are not gluten free. The falafel recipe does not have any wheat flour (unlike most falafel), instead we use GF corn flour. At the restaurants we have platters available without bread. At the trucks we have “boats” which is a sandwich without the bread. We are exploring a GF bread option.” We’re looking forward to it, Clover!

Egg and eggplant platter with carrot salad from Clover
Egg and eggplant platter with carrot salad from Clover

Boloco: Along the same lines as Clover, Boloco is a grab-and-go local “fast food” chain that serves up all kinds of smoothies, burritos, and salads. The name even stands for BOston LOcal COmpany–how cool is that? The best thing about Boloco in my book is that you can get pretty much anything on their menu in a bowl, meaning no tortilla and for the most part, no gluten. Details are available here. There are locations all over the Boston area (and beyond!), and their website meticulously lists out the ingredients for all of their menu items. I highly recommend the soy berry shake with peanut butter added for protein–and anything with guac.

Do you have any quick and easy gluten-free options you can’t get enough of? Shout em out!

 

Beyond Boston, Gluten Free

Happy summer, y’all! After an extraordinarily long, cold, and snowy winter, I’m loving being outside and soaking up the sun. For me, summertime means a whole lot of hiking in New Hampshire, lounging by the lake in Maine, outdoor concerts and festivals, long weekends and road trips, and lazy beach days. In the spirit of weekend getaways, I’m going to share a few of my favorite gluten free finds outside of Boston.

Green Lotus Cafe, Hyannis MA

Last August, the bf and I celebrated our first anniversary with a day trip on the Cape Flyer to Hyannis. We came prepared to bike around, lounge on the beach, and get some sun, but the weather had other plans in store.

Beachy keen (in the rain)
Beachy keen (in the rain)

Despite the rain, it was a fantastic day, and we stumbled upon a fantastic little vegetarian hole-in-the-wall with tons of gluten free options. Green Lotus Cafe has gluten free bread and wraps available, along with a fabulous selection of baked goods. Be sure to swing by if you’re headed down the cape!

Delicious vegetarian wraps at Green Lotus
Delicious vegetarian wraps at Green Lotus

Silly’s, Portland ME

My family’s summer getaway is in a tiny cabin on a lake in the middle of nowhere, Maine. The best way to make the 3 hour drive up there bearable is to stop off in Portland for a bite to eat.

Portland is one of my favorite New England cities, and it’s bursting at the seams with amazing restaurants. One of my favorites is Silly’s, which boasts kitschy decor, a fantastic outdoor garden/patio space, and well-labeled gluten free options on their extensive menu. Check out the incredible selection here and get yourself over to Silly’s!

Get in my belly!

The Mooring Restaurant, Newport RI

Last summer I had the incredible opportunity to go to the Newport Folk Festival. I was so excited about the lineup (Old Crow Medicine Show! The Decemberists! The Avett Brothers!) that I barely had time to think about what I was going to be eating.

The Avett Brothers at Newport

Luckily we managed to snag a reservation at The Mooring Restaurant in downtown Newport, which has a wonderful gluten free menu full of classic seafood fare. I chowed down on a lobstah roll (my first as a Celiac!) and they even brought me a delicious gf roll to start my meal. Bravo, Newport–I hope to be back at the Folk Fest soon!

Gluten free lobstah roll!

Rein’s Deli, Vernon CT

This one is slightly further off the beaten path, but if you’re driving from Boston to New York City this summer, you won’t be able to miss the gigantic billboards on Route 84 pointing you towards Rein’s Deli. I make a point to head down to NYC at least two or three times a year, and we always stop off at Rein’s for a deli sandwich and pickle or two–my brother and I literally cut our teeth on Rein’s famous pickles on family road trips as kids. A few year’s ago, Rein’s introduced a gluten free menu, a meticulously maintained separate preparation area, and hands-down the best gluten free bagels I have ever had. If you’re jonesing for a corned beef on rye or a classic bagel with with a thick shmear of cream cheese and a heaping pile of lox, head on down to Rein’s and I promise you’ll leave full and happy.

Where are your favorite New England summer vacation spots? Any can’t-miss gluten free hidden gems you’d recommend?

Happy summer road tripping!

Gluten free baking and the best brownies ever

Everyone needs a great standby dessert recipe. Whether it’s a gourmet homemade layer cake or Funfetti cupcakes from a box, there’s a tried-and-true recipe for every kind of baker, no matter what your laziness level is. I definitely fall towards the lazier side as a baker, and I’m pretty adamant about the fact that I don’t get into buying a million different kinds of flour in order to bake gluten free stuff. Potato, sorghum, tapioca, xanthan gum, brown rice, white rice, coconut flour, almond flour–just reading some of these recipes makes my head spin! I’m not a chemist, and I don’t have unlimited time on my hands to measure out minuscule amounts of obscure ingredients.

Enter: the gluten-free flour mix. Through years of dry, crumbly, metallic-tasting  trial and error, I have finally found two relatively failsafe options: King Arthur and Better Batter. These pretty much work flavor-wise in recipes for things like loaf cakes, muffins, and brownies. Beware, though: the really tricky part of GF baking is keeping things from flattening out all over the pan. Gluten is the stuff that gives your baked goods springiness and structural integrity, so things like cookies and cakes can be challenging. Not impossible, but don’t assume that subbing out the flour cup-for-cup with a gluten free version will work. Also, be sure that your GF flour blend contains xanthan gum, which takes care of some of the structural integrity conundrum.

With those tips in mind, I’m about to present to you my previously secret, always rich and fudgey, super simple family brownie recipe. This recipe is so gosh darn easy it actually takes less time and effort than a boxed mix, and it is so delicious you may even be able to fool your friends into thinking it is chock-full of gluten. (Yes, I have tried this at a party.)

Keepsake Brownies

  • 4 squares unsweetened chocolate
  • 1 cup butter or margarine
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 3 eggs beaten
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1 cup chopped walnuts (optional)
  • 1 cup GF flour blend
  • 1/4 tsp salt

Melt chocolate and butter in microwave. Cool. Add sugar, eggs, vanilla. Mix.

Add nuts if you’re using them. Mix flour and salt. Add gradually and mix well. Pour into greased and floured 9″ square pan, or something slightly wider and more shallow if that’s your preference. Bake at 350 for 45-50 minutes (subtract 5 min or so if you like em really gooey). Cool and cut.

This recipe is super fun to play around with. Check out my melted peanut butter swirl and candy corn versions, and feel free to experiment with your own. Happy brownie baking and brownie eating!

Peanut butter swirl brownies
Peanut butter swirl brownies
Candy corn brownies--a fall favorite
Candy corn brownies–a fall favorite

What are your favorite dessert recipes? Do you have a favorite gluten free baking mix?

Top five Pinterest recipes

Hello, my name is Leah and I really really like reading blogs. In fact, about 95% of my motivation to branch out in the kitchen comes from my blog reading/Pinterest-ing. (You can follow me on Pinterest here!) However, like pretty much every single other Pinterest addict out there, I do not make the vast majority of the things I pin. Of the recipes I do attempt, I attempt most of them only once–usually because they were either too much work or I just didn’t love them enough to incorporate them into my eating plan (I’m a bit of a creature of food habit, especially when I’m busy!)

So without further ado, here are top five favorite recipes from the land of the internets! I’ve made all of these many, many times and they are incredibly delicious and (for the most part) simple to make.

Breakfast: I absolutely adore these no-bake chocolate peanut butter breakfast bars from 86 Lemons. They are easy to make, super adaptable (try subbing out the nuts/seeds/fruit for your favorites), and healthy. They’re gluten free (duh), vegan, refined sugar free, AND they have both the whole grains and protein you need to keep you full until lunch. My big tip here is to store these in the freezer–it helps them keep their chewy texture.

Healthy lunch: Salads are my go-to for lunch, and this yummy kale salad from my friend Jennie’s amazing nutrition blog is one of the very best. I add some protein to the basic recipe and it’s a full meal. I’ll be writing a longer ode to my love affair with kale in a future post, so stay tuned.

Massaged kale salad and chicken stew
Massaged kale salad and chicken stew

Hearty dinner: This is probably the most time-consuming recipe on the list, but it’s worth it. The Cookin Canuck’s Hearty Chicken Stew with Butternut Squash & Quinoa is healthy comfort food at it’s very finest. It has veggies, whole grains, and protein galore, and the way the flavors all blend together is just magical. A bowl of this on a chilly evening is the best!

Dessert for one: If you haven’t tried mug cake yet, you really should. These little single-serve cakes that you make in a mug in the microwave are absolutely necessary when you need to satisfy a craving without wolfing down half a pan of brownies. This chocolate chip cookie mug cake recipe is pretty foolproof, and relatively healthy for a dessert. I usually tend to have the ingredients hanging around, so it’s a perfect last-minute treat. Plus it’s gluten/dairy/soy/corn/potato/egg/coconut free. I promise it still tastes great 🙂

My favorite mug cake
My favorite mug cake

Treats for your besties: I think everyone needs a go-to “wow” recipe to bring to a party–something that you know everyone will love. These Cookie Dough Truffles from Chocolate & Carrots do the trick for me every time. The recipe is a little time consuming (as you have to dip each truffle in chocolate), but they’re well worth it. I usually sacrifice aesthetics and melt the chocolate in the microwave rather than tempering it. They are gluten-free and grain-free but they taste exactly like chocolate covered balls of raw cookie dough, since they use a cashew meal base (easy to find at Trader Joe’s).

What are your go-to recipes? How often do you make things from Pinterest/the blogosphere more than once?

Boston gluten-free: my top three

I’ve been documenting my GF adventures for a few years now, and have eaten my way through a fair number of gluten-free spots in and around the the city. Below, in no particular order, are three of my favorites. Why these three? They offer affordable, accessible, varied GF options that I keep going back to again and again. So without further ado:

1. Life Alive: Hippie-dippy veggie-loving clean-eating folks, if you haven’t been to Life Alive, get ready to discover your personal food mecca. This uber popular vegetarian Central Square (and also Lowell and Salem) restaurant serves up some of the most delicious bowls, smoothies, soups, and salads in the city. You really can’t go wrong here–every dish is chock-full of veggies, fruit, leafy greens, whole grains, and mind-blowingly delicious sauces. Don’t be dissuaded by the line out the door, Life Alive is worth the wait. Plus, if you’re in a hurry, you can always call in your order ahead of time and skip the line to pick it up! My personal favorite combo is a demi bowl (try the Green Goddess–avocado, broccoli, kale, brown rice, and sprouted legumes–I add squash for an extra treat) and an Eros Alive smoothie (strawberries, bananas, dates, and almond milk–heaven with the addition of vegan ice cream). The staff here are super helpful and can make almost any menu item GF. Every time I eat here I feel full, happy, and energized. Even if you’re not generally a super healthy eater, check out Life Alive. Your body will thank you. ImageThe goddess–one of my faves!

2. Otto Pizza: Enough waxing on about health food, let’s get down to business and talk about the gluten free holy grail: delicious pizza. I was super sad last year when my favorite Zing Pizza closed, therefore super jazzed to see that the Portland, Maine based Otto Pizza is now offering a GF crust. Otto is doing a great job with their GF offerings–you can get almost all of their crazy topping combinations on a small-ish 10” pizza cooked in its own separate pan. My favorite so far is the number 9: butternut squash, ricotta and cranberry. The crust has a little bit of chewiness to it and is thin but substantive enough to hold all of those delicious toppings. This pizza is not cheap, but it’s worth it–with a side salad the 10” pie could be two or so servings, and it clocks in at around $16. More to come in a future post on the other GF pizza options in Boston!

ImageButternut squash, ricotta, and cranberries.

3. The Friendly Toast: Moving one more step away from my first virtuous and healthy recommendation, we’ve gotten to my favorite meal of the week: the ever-popular brunch. Like pretty much every other yuppie, I can’t wait to roll out of bed on the weekends (after 10 am, naturally) and head out for some cheesy eggs, crispy potatoes, and the world’s most giant mug of coffee. Since I’ve started eating GF, though, I’ve been jonesing for a delicious stack of pancakes and a side of toast to mop up my yolks. Enter: The Friendly Toast! For just $1 extra, this kitschy Kendall Square spot will make most of their their plate-sized pancakes gluten free. Beware, these things are HUGE, and also fluffy, moist, and tasty. I usually can’t eat more than one! If you really want to indulge, I recommend the King Cakes–with bananas, peanut butter, chocolate chips, fresh whipped cream, and bacon. Their omelettes (served with gluten free toast if you ask) and pint-size mimosas are also not to be missed, so come hungry and thirsty. The waits here can get a little out of hand between 10:30 and 1:30ish on weekends, so I recommend picking your favorite friend and grabbing the first two bar stools that open up. Or coming any other time. Nobody said you can’t eat your GF pancakes for dinner!ImageThe ultimate indulgence–the king cakes! Pancakes with banana, peanut  butter, chocolate chips, whipped cream, and BACON.

What are your all-time favorite gluten free spots in Boston? Spill!

– Leah