Being a one-income, homeschooling family with 3 kids, eating out is not normally in the budget. But for special occasions, like anniversaries and birthdays, we will often try to budget that into the celebration. With my multiple food allergies, this is very tricky. And with Little M now being gluten-free, too, the trickiness factor goes up even more, because it’s harder for a 6 year old to sit and watch her siblings order and eat her favorite foods that she can’t have! So I thought I would share my experiences with eating out for today.
You are probably aware the options for gluten-free eating in restaurants is growing by leaps and bounds. There are websites that list restaurants with gluten-free menus, or that are at least gluten-free friendly, and by just googling “gluten free restaurants” and the name of my city, a few local ones come up as well.
This is how I found the Longhorn Steakhouse. All of their steaks are fresh, and I order the salad without croutons/shredded cheese, and use oil and vinegar for my dressing. (You have to be careful about shredded cheese, as it always has some sort of anti-caking starch in it. I had my throat swelling shut at a restaurant once, and all I had eaten was a dry salad that had shredded cheese on top!) Longhorn, while expensive, is our new anniversary date of choice, because I can eat a real meal of salad, steak and potato and veggies, and know that I won’t end up drugged on benedryl for the next couple days!
My first date with my hubby (before he was my hubby) was at the Olive Garden, so we would often go back there annually for our anniversary. Until my food allergies were diagnosed. When I heard they were now offering a gluten-free menu, including gluten-free pasta we were both so excited! We promptly went on a date to an Olive Garden, and I had a chicken and pasta dish with a marinara sauce. It was fairly tasty. The salad without croutons with the house dressing was really nice! Then, at the end of the meal, I felt my throat beginning to swell. Sigh… what could it possibly be?! Later that night, I remembered the pasta had looked kind of yellow to me. Looked it up, and sure enough, they use a corn pasta. Definitely gluten-free, but NOT corn free. Sigh…. it was a nice dream.
I can’t whine or complain though, because as I’ve mentioned before, my parents own a restaurant, Chute’s Family Restaurant. So, after getting tired of eating dry salads while watching my family eat the yummy food I grew up on, I started thinking about how something could be modified to suit my allergies. My dad suggested they do one of their stove stop hashes with olive oil, using uncooked homefries (the usual oil has “flavoring,” something I nearly always react to.) We ended up coming up with modifications for two of my favorite hashes that I eat with pleasure now! Also, they began stocking a gluten free bread. I always ask them to leave the toast uncut. This way, it won’t be unthinkingly set on the cutting board where the wheat bread gets cut all day. This happened… and yup! Two days on benedryl. Even though they know me there, I still have to request the special steps.
Also, since finding a ketchup I can eat (that I dont’ have to make), we keep a bottle of our “special ketchup” there in the fridge. (There are other gluten-free ketchup brands out there, but so far, I have found I react to corn in all of them). Little M is fond of a burger with no bun, some cucumbers or fresh fruit, and some potato chips. (Plain potato chips are often ok, but many have “flavorings” you have to be careful of, or have corn/soybean oil in them, so I have to avoid those ones as well.)
Around here there are also some pizza places offering gluten-free pizzas, but when I call and ask for the ingredients, they always have corn in them. So I am still making my own pizza. Thankfully, I found that great new recipe in my new cookbook! 🙂
Because of my parents restaurant, we do eat out up to a couple times a month from time to time. It’s healthier and cheaper to eat at home, regardless of food allergies, but it sure is nice to have options for special occasions! Now, if only corn allergies could get a little more publicity!