Many of my friends have been raving about the delicious meals they have been purchasing at Borrowed Time Meals, a food service establishment in Southaven and Hernando, MS that provides fresh, ready-to-cook dinners that you can just pop in the oven with no prep work. Looking for quick dinner options for busy week nights, I sent a private Facebook message to Borrowed Time Meals to see if gluten free options were available and what precautions they take to avoid cross contamination. I received a prompt reply from John Woods, one of the owners, who shared that he had been receiving requests for gluten free options. We discussed ways to minimize cross contamination and he said he would look into it. Just three days later, I was so excited to receive an email from him announcing gluten free options that were available in the fresh case at the Southaven location that day! He even thanked me for encouraging him to expand to meet the needs of so many in our community that suffer from gluten intolerance and Celiac Disease.
I made a special trip to the Southaven location to check out the new options and came home with Rotel chicken spaghetti, lasagna and Ritz chicken casserole (made with gluten free crackers). Other available options that day were spaghetti, twice-baked potatoes and cream of chicken soup. Everything looked fantastic!
The minute I got home, I preheated the oven to 375°F, covered the disposable pan filled with chicken spaghetti with foil (provided by Borrowed Time Meals), and popped it in the oven for 35 minutes. While it was cooking, I started the laundry and reviewed homework with the kids. When the oven timer went off, I pulled the pan out of the oven and couldn't believe how delicious--and easy it was to make a "home cooked" meal from Borrowed Time Meals! Nathan, my 10-year-old son, actually scraped the pan to make sure he got every bite of it! I just served it with a side salad. Did I mention how easy it was? I was initially concerned with the cost of $9.99 for the dish that serves two, but after thinking about it a bit, I realized that I was already paying that much for a frozen pizza that serve two and doesn't even taste that good. Not one bite of this meal was wasted and it was made fresh that morning with ingredients I can pronounce!
The gluten free lasagna was even better! The rice noodles were the perfect texture, and there was the exact amount of meat sauce and cheese that I would've used if I had made it myself! This entree did take a bit longer to get done than the time listed on the instructions, but it was worth the wait! I served the lasagna with salad, Schar gluten free croissants, gluten free brownies (Live GFree Brownie Mix from Aldi), and Breyer's natural vanilla ice cream. It was absolutely delicious--probably the best lasagna (other than my mom's) that I've ever had, but not having to do any of the prep work or clean up for this meal made it worth every penny!
We weren't as impressed with the Ritz chicken casserole. It smelled really good while it was in the oven, but it wasn't a family favorite. That meal just wasn't our taste. I offered feedback to Mr. Woods on that recipe and he replied that he didn't care for the gluten free crackers he used because they didn't have much flavor and weren't really the right texture. I suggested another cracker that may work better. I think it will be a hit with people who like that type of dish if he finds the right cracker.
I did not get sick after eating any of these meals! I am so happy to have a quick, tasty dinner option close to home that offers gluten free entrees that my whole family enjoys! I can still feed my family a delicious, home-cooked meal and still have time for all of other things a busy, working mom has to do. I am so glad I took the time to ask for gluten free options! I hope this will be a hit with the gf community! Thank you, John Woods and Borrowed Time Meals, for listening to customers and taking action!
I am so happy to celebrate the beginning of spring, but this bitter cold snap has my family asking for soup for dinner tonight. Their favorite is homemade chicken and rice soup and I have a great recipe that is naturally gluten free! Everyone who eats chicken and rice soup at our house usually asks for the recipe before they leave the table. My 11-year-old daughter, Lauren (who is not gluten free) loves this recipe so much that she actually asked for me to make it twice in one week on her Christmas list.
As you already know, I don't eat in many restaurants, so when we travel out of town we take most of our food with us. On a recent trip to Nashville, I got up super early and made a batch of our family's favorite--chicken and rice soup--and put it in a 2-liter Thermos that Nathan found at Walmart. When it got time for dinner, we pulled out our "Soup Thermos" and served up dinner in the Opry Mills parking lot. I was so happy to see that the soup was still piping hot! We actually had to wait for it to cool down in the bowls before we could eat it! We took our travel tote filled with disposable bowls, spoons, Breton Gluten Free Herb and Garlic Crackers by Dare, drinks, fruit, and Goodie Girl Mint Slims to enjoy with our soup. We had a nice gf meal that everyone loved, didn't have to wait in line to eat, and we saved a lot of money! Besides, the kids were able to watch movies on their tablets in the back of the car.
Check out these crackers and cookies--they rock!! I found both items at Kroger. The Breton crackers have a texture similar to a Ritz cracker and have a light herb and garlic flavor. They don't crumble like some gluten free crackers, and they aren't so dry that you feel like you'll choke. The Goodie Girl Mint Slims are the best cookies! I didn't even miss Girl Scout cookies this year after finding this treasure! There are several varieties, but Mint Slims are the favorites in our family! I have to hide these or I won't even get a crumb!
Stay warm this week and try this soup if you're looking for a new recipe. Let me know what you think! I hope your family enjoys it as much as we do! One batch serves four, but my kiddos like to have another bowl for lunch the next day, so I typically make 1 1/2 batches. The recipe is easy to adjust. Be sure to read the ingredients if you purchase chicken broth. Not every brand is gluten free! Have a "souper" week!
Chicken & Rice Soup (Serves 4)
1 Tbsp. Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1 medium onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 medium carrots, cut diagonally in 1/2 inch slices
2 celery ribs, halved lengthwise and cut into 1/2 inch slices
4 fresh thyme sprigs
1 bay leaf
2 quarts chicken broth (make sure it is gluten free)
1 c. water
1 c. long-grain rice
1 1/2 c. cooked chicken, shredded
Place soup pot over medium heat. Add olive oil, onion, garlic, carrots, celery, thyme and bay leaf. Cook about six minutes until vegetables are softened, but not browned. Stir often. Add chicken broth and water. Bring to a boil. Add rice, chicken, salt and pepper to taste. Cook on medium until rice is tender--about 30 minutes. Stir often.
Mom makes the best chicken and rice soup!
Dear Friends and Family,
I am scared to eat at your house. I know you have a super-clean kitchen and I'm not trying to insult you when I ask a million questions or decline a dinner invitation, but cross contamination is a real thing and if you're not super careful, I will be sick for days. I know you mean well by preparing gluten free items for me and I truly appreciate your effort; however, if a tiny crumb of a gluten containing ingredient touches my dish, I will likely be sick. I want to enjoy your company, but I don't want to have headaches, fatigue, stomach cramps (or worse) at your house--it makes for bad company.
To provide a completely gluten free meal, you'll need new mixing bowls, baking pans, utensils, and you'll have to read every label of every ingredient to check for sneaky gluten which is not always obvious. For example, who knew that most salad dressings, sauces, frozen fries, and even some brands of chicken broth are not gluten free? I learned that the hard way. Also, just because you ate tacos at my house doesn't mean I can eat tacos at your house. Most seasonings aren't gluten free.
Meeting at a restaurant isn't much safer. I have a couple of go-to restaurants that I semi-trust (Mellow Mushroom and Red Robin), but if we meet there, please be prepared for me to ask to speak to a manager EVERY TIME to ensure minimal cross contamination. If you invite me to eat at any other restaurant, I will call in advance to inquire about gluten free options, but I will probably eat a protein bar in the car on the way and will only order a beverage once I get there. I will still go because I want to spend time with you!
Please forgive me for having trust issues. I ordered gluten-free pasta from Olive Garden and couldn't understand why I was so sick before we got home--less than 15 miles away. After further investigation, I learned that they boiled the gluten free pasta in the same water that they boiled the other pasta. Guess what? My meal was NOT gluten free. Also, I read great things about Outback's allergy menu and decided to visit. I specifically requested the gluten free menu, explained my issue to the server and ordered salad with no croutons to be mixed in a clean bowl. When the salad was brought out, I asked again if it was gluten free and was assured it was safe. After eating half of the salad, I saw a tiny crouton. My family will tell you that I almost flipped the table over as I was screaming for the manager. Again, I was sick before I got home. It is really not worth the hassle.
I have a dear friend who was hosting a visitor who has Celiac Disease and she wasn't sure how to accommodate on short notice. She called me for advice. With very little time to prepare, I came home and grabbed a frozen gf pizza and brownie mix and took it to her with strict instructions: Stop at the store and pick up disposable pans, new utensils, and a carton of Breyer's Natural Vanilla Ice Cream to serve with warm brownies. Order pizza for everyone else. The host was able to pull off a no-fuss dinner with little prep time. The guest enjoyed a safe meal with no cross contamination. That is a win-win.
I would love to visit, go shopping or meet you to go see a movie, but let's eat before we go or feel free to dine at my house where everything is gluten free and you won't even have to clean up the mess!
P.S. Nathan's note: I can tell you right now that my mom really did almost flip over the table at the Outback.
P.S.S. This post was not meant to insult anyone. It is just how I (and most of my gf friends) feel. Gluten is poison to our bodies and we have to be so careful so we don't get sick! Thank you for understanding. We love you.