Monday, November 16, 2015

SmartBun an interesting new gluten-free product

So I went to the gluten and allergen free wellness event in Jacksonville on Saturday and realized how unhealthy my diet is.

Okay, I knew that already. But I have to say, listening to the speakers talk about their diets that go well beyond just being gluten free, I was feeling guilty. In fairness to me, those people had health problems well beyond celiac disease and had to take more precautions with their diet to get healthy.

My main goal was to find new gluten-free products in the expo portion of the event. As you can see on the photo on the right, I tried to take a picture but people kept moving and on my cheap phone, all the photos came out blurry. Sorry about that.

But there was good news. I found one really good product that I hope makes it onto Jacksonville store shelves soon.

The product is a hamburger bun called SmartBun. If you know anything about gluten-free buns, they tend to be very heavy and overwhelm the meat in the sandwich, I guess because that's the only way to keep them in one piece. Lighter gluten-free buns crumble in your hands and make a mess.

However, the SmartBun is a light bun with only 76 calories. I found when I took home samples and tried it with a chicken burger, it held together well and was so much less filling than other gluten-free buns.

The SmartBun is made by a company in Sanford called Smart Baking Co., which is also promising to come out with a healthy SmartCake soon. According to its website (, the products are available at a number of Central Florida stores but haven't made it to Jacksonville yet. Hopefully we will see them, because you'll want to try them.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Gluten-free wellness event coming Saturday

If you weren't planning on going already, here's a reminder that there will be a Gluten and Allergen Free Wellness Event this Saturday at the Prime Osborn Convention Center near downtown Jacksonville.

This is the second straight year for the event, which will feature several speakers and a chance to sample some gluten-free products.

The expo will take place from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Admission is $10, or $8 for military members and senior citizens over 55. Admission is free for children under 13.

For more information, visit the event's website at

Monday, November 9, 2015

Tampa Bay Bucs have gluten-free options, but risky

I made my first visit yesterday, since becoming gluten free, to Raymond James Stadium in Tampa to see the Giants play the Bucs. I discovered that the Bucs do have gluten-free options and do a slightly better job than the Jaguars with gluten-free hot dogs, but it still is risky.

First of all, I was frustrated before I made the trip because I couldn't find anything on the team or stadium website about gluten-free options, so I sent an email asking about them and received no reply.

My friend who has contacts in the stadium office was able to get a link to a concession list that did indicate gluten-free hot dogs are available at Bucs games, so I decided I would try to eat at the game. Since it was a 4:00 start, I knew I would get hungry before the game ended and would need something.

Just like they do it at EverBank Field, instead of having a dedicated gluten-free cart (which is how I think every team should do it), the Bucs offer gluten-free hot dogs at their regular concession stands. Unlike the Jaguars, it appears the people working at the concession stand actually have some knowledge about what a gluten-free bun is, so that's good.

The gluten-free options are not listed on the menu board but there was a note on the board that said "ask about our selection of gluten friendly items." So I walked up and asked the guy at the cash register, and I noticed he actually had a button on the register for a gluten-free hot dog, so there was no mystery. Then I watched him go to the back of the stand and yell out "gluten-free hot dog," so I felt like I would get the correct hot dog.

Sure enough, I did get a hot dog on an awful bun that could only be gluten free. The bun was so bad that I only ate about a third of it and then removed the hot dog and ate the rest bunless.

The down side to all of this is that there is undoubtedly a risk of cross contamination, because I see no reason to believe the Bucs have any procedures to prevent that. Not everyone will want to take a chance, but I was hungry and I did.

I should also mention that the list my friend received said the Bucs sell Angry Orchard cider but no gluten-free beer. But I didn't even see Angry Orchard on sale anywhere in the places I looked.

So yes, you can survive a Bucs game but if you have options, you probably want to consider eating before or after the game to be safe.

Thursday, November 5, 2015

A Jimmy John's gluten-free update

Two years ago, I posted an item on gluten-free options at Jimmy John's restaurant. Of course, Jimmy John's is a sub place, but you can get an "Unwich," which substitutes a lettuce wrap for bread.

Anyway, I noticed people keep clicking on that two-year old post and occasionally comment on it. I can see why: if you Google "Jimmy Johns gluten free," my blog post is the first thing that pops up.

So, if people keep reading it, I felt an obligation to update it. So, I asked Jimmy Johns for the current list of gluten-free food available. So here is their response, current as of November 2015:

Avocado – It is gluten free.
Bacon - It is gluten free.
Beef - It is not gluten free.
Ham - It is gluten free.
Capicola - It is gluten free.
Salami - It is gluten free.
Turkey - It is gluten free. 
French bread - It is not gluten free.
Wheat bread - It is not gluten free.
Tuna – It is not gluten free. 
Cheese - It is gluten free. (Based on the FDA proposed ruling saying that product with <20 ppm gluten can be labeled as gluten free)
Mayo - It is gluten free. 
Regular Chips – It is gluten free.
Thinny Chips - It is gluten free.
BBQ Chips - It is not gluten free.
S & V Chips - It is not gluten free.
Jalp Chips - It is gluten free.

Personally, I do prefer places that do offer subs on gluten-free rolls (like Larry's Giant Subs in the Jacksonville area). But I do occassionally find myself in a strange place looking to grab a quick gluten-free bite, and I'll stop in a Jimmy John's for an Unwich. So, it's nice to have this list.

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Another try at Feel Good Foods' Chinese dumplings

I've written several times about my longing for Chinese dumplings and my inability to find them gluten free. The only gluten-free dumplings I've been able to find anywhere in Jacksonville are a frozen variety made by a company called Feel Good Foods (which I've only been able to find in Earth Fare)

That would seem to solve my problem, but I've been disappointed because they never seem to come out right when I cook them, as I've been writing.

Well, Feel Good Foods found my recent Times-Union column when I brought this up and sent me a couple of coupons for a free box of dumplings, asking me to try again with their new, simpler microwavable cooking instructions.

When I first bought these dumplings, the only cooking instructions were for pan frying, which ended up being way too complicated for a non-cook like me (I really did try hard).

I actually had tried the new microwavable dumplings a couple of months ago and still wasn't satisfied. However, when Feel Good Foods offered me the opportunity to try again (for free), of course I took them up on it.

So I was determined to follow the instructions to the letter, which consisted of putting the dumplings in a microwave-safe bowl with a half-cup of water and covering them with a damp paper towel. For some reason, I've always found the "damp paper towel" to be challenging, like I can't seem to get the right amount of dampness. I really am that bad in the kitchen.

But, I think I got it right this time and I have to say, the dumplings were better. They weren't as good as they could be if I pan fried them (and the package does include instructions for pan frying), but they were worth trying.

I probably should say, they weren't as good as they could be if a real cook pan fried them. I wouldn't even presume to try. But I'll bet if you have cooking skills, you could probably do well with these dumplings.

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Schar's new bread is pretty good

As far as I'm concerned, Schar makes the best gluten-free rolls out there, but I never found anything special about their regular gluten-free bread.

However, Schar introduced a new style of gluten-free breads a couple of months ago which it calls "Artisan Baker" breads, so I decided to give it a try.

The verdict: yes, I liked it. The bread held together completely with my sandwich, which you know you can't always count on with a gluten-free slice of bread. But I was also pleasantly surprised by the taste. I really wasn't expecting anything from the taste, but it was very good.

According to Schar, the bread is made with ingredients that include agave syrup, buckwheat, sunflower seeds and "ancient grains."

So far, I've seen it for sale at Earth Fare and Walmart, but even at Walmart it is a little pricey. That's the downside of Schar. I really like their products -- they also make some good cookies -- but I don't buy them often because of the price. At least I had a $1 coupon for the bread (which I actually found in Gluten Free Living magazine).

So keep on the lookout for specials on Schar products.

Monday, October 26, 2015

Gluten in alcohol

Here's an interesting summary of gluten content in various forms of alcoholic drinks, published by the popular Gluten Dude website.

Just one thing I want to add here about the controversy over Omission beer. Nobody has actually come out with evidence that it is not safe for celiacs. The issue is lack of confidence over the testing procedure.

If you're not familiar with the issue, there are several beers on the market that say they are made from barley but have a process that removes the gluten, so that they meet the standard of gluten-free (less than 20 parts per million of gluten). These brewers say they test the product, but some people question the accuracy of the testing process.

Omission is the most popular "gluten removed" beer. I do like Omission and I still drink it when I'm in a bar or restaurant and there are no other gluten-free options. But I drink it less than I used to and won't go out of the way to buy it if there is a certified safe gluten-free alternative.

There really is no definitive answer one way or another on the question of Omission's safety. I've never had an issue drinking Omission but if you have any concerns at all, you should probably avoid it.

Here's the full posting from the Gluten Dude: