New Year Resolutions

I never make resolutions. I used to, when I was younger, but I quickly learned that most resolutions that I made were superficial (“exercise more”) and cheesy (“be more open minded” – I mean really, what does that even mean?) and it wasn’t long before I fell off the new year bandwagon and went back to my old ways.

But I have been thinking a lot over the last couple of weeks. Thinking about my previous year and this year ahead of me and what they mean to me. 2013 was my best year ever. And I can truthfully say that. It was incredible; not in some lame “best year ever” kind of way. In the honest-to-goodness, most genuine way possible. If I could relive 2013 over and over again, I would. To sum it up, here are some of the highlights of my last year:

I got married. To an awesome man who genuinely makes me feel like a better version of myself whenever we’re together. I cannot even remember what my life was like before I was his wife.

View More: http://chaophotography.pass.us/lindsayjason

Our family grew. With the addition of our six pound maltese, our baby girl Gracie became the center of attention in our home. What did we even used to do before we brought her home with us last April?

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I started this blog. That’s right, my blog less than 8 months old. But in those eight months, I’ve had the chance to share information with people all over the world. And joining the gluten free community has opened my eyes to so many new ideas, new people and let’s face it, amazing recipes, that I can’t imagine NOT being a part of it.

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I traveled. A lot. In 2013 I had the chance to visit St. Louis, Minneapolis, Nashville, Memphis, Little Rock, Tampa, Las Vegas, Austin, Seattle, St. Louis, Buffalo, Houston, Chicago, Niagara Falls, Orlando, New Orleans, Baton Rouge, Birmingham, Dallas and did I mention Antigua?!

Beautiful Antigua

Beautiful Antigua

2013 was a whirlwind of a year surrounded by awesome customers, incredible friends and of course, my amazing husband. So when I think about 2014, I wonder how on Earth I am going to top last year’s awesomeness. The only way I can even think about coming close is to set some goals for myself. Not resolutions, because we know I can’t help but break a New Year’s Resolution. But instead, some reasonably attainable goals that won’t make me feel terrible about myself if I can’t do them every single day.

– I will travel. As far and as often as possible. You can’t see, learn and eat everything from Mississippi. There are too many incredible things (and incredible foods) in the world to sit around and miss it all. So get ready for some (Gluten Free) posts while I’m out exploring this year.

– I will write. More. Writing is more than just a hobby for me now. It’s cathartic. I’ve written a countless number of blog posts that never even get “published” but instead, just sit in my drafts as evidence of a crazy day at work, or an amazing trip or even a terrible dinner. Reading old posts never fails to make me laugh. And writing new ones never fails to make me smile.

– I will smile. As much as I can. Because not every day is perfect, but if there’s one thing that last year taught me, it’s that happiness is contagious and smiling in and of itself can make any day brighter.

– I will be more grateful. Let’s face it, we are all guilty of taking things for granted from time to time. This year, I want to focus my efforts on constantly staying grateful for all of the amazing things in my life. Whether it is a night out with friends, a simple dinner at home with the hubs, a wonderful vacation, or just a delicious piece of gluten free pie… Taking a second to appreciate things will surely help to make the year a better one.

Cheer’s to 2014! Wishing you a year that is as much of an adventure as I hope mine will be!

cheers-2014

Dempsey Bakery: a Slice of Gluten-Free Heaven

Whenever I eat somewhere fabulous, I feel inclined to write about it. Especially when that place serves ONLY GLUTEN FREE FOOD! Talk about not having to worry about getting glutened! Everything on the menu at Dempsey Bakery in Little Rock, Arkansas is gluten, soy and nut free. Many of their items are also dairy free and egg free as well!

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I visited here yesterday afternoon for lunch with one of my customers. She suggested it, as she has many friends with gluten allergies and knew this place had a delicious (safe) lunch menu. As soon as I walked in, I knew I was going to love this place! It’s ridiculously adorable and the rows and rows of gluten free goodies smell absolutely incredible!

First thing was first. We needed to eat lunch. We both enjoyed a sandwich made with homemade gluten free bread! (I opted for the Muffaletta on this visit, but I would definitely try the adult grilled cheese if I ever have a chance to visit again).

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After we finished lunch, I scoured the bakery options for treats to bring home with me. There were rows and rows of cookies, cupcakes, breads, dinner rolls and cakes. With so many options, I sure did have a hard time making a decision. In the spirit of Halloween, I opted for this delicious gluten free monster cake.

Adorable AND Delicious!

Adorable AND Delicious!

I also grabbed a few iced shortbread cookies and a gluten free hot milk cake. (Which is currently being saved in the freezer so it will last longer).

Interested in ordering some of this deliciousness for yourself? Visit www.dempseybakery.com to take a look at their complete menu. They will ship anything you order to any state! (Orders must be placed over the phone as their online ordering isn’t up and running yet)

As for me? I’m adding Dempsey Bakery to my “must-do” list for my next visit to Little Rock!

Wegmans is my Gluten Free Heaven

If you’ve ever read a blog post by me before, you know that I am from Buffalo, NY. Sure, I may live in Mississippi now, but I was born and raised a “Yankee”. This past week, I had the opportunity to head back home for a business trip and extend it for the weekend so I could visit with my family. I am fortunate to travel to many cities for work, but heading home is one of the best benefits of all! Especially since the food in Buffalo, NY is SO SO SO good!

I will sum up this past weekend in seven words: Wine, Chicken Wings, Wegmans, Gluten Free Beer… After this weekend, I am starting to wonder what else you could possibly need in life.

It started Friday night with an innocent trip to Wegmans. I mean, the store WAS right next to the place we intended to have dinner at, so a short trip wouldn’t hurt anybody. Plus my Mother in Law was visiting with me and she had never visited the greatness that is Wegmans before. Well, was she in for a surprise. In my younger days, Wegmans was the norm for me. It was the ONLY grocery store that I shopped at. It was friendly, “homey” and delicious; why would I need to visit anywhere but there?

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Then I moved to Mississippi four years ago. Since then, I have experienced grocery shopping at Wal-Mart, the brightly light aisles of Kroger, and even Fresh Market. But none of those places compare to the shopping experience at Wegmans. With its chalk-board signs and home-like dim lighting, as soon as you walk through the doors you immediately feel welcome. Then, you head through the incredible fresh market area, with fresh fruits, vegetables, cheese and deli meat, as you make your way towards the Organic and Gluten Free section.

Now when I say “section”, I mean a Gluten Free section FIVE TIMES the size of the one at my local Kroger (at least). I mean so many options that you have NEVER EVEN HEARD OF to choose from. I mean gluten free mixes and pastas specially made by Wegmans at prices so LOW you’ll think you’re dreaming. (Gluten Free pasta for 1.29?!!! I was in Heaven!)

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*sigh*

*sigh*

I was so overwhelmed that I had to walk both Gluten Free aisles and the frozen Gluten Free section three times before deciding to purchase items. When I did finally make a decision, I threw so many things in my basket that I started to worry about how I would get them all back to Mississippi. (Don’t worry, I had packed an extra duffel bag, just in case).

Frozen Gluten Free Foods - at least part of the section!  Crazy!

Frozen Gluten Free Foods – at least part of the section! Crazy!

And Wegmans even makes their own Gluten Free products including pasta, cake, brownie, cookie and cornbread mixes!

Wegmans Gluten Free Awesomeness

Wegmans Gluten Free Awesomeness

By the end of the trip, I had ended up with the following items: Glutino Strawberry Toaster Pastries (2 boxes), Sam Mills Corn-Based Gluten Free Pasta (3 boxes), Wegmans GF Sugar Cookie Mix, Wegmans GF Spaghetti Noodles (3 Packages), Wegmans GF Cornbread Mix, Crunchmaster Cheezy Crisps, Tonya’s GF Kitchen Original Soft Pretzels, Snyder’s Gluten Free Pretzels, Glutino Chocolate Covered Gluten Free Pretzels, Mi-Del GF Pie Crust, Glutenfreeda Granola Cereal/Snack, Glutino Cornbread Stuffing Mix, and Glutino GF Pretzels. Seriously – I packed ALL of that stuff and carried it back to Mississippi with me. That is how excited I was!

Heaven in a Basket

Heaven in a Basket

To make a long story short, if you live in a city with a Wegmans, I am now so jealous of you it is unbelievable. When I lived in Buffalo, I didn’t even realize what I was taking for granted before. Enjoy every shopping moment that you have in that incredible store!

For those of you who live in Mississippi, don’t worry – our day will come. Though I am not exactly holding my breath until then….

Coming Soon to Baton Rouge – the GF & AF Wellness Event!

Living in Mississippi, I tend to feel a little bit isolated from the gluten free world. I often read posts by other bloggers about fabulous restaurants or bakeries that serve completely gluten free menus. Or incredible shops and stores that offer aisles upon aisles of gluten free goodies! Whenever I hear of these things, I find myself dreaming of the day that a place like that opens in Mississippi. (Sigh) Until that day comes, I do what any girl would do… I eat wherever I can, order lots of food online and travel often! Documenting it all for you to read, of course.

But when I hear that a gluten free event is happening so close to home, I get excited. Not just a little excited – can-hardly-contain-my-enthusiasm excited! Because how often do I get the chance to meet other incredible gluten free bloggers and sit in on sessions with great gluten free speakers? Better yet, how often do I get to do this only hours from my hometown? (In case you’re still wondering, the answer is pretty much never)

Enter my excessive enthusiasm for the Baton Rouge Gluten Free and Allergen Free Wellness Event on November 2nd! Admission is only $10 for adults and free to children 13 and under! And the entire event takes place from 10am – 3 pm at the Cook Hotel & Conference Center at LSU. That’s FIVE HOURS of gluten free awesomeness!!!

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Wouldn’t you just LOVE to join me in Baton Rouge for this event? You can! Click here for detailed information on speakers, sponsors and vendors. You can even purchase your event tickets online!

Once you decide you absolutely cannot live without attending this event, let me know that you’re planning to join us there! I would love to see all of you!

Gluten Free Eats – Orlando, FL

I love a vacation. And I definitely love eating on a vacation. After all, isn’t that the best time to indulge in all of the things you wouldn’t normally eat? Frozen drinks, fancy cocktails, and even desserts? So when we planned a family vacation to Orlando, I immediately started researching some of the best gluten free restaurants in the area. And I definitely was not disappointed.

Our trip began on Wednesday night when we arrived at the condo. My mother and sisters had been there since Sunday and my grandparents had gotten to town earlier that afternoon. When my hubby and I walked in, we were immediately greeted with not just hugs, but two kinds of gluten free beer – Omission and New Grist.

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Neither of us had ever tried New Grist before, so of course we popped a couple open right away! They did not disappoint. 🙂

The next day, we of course enjoyed some delicious cocktails poolside. I mean with a menu like this, who could resist?

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AND our drinks were served in these fantastic pineapples! This vacation was off to an incredible start.

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That evening, after a homecooked gluten free spaghetti dinner, we ventured over to Downtown Disney. I had heard about Babycakes NYC, a completely dairy-free, gluten free bakery, and knew we had to try some cupcakes from there while we were in town! There were so many delicious options, I don’t even know how we chose.

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We ended up with some “Brownie” cupcakes, a red velvet, and something called the blondie – basically a vanilla cupcake with chocolate chips.

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The blondie was definitely my favorite!

Yes, it tasted as good as it looks

Yes, it tasted as good as it looks

Oh, did I mention Babycakes also makes incredible gluten free doughnuts and pumpkin bread? Don’t worry, we were sure to scoop up some of those for breakfast the following day as well!

The gluten free fun didn’t stop at Babycakes though. There was an awesome band playing on the patio at Raglan Road (also in Downtown Disney) so we grabbed a table outside to listen and grab a few drinks. My hubby and I jumped at the Redbridge gluten free beer we spotted on the menu, as we are both big fans. 🙂

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When our waiter delivered a menu to the table, he immediately asked if there were any allergies at the table. We were all shocked – and obviously super impressed. When we said four of the five of us were gluten free, he proceeded to tell us all about the gluten free menu options, including fish and chips and onion rings!

Into fish and chips?  Be sure to try Raglan Road for a gluten free version

Into fish and chips? Be sure to try Raglan Road for a gluten free version

We weren’t even hungry but we opted for an order of onion rings. I mean, come on, can you blame us? Just look at these babies. They were INSANELY good – and vanished within minutes.

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I’m still not sure how we recovered from the binge-fest that took place on Thursday night, but somehow by the following afternoon, we were ready to get after it again. After using my handy “Find Me Gluten Free” app, we decided to head over to Benihana for some hibachi and sushi – with gluten free soy sauce!

Our dinner was delicious, and the chef was careful to prepare all of the gluten free meals at the table first (rice too!) before making the gluten-filled items for the rest of the guests we were sitting with.

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The only thing that is kind of a downer about Benihana was the lack of awesome sauces! You know those incredible sauces they bring with everyone’s meal to dip your food in (or pour all over your food, if you prefer to load up with deliciousness)?! Well, it turns out those sauces are made with soy sauce – aka they are not gluten free. I have to ask though, if Benihana has gluten free soy sauce available, why don’t they have a batch of regular sauce and a batch made with GF soy sauce? Surely I can’t be the first person to think of this!

Saturday (our final day of vaca!) finally arrived. After a day of delicious gluten free snacks at the condo, including some fabulous chocolate chip cookies made with XO Gluten Free Flour, we found ourselves looking for places for dinner. (What? More eating?! I know, we are crazy people)

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We found a Bonefish Grill not too far from the hotel and decided to eat there since my mother and sisters had never been to one before. The hubs and I are big lovers of Bonefish – and their incredible gluten free menu. Let’s just say that this meal did not disappoint either. Three of us opted for the filet mignon (A-MAZ-ING, if I do say so myself) while one of my sisters enjoyed an awesome salad.

The icing on the cake was when our waiter brought over an incredible GF macadamia nut brownie to celebrate my hubby’s birthday! It took approximately 35 seconds for the five of us to devour that little slice of heaven.

Are you not DYING to try this now?!

Are you not DYING to try this now?!

Seriously, are you not drooling right now?!

Our entire trip was absolutely incredible – and full of so many delicious meals! Needless to say, tomorrow I start my vacation recovery diet. 🙂

For those of you interested in learning more about awesome GF (or dairy-free) places to eat at Disney World, check out this awesome blog: http://glutenfreedairyfreewdw.blogspot.com/

Austin: Battle of the Gluten Free Beers

I’ve been to Austin, TX several times before, but those trips were very “work-centric” and left little time to explore the actual city itself. This past week, my husband and I went to Austin for what we’ve now started calling a mini “workation”. Both of us had work out there so we decided to travel together and explore the city at night. It ended up being an incredible trip!

I often travel for work, but very rarely bring up my Gluten-intolerance in front of customers. I typically carefully select menu items without making a big deal of the issue whenever we’re out to eat. And I never, I mean never, request a gluten-free menu unless it specifically states on the menu that they have one or I know we’re eating at a restaurant with one. Might I have missed out on hundreds of opportunities for gluten-free deliciousness? Of course. But we all know that pointing out an allergy often leads to others asking questions. And my dinners with customers are not meant to focus on my food allergy.

So when the hubs and I arrived in Austin, we decided to live up our Gluten-Free dining options. After all, he is only recently diagnosed with a Gluten Allergy and he is still discovering what “good” gluten-free eating is all about. Especially in restaurants.

As soon as we arrived, we used the app, Find Me Gluten Free, to explore restaurants and bars surrounding our hotel to find a place for a late lunch. When we use this app in Mississippi, it usually comes back with just a few results. In fact, in our hometown of Vicksburg, MS, the app brings back only 3 restaurants – one of which, McAlister’s, does not even have Gluten-Free bread at our location! So we were extremely excited to see pages and pages of results – most within walking distance of our hotel! (If you don’t have the FMGF app on your phone yet, download it immediately! It’s a lifesaver!)

The first place we visited, Hickory Street Bar & Grill, had an incredible selection of Gluten-Free menu items including fried chicken, mac and cheese, a buffalo chicken sandwich and fried pickles! We loaded up on everything! But the best thing they had was Gluten-Free beer! My husband, a beer lover in his “gluten days” was most excited about this. I hadn’t had a beer since college, but nothing sounded better on a hot Texas afternoon so I ordered one as well.

The staff recommended Omission. Talk about an awesome choice! We couldn’t believe how delicious it was! Even my husband, who is often hesitant to agree that anything Gluten-Free tastes 100% like the “real thing” agreed that this beer was AWESOME. Two thumbs way up!

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As the week carried on, we enjoyed a ridiculous amount of delicious food. One of my favorites was when our incredible waiter at UchiKo brought us some amazing Gluten-Free fried chicken to try. Sounds like an odd dish for a sushi restaurant, right? But it was arguably the most delicious thing we ate all week long!

Towards the end of the week, we headed to Top Golf Austin to play some competitive games with my customers – and maybe enjoy a cocktail or two. Top Golf is where we discovered Bard’s Gluten-Free Beer! It had been YEARS since I had even had a beer and here I was trying two different kinds of beer in one week – and loving them! I was in beer heaven!

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If you had to ask me to choose between Omission and Bard’s, I would have a hard time. (Probably because I was just so darn excited to be drinking a beer at all). But for my husband, the choice was easy. He is an Omission fan all the way now. If only there was somewhere near our hometown where we could actually get some…!

But Austin, keep an eye out for this girl. I will definitely be back for more!

How about you? Have you tried any amazing gluten-free beers recently?