Gluten Free Granola Bars

During the holidays the husband and I always seem to be traveling a bunch and it can be tricky finding healthy snacks on road trip or when visiting family and friends.  I have found some great gluten free granola bars over the past few months that we stock up on beforehand so we have snacks handy throughout our whole trip.  The husband (who’s not gluten free) actually loves all of these as well!



LARABAR makes amazing gluten free granola bars.  Most of them only contain about 3-4 basic ingredients.  For example, the chocolate chip cook dough (my personal favorite) contains cashews, dates, chocolate chips and sea salt.  That’s it! I love being able to actually read and understand what the ingredients are in something I eat.  They always label whether each bar is gluten free and/or dairy free so you know exactly what you’re eating.

2. KIND Bars


KIND Bars also have great gluten free, dairy free, NON-GMO labeling.  For those of you that like your granola bars to be a bit crunchy, these are the way to go.  My favorite one is their Dark Chocolate Cherry Cashew.



I love anything gluten free from this brand.  They have amazing cereals, buckwheat pancakes, granola bars and much more.  They have organic ingredients and label NON-GMO, so you really can’t go wrong with Nature’s Path.  A while back, before I went gluten free, the husband actually started getting their Sunrise Crunchy Vanilla cereal without even realizing it was gluten free!



BAKERY ON MAIN has delicious, chewy granola bars with several flavor combinations like Chocolate Almond (my favorite), Apple Cinnamon and Peanut Butter Chocolate.  These can be found in health food stores like Whole Foods or if you live a Charlotte, a local health food store called Healthy Home Market carries them.

You should be able to find most of these brands Harris TeeterTrader Joe’s, or even some Walmart’s.

I hope this has helped any of you who are on the hunt for tasty, healthy, gluten free snacks!



F.A.R.M. Cafe in Boone

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I am so very excited to tell you about this find! Some friends and I were in Boone, N.C. this weekend to cut down trees from a Christmas tree farm.  We stopped into F.A.R.M. Cafe for lunch in Boone, not knowing anything about the organization.

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If you’re familiar with the Boone area it’s downtown across from Mast General Store where the Boone Drug used to be.

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F.A.R.M. Cafe is a “non-profit, pay-what-you-can community cafe that provides high quality and delicious meals produced from local sources whenever possible, served in a restaurant where everybody eats regardless of means.”

Their mission statement is:

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This is a donations-based cafe so they provide a suggested donation for each dish but if you are unable to donate, you can volunteer an hour of your time in exchange for your meal.  How awesome is that?!

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They purchase most of their produce from local farmers in the area and also “receive produce and other food donations from businesses and individuals within our community.”

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“The idea for F.A.R.M. Cafe began in 2009 when a group of citizens from High Country United Church of Christ who were concerned about the area’s unmet hunger needs discussed a community kitchen concept that was operating successfully in Salt Lake City, Utah. It was called One World Cafe.”

According to the 2011 U.S. Census, 20% of Watauga County residents live at or below poverty level, so this is an amazing organization to help provide healthy, affordable meals to local families.

They even offer a “pay it forward” meal token option where you can purchase a token as a gift certificate or to donate back to pay for someone else’s meal.

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The day we went for lunch, they were offering the perfect thing to warm you up on a cold day:  chili!

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The first thing I noticed was that they had all of their menu items clearly labeled with Vegan, Gluten Free and/or Dairy Free for those with dietary needs.  Man, I was in heaven!

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Obviously I couldn’t order the grilled cheese, but upon one of the server’s recommendations, I ordered half veggie/half meat chili with a garden salad.  I was incredibly impressed with the flavor of both the soup and salad.  We were all very satisfied with our meal and ready to go brave the cold air again!

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If you wanted a warm drink on your way out, they had a hot chocolate stand set up for donations.

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F.A.R.M. Cafe is “funded through direct donations of dining patrons as well as annual fundraising projects, outside contributors and grants,” so if you are interested in donating to this amazing movement, check out this WISH LIST from their website.

Go check this place out if you’re ever in the Boone area for lunch! You’ll be helping a great cause and eating some delicious, healthy food.


Cross Contamination at Mexican Restaurants

imageRecently I have discovered yet another question that needs to be asked.  Even though a restaurant might serve corn chips, which are gluten free, do they fry it in the same oil as flour tortillas or anything breaded? If corn chips (or anything for that matter) are fried in the same oil as anything with flour or anything that has been breaded, they are no longer gluten free.  This is called cross contamination.

I guess I just assumed if a restaurant says they serve corn chips, or says that their corn chips are gluten free that they would be.  That’s not always the case. I don’t usually like to call negative attention to a restaurant, but I’d like to share the experience I had to bring more awareness to this situation.

The husband and I were in Asheville, N.C. a few weeks ago and decided to eat at a local Mexican restaurant called Salsa’s.  We have eaten there several times and love their unique, flavorful food and fun dining experience.  They are known for being gluten free friendly and having many gluten free options.

The husband and I split the Steak Molcajetes which is “a hot lava rock bowl filled with yummy goodness… served w/roasted veggies, cilantro & pozole on top, a side plate of rice, beans, and salsa.  It’s amazing.  I ordered a side of corn chips and salsa as well.

I ate a few bites of chips with salsa and could tell they had just been fried.  I had a weird gut feeling and asked our server if the corn chips were fried in the same oil as the flour tortillas.  She said yes.  I told her (as nicely as I could) that they are not gluten free if they’re fried in the same oil as flour tortillas or anything breaded.

I’m just thankful I asked when I did and didn’t eat a whole basket of chips filled with gluten! Hopefully they might make some changes to their fryer situation or to their menu because cross contamination with people with Celiac Disease is very dangerous.

After that incident, I have been doing some more research about Mexican chains and local restaurants as to which ones serve gluten free corn chips.  I hope this provides you with some clarity on whether or not you can eat the corn chips are these restaurants.

Chipotle Mexican Grill: YES!

Chipotle states their allergy information very clearly in this Special Diet Information Grid.  They clearly show that the only food they serve that contains gluten is their flour tortillas.  I’m very impressed with the fact that they have one fryer and the only thing that goes in it are corn tortillas and corn taco shells.  I even got a speedy response back from a customer service representative.  When I wrote asking about their fryer situation, a woman named Olivia kindly responded, “Thank you for taking the time to write. I am happy to inform you that none of our restaurants fry flour tortillas in our fryer. Both the chips and the crispy taco shells are corn tortillas, therefore those ingredients are gluten-free. I hope this helps!”  Chipotle also strives towards using local, organic ingredients and hormone free meat.

Moes Southwest Grill: NO!

Moes also has an Allergen Grid that is very helpful.  While they do serve corn taco shells and corn chips, their grid shows that those both contain wheat/gluten.  I spoke with a manager there and she said they fry their flour and corn tortillas in the same fryer oil.  Their grid shows that nothing else has gluten in it except for their flour tortillas/chips and cookies, so there’s no hidden gluten in any of their ingredients.  I love that their meat and cheese is hormone free and that their beef is grass fed!

On The Border:  NO!

On The Border has a downloadable Allergen PDF that has menu options for those with various allergies (gluten, peanut, egg, fish, etc.)  On the top of their allergen site it states, “Please be aware that during normal kitchen operations involving shared cooking and preparation areas, including common fryer oil, the possibility exists for food items to come in contact with other food products.”  I called and asked if they serve corn or flour chips.  While they do serve corn chips, the person I spoke with confirmed that they do use the same fryer oil for corn and flour tortillas.

Salsaritas Fresh Cantina:  NO!

Salsaritas provides an Allergen Grid on their website as well.  While their grid does not show that there is gluten/wheat in their corn chips or fried corn tortillas, they provide a ** beside all corn tortilla items that states that “corn & wheat tortillas are fried in the same oil creating potential gluten transfer in cooking process. The materiality of this potential transfer should be assessed on a personal basis.”  Something else to be cautious of when eating there is the following items (aside from the flour and corn tortilla items) are listed to contain gluten:  pork, shrimp, refried beans, biscuit, flavored sour cream, and chocolate chip cookies.

Qdoba Mexican Grill:  NO!

Qdoba provides an Allergen Information in a downloadable form.  Their site provides an “X” for items containing gluten and a “triangle” for items that may contain gluten.  The items that may contain gluten are their corn chips, corn taco shells, and corn tortilla strips.  Their website states, “Fryer oil has contact with product containing wheat ingredients.”  Some other items that are listed to contain or may contain gluten (aside from their flour and corn tortillas) is their cheese (really??), ancho chili BBQ sauce, potatoes and brownies.

Pacos Tacos and Tequila:  YES!

This is a restaurant we have in Charlotte that has several other locations around the U.S.  It is delicious and they were featured during Charlotte Restaurant Week.  Here is their menu.  While their website does not provide allergen information, I called and spoke with a manager and she reported that they have a separate fryer for their corn chips, so they are gluten free!  If you live near the Charlotte area and haven’t been here, I highly recommend it.

Cabo Fish Taco:  NO!

Cabo is local Charlotte Mexican restaurant that has been featured on The Food Network.  They do not have any allergy information provided on their website.  I called and spoke with a manager and he confirmed that they do serve corn chips but they are not gluten free.  He told me that their manufacturer of the chips has reported to them that there is a small amount of gluten in their chips.  They don’t have soft corn tortillas an an option there, so if you go be ready to get a burrito bowl or a salad.

Cantina Fifteen Eleven:  YES!

Cantina is one of my favorite Mexican Restaurants in Charlotte.  I wrote a blog about Cantina a few months ago.  While they don’t have allergy information listed on their website, I called and spoke with a woman who works there and she reported that they have corn chips as a gluten free option.  They do not fry their chips there but receive them bagged.  They’re not served warm but they are safe!

Loco Lime:  No!

Loco Lime is another great Mexican Restaurant in Charlotte.  They don’t have their allergy information listed on their website, so I called and asked about their fryers.  The woman I spoke with confirmed with her manager that they do use the same fryers for corn and flour tortillas.

Phew! That’s all I’ve got for now!

If you are GF, I hope you don’t feel defeated after reading this, but inspired with the knowledge to know where to go if you want to eat chips at a Mexican restaurant.  I mean, it’s kinda the best part of the meal (at least for me it is!) For those restaurants that don’t serve gluten free chips, don’t forget you can always order soft corn tortillas (they aren’t fried), and that is always a safe, gluten free option.

As always, please feel free to ask any questions or make any comments you may have!


Today I’m Thankful For…

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Today I’m thankful for my school and for the amazing people who work and volunteer here to make it such a great place to work.

Every year our PTO and parents graciously bring in enough pies so every teacher can take one home for Thanksgiving. Yeah. Amazing.

This is the part that gets me even more. Our PTO President baked me a GLUTEN FREE PIE!!! She came up to me earlier this week and said, “We’re making you a special gluten free pie to take home.”  It’s an apple crumble and it looks and smells amazing.

For someone to go out of their way to do something so special makes me feel so blessed and thankful.

We’ll see if I can make it until Thanksgiving to dig in. 😉

What and who are you thankful for this Thanksgiving? Don’t just keep it to yourself, go tell somebody!

Here’s the recipe for you:

Apple Pie Crumble

1 1/2 cups of GF oats
1/2 cup GF flour mix
1/3 tsp. salt
3/4 tsp. cinnamon
3 Tbsp. brown sugar
1/4 cup almond meal
1/2 tsp. GF vanilla
1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted
Combine all dry ingredients in a bowl and mix well.  In a separate bowl mix the vanilla and butter.  Add to the dry ingredients and mix well. Press firmly into the bottom and sides of a 9″ pie pan.  Reserve a handful for the topping.
3 medium size Granny Smith apples, thinly sliced
3 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice
1 1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 tsp. all spice
1/4 tsp. nutmeg
1/2 tsp. grated lemon rind
1 1/2 Tbsp. corn starch
1/4 cup brown sugar
Preheat oven to 375.  Put first 7 ingredients in a bowl, mix well.  Gently add the sugar.  Put in the unbaked pie crust and sprinkle with topping.  Bake 50 minutes.

Happy Thanksgiving to all of you!


Pioneer Woman’s Chicken with Mustard Cream Sauce

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Pioneer Woman is hands down my favorite chef/blogger of all time! All of her food is savory and so flavorful.  Definitely not low fat. 😉

I have been trying her recipes for years now, but since going gluten free, I’ve had to tweak some of them so I can still eat them! And they’re still just as good!

This mustard cream chicken is to die for! It’s creamy and tangy, and just melts in your mouth.  I have gotten in the habit of making it with sauteed kale and a grain such as brown rice or quinoa.  If you haven’t seen this Bud Light commercial about quinoa, go ahead and do yourself a favor and go watch it.  It’s hilarious. Side note: Quinoa does not taste like “a dirty old tree branch!”

Here are the ingredients you will need:

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  • 4 chicken breasts (thinly sliced is preferred)
  • 3 TBS extra virgin olive oil (2 TBS for chicken, 1 TBS for kale)
  • 3 TBS butter (2 TBS for chicken, 1 TBS for kale)
  • 6 garlic cloves, minced (4 cloves for chicken, 2 cloves for kale)
  • 1 cup Redbridge gluten free beer (or any gluten free beer)
  • 1 (heaping) TBS dijon mustard
  • 1 (heaping) TBS grainy mustard
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 1/2 gluten free chicken broth
  • bag or large bunch of kale (chopped)
  • preferred grain (brown rice, quinoa, gf cous cous)
  • salt and pepper

Start your grain before sauteing the chicken, since grains usually take 20-30 minutes or so.  Here’s a flavor tip: if your quinoa or rice says add water, I always add chicken broth instead! Adds tons of flavor!)

First, you will salt and pepper both sides of your chicken breasts.

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Melt 2 TBS butter and 2 TBS olive oil in a skillet (I prefer cast iron) over medium high heat. (Mmm, butter).

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Cook chicken until golden brown on both sides and no longer has a pink center.

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Set your chicken aside then reduce your heat to medium.  Throw in your 4 garlic cloves (minced) and let cook for about 30 seconds.  Add 1 cup of your gluten free beer and scrape up all the bits from the bottom of the skillet.

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Let the beer bubble up for a few minutes, then let it reduce down by about half.

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Add 1 heaping TBS of dijon then 1 heaping TBS of grainy mustard.  Stir the mustards around until mixed in.

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Add in 1/2 cup of heavy cream and stir in.

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Then add in 1/2 cup of chicken broth.

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Taste your sauce and add any needed salt and pepper.  Then lay your chicken back into the sauce, covering it and moving it around every few minutes to keep the sauce from sticking.

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At this point, you can start your kale.  Use a separate skillet and melt 1 TBS of butter and 1 TBS of oil over medium heat then add 2 garlic cloves, minced, for about 30 seconds.  Add in your kale (sprinkle in salt and pepper) and toss around until cooked down and soft (about 6-7 minutes).

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Only keep your chicken in the sauce for about 5-7 minutes, or the sauce will begin to dry up.  Transfer your chicken to a plate and drizzle sauce onto the chicken.  Get a scoop of your grain and layer kale on top.  Then add the cream sauce from your chicken on top of the kale! Believe me, it’s amazing!!

And there you have it! Pioneer Woman’s chicken with mustard cream sauce (gluten free ;)).  Savory, creamy and tangy all at the same time.

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This is (by far) my favorite Pioneer Woman recipe! When I started eating gluten free, I knew I had to find a way to make this recipe work! Hope you enjoy!

Instructions: makes 4 servings

  1. Cook grain according to directions on box.  (Use chicken broth instead of water for more flavor!)
  2. Salt and pepper both sides of chicken breasts.
  3. Melt 2 TBS of butter and 2 TBS olive oil in cast iron skillet (or regular skillet) over medium high heat.
  4. Cook chicken until golden brown on both sides and no longer has a pink center.
  5.  Set chicken aside then reduce heat to medium.  Throw in 4 garlic cloves (minced) and let cook for about 30 seconds.
  6. Add 1 cup of gluten free beer and scrape up all the bits from the bottom of the skillet.
  7.  Let the beer bubble up for a few minutes, then let it reduce down by about half.
  8. Add in 1 heaping TBS of dijon mustard and 1 heaping TBS of grainy mustard, then stir in.
  9. Stir in 1/2 cup of heavy cream, then stir in 1/2 cup of chicken broth.
  10. Taste the sauce and add salt and pepper to taste.
  11. Add chicken back into the sauce and move around every few minutes to keep the sauce from sticking or drying up.
  12. Use a separate skillet and melt 1 TBS of butter and 1 TBS of oil over medium heat then add 2 garlic cloves, minced, for about 30 seconds.  Add in kale (sprinkle in salt and pepper) and toss around until cooked down and soft (about 6-7 minutes).
  13. Transfer chicken to a plate and drizzle sauce onto the chicken.  Get a scoop of the grains and layer kale on top.  Then add the cream sauce from the chicken on top of the kale.
  14. Eat up!


Zoe’s Kitchen

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Zoe’s Kitchen is a great restaurant that the husband and I frequent often.  They have fresh ingredients with a Mediterranean flare from Greek salads to hummus to kabobs.  Zoe’s Kitchen has a fun, family friendly atmosphere and reasonable prices for their fresh options.

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I love that they have a separate gluten free menu as well as 500 calorie, vegan and vegetarian menus!

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(Please disregard the three week old nail polish on my thumb!)  =o

I usually get a kabob meal because they give you the best bang for your buck.  If you are gluten free, make sure you definitely order from the separate menu because the sides listed with the entree items are different on the regular menu.  For instance, the shrimp kabobs normally come with a side of their rice pilaf, but since it’s not gluten free, the gluten free kabobs come with different side options, such as the braised white beans or potato salad.

Another thing I love about this place is their homemade Greek dressing that’s made daily!  Try not to use the whole bottle on your salad. 😉

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This time I ordered the shrimp kabobs from the gluten free menu and substituted the braised white beans for the potato salad (it’s soo good).  The kabobs come with an amazing cucumber raita, which is similar to tzatziki.  I also added a side of the roasted fresh vegetables (not pictured) which consisted of broccoli, carrots and onions.

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The husband and I have this thing where if he’s eating something containing gluten and it’s delicious, he tells me it’s “just plain awful.”  So for those of you who are not gluten free, he tells me their steak kabobs, pita bread and massive chocolate chip cookies are “just plain awful.” 😉

Zoe’s kitchen has lots to offer those who are gluten free, so if you have one near you, go check it out!