Thursday, May 28, 2009

Gluten Free Restaurant Review - Outback Steakhouse, Monroeville, PA

By Christine Emmick

The Outback Steakhouse is well known chain that is recommended by some Celiac groups. We went there about a year ago and have not been back since, and this story will tell you why.

It was a celebratory dinner and family get together. I was told that Outback would be sensitive to my dietary needs. I found out much differently. We walked in, it was very busy and raining cats and dogs. We had to wait almost an hour for a table and by this time our children were starving. We were seated and waited on by a very nice, but very busy waitress. She took my order, and even answered questions, all with grace and ease under the circumstances.

Then our food came. A man "helping out" served me a salad with croutons on it. I said, "Sir, I cannot eat these croutons." He actually said to me, "Well then why did you order them." When I said, "I didn't." He actually said back to me, "Yes you did." Then the sweet waitress came by with something else for our table. She immediately noticed that someone else at our table had my salad. He had served me the wrong one.

Then came the steak, oh my, it was the worst piece of meat I have ever eaten. They purposely did not put any seasonings on it, and I could not even chew it. They must load their steaks up with MSG or something to make them taste good, because this certainly did not. I am also allergic to soy, so it may be some type of worcheshire sauce. It was literally the worst steak I've ever eaten. I also got the baked sweet potato, without the butter and sour cream. Don't do this. It was soggy, like the consistency of pudding. Yuck.

Please let me know in the comments if you've had a better experience at the Outback. This experience led me away from some of the more, shall we say, particular restaurants. We eat at all sorts of establishments, fast food to fine dining, even with my food allergies, and have had great success. Check back soon for a review of Eat'n Park, one of our favorite family establishments.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Gluten Free Bread Alternatives

The most trying thing about going gluten free is the bread. Bread, or some form of it, is in almost every meal in the American household. Toast for breakfast, sandwiches for lunch, rolls for dinner, you literally can't get away from it.

I've found some inexpensive alternatives to those four and five dollar bricks they try to pass as sandwich bread at the store. You know what I'm talking about, those frozen rice bread bricks that stay brittle and gummy even after they thaw, those loaves that if you dropped them they may hurt your ceramic tile floor.

So for sandwich bread, I usually use rice cakes. At least they come by their crumbliness honestly, and you don't have to pry a gummy glob off the roof of your mouth, or reach for a gallon of water to try to wash it down. Rice cake are also shelf stable, so you don't have to worry about your investment going green, if you know what I mean. You get all this for half the price to boot.

Here are some brands to try:

Quaker Rice Cakes - $2.09 at my Giant Eagle I get money off my gasoline bill here.
Mother's Rice Cakes - $1.89 at my Whole Foods My Whole Foods also gives me an extra 10% off a case.
Hain makes a thinner rice cake that makes eating easier, but they break up way too easy.
Lundberg Organic Brown Rice Cakes - $32.42 for a case through Amazon if you want to go organic.

You could also try to make rice cakes yourself with the recipe at

Now if you don't mind the preservatives, you could try tortillas. Flour ones are out, but corn tortillas, as long as you carefully check the ingredients, can be used. Whole Foods has a small round corn tortilla that you can use as a burger "bun." Break the burger in half and wrap the tortilla around the burger like a taco, then fill your tortilla with tomato lettuce and condiments.

Another tortilla is the "Smart and Delicious" tortilla from La Tortilla Factory. They are made with teff and millet flour and are very good for chicken wraps, but they do contain some preservatives. The plus side is that they are shelf stable and very pliable, almost as pliable as a regular flour tortilla.

Enjoy experimenting with your bread alternatives. Coming soon, "Gluten Free Pizza Crust That is Actually Good!" I was a huge pizza makin' fool before I went GF. I simply had to experiment till I found a combination my family and I could live with. Look for it in June!

Copyright May 27, 2009 – Christine Emmick

Please check with your healthcare provider before trying any of the advice on this site.