Tag Archives: living gluten free

Native Sun Jacksonville

gluten free jacksonville native sunThis past month, I had the opportunity to meet with Native Sun Natural Foods Market to discuss their celiac safe bakery, gluten-free product vetting, and more. As background, Native Sun opened its first grocery store in Jacksonville over twenty years ago. Since then, it has grown to three neighborhood stores and is known around town for its all organic produce selection, health minded and organic deli, delicious juice and smoothie bar, and the best celiac friendly bakery in town. They are truly Jacksonville’s neighborhood grocer!

Gluten Free Jacksonville Native Sun

Whether you were recently diagnosed with Celiac Disease or are trying to prepare a gluten free meal for a friend or family member, I highly recommend making a trip to Native Sun. After meeting with their team, I really believe that they are the number one resource in the JAX community for products and tips on how to live a gluten-free lifestyle. Ginny Nehring, who is Native Sun’s Manager of Research and Education, is just one of the many resources available to you when shopping at Native Sun. Ever since her middle son was diagnosed with Celiac Disease twenty years ago, Ginny has been researching gluten-free products and spearheading Celiac Disease community education around Jacksonville. I admire Ginny for her dedication to our community and the 1:1 time she spends with newly diagnosed gluten-free families. One of the services she offers at Native Sun is hosting tours to those newly diagnosed with Celiac Disease. Tours can include education on Native Sun’s color coded in-store labeling, recommending some of her favorite products, and can provide much needed comfort to those who are trying to navigate a new lifestyle and diet. Ginny shared with me that people often hear, “Celiac Disease” and fear that they can never eat their favorite foods again like pizza, pasta, or cake. When she walks them through the aisles and shows them donuts, fritters, muffins, pizza crust, pasta and breads that are celiac safe, it can open a whole new world of enjoyable options!

Native Sun’s new product vetting process is also impressive. As the Manager of Research and Education, Ginny contacts every single gluten-free product manufacturer and researches their cross-contamination practices. As a result, Native Sun will not label a product gluten-free unless it has passed a rigorous process that ensures it is Celiac safe. Ginny shared that some products will be labeled by the manufacturer as “gluten-free” but after researching cross contamination practices, Native Sun will discover that they do not meet their gluten-free labeling standards.

It was Ginny’s idea to create the dedicated gluten-free bakery at Native Sun. She had perfected many of the recipes in her home for her son and wanted to share them with the community. It’s important to mention that when I say, “gluten-free bakery,” I mean 100% gluten free Celiac safe bakery—it’s dedicated gluten-free. Their bakery items include my favorite oatmeal cream pie made with purity protocol oatmeal, carrot cake, banana bread, and even a pecan pie.

In addition to what we put in our body, I had the opportunity to talk to Ginny about the cosmetics and skincare products that we often use. Ginny shared with me that we need to be concerned about the cosmetics we put on our skin and in our hair. One of her favorite products is a skincare line called Derma E—all items are gluten free. After our meeting, I tried one of the Derma-E face serums and absolutely loved it! I had to get used to the sunscreen type consistency, but it has done wonders for smoothing out my skin! Ginny assured me that not all their products share that consistency!

Gluten Free Jacksonville Native SunSome of the items Ginny shared with me that I really want to highlight are these new Udi’s bread you do not need to toast! This is a game changer!

Lastly, I compiled some of my favorite gluten-free items that are available at Native Sun! If you are looking to set up a meeting with Ginny you can contact the store by phone and request a store tour or stop by and complete a Product Knowledge Enhancement Tour form and she will contact you, usually within 24 hours to set up a time to meet with you at your convenience.

Italian night! This gluten-free pasta tastes just like the real thing and the recipe for Manicotti is already on the box! The pasta is made in Italy. I also suggest pairing the cheesy bites. You might even trick your gluten eating friends.

Gluten Free Jacksonville Native SunMexican is the easiest to eat gluten-free and you can feel safe doing it at Native Sun even this margarita mix is safe!

Have you been to Native Sun? Have you ever taken one of Ginny’s tours?

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7 Things I Have Learned Since My Celiac Diagnosis

gluten free jacksonville celiac disease I was diagnosed with Celiac Disease in November 2017. Since then the gluten-free world has changed and so have I.  I feel a little more confident about how to eat, I am comfortable talking with restaurant staff in front of friends and I have learned not to hold up the entire tables order when giving my specific instructions. But there are some other big things I have learned. Let me share them with you!

1. Gluten-free does not always mean healthy. It is so easy to get caught up in the gluten-free breads, desserts, pastas and other processed foods. Many times those foods are high in sugar, fillers, fat, etc. that are not always good for you. While I am not perfect and I enjoy breads, cupcakes (icing is my weakness) I am trying really hard to stick to whole foods and have even tried to eliminate sugar and carbs completely. It is really important to read labels.

2. Gluten-free does not always mean celiac safe. In my early days, I thought if it was on a gluten-free menu it was safe. Many times restaurants will label fries and wings as gluten-free. Many times those items are fried in the same oil as chicken fingers or other breaded items. I try to always question items that I know will be fried or I avoid them all together and stick with salad and grilled items. Even a few tortilla strips on top of a salad can be agony for someone living with celiac disease.

3. I have gotten a little bit boring with my food. I eat at a lot of the same places because I feel safe. I feel like when someone asks me where I want to go it is one of these restaurants: Tacolu, Bonefish, PF Changs, Kamiya 86, Moxie, Epik Burger or Sake House. All places #1 are close to my house and #2 are places that make me feel safe. However, I am always up for trying something new even if it means I may have to spend extra time talking with my server before I order. More and more restaurants are educating their staff on the needs of gluten-free patrons.

4. I always have snacks on me. There is nothing worse than going to a work meeting and seeing that everyone is given a sandwich or wrap and I am stuck there for 3 hours or being on a plane where the only snack options are pretzels or cookies. I always keep some sort of nuts in my work bag and when I travel I like to bring peanut butter, gluten-free crackers, gluten-free pretzels and apples or grapes because no one wants to sit next to someone who is hangry.

5. I have a huge fear of being stranded without anything to eat. This is similar to #4; when you live with celiac disease the convenience factor is taken away. Fast Food restaurants are not always available and able to accommodate, gas stations have limited availability and coffee shops and other quick stop places don’t always have gluten-free items available. This has caused me to perhaps overeat at times and has got me into trouble with my weight. It is hard to find that balance between eating before you go somewhere and not having any options when you get to the event. This happens mostly when I go to weddings, dinner parties, on trips, and going to a friend’s house that doesn’t know I have celiac disease.

6. I make mistakes. I sometimes get lazy and it has come back to bite me in the you know what. Sometimes at certain restaurants that I trust I forget to tell the server that I am gluten-free and dairy-free . While most of the time I am fine, there have been times when other ingredients that are not gluten-free end up on my dish. This is not only annoying for me it is annoying for the server and those dining with me because they have to re-make my food
gluten free jacksonville celiac disease gluten free jacksonville celiac disease
7. I need support. It is easy to feel like the odd man out when you are gluten-free and dairy-free. I occasionally get comments like “oh my gosh what do you eat” or “don’t you just want to cheat.” But overall my friends and family know that I am gluten-free and they are very supportive. My husband is extremely supportive we don’t have any gluten in our house. On Monday nights we rotate houses for dinner with some of our friends and it is amazing to see how friends say “gluten-free really isn’t that bad.” When I was diagnosed I felt like such a weirdo but now my friends will call and say “I am making dinner and here is the menu what can’t you have” or “what do I need to avoid for this recipe.”  People don’t realize just how happy this makes me.

What have you learned on your gluten-free journey? What advice would you give to someone newly diagnosed?

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Gluten Free Delights

Recently, Kristy Luschen the owner of Gluten Free Delights Florida reached out to me about trying some of her gluten-free desserts.  She recently started her gluten-free dessert company and wants to get the word out to those following a gluten-free diet as well as restaurants who are looking for a gluten-free option at their restaurant.

gluten free jacksonville gluten free delights Kristy brought me a strawberry cream cake, chocolate cake with salted caramel frosting, and a cheesecake topped with dark chocolate.  They sounded (and looked) delicious! Since her desserts also have dairy (I am dairy free too) I had to rely on my go-to taste tester: my husband!

gluten free jacksonville gluten free delights Kristy went gluten-free a while back when she thought she may have had gluten-sensitivity or Celiac Disease.  During that time she experimented with different gluten-free desserts and other recipes. While her kitchen is not designated gluten-free she makes every effort to clean, make sure all gluten-containing ingredients are out of sight and avoid cross contamination.

gluten free jacksonville gluten free delights Chocolate salted caramel

My husband found this one tasty- the icing had a salty taste which really balanced out the chocolate cake.  The cake could be a little bit more moist (this is always a challenge with gluten-free cakes) or just pair with a glass of milk or add a bit more icing 🙂 He loved the flavor of the icing.

gluten free jacksonville gluten free delightsStrawberry Cream Cake
This was my husband’s favorite so far and overall.  He said it was SO GOOD. My husband stated that it reminded him of the strawberry cake that they have at French Pantry that is so delicious.  It has a nice fruity creamy strawberry taste and has real strawberry chunks.  My husband said it tasted really fresh.

Chocolate cheesecake

While my husband is not typically a cheesecake fan he said the cheesecake and graham cracker flavors tasted amazing together. I know as far as gluten-free options go it is usually quite hard to find a good graham cracker crust. It was so tasty it may not even need the chocolate part or maybe a little less.

I highly recommend that you try out Gluten Free Delights. Visit her website and place an order. It is always nice to support local people trying to do good things in our community. And no matter what diet you are on you always need to allow a splurge every now and then. For more information visit her Facebook page: Gluten Free Delights on Facebook

What are your favorite desserts? So you normally order gluten-free dessert if it is available? Who has the best gluten-free dessert?

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Amazing Foods For Health Pancakes and Cinnamon Raisin Cookies

gluten free jacksonville amazing foods pancakes and cookies

On a lazy Sunday I decided to do some gluten-free baking. Recently Amazing Foods For Health sent me gluten-free pancakes and gluten-free oatmeal raisin cookie mix. While I try not to eat too many carbs and processed foods, after running the Gate River Run I had a few extra calories to spare and my husband absolutely loves oatmeal raisin cookies so I had a willing assistant to help with the taste testing.
gluten free jacksonville amazing foods pancakes

Gluten Free Pancakes

I started the morning with some pancakes. The ingredients were easy and things that I almost always have on hand.  Nothing is more annoying than weird ingredients that I have to make a special trip to the grocery store for. gluten free jacksonville amazing foods pancakes

We are dairy-free as well we we used So Delicious almond milk instead of regular milk and added in some extra flax seed for added fiber.gluten free jacksonville so delicous almond milk

The pancakes batter came out thicker than I usually make so I added in some water .gluten free jacksonville amazing foods pancakes

gluten free jacksonville amazing foods pancakes

I followed the instructions on the box and they still came out pretty thick but they cooked really nicely and were delicious! I paired it with some turkey bacon and a cup of coffee and it was a nice little breakfast!

gluten free jacksonville amazing foods pancakes

Gluten Free Oatmeal Raisin Cookies

While I had the mixing bowl out I figured I would go ahead and make the cookies too! Again the ingredients were easy and the only real pre-planning was to leave the butter out to soften.

gluten free jacksonville amazing foods oatmeal raisin cookies

I used Earth Balance instead of regular butter. gluten free jacksonville earth balance
gluten free jacksonville amazing foods oatmeal raisin cookies

While the box stated that it made 30 cookies this batch only made 18 cookies and take note they don’t get much bigger than the size they are when you put on the cookie sheet.  Also they came out a little dry, I may substitute coconut oil instead of the Earth Balance next time so they come out a little more chewy.  But they were delicious and I can honestly say that half of the plate below was gone within 10 minutes!
gluten free jacksonville amazing foods oatmeal raisin cookies

All in all they were both delicious.  I don’t think you would even notice that they are gluten-free.  They cooked easy and tasted so yummy. Looks like the only place to purchase these items in Jacksonville is the Walmart Supercenter on San Pablo Road S.

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Gluten-Free Dining in Italy

In November of 2015 my husband and I went to Italy on our honeymoon.  Everyone thought I was crazy going to Italy with Celiac Disease.  There is pasta, bread, pizza EVERYWHERE.  So I did a little research and it turns out every child is tested for Celiac Disease by the time they turn one.  Food is such an important part of their lifestyle that it is in their law that every restaurant has to accommodate a gluten-free diet.

It didn’t matter where we went they always had gluten-free pasta, crackers, meats, cheeses or veggies to choose from.  If you were really lucky you got bread or PIZZA!

We ate a lot more than this but here are a few of my gluten-free Italian favorites. Oh and by the way, yes I know my husband is the cutest :):

Florence, Italy: 
gluten free jacksonville italy vino trallalla

Cacio Vino Trallalla

This is the Italian dream restaurant.  Reservations are definitely recommended there are only 4 tables.  The owners speak a good amount of English and they have a small menu each day.  We shared the worlds largest plate of meat and then my husband had lasagna (not gluten-free) and I had steak with truffle oil. It was so wonderful!  We didn’t want this meal to end so we decided to stick around for an after dinner sweet wine.

gluten free jacksonville italy la giostraLa Giostra

This place came highly recommended by locals and other travelers.  They are known for their Florentine Steak.  We went at lunch so I think we missed the liveliness that this place offers.  We enjoyed steak, a delicious meat plate and wonderful local veggies.  I particularly liked that they gave us a welcome glass of prosecco.

Ciro and Sons

This was our first gluten-free pizza experience in Italy and it was awesome. The restaurant had many gluten-free options and they were very knowledgeable about what I could have and what I could not have.  They had cozy outside seating which was great for people watching. We were a little late to lunch but they were very welcoming (in Italy locals never eat lunch after 2pm).

gluten free jacksonville italy lucca

Lucca

We just loved this cozy quiet little town.  1 hour from Florence and next door to Pisa, it is quaint and a great place to rent bikes and tour the city.  We love riding bikes so this was right up our alley. But before biking we stopped for a bite to eat.

gluten free jacksonville italy lucca buca di sant antonio

Buca di Sant’Antonio

This place had some of the best pasta!  My husband had fresh hand made tortellini that we watched being made by two non-English speaking Italian women (not gluten-free).   I was able to have some gluten-free crackers and a delicious gluten-free pasta dish that was to die for.  This restaurant was very romantic, candles, low light and very warm and cozy.  It was a chilly and rainy day and this was a nice little respite tucked away off a side street.

Montepulciano

DSCN2980You must stay at La Locanda San Francesco in Montepulciano and you must eat at Osteria Acquacheta when you go to Montepulciano.  I absolutely loved this town and the views from our room.  There are many wine bars and restaurants in the area that you can visit but you can’t miss Osteria Aquacheta.

12285816_10207331507982586_1593787768_ngluten free jacksonville italy montepulciano osteria aquachetaOsteria Aquacheta

This place is known for their owner and for huge pieces of steak (oh and they only give you one glass for wine or water). While steak is their main focus they have great sides including pasta dishes.  They actually searched to see if they had gluten-free pasta but they had run out so I settled for some yummy fresh veggies. Their menu is small and changes with the season. There are two dinner seatings each night and reservations are a must.  We got a huge steak to split, some fresh veggies, apples and pecorino cheese and a $6 liter of Un Bottella de Vino Rosso de la casa (a bottle of House Red Wine we said this a lot). We lingered a little to finish our wine and watched the cross table conversations and the staff sitting to enjoy a family style meal at the end of the night.

Montalcino

gluten free jacksonville italy montalcino castello banfiBanfi Winery:

A friend of ours coordinated a tour of Banfi Winery during our Honeymoon.  Following the tour we decided to stay for lunch at their restaurant and enjoy a tasting of their wines.  They too had gluten-free pasta offerings.  This was probably the nicest meal we had the entire trip and one of the tastiest. We had a lot of dishes with Wild Boar in them in the Tuscany Region.  While it sounded odd it was actually quite delicious.  It looked like ground beef but had a richer flavor to it that wasn’t too gamey.

Rome

gluten free jacksonville italy mama eatMama Eat!

This is gluten-free heaven located in my favorite part of Rome: Trastavere! I encourage you to walk around after eating this is such a neat part of Rome.  They have pizza, pasta, beers you name it they have it gluten-free.  They speak great English and it is a very fun lively place.  They even made gluten-free bruschetta for us which was the only place I could get bruschetta and it was awesome; olive oil dripped everywhere! My husband was very impressed with their beer selection too; I had him drinking way too much wine.

gluten free jacksonville italy soffitta renovatioLa Soffitta Renovatio

This was my very favorite gluten-free pizza in Italy. The toppings were fresh and the sauce was to die for.  It was very easy to find gluten-free pasta, but pizza was always a challenge. It is located very close to the Vatican so we went in prior to our tour since it takes an entire day pretty much to see everything at the museums and the Basilica.  This is a nice gem in quite a touristy area.  It is a bit hard to find but well worth it.

12306007_10207346704802497_604099692_n La Carbonara

This place was tucked away in a locals-only area not far from the Colosseum.  They actually discourage TripAdvisor reviews, they want to stay a place for locals only.  Even though we were not locals they were very friendly but do not go if you are in a hurry.  Do not go to any restaurant and sit down and expect to be in a hurry. It was recommended to us by another local restaurant as a place to get gluten-free pasta.  I got the Carbonara Pasta and it was so good- it was made with egg, pancetta, olive oil, and garlic   SO GOOD!

gluten free jacksonville italy rome taverna trilussaTaverna Trilussa

This was our last dinner in Italy. It was wonderful.  They were more than accommodating.  They make their pasta in individual pans so I didn’t have to worry about cross contamination and we had the most amazing roasted artichokes. They were soo good. We ate so much food here and we went to aperitivo before hand.  You will need to make reservations and try to have your hotel do it because they gave us an early dinner time because we were American.  We were fine with eating late.  Most Italians don’t eat until around 9.

Other  tips:

Travel Guides

Do your own research before you go; TripAdvisor and Yelp are a big help and do some generic “Gluten-Free Italy” searches on Google.  I suggest doing research before you go and download the TripAdvisor City Guides. That way you don’t have to scramble to find something to eat last minute you can pull up your City Guide (which works without wi-fi) and see which restaurants you already pre-saved are nearby while you are sight seeing.

gluten free jacksonville italy rome apperitivo freni e frizioniAperitivo

One of my favorite Italian traditions.  It is kinda like happy hour but you pay a little more for your drink in exchange for snacks and appetizer type food.  The very best we found was Freni e Frizioni.  They had a whole buffet.  Then you go eat dinner afterwards.

gluten free jacksonville italy rome gelato gelateria valentino

Gelato

My favorite was around the corner from the Trevi Fountain in Rome Gelateria Valentino they had dairy free gelato too.

Ok- who is hungry?

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Gluten-Free Wedding

gluten free jacksonville weddingHave you missed me? I have missed you! Whether you noticed or not I had taken a bit of a break. We all need to get away sometimes to focus on other areas of our life and I am happy to report my little break was to plan my wedding to this man!

gluten free jacksonville wedding
On Nov 14, 2015 I married my boyfriend of nine years. It was the best day of my life and I am excited to go from Ms to Mrs! It can’t be easy to love someone with Celiac Disease but he does and he is so supportive.

We got married on the beach at the Sawgrass Country Club and had our reception at the Sawgrass Golf Country Club.  While our event was not 100% gluten-free I worked with wonderful vendors that could easily accommodate a gluten-free diet.  There can be challenges when you are planning events and need to accommodate dietary restrictions without breaking the bank. For instance, a gluten free cake for 180 people can run you close to $3,000 however if you do regular (gluten-containing) cupcakes and pair it with an 8 inch round gluten-free cake you can spend less than $500!

So here are my gluten free vendor successes:
Cake: Sweet ‘N’ Flour gluten-free and dairy-free marble cake with vanilla bean icing. Tiered cupcakes by Publix in Ponte Vedra, FL at Sawgrass Village these had gluten in them and were a huge hit without breaking the bank. We did a mixture of chocolate and vanilla cupcakes with chocolate and strawberry filling all with white icing shaped like a rose.

gluten free jacksonville wedding
Rehearsal dinner catering: Tacolu they do a great job and bring their own decor and it is always a crowd favorite! We had the Carne Asada and Banging Shrimp. Both were gluten-free and corn tortillas were available.  Paired with some Margarita’s it was such a festive night!

gluten free jacksonville catering tacolu
Bridesmaid luncheon: The Lodge in Ponte Vedra is just beautiful! They can accommodate any dietary needs and their terrace view cannot be beat!

gluten free jacksonville the lodge
Wedding reception: Sawgrass Golf Country Club we did chicken parmesan for everyone and they were able to make a special dish for those that are gluten-free or have other needs.

gluten free jacksonville wedding
We had the best team for our wedding. I seriously loved all of our vendors so much. I highly recommend a day of planner to help you enjoy your day. Other vendors I worked with:

Day of Coordinator: Rhea Harris
Hair: Gerald at True- Blue Hair Studio
Makeup: Kimtasha Pro Makeup Artist
Flowers: Publix Sawgrass Village
Videography: Siberian Pictures, John Wolfe
Photography: Emily Martin Photography
Centerpieces: Rockaway Gardens
Decor: Soulshine Rentals
Ceremony Decor and Rehearsal Dinner: Ambre Goff at Coastal Occasions
Floral: Publix Sawgrass Village Event Planning

Have you had a gluten-free wedding?  How did you do it?  Who did you work with in the Jacksonville Area?

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Product Review: Foster Farms Gluten-Free Corn Dogs

Foster Farms Gluten Free Corn Dogs Gluten Free Jacksonville

Recently I was asked to review Foster Farms Gluten Free Corn Dogs. Let me first start off by saying I LOVE CORN DOGS! I miss them terribly. I especially miss having one at Suns Baseball games. So when I was asked to review a new brand of gluten-free corn dogs I said yes right away.

Foster Farms Gluten Free Corn Dogs Gluten Free JacksonvilleThese are the easiest things to prepare. They only need about 40-50 seconds to heat up. Which makes them a great convenience food when you are in a hurry. They recommend you cook them for 40 seconds but I needed to heat them a little longer because it was cool in a few spots.
Foster Farms Gluten Free Corn Dogs Gluten Free Jacksonville

 

These corn dogs are delicious. They are made with honey but there is a subtle sweetness and the hot dog is not too salty, rubbery or dry. The hot dog is actually chicken which makes them relatively healthy. Each corn dog is only 180 calories and 9 grams of fat. Try one with a little mustard it pairs perfectly with the honey taste in the corn dog.

I shared them with my gluten eating mom and dad. It was one of those cool winter afternoons so we paired it with some home made gluten-free chili. My advice: hide them from your gluten eating family because these babies do not taste like they are gluten-free and they will be gone quick.

Foster Farms Gluten Free Corn Dogs Gluten Free Jacksonville

My dad said: “Tastes like a regular corn dog to me, chewy.”

Foster Farms Gluten Free Corn Dogs Gluten Free Jacksonville

My mom said: “I like them, I like the consistency. Good flavor. Easy to fix and convenient.”

I am not quite sure where these can be purchased, but once I know I will update this post. I highly recommend these corn dogs based on taste and convenience.

foster farms gluten free corn dogs gluten free jacksonvilleHave you had these before? What are your thoughts?

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