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Restaurant Review: GF Pizza at Wise Guys Pizzeria

2014 March 20
by Nicole Wang

gfgwiseguys3

This post has been a long time in the making. If you don’t know me, I grew up the daughter of pizza restauranteurs. My parents were owner/operators of 13 pizza restaurants for most of my childhood and into my adult life. At the age of eight, I recall being tall enough to stand on a milk crate to help place pepperoni toppings on pie shells and fill customer orders.  By the time I was 12, our family had moved to Illinois.  Working along side my parents in the family business was a daily occurrence.  Along with a strong work ethic, the restaurants taught me a lot about food preparation and just how versatile pizza “pie” can be!  To this day, pizza is at the top of my favorite foods list.  I have given much thought into writing about what it takes to serve gluten free food, especially pizza, so those who do not have a “back of the house, restaurant perspective” could understand the challenges.

When our family made the switch to a gluten free diet, oh so many years ago now, I recall the very first food I needed to figure out was pizza.  By that time, I had grown accustom to making my own “artisan” pizza dough at home as well as enjoying pizza at local restaurants or via delivery.  I literally think the first thought I had when the doctor told us to remove gluten from our oldest child’s diet was “but what will we do without pizza?”.  Silly it may seem, but I bet those of you who strictly follow a gluten free diet for health reasons know all too well what I am talking about.  Until this March, it has been almost a decade since I have eaten pizza at a local restaurant or requested delivery.  The last time we ventured into a pizza restaurant was in New York City during the summer of 2005 (a small dedicated gluten free restaurant called Risotteria on Bleecker Street).

“Why so long” you ask? First, finding any restaurant that is able to serve gluten free food is a challenge.  Only recently have we been able to “eat out” with confidence that chefs and restaurant staff will be able to provide us a safe meal.  Second, growing up making pizza for a living, I am keenly aware that it is very difficult to assemble, bake and serve a meal free of any gluten cross contamination out of such a “gluten filled” kitchen.  Pizza kitchen’s have wheat flour in abundance!  There are so many aspects to think of when it comes to cross contamination:

  1. Is the pizza crust made on site or in a dedicated gluten free kitchen?
  2. Where and how is it stored to keep the crust completely gluten free?
  3. Are separate pans/baking equipment used for the gluten free pie so it does not come into contact with equipment used to make the rest of the gluten-filled pies?
  4. Are there separate sauce, cheese and toppings stations for the gluten free pie assembly?
  5. Has the staff been trained in cross contamination awareness and did the staff remember to use a dedicated spatula and pizza wheel (cutter or knife) once the pie has been removed from the oven?

I could go on with more, but those five questions are enough to make your head spin.  They are the top five questions I ask of restaurant staff and chefs when someone tells me about a restaurant that serves “gluten free” pizza.  Until now, no one could answer any of those questions with confidence that their establishment could keep us safe… then I learned about Wise Guys Pizzeria in South Elgin, Illinois.  I was skeptical at first and stopped by to ask questions of the restaurant staff.  Amazingly they impressed me.  This restaurant seems to have it together and understands the serious risks of gluten cross contamination. The front of the house staff waited patiently on me and answered all of my questions (the 5 above plus many more) with lots of details.  Their gluten free pizza crust and bread is made in a dedicated gluten free bakery located in Chicagoland, frozen and stored in their kitchen freezers until a gluten free order is placed.  From there, the staff understands the importance of separate equipment (the pizza crust comes with it’s own pan), sauce & toppings, spatulas & cutters to ensure a consistent gluten free end product.  While the staff at Wise Guys would not be able to “guarantee” absolutely no cross contamination issues would arise (let’s face it, there is wheat flour in the air), they have done their homework!

Wise Guys Pizzeria S. Elgin, IL

Wise Guys Pizzeria S. Elgin, IL

So, after researching the dedicated gluten free bakery a little more, we decided to give it a try.  A few days ago, our family sat down to gluten free pizza in a restaurant!  It was a “pinch me” moment.  While the experience was not without fear, the staff at Wise Guys Pizzeria served a really good gluten free pizza and none of us experienced any cross contamination issues.  Restaurant style pizza can be a reality once again.  Thank you Wise Guys!gsgwiseguys2

 

Now, I do have a few recommendations for those of you who are like me and even the tiniest amount of gluten causes great distress:

  1. Timing is everything. Plan your dining experience during non-peak times.  We chose a late lunch, around 1:30pm.  This will ensure the staff serving you can have their full attention on the dietary needs for your meal.
  2. Talk to the manager, chef or other knowledgeable staff.  Don’t just take someones word for it.  Take the time and investigate.  It’s your health at stake.
  3. Do your homework. In our case, we had to wait until we could research the bakery where this restaurant purchases their gluten free pizza crusts and bread.  Think ahead so you don’t end up disappointed.
  4. Be polite and don’t have high expectations.  If the staff is not able to accommodate your request, politely offer suggestions for the future (teaching paves the way for success later on) and be grateful for their time.  You might just win a restaurant over towards serving you a meal you can safely eat in the future!

If you do not live in the Fox Valley area, have hope that you may just find a great restaurant that can meet your  dietary needs.  If you have found other restaurants that have been great at accommodating your needs safely, tell us about them!

 

John 3:16 Day & a Cool Find

2014 March 16
tags:
by Nicole Wang

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.

(John 3:16 NIV)

Boy it has been a cold winter.  We are all so worn out from the shoveling and frigid temperatures. Through it all, we are so grateful to have God’s love. He is our constant source of joy amidst the trials of this world. Just wanted to share that with you today.

 

GF Xanthan Gum packets

Hodgson Mills Xanthan Gum packets

I would also like to share my latest find… Hodgson Mills now has Xanthan Gum in small packets.  These are great for passing along to friends or family who like to make foods that we all can eat, but don’t want the expense of a $12 bag of Xanthan Gum when they only intend to use it every once in a while.  When I saw these little packets, they reminded me of the individual yeast packets that are so easy to use. What a great idea!  Our local Woodman’s grocery sells them for $0.49 each or a box of 20 packets for $6.49.  Each packet is equal to one Tablespoon of xanthan gum.

Thanks Hodgson Mills!

 

Happy Pi Day!

2014 March 14
by Nicole Wang

3.14 Pi Day

Happy 3.14159265 Day!  Our oldest child was at it again… celebrating numbers and all things circular today.  Pi is the symbol  used in mathematics to represent a constant (the ratio of a circumference of a circle to its diameter). What makes it so fascinating for those who love numbers is that Pi will continue infinitely without repetition or pattern.

To add to the fun of the day, we sent this awesome giant cookie to school.  We challenge you to enjoy all the fun computations this day brings and to create the circular sweet below to go with it!

GF, DF, NF Giant Chocolate Chip Cookie

GF, DF, NF Giant Cookie

GF, DF, NF Giant Cookie Celebrates Pi Day

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups sorghum flour
  • 1/2 cup tapioca starch
  • 1/2 cup arrowroot starch
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 scant tsp salt
  • 1 1/2 tsp xanthan gum
  • 1 cup Spectrum Palm oil shortening or other dairy free shortening
  • 1 cup brown sugar or coconut sugar
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup molasses (you can substitute agave syrup)
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 tsp GF vanilla extract
  • 1/2 – 1 cup Enjoy Life chocolate chips (GF, DF, NF) (or even raisins!)

Method:

  1. Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Prepare two 8 inch pie plates (we use disposable aluminum pie plates for this giant cookie) by coating the inside of the pans with a thin layer of shortening and then lining with a round of parchment paper. Set aside.
  3. In a medium size bowl, combine sorghum flour, tapioca starch, arrowroot starch, baking powder, salt and xanthan gum. Set aside.
  4. Using a stand mixer, add shortening and both sugars. Mix on medium speed until light and fluffy.
  5. Add molasses and vanilla extract to the mixer bowl and mix until just combined.
  6. Add eggs one at a time, then mix on medium speed for one minute.
  7. Lower mixer speed and gradually mix in dry ingredients.  Once combined, turn off the mixer and add the chocolate chips, stirring them into the batter with a spatula by hand.  The batter will be thick and sticky.  (Note: for Pi Day, we chose not to mix in the chocolate chips. Instead, we carefully placed the chocolate chips on top of the smoothed batter in the shape of the greek letter for Pi. Raisins also work well in this recipe)
  8. Divide the batter between the two prepared pie plates, smoothing out the top of each cookie with an offset spatula.
  9. Bake in the center of the pre-heated oven for 25-30 minutes or until the edges begin to brown.  Remove from oven to a wire rack and cool completely before slicing.

Visit the website piday.org if you are interested in learning more about Pi Day. 

The Best Pumpkin Pie!

2013 November 22
GF, DF Pumpkin Pie

Gluten Free, Dairy Free Pumpkin Pie with Teff flour crust

Missing really great pumpkin pie? I did for years searching for just the right dairy free alternatives… trust me, I have tried many recipes for gluten free, dairy free pumpkin pie. Some with tofu, others with soy or rice milk or no milk at all.  The transition to a gluten free crust was probably the easiest part.  But getting the filling just right was not so easy!  I finally landed on a THE best gluten free, dairy free pumpkin pie this year and I have to share it with you all!  This one I am really eager to share with anyone who happens to be at our table this Thanksgiving.  What made the difference? I am sure it’s the coconut milk! 

The BEST Gluten Free, Dairy Free Pumpkin Pie

The BEST slice of gluten free, dairy free pumpkin pie... all it needs is a little coconut whipped cream!

The BEST slice of gluten free, dairy free pumpkin pie… all it needs is a little coconut whipped cream!

Pie Crust Ingredients:

  • 1 cup Teff flour
  • 1/4 cup Tapioca Starch flour
  • 1/2 tsp xanthan gum
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • 4 Tbls cold palm shortening, cut into small pieces
  • 2 Tbls cold coconut oil
  • 5-7 Tbls ice cold water mixed with 1 tsp apple cider vinegar

Pumpkin Filling Ingredients:

  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 can pure pumpkin puree (usually 14-15 oz can)
  • 1/2 – 3/4 cup coconut sugar (depending on how sweet you like your pie!)
  • 1 Tbls teff flour
  • 1 Tbls arrowroot starch
  • 1/2 to 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp ground ginger
  • 1/4 tsp ground cloves
  • 1/8 tsp ground nutmeg
  • 1/2 tsp sea salt
  • zest of half a small lemon or lime
  • 2 tsp pure vanilla extract (make sure it is gluten free)
  • 1 can coconut milk (usually 13-14 oz can – use full fat)
  • Optional garnish:  coconut whipped cream

Method:

  1. To make the crust, in a bowl combine 1 cup Teff flour and 1/4 cup Tapioca Starch, xanthan gum, and salt.
  2. Cut in your cold shortening and coconut oil to form crumbs the size of small peas.
  3. Add water by 1 Tbls increments and mix with a fork until dough begins to form.
  4. Place in center of saran wrap and wrap up, pressing to create a disk, refrigerate for 1 hour or overnight.
  5. When chilled enough, roll out on parchment paper sprinkled with extra Teff flour to a round that is about 1/8-1/4″ in thickness.  Flip rolled crust into a 9-inch pie place and gently peel off parchment paper. Gently press on the crust to shape it to the pie plate and crimp the edges. Don’t worry of the crust cracks or seems to fall apart a bit. That is normal. Just reshape and smooth cracks back together with your finger tips to get a nice uniform crust.  It might take a little work, but it will be worth it!
  6. Set prepared crust aside while you make the filling.
  7. Preheat your oven to 425 degrees.
  8. To make the filling, in a large bowl, whisk the eggs until slightly frothy. Add the pumpkin, coconut sugar, teff flour, arrowroot starch, spices, salt, lime zest and vanilla. Whisk again to combine.
  9. Gradually whisk in the coconut milk until well blended.
  10. Pour mixture into prepared pie crust and bake in the center of the preheated oven for 15 minutes.  Then, turn the oven temperature down to 350 degrees and continue baking for 45 minutes or until the center of your pie is set.
  11. Remove from the oven and cool to room temperature on a wire rack. As the pie cools the filling will set further.  Make sure to cool completely (several hours) before serving to ensure the filling is properly set.

Enjoy!

GF Muffins to Enjoy this Spring…

2013 April 21
GF Teff Breakfast Muffin

GF Ivory Teff & Fig Breakfast Muffins

Now that spring is finally here (and we have had plenty of rain and flash flooding to prove it!), I always start to crave muffins.  They are so light and full of flavor.  You can pair them with just about anything depending on what you add to them.  A lemon muffin is great as a side to a salad, banana muffins or blueberry are excellent for snacks or dessert.  Here is a hearty, not too sweet breakfast muffin that will provide plenty of energy for your mornings… and very welcome along side your favorite morning beverage!

GF Ivory Teff & Fig Breakfast Muffinsgfgtefffigmuffin

Ingredients:

  • ¾ cup ivory teff flour
  • ½ cup sorghum flour
  • ¾ cup tapioca starch flour
  • ½ cup arrowroot starch
  • ¼ cup amaranth flour
  • ¼ cup millet flour
  • ½ cup coconut sugar
  • 1 Tbls baking powder
  • 1 Tbls flax seeds, ground
  • ½ tsp xanthan gum
  • ¼ tsp cinnamon
  • 1/8 tsp sea salt
  • 1/3 cup coconut oil, slightly melted
  • 2 eggs, room temperature
  • 1 ¼ cup warm coconut milk

Fig Filling:

Fig Filling!

Fig Filling!

  • 10 figs, soaked in warm water and stems removed
  • ¼ cup cooked teff (brown or ivory seed)
  • 2 Tbls slightly melted coconut oil
  • ½ lime, juice only
  • ¼ cup quinoa flakes

Crumb Topping:

  • ½ cup sorghum flour
  • ½ cup tapioca starch
  • ¼ – ½ cup coconut sugar
  • ¼ cup quinoa flakes
  • ¼ tsp cinnamon
  • 4 Tbls cold coconut oil

Method:

  1. Fig Filling: Blend all ingredients in a food processor and set aside.
  2. Crumb Topping: Blend all ingredients in a food processor and set aside.
  3. Muffins:  Preheat oven to 350 degrees and line muffin tin with parchment liners.
  4. In a medium bowl, mix together the dry ingredients, except for the coconut sugar. In a stand mixer, cream the coconut oil and coconut sugar together. Add the eggs and mix until fluffy.
  5. Add the coconut milk and dry ingredients slowly, mixing well.  Stop mixer to scrape down sides and then mix again on medium speed for 1 minute.  Let stand 5 minutes.
  6. Fill muffin tin ½ full with batter, add 1 tsp of fig filling to the center of each muffin cup and top with additional batter.  Each muffin cup should be about ¾ full.  Sprinkle crumb topping on top of each muffin.
  7. Bake at 350 degrees for 25-30 minutes.  Remove from oven, cool for 5 minutes and then remove muffins from tin to a wire rack.  Cool completely before serving!

Enjoy!

WildFlours GFGroup Sunday, April 21st… Muffins!

2013 April 17
by Nicole Wang
GF lemon muffin

Lemon Muffins free from gluten, dairy, nuts and eggs for Spring!

Our meeting this month is just a few days away!  How time fly’s when winter breaks and we get more time outside… Let’s get together and share favorite recipes for gluten free muffins at the Hickory Knolls Discovery Center in St. Charles!  I will have our favorite gluten/allergy free favorite to try… you are welcome to bring a batch of your favorite muffins* to share as well!

To find out more, check out our meeting information at GFGroup!

I hope to see you:

Sunday, April 21st

3pm – 4:30 pm

Hickory Knolls Discovery Center in St. Charles!

WildFlours GFGroup at Hickory Knolls Discovery Center in St. Charles

*Please make sure that all recipes are gluten and nut free.  Recipes free from other common allergens are always welcome as well!  Thank you!

GF Blueberry Tart for Easter!

2013 March 31
Gluten Free Blueberry Tart for Easter

Gluten Free Blueberry Tart with Teff pastry crust for Easter 2013!

Happy Easter!  I hope that your day was as fun as ours.  We enjoyed the day with family and all the kids loved being together… especially for the egg hunt and playing with goodies in their baskets.  I baked a blueberry tart this year that was a perfect end to our time together.  It is free of gluten, dairy, eggs, nuts, and refined sugar… and my favorite thing about this tart is that the crust is made with ivory teff flour!  Here’s the recipe:

GF Blueberry Tart with Ivory Teff Pastry Crust

A slice of blueberry tart sprinkled with a dusting of organic powdered sugar (corn free!)

A slice of blueberry tart sprinkled with a dusting of organic powdered sugar (corn free!)

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup Ivory Teff flour
  • 1/2 cup sorghum flour
  • 1/4 cup Tapioca Starch flour
  • 1/2 tsp xanthan gum
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • 4 Tbls cold palm shortening, cut into small pieces
  • 2 Tbls cold coconut oil
  • 5-7 Tbls ice cold water mixed with 1 tsp apple cider vinegar
  • 3 cups fresh or frozen blueberries (look for the wild blueberries that are small as they have the most flavor)
  • 1/4 cup coconut sugar
  • 2 Tbls Arrowroot
  • squeeze of lime juice (probably half a lime)
  • small pinch of sea salt
  • 1/4 tsp lime zest (optional)
  • coconut milk (optional)

Method:

  1. Line a 8 or 9 inch tart pan (the kind with a removable bottom) with parchment paper.  Set aside.
  2. Mix the ivory teff flour, sorghum flour, tapioca starch, xanthan gum and salt in a medium size bowl. 
  3. Cut the palm shortening and coconut oil into the dry ingredients until a pea sized crumb  develops.  You can use a fork or your hands for this step.
  4. Add the ice cold water and stir to combine into a dough.
  5. Press the dough into a prepared tart pan with your hands, making sure the sides and bottom are even.  Prick lightly with a fork, cover with saran wrap and refrigerate until the dough is cold.
  6. Meanwhile, in a small sauce pan, combine the blueberries, coconut sugar, arrowroot, lime juice, zest and pinch of salt.  Gently heat over low flame until a juice begins to form.  You may add a tablespoon of coconut milk to help if you wish but not necessary.
  7. Preheat your oven to 325 and bake the cold tart shell for 10 minutes to set.  Remove from the oven and pour the blueberry mixture into the tart shell.  Return the tart to the oven and bake at 325 for 30 minutes or until bubbly.
  8. Remove the tart from the oven and cool on a wire rack.  Do not slice until the tart is completely cool or the blueberry filling will not set!

GFGroup at Hickory Knolls: GF Irish Soda Bread and Baking for Spring!

2013 March 1

GF Irish Soda BreadMarch has arrived! This time of year is full of anticipation with spring around the corner and the promise of warmer days here in the midwest. I am just as excited about our upcoming class at the Hickory Knolls Discovery Center on March 17th!

Holidays should be celebrated with traditional foods even if you are following a gluten free or special allergy free diet. Come learn how to bake delicious gluten and allergy free treats! Our afternoon will cover how to make easy Gluten Free Irish Soda Bread, perfect for your St. Patricks Day table. Then, we will make delectable cupcakes that you can decorate yourself! We will have decorations for St. Patricks Day or Easter and cupcakes to take home.  All ingredients used are gluten free, dairy free and peanut/tree nut free, and most are egg free as well. Please register for this class (WildFlours Gluten Free Group: Baking for Spring) at the St. Charles Park District website.

You can also find out more information about this class on our GFGroup page. Hope to see you there!

WildFlours GFGroup at Hickory Knolls Discovery Center in St. Charles

Love is… GF goodies!

2013 February 14

Gluten free Valentine Candies

Happy Valentines Day!  I hope you have a great day celebrating those you love.  I made these fun gluten free, nut & dairy free truffles and orange cream candies for my loved ones…  just sweet enough to remind them how great they are to me!!  xoxo to my crew.

Orange Cream Candy MeltawaysGluten Free Orange Cream Meltaways

Ingredients:

  • 1/4 cup coconut oil, slightly melted
  • 1/4 cup coconut cream (also called coconut manna)
  • 1/4 tsp pure vanilla extract (sugar free)
  • zest of 1/2 small orange
  • 2 tsp agave syrup
  • 1 Tbls coconut sugar (or more depending on desired sweetness)
  • mini muffin cups (about 12)

Method:

  • Mix all ingredients together in a small bowl.
  • The mixture will be creamy but not thick.
  • Pour 1 Tablespoon of the mixture into a mini muffin cup.  Repeat until all the cream mixture is used up.
  • Refrigerate or freeze until ready to enjoy.  Serve cold as these will melt at room temperature!

Superbowl Sunday BBQ Wings… Gluten Free Asian Style!

2013 February 4
by Nicole Wang
GF Asian BBQ Wings

Best Superbowl Appetizer: GF Asian BBQ Wings!

I hope you had a great time with friends and family this past weekend for the Superbowl.  It is always a time of fun competition with friends and fun foods for our family.  This year, the winning appetizer was this great BBQ chicken wing recipe that I had from years past.  I adapted it to be gluten free… What a crowd pleaser it was!  We served the wings with extra Asian dipping sauce, celery sticks and bacon dip.  Here’s the recipe for you to enjoy as well!

GF Asian Style BBQ Chicken Wings

Ingredients:

  • 1 pkg chicken wings (about 20 pieces), cut each wing at the joint for small pieces (save the tips for soup stock)
  • 1/4 – 1/2 cup oil and vinegar dressing (1/4 cup olive oil, 1/8 cup vinegar, salt and pepper)
  • 1 cup brown rice flour or equivalent gluten free flour blend without xanthan gum
  • 1/2 tsp salt, pepper to taste
  • 1/2 cup rice wine vinegar
  • 1/2 cup coconut sugar or brown sugar
  • 1 or 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 Tbls gluten free soy sauce or (our favorite is San-J GF Tamari)
  • 1 Tbls sesame oil
  • Zest of 1 orange
  • Juice of 1 orange
  • 1 tsp grated ginger
  • 1 Tbls corn starch or arrowroot starch mixed with 1 Tbls water
  • 1 Tbls honey
  • red pepper flakes (optional and to taste)
  • Celery sticks

Method:

  1. Preheat your oven to 400 degrees and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.  Set aside.
  2. Marinate the cut wing pieces in the oil and vinegar dressing for about an hour or overnight in the refrigerator.
  3. Mix the gluten free flour with the salt and pepper.  Then, toss the marinated chicken wing parts in the flour to coat.  Place evenly on the prepared baking sheet.  Bake the wing pieces in the preheated oven for about 20 minutes.  Rotate the pan and bake an additional 20 minutes or until crispy.
  4. Once the wings come out of the oven, place the baking sheet on a rack to cool.
  5. Prepare the sauce:  In a small sauce pot set over medium-low heat, combine the rice wine vinegar, sugar, garlic, GF soy sauce, sesame oil, orange zest and juice and grated ginger.  Bring the mixture to a low simmer stirring frequently.  Once the mixture boils, turn down the heat and add the corn starch/water mixture.  Bring the sauce back to a simmer.  Cook until the desired thickness and remove from the heat.  Stir in the honey and pepper flakes if using. Reserve about a 1/4 cup of the sauce for dipping.
  6. Place the cooked wing pieces into a large bowl, add your hot sauce and toss to coat.  Serve immediately with reserved sauce and celery pieces!