Category Archives: Gluten-Free Challenge

Gluten-Free Challenge: Restaurant Options in Dallas

September 1st, 2011

Terrica Smith

Urban Acres member, Terrica Smith, has put together some helpful info on eating out gluten-free in Dallas. Terrica writes about love, art, travel, and food on her blog – check it out!

Whether it’s by choice or necessity, the decision to go gluten-free can be a bit daunting at first, especially when attempting to eat on the go. But I’ve found it’s totally do-able if you arm yourself with a few simple tips and strategies.

First of all, get comfortable with asking about gluten-free options. I’ve rarely encountered a situation when a server was bothered by the question. Politely explain you have an allergy or sensitivity, and they’re usually great at answering your questions or inquiring with their kitchen if necessary. In fact, they’ll usually happily tweak recipes by substituting or eliminating ingredients to accommodate your needs when possible. Seriously, just ask! They want happy customers.

Secondly, create a list of restaurant options. It makes life so much easier when you’re in a time crunch or already super hungry and exhausted at the end of the day. If you have a few solid options at hand, healthy decision making is a snap! I can’t tell you how many times my go-to list has saved me. When you’re starving with only a half hour to spare, you don’t have time to sort thru reviews and maps on google, much less create a meal from scratch in your own kitchen. Create a list, even if it’s just inside your head—you’ll be thankful you did!

Here are a few of my fave on-the-go gluten-free options:

  • Company Café—Gluten issue or not, you must check out Company Café! Almost their entire menu is gluten free, local and organic when possible. Try the gluten free chicken fried steak with sweet jalapeno gravy or delicious chicken and waffles. And don’t miss the dessert menu. Their Chocolate Tres Leches cake is an all time favorite at our house!
  • Pei Wei Asian Diner—I was thrilled when Pei Wei jumped on board offering a gluten-free menu to diners. I adore the Vietnamese Rolls, a meal in itself!
  • Fireside Pies—Pizza craving? Do try Fireside Pies. Their Triple ‘Roni is so yum! You can order almost any of their pies gluten free, just do a quick double check of the toppings first.
  • Picasso’s Pizza—Wondering why I’m including a second pizza option? I can honestly say I haven’t found a store bought gluten free option I enjoy much, and pizza is one of the few things I’ve missed since crossing over. I was recently introduced to Picasso’s and I have to say, I’d never have known it was gluten free. In fact, I preferred my own pie to my husbands non g-free. (And I think he actually might have, too!)
  • Chipotle—What’s not to love? Great ingredients, simple, fast. The burrito bowl is always a great option, but more recently I’ve fallen in love with the soft corn tacos. So delish. (Just be sure to specify corn, not flour. My husband caught me making that very mistake recently. Thankfully it was before I’d eaten anything!)
  • Sushi—Sushi in general is always a great option, just be sure to request gluten free soy sauce and beware the crab! It’s usually a fresh/imitation mix, which sadly includes wheat. They’re happy to tweak to 100% fresh at your request, however.
  • Whole Foods Café—When all else fails, I hit up Whole Foods. They have a wonderful salad and hot foods bar, and always list any/all allergens on the description card. I appreciate that about them more than I can say.
  • I can’t personally vouch for all of the following in the taste category, however I do know they all offer gluten free menu options: P.F. Changs, Carino’s Italian Grill, Boston Market, Cantina Laredo, Chilis, Maggianos Little Italy, On the Border, Mimis Café, Rockfish Seafood Grill, Ruth’s Criss Steakhouse, Spiral Diner, Carrabas Italian Grill, Texas De Brazil, Thai Basil, The Melting Pot, Tin Star, Zpizza.

The wonderful thing about gluten free living is that it’s a constantly growing movement. Restaurants and cafes are popping up everyday with new options to accommodate customers. If you decide to give it a try, hopefully I’ve eliminated a little of the legwork that can seem so daunting in the beginning. I sincerely believe anyone can benefit from choosing a gluten free lifestyle, even if just for a few weeks or months. I’ve personally yet to hear of a single person who regrets making the switch!

Gluten-Free Challenge: Interview with Brad Nitschke

August 24th, 2011

Overall, going gluten-free has forced me into a better way of eating. ~ Brad Nitschke

Urban Acres member, Brad Nitschke, shares his experiences eating gluten-free.  Brad grew up right here in North Oak Cliff, moved back after law school, and lives in Kings Highway Conservation District with a mildly neurotic Weimaraner named Bram.  He (Brad, not Bram) is particularly glad that wine is naturally gluten-free.

Brad Nitschke

Brad, tell us your gluten-free story…how and why did you start eating gluten-free? How long have you been gluten-free?
I was diagnosed with Celiac Disease about a year ago and have been pretty religiously gluten-free since then.

What have been the best parts about being gluten-free? The most difficult?
For a lot of people, Celiac primarily causes GI issues. For me, getting “glutened” primarily results in feeling like I spent the night before with the cast of Jersey Shore – migraines, fatigue, etc… So, the best part of being gluten-free has been not feeling awful anymore.

The two worst parts of going gluten-free (other than not being able to cheat without consequences) are not being able to drink normal beer and having to be “the guy who asks all the questions” at restaurants and social events where food is served. There are only a few gluten-free beers (typically brewed from sorghum) that are widely-available in the U.S., and even fewer in Texas (fortunately, Chelsmati’s, the new wine shop a few doors down from Urban Acres, stocks one of them, and Meddlesome Moth over in the Design District stocks another by the bottle).

How do you survive eating out?
Honestly, this hasn’t been as hard as I expected it would be, at least not when I’m eating out for dinner somewhere. More and more folks who run and work in restaurants in Dallas have taken it upon themselves to learn about gluten intolerance and how it fits with a particular menu.  For me, the three keys to successfully eating out gluten-free are:

1) Learn about food.  Know what gluten is, where it naturally occurs in food, and how and why it’s snuck into other food. For example, plenty of folks who aren’t gluten intolerant don’t know that wheat is a primary ingredient in most soy sauce that’s sold and served in the U.S., and that many processed foods are thickened, stabilized, or preserved with gluten or wheat-containing “food starch.”

2) Educate yourself before you go to a restaurant for the first time. Take a look at an online menu and Google the restaurant’s name with “gluten-free” to see if it’s been reviewed by one of the gluten-free food bloggers. If you can’t walk in knowing that they’ll serve something you can eat, eat a Larabar or a handful or two of nuts on the way so you aren’t forced into making a bad choice. Know that, with the exception of Fireside Pies (which offers gluten-free crusts and gluten-free beer), you will not be able to find anything safe at a pizza place, and that trendy TexMex places with loud music run by white guys typically doctor their corn tortillas with wheat flour.

3) Don’t be afraid to ask questions. As awareness of gluten sensitivity and intolerance spreads (the current data indicate that 1 in 133 folks in Western countries is gluten intolerant), restaurants have become more and more sensitive to the needs of diners who avoid gluten. So don’t be afraid to ask if the salad dressing was made in-house and what’s in it or if the pan sauce that comes with the chicken has flour in it.

How do you go about grocery shopping gluten-free?
I buy a few gluten-free staples – quinoa pasta, gluten-free pretzels, and gluten-free tamari, etc.  Baked goods come from Wholesome Foods Bakery which is now at Urban Acres. The rest is mostly meat, dairy, and fruit/veggies, none of which pose a problem. Overall, going gluten-free has forced me into a better way of eating.

What are your favorite gluten-free products?
Glutino gluten-free pretzels – they’re better than wheat-based pretzels. Quinoa spaghetti. Wholesome Foods Bakery whole grain bread, cornbread, pizza crusts, and cookies. Larabars. Jules Gluten-Free All-Purpose Flour (available online and a suitable substitute for all-purpose flour in baking and cooking applications).

Please share one of your favorite gluten-free recipes with us.
Shameless, but accurate, plug – Nitschke Natural Beef strip steak (which you can get at Urban Acres), thawed, rubbed with coarse salt and cracked pepper, and grilled quickly. Great with an Argentinian Malbec or a Bordeaux with some earth in it. Parsley potatoes. Arugula salad with a simple vinaigrette. Creme brulée.

Gluten-Free Challenge: 4 Delicious Dessert Ideas

August 19th, 2011

OK, Gluten-Free Challenge folks, what’s for dessert? Everyone needs something sweet from time to time. Here are some ideas…

Rice Pudding

What’s more comforting than a steaming bowl of creamy rice pudding? Even better when it’s made with digestible and gluten-free soaked brown rice and coconut milk for those who are dairy-free. Get the recipe.

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Fruit Crisp

Who doesn’t love fruit cobbler in the summer? The topping on this cobbler from Elana’s Pantry is crunchy and nutty. Use fresh peaches or any other summer fruit – plums, berries, etc! Get the recipe.


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Peanut Butter Banana Cake

One of our all-time favorites from Gluten-Free Goddess, this moist cake is gluten-free, grain-free, and sugar-free. And you’d never know it. Great use for overly ripe bananas, and you can eat it warm or cold, for dessert, or breakfast, and anything in between. Get the recipe.

Photo: Karina Allrich -

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Raw Chocolate Macaroons

You can whip these up quicklly, pop them in the freezer, and they’re ready to eat in minutes. There’s a “blondie” version and other variations too. Kids will love them, and adults might think they taste like Bon Bons :). Get the recipe.


Gluten-Free Challenge: Fave Gluten-Free Products

August 15th, 2011
Hello Gluten-Free Challenge folks!  We thought we’d share some of our current favorite gluten-free products with you.  We carry them all at Urban Acres if you want to give them a try! 
Let us know what you think…


We think Pamela’s makes some of the best-tasting gluten-free products ever…especially her baking mix that makes these amazing light and fluffy pancakes.

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Wholesome Foods Bakery

Dallas-based Wholesome Foods Bakery is one of our newest artisan partnerships at Urban Acres.  They’re a totally gluten-free bakery created by Anne and Taylor, a mother/daughter celiac, lactose -intolerant duo. They were tired of the crumbly, dry options they found in the gluten-free world, and knew they could do it better…so they did!  Their goal is to never sacrifice even a tiny bit of taste, texture or enjoyment.   We think you’ll agree that they’ve accomplished that task when you taste their yummy baked goods!

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Hail Merry

Hail Merry was one of our very first local artisan partnerships.  We love these folks and their delicious tarts, graw-nolas, and other raw, gluten-free snacks.  Hail Merry was created by Dallas-based raw food chef, Susan O’Brien. Her core philosophy is to bring awareness to the powerful benefits of healthy oils, which we must obtain from our diets. These plant based fats like Omega 3 & Oleic Acid can actually improve your cholesterol profile, reduce inflammation, and make your hair & skin more radiant!

Hail Merry products use cold pressed coconut oil, which contains lauric acid, known to promote a healthy immune system. Coconut oil also is comprised of medium chain fatty acids, which are quickly used as fuel for the body and are likely not going to be stored as body fat.

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Nate’s Raw Harvest

Dallas personal trainer and holistic lifestyle enthusiast, Nathan Jackson, started Nate’s Raw Harvest pre-soaked organic nuts and seeds.  His belief in traditional cooking techniques using quality organic ingredients lead to the revival of pre-soaking.  Nuts and seeds contain phytic acid that rob you of vital minerals.  Pre-soaking nuts and seeds neutralizes the phytic acid and initiates the sprouting process which increases the nutrient density of the food.   If you eat nuts and seeds, then Nate’s Raw Harvest is truly the healthiest option for you on the market.  Others have tried to imitate, but always cut corners and use non-organic ingredients and sugars.  Nate’s Raw Harvest is 100% organic, raw, and just good ol’ nuts, seeds, and spices.  They are great for stand-alone snacks, or additions to your salads, yogurts, and other recipes and they taste great!

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Ancient Harvest 

Ancient Harvest’s Quinoa pasta tastes so authentic, you would never know it’s gluten-free.  And we have Italians who’ve confirmed this fact!   They have 7 different types of pasta, from linguini to elbow macaroni.

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Coconut Bliss

Coconut Bliss is a coconut milk ice cream that is gluten-free, dairy-free, soy-free and vegan.  We promise you won’t feel “deprived” after tasting their creamy flavors.  Yum.

Gluten-Free Challenge: Interview with Terrica Smith | Zucchini Carbonara Recipe

August 11th, 2011

Urban Acres member, Terrica Smith, shares her experiences eating gluten-free. Terrica also writes about love, art, travel, and food on her blog. Check it out!

Terrica Smith

Terrica, tell us your gluten-free story…how and why did you start eating gluten-free? How long have you been gluten-free?
I officially went gluten-free about a year ago. I’d been grain-free on and off for a few years in an effort to manage a food allergy, but never specifically targeted gluten. I started seeing this amazing holistic doctor who immediately put me on an entirely GF diet, and literally within weeks symptoms I’d been struggling with for years begin to dissipate. It was shocking. I’d dealt with a whole host of symptoms from fatigue, to insomnia, to itching, to an irregular menstrual cycle, etc, etc. The changes were almost immediate. And that was all it took! I was sold on a GF lifestyle.

What have been the best parts about being gluten-free? The most difficult?
To be quite frank, I haven’t dealt with a lot of difficulties at all. I’ve loved every minute of GF living! I will say trying to explain it to other people at dinners and such can be a bit awkward in the beginning, but you quickly figure out how to deal with those situations. As to the best part? How amazing I feel! Period.

How do you go about grocery shopping gluten-free?
Grocery shopping is a breeze. There are so many great products out there these days to substitute that you rarely miss anything. Bread, tortillas, cookies, muffins, pie crust, pasta… there are GF options for everything. I try to avoid a lot of processed items, but I did that before going GF! Mostly it’s great when you have a hankerin’ for something specific, to know that you don’t have derail you diet to indulge. There are always GF options.

What are your favorite gluten-free products?
Hmm… Food for Life’s Millet bread is staple at our house, always toasted and buttery. It’s great with a fried egg on top for breakfast or a panini style sandwich. I also love to keep organic corn tortillas in the freezer for a quick breakfast taco or easy dinner. And how could we survive without Pamela’s Baking and Pancake mix? It’s great for everything!

Do you have any words of encouragement or tips for our readers?
My best word of encouragement is to simply give it a try. It’s so simple, really, and there’s absolutely no reason to feel deprived. In fact, once you see the changes you might just fall in love!

Please share one of your favorite gluten-free recipes with us.
Here’s one of my new faves! Jamie Oliver’s Zucchini Carbonara, simply substituting gluten free pasta for regular. It’s SO yummy and totally decadent…

Jamie Oliver’s Zucchini Carbonara


  • Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 6 medium green and yellow zucchini
  • 1 pound GLUTEN FREE penne
  • 4 large free-range or organic egg yolks
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 2 good handfuls freshly grated Parmesan
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • Olive oil
  • 12 thick slices pancetta or lean bacon, cut into chunky pieces
  • A small bunch fresh thyme, leaves picked and chopped, flowers reserved (if you can get hold of flowering thyme)
  • Optional: a few zucchini flowers

Before you start cooking, it’s important to get yourself a very large pan, or use a high-sided roasting pan so you can give the pasta a good toss. Put a large pan of salted water on to boil . Halve and then quarter any larger zucchini lengthwise. Cut out and discard any fluffy middle bits, and slice the zucchini at an angle into pieces roughly the same size and shape as the penne. Smaller zucchini can simply be sliced finely. Your water will now be boiling, so add the penne to the pan and cook according to the package instructions.

To make your creamy carbonara sauce, put the egg yolks into a bowl, add the cream and half the Parmesan, and mix together with a fork. Season lightly with salt and pepper and set aside.

Heat a very large frying pan (a 14-inch is a good start – every house should have one!), add a good splash of olive oil and fry the pancetta or bacon until dark brown and crisp. Add the zucchini slices and 2 big pinches of black pepper, not just to season but to give it a bit of a kick. Sprinkle in the thyme leaves, give everything a stir, so the zucchini is coated with all the lovely bacon-flavored oil, and fry until they start to turn lightly golden and have softened slightly.

It’s very important to get this next bit right or your carbonara could end up ruined. You need to work quickly. When the pasta is cooked, drain it, reserving a little of the cooking water. Immediately, toss the pasta in the pan with the zucchini, bacon and lovely flavors, then remove from the heat and add a ladleful of the reserved cooking water and your creamy sauce. Stir together quickly. (No more cooking now, otherwise you’ll scramble the eggs.) Get everyone around the table, ready to eat straightaway. While you’re tossing the pasta and sauce, sprinkle in the rest of the Parmesan and a little more of the cooking water if needed, to give you a silky and shiny sauce. Taste quickly for seasoning. If you’ve managed to get any zucchini flowers, tear them over the top, then serve and eat immediately, as the sauce can become thick and stodgy if left too long.

Gluten-Free Challenge: Interview with Curt Steinhorst

August 4th, 2011

Curt Steinhorst

The newest member of our Urban Acres crew, Curt Steinhorst, was kind enough to share his experience in eating gluten-free.  Check out what he has to say…

Curt, tell us your gluten-free story…how and why did you start eating gluten-free?  How long have you been gluten-free?
I was a bit of a weird case for doctors. I ate generally “healthy,”  stayed in good shape, was a pretty happy and confident person, and yet, my immune system was terrible. I caught everything in the air, and would often feel “not well” even when I wasn’t sick.  I had two sinus surgeries, years of allergy shots, changed my diet, did a cleanse, tried acupuncture, took asthma medication (they thought I wasn’t getting enough oxygen) – pretty much everything and anything.  I then began having “stomach issues” that became constant over a several month period.  At this point, I was finally diagnosed as gluten intolerant by a doctor. This was about 2 years ago.  I share my story so people understand that oftentimes gluten intolerance doesn’t first show itself as a stomach condition. Gluten is hard to digest and for many harms the intestine, causing nutrient malabsorption, which makes the body unable to defend itself (even if you are putting great things in your body).

What have been the best parts about being gluten-free? The most difficult?
The best – how I feel, easily.  It also requires me to stay away from simple carbs, which are no good anyway.   The worst – giving up beer.  I cheat on beer occasionally. It just tastes so good!

How do you survive eating out?
I know the places that support gluten-free habits, and I usually suggest those.  The good news is that many restaurants have become aware of it, so it’s not nearly as hard as some might think.  As someone who has trouble making menu decisions, it actually makes my life easier because it eliminates a decent majority of the menu.

How do you go about grocery shopping gluten-free?
Pretty simple – stick to veggies and basic meats.  It’s healthier anyway.  I occasionally will go crazy with spaghetti/pasta, and there are some alternatives that you would have no idea are different (though cooking them requires more precision).  I recommend the Ancient Harvest brand quinoa pasta that you can get at Urban Acres.

What are your favorite gluten-free products?
I tend to try and stay away from “gluten free products” because what that means is “we have made high-starch products available to you”- which I don’t really need anyway. With that said, I’ve recently learned of Wholesome Foods Bakery, which Urban Acres is now carrying, and they do an amazing job (and have really healthy ingredients). Their cookies and brownies are better than my grandmother’s non-gluten-free ones, and that’s saying something.

Please share one of your favorite gluten-free recipes with us.|
Any grilled chicken plus a salad (with a simple vinaigrette of balsamic vinegar and olive oil) and roasted veggies.  That’s my staple, it’s gluten free, and it’s great.  Here’s another recipe I love:

Gluten-Free Quinoa Lettuce Wraps

Sauté some garlic in olive oil.
Chop up some peppers & add them to sauté.  I use three or four different kinds of peppers – bell & poblano & jalapeño.
Add salt & pepper and some oregano if you have it.
Cook some black beans, just canned or whatever.
Cook quinoa.
Drain beans & add to pepper mix.  Let that cook for a minute.
Then add the beans, peppers & quinoa all together & stir it up.
Cook turkey bacon and slice it up (Applegate Farms is what I use) – for vegetarians, no need.
Scoop mixture into butter lettuce leaves and (optional) add Sriracha sauce for a little spice.

Can you share any other words of encouragement or tips for our readers?
The more doctors are finding out about gluten’s role in our digestion, the more I have heard from MD’s and DO’s that taking gluten out of the diet is a good move health-wise for everyone.  It’s just not easy to digest. If you are feeling sick often and/or have digestive issues, I’d strongly consider going gluten-free.  Be warned though, it takes months for the intestine to restore full function (L Glutamine and Probiotics help!), so don’t expect immediate results.  In the end, though, I am confident you’ll find it to be worthwhile and not as difficult as you might have imagined.