La Pasta offers perfect Gluten-Free Spinach and Cheese Ravioli

La Pasta Gluten-Free Spinach and Cheese Ravioli
La Pasta Gluten-Free Spinach and Cheese Ravioli

La Pasta Gluten-Free Spinach and Cheese Ravioli – $5.99+

Thank you, grocery shopping gods.  Thank you for that one day that my roommate and I were at Whole Foods for something specific, but we decided to walk the aisles.  Thank you for letting her turn her head at the right time and spot the most epic thing ever in the pasta aisle.  Thank you…for La Pasta.  And thank you, La Pasta, for your gorgeous Gluten-Free Spinach and Cheese Ravioli.

In the past, my best gluten-free pastas have been of the fresh variety.  I blogged about the amazing RP Pasta Company’s fresh gluten-free noodles awhile back.  I have some fresh gluten-free gnocchi to try as well from Nuovo.  That will be next.  But…hands down, the best pastas are the ones that aren’t made to be frozen.  Gluten-free pasta can be so finicky and can go from perfect to gummy to mushy within seconds.


But, I wasn’t passing up the opportunity to try these out.  So, after going out for gluten-free pizza with a co-worker one Friday night and getting the roomie completely toasted on a beer flight, it was time to go grocery shopping.  (Note: Grocery shopping with a sorta drunk roommate is the best grocery shopping ever…because I can buy, literally, anything I want).  We hit up Trader Joe’s first and behaved, sticking to the list.  So…her sandwich bread and some of their potato chips for her lunch.  Then…it was Whole Foods time.  And I was prepared for my moment of gluten-free grocery shopping glory.

Walk the aisles?  You better believe it.  Grab whatever I have been wanting to try?  You betcha!  I had almost forgotten about the pasta but it struck me just as we were about to head for the checkout line.  Whew.  Close call.  We scurried back to the pasta section and had to make the choice between La Pasta’s Gluten-Free Cheese Ravioli or La Pasta’s Gluten-Free Spinach and Cheese Ravioli.  The tipsy wonder chose for me, snagging a package of the Gluten-Free Spinach and Cheese Ravioli.

With no plans in the works for dinner tonight, I figured I could use up the rest of the pasta sauce in the fridge if I simply cooked up the package of ravioli for dinner.  Perfect.  And not very time consuming either.  The part that took the longest was waiting on the 4 quarts of water to come to a boil.  But, like any good chef, I just slapped a lid on the pot and it happened a lot faster than it would have otherwise.

With the pasta sauce working on the stove, and the water now heated to a boil, I cut open the plastic packaging holding the little pockets of spinach and cheese wonder and poured them into the boiling water, immediately turning down the heat.  It came up to a boil and the pasta cooked for about 2 – 3 minutes.  BOOM.  Done.  That simple.

La Pasta Gluten-Free Spinach and Cheese Ravioli (cooked)
La Pasta Gluten-Free Spinach and Cheese Ravioli (cooked)

I drained the pasta and shook out all the excess water.  Then, it was already time to serve up dinner.  I split the package between us, which worked out to about 12 ravioli each.  These were very light and I could see the stuffing through the pasta after I cooked it up.  And it smelled absolutely fantastic.  The best part was, nothing was sticking together.  Each ravioli easily slid from the spoon I was dishing it up with onto the plate.  No casualties of war.  Not one.  I was already impressed and just praying now that I had cooked them long enough.  Hey, I cooked as instructed on the packaging…which sometimes works out…and sometimes does not.

I sauced each plate with a serving of the marinara sauce (Classico’s Florentine Spinach and Cheese, for the record) and topped off my roomie’s with fresh Parmigiano Reggiano and hit up mine with some crushed red pepper.  Yummy!!  Dinner was served.

Moment of truth.  One swipe of the fork and I knew I was in for a treat.  The pasta was perfection.  It cooked up soft, without turning to mush or becoming gummy and sticky.  The little pockets of ravioli held the stuffing, the fresh spinach and ricotta cheese, perfectly.  And when I took my first full bite, everything just melted together and made the most perfect bite of ravioli I have ever experience since going gluten-free.  It was full of flavor, cooked to perfection, and just made for a perfect bite.  I was hooked…and sort of wishing I had more of it on my plate.

So, let’s talk nutrition.  A serving of La Pasta Gluten-Free Spinach and Cheese Ravioli is 95 grams.  There are 2.5 servings per container.  My roommate and I split the entire package.  An actual serving of this ravioli will serve up 170 calories and 5 grams of fat.  A serving also contains 40 mg of cholesterol and 480 mg sodium.  As far as fiber goes, the Gluten-Free Spinach and Cheese Ravioli only offers 1 gram of fiber, but you do get a healthy dose of 7 grams of protein.  Loving it.

And as for the ingredient list, it doesn’t get much simpler than a filling made from ricotta cheese, spinach, Parmesan cheese, mozzarella cheese, sea salt, canola oil, olive oil, black pepper, garlic, potato flakes, and nutmeg.  As for the pasta itself…that’s a blend of corn starch, whole dried eggs, potato starch, sea salt, tapioca starch, filtered water and xanthan gum.  Yep.  It’s really that simple.  And it tastes like homemade.  That’s the very best part.  Tender with a cheesy center that just melts…it melts.  It’s awesome.

La Pasta…you’ve won my heart…and my gluten-free pasta loving soul.

For life.

La Pasta Gluten-Free Spinach and Cheese Ravioli (cooked and sauced)
La Pasta Gluten-Free Spinach and Cheese Ravioli (cooked and sauced)

Martini Italian Bistro gives Louisville a taste of made-to-order Italian awesomesauce

Martini Italian Bistro, Louisville, Kentucky
Martini Italian Bistro, Louisville, Kentucky

Restaurant: Martini Italian Bistro, Louisville, Kentucky

I love businesses that do whatever they can to cater to people who normally wouldn’t be able to eat there. Take, for example, Martini Italian Bistro in Louisville, Kentucky. This cozy bistro at The Summit off of Summit Plaza Drive is definitely worth checking out. I had been meaning to dine here long before now, but I will say this…their menu is a bit on the pricey side, so I wasn’t going to spend that much money on a lunch.

I think I might change that policy now that I have officially dined here.

Yes…I ate at an Italian restaurant. And you know what else? I came out of there without any signs of any cross-contamination. They were very specific when I spoke to them about being a Celiac and assured me that all the food was made-to-order…nothing was just sitting around…everything was fresh…and they would take good care of me.

I admit, I was a little apprehensive about eating there. With restaurants…the knowledge of the chef and staff when it comes to gluten intolerance can sometimes be next to nothing. And at Italian restaurants, especially, the danger can elevate. So, there were definitely some heart palpitations as I gazed at the menu, searching for some gluten-free and vegetarian options.

There were quite a few, believe it or not.

It was Father’s Day, of all days, and my roommate and I were treating her mother to lunch as her Mother’s Day gift. Yes…while everyone else is celebrating Father’s Day…leave it to us to treat mom to dinner. It was an early dinner too…the 3:00 hour, just after they stopped serving brunch at the real menu was brought out. Perfection. Cathy and I had every intention of taking her mom here…because it was a nice place, but not one that you had to get totally dressed up for. It was that right blend of business casual. Jeans and a nice shirt is what we all were wearing. And so was a majority of the crowd.

Our waiter came over to see if we would like anything to drink. As much as their specialty martini’s enticed, all three of us stuck to water that afternoon. Probably for the best. We alerted him that I was a Celiac and he gave me the run-down that all the pastas can be prepared gluten-free and that there were quite a few vegetarian options for me as well. He assured me that my food would be safe because everything was made as it was ordered. And…I actually felt okay after talking with him. He gave us a couple of minutes and when he returned…we were all ready to order.

Cathy went with the classic standby on which she judges all Italian restaurants…the Spaghetti and Meatballs ($14.99). This dish had three large hand-rolled meatballs in a tomato sauce, all laying atop a bed of garlic butter noodles. She said the meatballs just came apart beautifully and tasted so rich and delicious. That’s always a good thing. Classic Italian dish…winning with my roomie. Cathy’s mom chose to go with the Shrimp Garganelli ($16.99). This pasta dish was a mix of pasta, topped with jumbo Gulf shrimp with crushed red pepper (so it has a bit of a kick and some heat to it), topped off with a white wine garlic sauce, oven roasted tomatoes, spinach and a touch of goat cheese. It looked fantastic. She said it was right at her heat tolerance, so that was a good thing. Hey…a little spice is good for that metabolism!

As for me…I had a couple of options but finally decided on the one that the waiter suggested, as it is one of their most popular dishes. I ordered the Mediterranean Penne, done gluten-free ($14.49…regular $12.99 with a $1.50 charge for gluten-free). What this consisted of is a gluten-free fusilli, not penne, pasta, that is topped off with a very light, highly flavorful white wine garlic sauce, sun-dried tomatoes, mushrooms, spinach, toasted pine nuts, and a scattering of feta cheese. It sounded heavenly.

With our orders in, and everything made to order, this gave us some time to talk, look at the martini menu, and Cathy and her mom both enjoyed the focaccia bread with the dipping oil. Cathy said the bread had some heat to it. So, that means I would have found it mild…but I am the breadless wonder at Italian places as most do not have a gluten-free bread option. Only two places I have dined at have, Piazza Sorrento in Hershey, Pennsylvania, and Mama Melrose’s at Disney World. The no bread thing doesn’t even bother me.

Our food arrived, fresh and piping hot from the kitchen. When mine was placed in front of me, the waitress who carried it out even made a point of reiterating that it was, in fact, the Gluten-Free Mediterranean Penne. That was a nice touch. When all the plates were down, the waiter asked if we needed anything further, but we were just ready to dig in. I snapped a picture for this blog…then eagerly picked up my fork and speared a little of every component in the dish.

Mouthgasm of wonderful gluten-free Italian goodness. For real!! First of all, the gluten-free pasta was cooked to perfection. It wasn’t gummy, nor was it mushy. In fact, it was at that perfect al dente that is so difficult to achieve with a rice pasta. But they did it. Spot on. Gluten-free pasta cooking perfection. My compliments to the chef. As for the toppings…Oh mio Dio…I am going to replicate this at home if at all possible. Honest to God…this was one of the most fantastic pasta dishes I have ever eaten. The feta cheese gave a hit of salty, rich flavor to the sauteed vegetables. And I am a sucker for sun-dried tomatoes. And I loved that they didn’t overkill the plate with them. A little goes a long way and the chef totally grasped that concept. There was the perfect balance of each component on this plate…and the sauce was light and full of flavor. I was in heaven. In fact, I devoured every bit of it. Down to the last noodle. Of the three of us…I was the only one who created a happy plate (which means…I ate everything on there). No regrets either. That was gluten-free Italian awesomesauce.

I encourage anyone in the Louisville area, whether you are just passing through or are a resident of this city, to stop in to Martini Italian Bistro and give their food and perhaps their signature drinks a try. The price of the dishes is worth it. You definitely get what you pay for. And the quality…the quality is hard to beat. I can’t wait to go back. I already have an idea of what I want to eat next time. And I won’t even scoff at the prices because I’d pay that again in a heartbeat. Yes…the food, the service, the atmosphere…it is all worth it. I encourage anyone and everyone to go there at least once and see if they win you over like they did for me. Even Cathy and her mom were impressed.

We left full, but happy, all discussing how wonderful our food was. That is always a good sign.

I appreciate the care, the service, and the reassurance I received at Martini Italian Bistro that helped make my dining experience one I will never forget. And now…I’m craving that gluten-free pasta again…

Martini Italian Bistro's Gluten-Free Mediterranean Penne (Fusilli)
Martini Italian Bistro’s Gluten-Free Mediterranean Penne (Fusilli)

GalloLea Gluten-Free Pizza Kit is exactly what NOT to do to gluten-free pizza

GalloLea Gluten-Free Pizza Kit
GalloLea Gluten-Free Pizza Kit

Product: GalloLea Gluten-Free Pizza Kit – $10.99+

Let’s face it, my gluten-free friends.  When it comes to pizza crust, we usually have two options – make it ourselves…or use the frozen pre-packaged cracker crust pizza shells made by numerous gluten-free companies.  While these aren’t all bad…I have been fortunate enough to go to a few restaurants that actually make gluten-free pizza crust that isn’t crunchy thin and tastes like…real…awesome…pizza…crust.

But, tradition for me is a gluten-free pizza before the night of a big race.  For 5Ks…I’m apathetic on the tradition, but on a 10K or higher…you better believe I want my gluten-free pizza the night before.  I’m a superstitious athlete…and this has just been my magic night-before-the-race fuel.  It just works for me.  But…recently I’m on a tighter-than-usual budget (I blame race fees!), so instead of dropping money at a restaurant, I decided to pull out this kit I purchased at my local Earth Fare awhile back and give it a shot.  It would be…the best of both worlds.  A crust made from a mix that I got to roll out like a real pizza…without it feeling or, hopefully tasting, like those gluten-free cracker crusts of gluten-free pizza monotony.

I should trademark that…


It had been a long day at work and I was rather hungry when I walked inside from a long day at the office.  Immediately I settled into the kitchen to get this pizza working.  I opened up the kit, pulled out the vacuum-sealed pizza crust mix, the sauce packet, and the baking paper that they provided.  I preheated the oven to 450 degrees and put my pizza stone in there to warm up.  So far…so good.  Now came the fun part.

I call this the fun part because this is where I felt like I was really, truly, making a real…yes a REAL pizza.  The crust was vegan, which means it had no eggs added to it and no dairy was involved in making it.  In fact…it took 1/2 cup of water, warmed in the microwave for about 30 seconds, then the pizza crust mix that was provided.  This was a simple blend of organic brown rice flour, organic buckwheat flour, teff flour, sweet rice flour, yeast, organic raw sugar, sea salt and vitamin C.  Seems legit, yes?  Well, I did as instructed and poured the mix into the warmed water, stirring it until it was all incorporated and then making a dough ball, as instructed, in the bowl, covering it with the provided baking paper, and letting it sit for 10 minutes to rise.

While that was happening, I prepared the rest of the toppings…which is whatever you want.  For me…vegan Daiya cheese, avocado, pinapple, tomato, onion, green pepper, and broccolette.  Mmmm…veggie pizza with a hit of sweet pineapple.  It would be epic.  I just knew it.

With my veggies chopped and ready for the pizza, I removed the baking paper…and noticed my dough ball hadn’t even altered in size.  It looked just like it did when I rolled it into a ball and left it there.  Hmmm…

Well, I ran with it.  The baking paper was placed on the counter and I put two teaspoons of olive oil on it.  The dough ball was plopped onto the paper and rolled around into the olive oil, then I grabbed my rolling pin and rolled it out into a 12-inch circle as best I could, doing a horrible job at crimping the edges.  No surprise.  This isn’t my forte.  Anyway, I slid the baking paper with my crust base over to the warm pizza stone and set it on the low rack to begin cooking for about 10 minutes.

GalloLea Gluten-Free Pizza Kit includes a gluten-free pizza crust mix, a sauce pack, and baking paper
GalloLea Gluten-Free Pizza Kit includes a gluten-free pizza crust mix, a sauce pack, and baking paper

When that 10 minutes was up, I pulled it out and did as I was instructed by the kit…I poured the sauce packet on top and spread it out to coat the crust.  The sauce, by the way is a simple blend of organic whole peeled tomatoes, organic tomato paste, organic extra virgin olive oil, organic garlic, organic raw sugar, organic basil, organic oregano and more organic spices.  It sounded organically awesome, honestly.  Pure, natural ingredients.  I like it.  Then, over the sauce I added all the toppings and a scattering of my Daiya mozzarella shreds.  Vegan pizza…is awesome.  Trust me.  And back into the oven it went for another 10 minute baking session, allowing the crust to cook more, the toppings to warm, the cheese to melt, and that pineapple to caramelize.

When 10 minutes was up…the pizza stone came out and my pizza was done and ready to eat.  All of this is around 30 minutes time.  Not too bad for a dough you prep by hand.  That was, actually, my favorite part of this process.  I felt like I was eating something real.  Not just a frozen mass of dough already pre-made for my convenience.  I like getting my hands into things and making and rolling the dough was a nice step in that direction.

So…here it is…the truth, the whole truth…and nothing but the truth.

GalloLea Gluten-Free Pizza Kit let me down.  It just…let me down hard.

I went to slice through the crust and found that it was…very difficult to slice into.  My hopes of having this beautifully crisp yet soft pizza crust flew immediately out the window.  I was already frustrated with the crust and I hadn’t even tasted it.  Once I managed to slice it into fourths and then into smaller pieces for consumption purposes, I took a serving (1/4 of the pizza) to my roommate and served up another serving for myself.  I settled in, hoping the taste would make up for the tough to slice through crust.

Nope.  This crust turned out to be completely tasteless.  It was crunchy and bland…reminding me more of the cardboard flavored gluten-free products of yesterday rather than the amazing flavor, texture, and taste that can come with gluten-free products that are done right.  SO frustrating and aggravating.  I was let down.  The underside of the pizza crust got this amazing crunch to it, but the top, the part that was sauced, turned into a soggy mess.  I’m sorry…pizza crust should not be soggy.  Ever.  It was lackluster, uninspired, bland, and just plain…disgusting.  I almost didn’t want to save the other half of the pizza for the following evening.  But I did…because I didn’t want to waste money.  Ugh.  I reheated it the following night in a skillet, hoping it might improve the crust some.  Nope.  Still a bland, soggy mess of a pizza.

GalloLea…you did everything wrong with this mix.  I mean, who says that pizza crust has to be bland and just…not worth the effort to make it.  I was so disappointed with the time I spent rolling out this dough and preparing it.  The sauce was bitter and didn’t taste good at all.  I’d recommend using your own sauce if you happen to have one of these in your pantry.  I’m just saying.

As for the nutritional worth of this bland pizza crust…with the sauce included…the serving of 1/4 of a pizza will set you back 170 calories, and that’s without counting the toppings you add to it.  There is only 1 gram of fat in the mix and sauce, however, and it does provide 3 grams of fiber and 6 grams of protein.  This mix is also low on sodium (220 mg) and contains only 3 grams of sugar.  It is cholesterol free as well.

Unfortunately…it is also disgusting.  And I was so disappointed that once again I was stuck with a less-than-satisfying pre-race pizza.  I want a good pizza before a race, dammit.  Is that too much to ask?

My recommendation…make your own gluten-free crust.  Don’t rely on mixes.  And if you are pressed for time, there are plenty of tasty, frozen, pre-made gluten-free pizza crusts out there to throw into the oven with your own sauce and toppings.  Don’t waste your time and money on the GalloLea Gluten-Free Pizza Kit.  You will regret it.  I sure did.

GalloLea Pizza Crust stopped with my amazing toppings.  The toppings were the best part.  The crust was horrible!
GalloLea Pizza Crust stopped with my amazing toppings. The toppings were the best part. The crust was horrible!

Create your own pizza on Udi’s Gluten-Free Pizza Crust

Special Delivery of Udi’s Gluten-Free Goodies – including brand new products!
Special Delivery of Udi’s Gluten-Free Goodies – including brand new products!

Product: Udi’s Gluten-Free Pizza Crusts (2 Pack) – $5.99+

It was October 24, 2011 when I first was able to finally try Udi’s Gluten-Free Pizza Crusts.  I remember the day like it was just yesterday instead of almost two years ago.  At this point, my gluten-free journey was in the beginning stages.  I had tried Udi’s bread…and loved it.  But that was basically all I could find in my area…until one day…the gluten-free gods smiled upon me…and one of my local stores started carrying Udi’s Gluten-Free Pizza Crusts in their freezer section.  I was so happy (and hungry) at that moment, I damned my budget, threw a pack of them into my cart and went home to make some gluten-free pizza for dinner.

Almost two years ago.

Sometimes things change over the span of a couple years.  Companies toy around with recipes…sometimes because it is needed (Udi’s Gluten-Free Cinnamon Rolls…yes…you…and I still am not the biggest fan of those)…and sometimes because they just want to see if they can improve on the awesome product they already have on the market (Rudi’s Gluten-Free Bread…your new recipe is awesome!).

One thing that hasn’t changed, however, is the quality, taste, and sheer awesomeness that comes in each pack of Udi’s Gluten-Free Pizza Crusts.  Sure, Udi’s now makes pre-topped frozen pizzas…and those are all fine and good.  But sometimes…most of the time…I have my own pizza toppings in mind and I want to get into my kitchen and draw on my inner allergic chef and just…create.

Udi's Gluten-Free Pizza Crusts
Udi’s Gluten-Free Pizza Crusts

Most people would think that would mean…make your own gluten-free crust.  I have.  And sometimes I still do.  But when you’re hungry or in a hurry…you work with what is available to you.  And what my area happens to have in almost every grocery store now…are Udi’s Gluten-Free Pizza Crusts.  And I couldn’t be happier about it.

Recently, I received an amazing box of gluten-free goodness from Udi’s of products, both classic and new…to try for my blog.  One of the included items was a pack of their Gluten-Free Pizza Crusts.  As I run a lot and my favorite pre-race meal is gluten-free pizza…this had me stoked.  I already knew I was a huge fan of their pizza crusts…although it had been…probably about a year since I had last had one.

Well, yesterday I ran two 5K races…one in the morning and one in the evening.  And that meant…Friday night was gluten-free pizza night.  Normally, my roomie and I would just pick a local restaurant that had a respectable, safe gluten-free pizza on the menu.  But…we’re on a tight budget this month…and now…I had pizza crusts in my freezer.  So…yes…I would make my own.

I got out my pizza stone, put some cornmeal down, then got the pizza crusts out of the freezer.  I removed one of them and put the other one away.  Once my pizza stone was properly heated and the corn meal beginning to brown, I placed the crust down on the stone and began to top it with what ingredients I had on hand.  I made my own version of a gluten-free and vegetarian Hawaiian pizza.  A little marinara, some homemade gluten-free and vegan bacon, some red onion, chunks of fresh pineapple, and topped it off with Daiya mozzarella vegan cheese.  Oh…my pre-race meal was already making me drool and it still had to bake.

Udi's Gluten-Free Pizza Crust (ready for toppings and baking)
Udi’s Gluten-Free Pizza Crust (ready for toppings and baking)

Into the oven it went for about 10-12 minutes.  It smelled fantastic as it started to bake, the cheese getting melty and gooey…the pineapple beginning to caramelize under the heat of the oven, the crust turning to that perfect golden brown.  Oh yes…this was gluten-free pizza that was going to get me through two races in one day.  And it was turning into pizza perfection.

And the best part was…I still LOVED it.  Every last bite of it.  My pizza turned out brilliantly.  The crust baked to a crispy, yet still chewy, perfection.  It was able to sustain the heavy pineapple chunks among the other toppings.  And it tasted so good.  SO good.  This crust is light and thin, so you don’t feel like a glutton for downing half of the entire crust (which is the serving size, BTW).  I am just as in love with these pizza crusts now as I was almost two years ago.  Nothing about them has changed.  They are amazing.  Top them off however you wish.  You can’t go wrong when you’re making it your own.  And thanks to Udi’s…you can do this on a super busy  night…or if you just want to have some time to relax.  Pizza doesn’t have to be about making your own crust.  Let Udi’s do that for you…because this is a crust worth slicing into and devouring.

Nutritionally speaking, this is also one of the best pre-made gluten-free pizza crusts on the market.  The serving size, as I mentioned before, is 1/2 of the pizza.  It makes sharing with someone so simple and easy.  My roomie gets her half and I get mine.  I leave a zone between the halves for easy slicing, as she uses real cheese on hers…whereas I am lactose intolerant and use vegan cheese on mine.  It works out beautifully.  A serving of the crust alone will only set you back 190 calories and 5 grams of fat.  Trust me…this is on the low end of most of the pre-made gluten-free crusts out there.  Believe me…I have searched.  On top of that, your half of a pizza serves up 4 grams of protein.  AWESOME.

These crusts are made from a blend of tapioca starch, brown rice flour, water, canola oil, egg whites, evaporated cane sugar, tapioca syrup, tapioca maltodextrin, salt, xanthan gum, yeast, and cultured corn syrup solids (to prevent mold).  Combine it and what you end up with is one of the best gluten-free pizza crusts in your grocer’s freezer section.  These have been on the market for quite awhile…but if you are new to the gluten-free lifestyle or just haven’t spent the money to try them out…I encourage you to do so…and do so now.  These are fantastic and…make having a pizza party a whole lot less stressful.

Bake up one for yourself and taste the awesomeness of Udi’s Gluten-Free Pizza Crusts.  No really.  Do so.  Pizza waits for no one.

Gluten-Free and Vegetarian Hawaiian Pizza made on Udi's Gluten-Free Pizza Crust
Gluten-Free and Vegetarian Hawaiian Pizza made on Udi’s Gluten-Free Pizza Crust

DeBoles Gluten-Free Rice Plus Golden Flax Angel Hair Pasta is a gummy, delicate mess

DeBoles Gluten-Free Rice Plus Golden Flax Angel Hair Pasta
DeBoles Gluten-Free Rice Plus Golden Flax Angel Hair Pasta

Product: DeBoles Gluten-Free Rice Plus Golden Flax Angel Hair Pasta – $2.69+

Ah…gluten-free pasta.

It can be just as good as the full-barrel pasta.  Or it can be…beyond disappointing.  I always hope for the best and tonight when I got it into my head to make an angel hair pasta dish with some vegan and gluten-free scallops on top.  I happened to have some gluten-free angel hair pasta in my pantry, however, so this wasn’t going to be an issue.  The most difficult part of dinner prep was going to be making the garlic sauce.

Upon arriving home, the gluten-free angel hair pasta was pulled out of the pantry and I got some water boiling in my large pot on the stove.  The pasta that was debuting in my kitchen was none other than DeBoles Gluten-Free Rice Angel Hair Pasta…now with Golden Flax.  I have had DeBoles pasta before…and it’s been…okay.  Nothing to really scream about.  But…decent enough to get by.

While I got the water boiling, I prepped some asparagus to roast as a side dish and got that in the oven.  Then, I got the gluten-free and vegan breaded scallops set on their baking sheet for when they would join the asparagus in the oven.  By then, my water was boiling, so I got the scallops into the oven and then got out the ingredients for my sauce and put the skillet on a burner to warm up.

It was now time to add the noodles to the boiling water.  I opened up the box of DeBoles Gluten-Free Rice Plus Golden Flax Angel Hair Pasta and poured it into the water.  The boiling water immediately calmed, and I gave the pasta a stir until everything was covered by the water.  A rolling boil returned and I went ahead to focus on making my garlic sauce, giving the noodles a stir every now and again.

As the pasta began to soften, I noticed how brittle and delicate these noodles were going to be.  When I would stir the noodles, they would occasionally split or break apart into smaller noodles.  Okay…that’s fine.  My mom used to split the noodles in half and cook spaghetti like that.  I just…was hoping for something that would really hold up.

DeBoles Gluten-Free Rice Plus Golden Flax Angel Hair Pasta noodles, cooked...and unclumpy!
DeBoles Gluten-Free Rice Plus Golden Flax Angel Hair Pasta noodles, cooked…and unclumpy!

I cooked these to the perfect al dente (about 9 minutes), then drained them.  I shook out the excess water and went to put the noodles into the skillet to mix with the sauce.  And that was when I poured them into the skillet that I noticed just how gummy and sticky they were.  They clumped together terribly.  I was not happy.  I poured a little more olive oil into my garlic sauce in hopes that it would help de-stick the noodles, but it didn’t.  They just became this massive clump of gluten-free rice noodle pasta.  I was livid.  Honestly.  No good at all.

But the pasta was all I had to work with…so I had to use it, despite it all being one ball of noodles now.  I managed to scoop up four servings and place two in Pyrex containers for the following night…and the clumpy noodles that were left went into bowls for dinner.  Over the top went the vegan and gluten-free breaded scallops from Sophie’s Kitchen.  And then I gave mine a hit of crushed red pepper flakes, where my roommate took freshly grated Parmesan.

Dinner was…served, I guess.  The image of it in my head seemed a lot better than the actual result.  Stupid pasta.  And, just as it appeared, it tasted.  Not mushy, but gummy.  The noodles broke as you tried to lift them from the bowl, perhaps due to the weight of the other noodles now stuck together…or the fact that this pasta was very delicate.  I was not pleased.  They tasted fine…the texture was great.  But they just didn’t cook up properly, despite me doing everything right.

As for the bowls of noodles in the fridge…when reheated, I went ahead and left the lids off the Pyrex, hoping it might take some of the gumminess out of the noodles.  Is it weird that I preferred the noodles on the second day as opposed to the first.  My plan did work, although they were still a clump of really short noodles, instead of single long strands of angel hair pasta that could be wound around a fork.  Suckage.  But…like I said…at least they taste good.

Nutritionally speaking, this is like any other pasta noodle.  For a 2 ounce serving (yes…I do measure and weigh), you’ll be set back 210 calories and 1.5 grams of fat.  Not too shabby for pasta, yes?  Thanks to the flax, you get a nice hit of 4 grams of protein.  Unfortunately, the fiber content in this is rather low, so it may not be as filling as a regular pasta noodle would be.  But, when you’re gluten-free…you use what you are given.  And this is what I had.  These noodles are gluten-free, wheat-free, and an excellent source of Omega 3…something this gluten-free vegetarian doesn’t really get regularly.

So…while not a horrible choice for noodles, there are others out there I would return to before picking up another box of DeBoles Gluten-Free Rice Plus Golden Flax Angel Hair Pasta.  I prefer my noodles not to stick together…break…have a gumminess to them…you know…what any good gluten-free eater should get.  Something done right and something done well.  These noodles…failed me.  And now…I have no love for them.  I liked them…but it’s not love.

We’re just…acquaintances.

DeBoles Gluten-Free Rice Plus Golden Flax Angel Hair Pasta, now shortened and stuck together, topped with Sophie's Kitchen Vegan and Gluten-Free Breaded Scallops
DeBoles Gluten-Free Rice Plus Golden Flax Angel Hair Pasta, now shortened and stuck together, topped with Sophie’s Kitchen Vegan and Gluten-Free Breaded Scallops

Gluten-free pizza a huge let down at Pizza Ranch

Pizza Ranch, Apple Valley, Minnesota
Pizza Ranch, Apple Valley, Minnesota

Restaurant: Pizza Ranch, Apple Valley, Minnesota

This will teach me to allow my roommate to make changes to the original plan.  Because, judging by the reviews that I’ve read since just working on this blog, I never would have gone to Pizza Ranch for my night-before-a-big-race gluten-free pizza tradition when a place like Pizza Luce existed within a short drive from my grandpa’s home.  Let me tell you…next time I pick the place and we stick to the plan…because when I eat gluten-free pizza…I expect a really amazing gluten-free pizza.

But Pizza Ranch, right off the bat, I could tell wasn’t going to be a place to get something amazing to eat.  Too bad.  The line was pretty long and we had 10 people in our party as my cousin Molly and her hubby and two kids joined us, as did my cousin Andy and his significant other as well.  My friend Heather came over and joined us for dinner as well.  Big group…and not everyone quite sure how this place worked.

But my aunt figured it out.  We had to either get the buffet (not gluten-free) or go place an order at the front desk.  Everything was paid for in advance, and you could have all the pizza you wanted, or a specialty pizza made and brought to your table in its own box.  After a little discussion, Heather, Cathy and I decided that the perfect toppings for our pizza that night were best kept mild…so mozzarella cheese, tomatoes, mushrooms and onions ($12.99).  We all got fountain drinks, although I simply got water in mine.

Now, this was not how I wanted to start out Heather when it came to gluten-free foods.  We had to wait awhile to actually get our food.  Which…is fine.  It’s okay when food takes some time to prepare.  And yes, it was actually brought to the table in its own box.  But by them, my family who had all opted for buffet and my grandpa, who had ordered some 2-piece chicken dinner ($5.49), all had pretty much finished off their meals.  So, the pizza got there in time for us to make a show of eating it.

And a show it was.  Opening the box it looks like the cracker-crust pizzas I get at every other small chain pizza place that is getting into gluten-free.  And that’s fine.  If it is done right.  At first glance, this one seemed to be, even if a bit charred on the edges.  When you’re working with such a thin crust…it happens.  However…that being said, Cathy went to snag the first piece from the aluminum sheet it was cooked on, only to find it completely baked onto the disposable pan.  I mean…crusted on there good.  She managed to get her fork and knife in to hack away at the charred edge that held it in place and finally freed her piece.  This made it easier for Heather and I to snag ours, but I was completely mortified.  Remember…Heather hasn’t had gluten-free pizza before and this was already scaring me…a patron of the gluten-free pizza scene.

I scraped my piece out of the tray and onto my plate, gave it a little shake of crushed red pepper and sliced off  the very tip with my fork.  One bite.  Instant disappointment.  I mean…instant.  It wasn’t that the pizza was bad.  It wasn’t.  It just…wasn’t all that good either.  The crust, while crispy and maybe a little too done on the edges, was pale and soft on the inside.  It was cooked through, but you couldn’t easily pick up this pizza to eat.  It had to be eaten with a fork and knife because the crust was just…mush.  Pale, ungolden, uncrispy…mush.  And where it was crispy…it was a little too done.

Yeah…I think my disappointment showed.  But at that point, you’ve paid for it, everyone else has eaten…so you sort of just eat what you have and be thankful that you’re at least getting your pre-race tradition done.  We thought the toppings were fine.  The vegetables were fresh.  The onions were raw, not caramelized…but…we were at a place called Pizza Ranch.  So…such luxuries are not exactly what you should expect.  I’m okay with raw onions though.  And they tasted fine.  It was just too bad that crust ruined the entire pizza experience for me.  I was so unimpressed and unhappy with every bite of that pizza.  And the fact that the three of us had to literally fight to extract each piece from the tray was only making it worse.  My heart was heavy.  My pizza was…meh.

And my runner’s spirit was sort of crushed.  As was my chance to really show Heather what the food I eat is all about.  But…I have a feeling I can fix all of that when we hit up Chicago in October.  She just needs to trust me.

Anyway…I had three pieces, Cathy and three, and Heather stuck with two (I don’t blame her).  And we all left, discussing how the pizza wasn’t awful it just wasn’t…noteworthy or…good.  It was underwhelming.  And it honestly made me sad.  When you are known for pizza…I don’t care if it is gluten-free…you make a damn good pizza.  Even if you are a small, regional chain, only available in nine states…when you make a name off your pizza…make all of your pizza good.  Not just the dough you make from scratch.  The toppings were really good…the gluten-free crust, however, was not up to my standards.  I eat a lot of gluten-free pizzas (because I run a lot)…and this was one of the worst yet.

Thank goodness it wasn’t an omen for race day.  And thank goodness we all survived.  I don’t think we’ll mosey over to Pizza Ranch again next time I visit Minnesota to run.  I think I’ll go where everyone raves about the food and service.  Pizza Luce…I’m looking at you.  Pizza Ranch…I intend to let you fade from my memory.  While I appreciate that you have gluten-free pizza available, we in the gluten-free community prefer to have as good a pizza as those who can dine normally.  And, sadly, that wasn’t the case for me.

Pizza Ranch Gluten-Free Pizza with mozzarella cheese, tomatoes, onion, and mushrooms
Pizza Ranch Gluten-Free Pizza with mozzarella cheese, tomatoes, onion, and mushrooms

A salad for me, but mostly pizza and pasta for gluten-free at Pinstripes

Pinstripes, Edina, Minnesota
Pinstripes, Edina, Minnesota

Restaurant: Pinstripes, Edina, Minnesota

So…if you’re anything like me…you’ve never heard of Pinstripes.  That was certainly the case up until my first full day in Minneapolis.  I was bustling around town with my roomie and my aunt, having hit up the race expo that morning for my half marathon the next day.  So, with that one detail (and the major thing we needed to accomplish) taken care of…we were just hitting up interesting places along the way until we needed to head home for a bit and figure out where to grab gluten-free pizza for race night tradition.

While we were trying to decide on where to grab a quick, and semi-light bite for lunch, my aunt, Jan, mentioned a really cool place she and her friend stopped into for drinks one time.  Pinstripes.  And we weren’t far from it at all.

I was totally game for that…and…they were listed on Find Me Gluten Free with one positive 5-star review.  Granted, it’s only one review, but at least it had one on there, yes?  So…we decided that after we stopped by the Apple Store to get some of Jan’s stuff sorted, we would grab something to eat at Pinstripes.

Now…I had no idea what Pinstripes was until I stepped inside.  It looks like a great Italian/American bistro, with wine bottles and decor to match.  However, throughout this amazing set-up, you see a variety of hand painted bowling balls.  Bowling balls?  You betcha.  And here’s why…this bistro not only houses a 40,000 square foot dining and entertainment area, but also features bowling alleys in the back, a year-round outdoor patio and fire pit, as well as party rooms that can accommodate 20-600 people.  A little bit of everything and it still looks and feels upscale and classy.  They term this “sophisticated fun” and let me tell you…they have the setting all right.  It felt welcoming, engaging, fun, and still upscale all at once.  Amazing.

As our menus were being grabbed by our hostess, I asked for a gluten-free one and she was happy to accommodate.  We were shown to a booth where we all settled in, opting to stick with water at lunch as we’d already treated ourselves to coffee that morning.  I eagerly picked up my little slip of a menu and started to gaze down the items listed.

And found myself…sort of underwhelmed.

Pizzas…pastas…and meat-based large plates are what were listed.  I didn’t want pasta when I was going to be having pizza that night, and that fact also negated me getting pizza as well.  As tempting as it was to get dessert for lunch (the gluten-free menu does offer gelato, sorbet, a Frangelico chocolate cake or a limoncello creme brulee, I needed some actual sustenance as it was the day before a half marathon.  The better I ate, the better my body would be the following morning.

When our waitress arrived with our drink orders, Cathy and Jan knew what they wanted and I knew that the regular menu had salads listed.  So, I inquired over the Caprese Salad, which by all intents and purposes should have been gluten-free…and…it was.  Salads just didn’t make it over to the gluten-free menu, I suppose.  With that information, which, the waitress did go back and double check that everything was safe for me to eat before we ordered, we all placed our orders.

Jan and Cathy both decided to order off the small plates menu.  Jan decided on the Italian Meatballs ($11.00), which came wrapped up in a sandwich roll with a side salad as well.  Cathy, having a craving, went with the Fried Calamari, which came with a marinara for dipping ($12.00).  As for me, with pasta and pizza out of the question, I opted for the Caprese Salad ($13.00).  Orders were in and we were left to converse, which we did.  After all, it had been close to a year since the last time I had visited.

After a little while, our food arrived at the table.  Jan’s small plate definitely looked like a full meal, and after a little bit, she opted to forgo the bread the Italian Meatballs were tucked into and eat the protein alone.  She raved about them.  Loved them.  Cathy was really happy with her calamari, loving that they included tentacles and everything.  Creepy…I know.  But she loves it and doesn’t get it very often.

My Caprese Salad was a work of art, I think.  It was a gorgeous presentation that included slices of red and yellow heirloom tomatoes, capped with thick slices of fresh mozzarella cheese, adorned with three fresh leave of basil and all lightly drizzled with a balsamic reduction.  It not only looked light and refreshing…it was light and refreshing.  Just the type of lunch I needed to have.  I sliced through the layers of tomato and cheese and took up a bite…and it all just worked.  The cheese was creamy and melt-in-your-mouth delicious.  The tomato was ripe, juicy and sweet, the perfect counterpart to the mozzarella cheese.  And that balsamic reduction really tied everything together.  And it was a light drizzle so that the salad wasn’t swimming in it.  It was like an accessory to the main dish.  Even better were the bites that included the leaves of basil, which I would pick and choose sparingly.  Amazing.  A salad is a simple thing, but when done right, it can blow any entree out of the water.  This…was salad greatness.

Pinstripes was a fun, upscale, yet family-friendly restaurant that I’d love to try again.  Maybe I’d even do my night-before-the-race gluten-free pizza there.  Because…honestly…all three of us really enjoyed our food.  It was fresh, perfectly seasoned, and and made up to perfection.  The little plates were definitely for big appetites regardless, but we had burned off breakfast by then and still had plenty of time before we hit up the pizza location of choice, which we hadn’t decided on quite yet.  After we ate, we went to peek in at the people bowling in the lanes in the back.  And then went to see the patio and check out the lakefront as well.  It was the perfect afternoon…with a perfect meal to tie us over.

If you happen to be near a Pinstripes, I encourage you to check it out sometime for a lunch or dinner.  They are a little pricey, but the quality of the food reflects the service, the preparation, and the care they put into each plate.  I loved this place.  Locations are sort of regional, though, with one location in Minnesota and three in Illinois.

Totally worth the stop though.  I’d go back again in a heartbeat.

Pinstripes' Caprese Salad
Pinstripes’ Caprese Salad