Recipe: Roasted Vegetable “Rice” Bowl with BBQ Sauce

I told you I was playing around with cauliflower rice…which is why you are getting the third consecutive recipe which includes it in part of the lineup!!

As a vegetarian, I get my share of veggies…but my favorite way to eat them…is roasting them in the oven.  I love when they get that slight crispiness to them.  And yes…it happens even without oil!  I take oil out of the cooking process more times than not…and the results are just as amazing.

After my trip to California, I wanted to really get back on track with my eating.  It got pushed to the wayside with the holidays and then with my trip…but I did have a detox in between and it really did make me feel better.  So, with a promise to rely less on those processed carbohydrates and get my nutrients from more real food…I honed in on a few changes.

While I won’t always be replacing pasta and rice with alternatives, I do want to do it a lot more than I have been.  So, instead of plating my roasted vegetables over brown rice…I just got out the riced cauliflower…poured it in a pan with some water and cooked it until it was soft.  I seasoned it the same way I would have the rice…and the results were mind-blowing.  I’d make this again instantly!  It would work even as a breakfast or lunch…but this week…it was dinner for my roommate and for two nights.

The recipe follows:

Roasted Vegetable “Rice” Bowl with BBQ Sauce

image1-1Serves 4

Ingredients:

  • 1 medium head of broccoli, cut into florets
  • 1 bunch fresh asparagus, ends snapped
  • 2 medium yellow squash or zucchini, sliced lengthwise
  • 1 medium red onion, peeled and sliced into 1/3-inch-thick rings
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
  • black pepper, to taste


Ingredients for “Rice”:

  • 1 head cauliflower, chopped into florets (or one bag of cauliflower rice)
  • 1/3 cup basil leaves, chopped
  • 3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons reduced-sodium tamari
  • sea salt, to taste
  • black pepper, to taste
Garnishes:
  • 1 cup BBQ sauce of choice
  • 1 medium avocado, pitted, peeled, and sliced

 

Directions:

**Chop head of cauliflower into florets and place in food processor. Pulse until it starts to resemble rice; set aside.

**NOTE: If you want a less-mess, no maintenance way of doing this, go to Trader Joes, Kroger, Target, or pretty much ANY grocery store these days and they have bags of already riced cauliflower in their produce section and even in the freezer section.  I do this…because food processors are a pain to clean!  So, skip the first step if you cheat and get the already riced cauliflower.

Preheat oven to 400F.

Line a large baking pan with parchment paper. Spread the veggies out over the pan, drizzle with the oil, and season with salt and pepper. Roast for 45 minutes or until veggies are tender and golden, stopping to toss at the 20-minute mark.

While the veggies are roasting, place your riced cauliflower into a pan with 1/4 cup water and cook until softened.  Place cooked cauliflower rice into a large bowl and add basil, balsamic vinegar, and tamari to a large mixing bowl.

Use a large wooden spoon to stir.

Season with sea salt and black pepper, to taste.

Once the veggies are done roasting, remove from the oven and set aside.

Scoop 1 cup of the cauliflower rice into a bowl, top with the roasted vegetables.

If your barbecue sauce is thick, whisk one tablespoon of water into it at a time until desired thinness is achieved. Drizzle over the veggies or serve in a small dish alongside them.

Garnish with the sliced avocado.

ENJOY!

~*~*~

I have SO much Master’s Hand BBQ Sauce in my fridge thanks to a bit of a Thanksgiving kerfuffle.  But, it works out in my favor, as it’s the most amazing BBQ sauce I have ever tasted…and it was magnificent on this dish.  I ended up thinning it out with 2 tablespoons of water to get more of a drizzle over the veggies.  But that is all personal preference.

If you want to get the most out of your veggies…roast them.  If you want to make them awesome…drizzle some BBQ sauce over them.

Oh yeah!

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Recipe: Cauliflower Fried “Rice”

I won’t lie…I’m a carb-a-holic.  Is that really a thing?  Is that a word? Doesn’t matter.  Carbs make me happy.  Gluten-free bread, pasta, donuts, muffins, potatoes, rice…you name it…I love to eat it.

That being said, I’m doing a slight bit of overhauling to my diet this year…aiming to cut back on all those processed carbs (like…bread, pasta, donuts, muffins, etc) and try to replace them with real food…healthier choices…and something that will nourish my body more.

Before I was diagnosed with Celiac…I may have lived at the Chinese buffet at least 2 times a month.  I love Chinese food.  I always have.  But, most of it is not even an option for me these days, unless I make it.  I’m Irish…not Chinese.  My Chinese food is never as amazing as when…you know…someone who is Chinese makes it.

That being said, I’ve been craving as of late…and I finally decided to cave and give into it.  And I got out my skillet on Sunday afternoon and whipped up a healthier version of fried rice, replacing the rice with riced cauliflower.  The recipe is below:

Cauliflower Fried “Rice”

Cauliflower Fried

Cauliflower Fried “Rice”

Serves 4

Ingredients:

1 head cauliflower, chopped into florets (or one bag of cauliflower rice)
1 small yellow onion, finely chopped
½ cup frozen peas
½ cup carrots, cubed
2 eggs, beaten (if making vegan, sub in tofu or just leave out)
¼ cup low sodium tamari
1 Tbsp light brown sugar
⅛ tsp. ground ginger
Pinch red pepper flakes
2 Tbsp green onions, chopped (optional garnish)


Directions:

**Chop head of cauliflower into florets and place in food processor. Pulse until it starts to resemble rice; set aside.

**NOTE: If you want a less-mess, no maintenance way of doing this, go to Trader Joes, Kroger, Target, or pretty much ANY grocery store these days and they have bags of already riced cauliflower in their produce section and even in the freezer section.  I do this…because food processors are a pain to clean!  So, skip the first step if you cheat and get the already riced cauliflower.  At the end when you add it in with the sauce, cook it until it has softened.
 

Heat a large wok (or skillet) over medium heat and add 1/4 cup water. Add onion, peas and carrots and saute until tender, about 2 minutes. (Add more water as needed to prevent veggies from sticking).Meanwhile in a small bowl, whisk together soy sauce, brown sugar, ginger and red pepper flakes; set aside.

Slide veggie mixture to one side of the wok and add in the beaten eggs (or tofu…or skip this step if you opted to go without the protein), scrambling until cooked through and then incorporate with the veggies.

Stir in cauliflower “rice” and pour the sauce over top, mixing well. Cook for an additional 3 to 4 minutes, until cauliflower is soft and tender.

Top with green onions, serve and enjoy!

~*~*~

Simple, easy…and yes…super delicious!!  Oh…and only 220 calories per serving!  You can’t beat that, right?  Highly recommended to your Chinese food lovers if you’re looking for a healthier alternative!!  Or maybe you just want to try something new!

Either way, it’s an easy recipe with little to do but stir away!!  So…no excuses, friends.  Get rockin’ that wok!

Recipe: Cauliflower Rice Pad Thai

So, my roommate and I are making a few more dietary changes this year and so far it’s not been too hard to stick to.  I mean, there are days that are completely off the plan (Hello, Soft Pretzel Wednesday!)…but that’s okay.  This isn’t about perfection, it’s just about progress!

We are working on cutting down on added sugars and processed carbs.  This is not to say that we are never going to eat gluten-free pasta or use rice in dishes ever again.  And this is not to say that dessert is off the table.  I did, however, very proudly, get rid of the stash of chocolate in my office drawer.  I reached for those M&Ms one too many times while stressed out…so they are gone…and not coming back in.

Normally I have a pretty set meal plan going into the weekend, but for some reason, this past week got away from me and I just…didn’t get to it.  Not going to sugar-coat it.  SO…I decided to prep some different things and just attempt to make something a little bit healthier.

One of my favorite types of food (second to Indian) is Thai.  I love Thai food, and Thai food is so easy to make gluten free.  That being said…I didn’t have pad thai noodles on hand and I’m on a tight budget after my trip to California (like…it’s non-existent, to be honest)…so I only wanted to have to grocery shop for the essentials.  I needed filling, healthy meals on the fly…so I bought Trader Joes and Kroger out of their bags of riced cauliflower.

That is not an exaggeration.

And from it emerged 3 dishes made with riced cauliflower (not counting the ones I did earlier in the week, which I should put up in the blog…so if I get time, I will. I promise.  They’re delicious).  But this week…I was most excited about my take on pad thai…using…riced cauliflower instead of noodles.  This dish is SUPER easy to make…so I encourage you to do so!

Recipe: Cauliflower Rice Pad Thai

 

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Cauliflower Rice Pad Thai

Serves 4

Ingredients:

  • 1 large head of cauliflower (or one bag of cauliflower rice)
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/4 yellow onion, chopped
  • 12 oz bag frozen stir-fry vegetables
  • 1/4 cup lightly salted peanuts


Ingredients of the Peanut Sauce:

  • 1/4 cup creamy peanut butter
  • 1/3 cup Bragg’s Liquid Aminos or low-sodium Tamari
  • 3 tablespoon seasoned white vinegar
  • 1/2 tablespoon lime juice


Directions:

**Rice your head of cauliflower by chopping the florets roughly and adding them to your food processor.  Pulse the cauliflower until it resembles rice.  Then heat it up in the microwave for 7 minutes, stopping to stir it once halfway through.

**NOTE: If you want a less-mess, no maintenance way of doing this, go to Trader Joes, Kroger, Target, or pretty much ANY grocery store these days and they have bags of already riced cauliflower in their produce section and even in the freezer section.  I do this…because food processors are a pain to clean!  So, skip the first step if you cheat and get the already riced cauliflower.  At the end when you add it in with the sauce, cook it until it has softened.

Line a large skillet with a thin layer of water.

Add the garlic and onions tot he pan.  Cook for approximately 3 to 5 minutes, or until they begin to soften.  Add additional water, if necessary.

Add the frozen vegetables to the pan.  Cover the vegetables and cook for approximately 10 minutes, or until everything is heated through.  Once again, add additional water to keep things from sticking.

***While the vegetables are cooking, whisk the sauce together in a medium bowl.

***NOTE: If you aren’t feeling frisky, both San-J and Annie Chun make FANTASTIC peanut/pad thai sauces that are gluten free.  So…if making the sauce seems like too much work, just use the bottled stuff.

Once the vegetables are cooked through, add the cauliflower “rice” and peanut sauce to the pan.  Stir until well-combined.  If using bagged cauliflower rice, cook until cauliflower has softened, about 5 minutes.

Dish servings into bowls and garnish with peanuts.

ENJOY!

~*~*~

I wasn’t sure how I’d appreciate the change from actual pad thai noodles to using riced cauliflower, but it worked.  This dish was amazing.  And it’s dinner again tonight. And that’s always something to look forward to!

 

Recipe: BBQ Bean Chili

It’s winter.  Officially.  Although, at times, it doesn’t quite feel like winter.  Regardless, it’s the end of January, and I’m craving my warming and hearty (yet healthy) soups and stews and chilies.  I won’t lie, with recent talk at the office of the Annual Chili Cook-off (I won last year!), my mind has been on creating a new chili to cook up for the big competition.

This past weekend, while doing some recipe testing with cauliflower…I decided to do something completely different and make some chili…from scratch.

This meant on Saturday afternoon, I had dry heirloom beans soaking in water on my counter top.  When I do something…I do it right.  Now…if you don’t have the time, patience, or a clue as to how to work with dry beans…no worries, this recipe will work with canned beans as well.  Just use 2 cans of tri-blend beans and you will get similar results.

That being said…I wanted something smokey…with that true homestyle flair.  So…instead of tomato sauce…this chili got the bbq sauce treatment.  And I have some local, amazing bbq sauce on hand…lots of it in fact…so I got a little chefy and a little creative.  And the result…left the people who tried it raving.

SO…I figured I would just go ahead and share the recipe with you!

Recipe: BBQ Bean Chili


Serves 4

Ingredients:

  • 1 sweet onion, diced
  • 1 tsp minced garlic
  • 1 (4 0z) can mild chiles
  • 1 tablespoon chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/2 teaspoon cumin
  • 1/4 teaspoons cayenne pepper
  • 1 cup dry beans, soaked overnight (I used Epicurean Specialty Heirloom Bean Blend – which contains beans, peas & lentils)
  • 1 cup bbq sauce (I used Masters Hand with Integrity [Medium])


Directions:

Prep the beans.  Place beans on a sheet pan or clean towel.  Remove and discard any shriveled or broken beans and any stones or debris.  Rinse thoroughly in cold water.

Soak overnight. Rinse and place in a large pot, covered with fresh water.  Bring water to a boil for 3 minutes, reduce heat and simmer, covered, for 60-90 minutes, until beans are tender.  Reserve a cup of the cooking water.

Line a large pot with 1/4 cup water over medium heat.

Add onions, garlic, and chiles.  Sauté until soft.

Add in chili powder, oregano, cumin and cayenne; stir for 2 minutes.

Mix in the cooked beans, 1/2 cup of the reserved bean cooking liquid and the bbq sauce.  Bring to a boil, stir, reduce heat and simmer until theflavors blend and the chili thickens.  About 20-30 minutes.  I found I needed to a the rest of the bean water to get it to the texture I like…but vegetable broth would also work.

Garnish with a sliced avocado!

(Of course, you can garnish this however you like…sour cream, cilantro, grated cheese…but I love me a good, ripe avocado on top).

ENJOY!

~*~*~

LOVED this chili from the first taste.  It’s tangy, it’s got a kick to it, but it’s not overwhelming.  Not only that, it’s warming and hearty…and healthy!  How’s that for winning?

Go ahead, cook some up!!  It freezes well, but, trust me, it may not be around long enough to need to hit the freezer!

Product Review: Aldi liveGfree Gluten Free Penne Pesto

Aldi liveGfree Gluten Free Penne Pesto Pasta Meal

Aldi liveGfree Gluten Free Penne Pesto Pasta Meal

Product: Aldi liveGfree Gluten Free Penne Pesto – $3.29+

You know…it was because I was told that the liveGfree Gluten Free Tortillas at Aldi wouldn’t fall apart and crumble on me (which was false…they did…and I was sad) that I ended up back at my Aldi to grab some gluten-free goods.  Just the tortillas…that was the plan.

But you know how quickly plans fall apart when gluten free products/food are involved.

While standing in line with one item, I spotted the infamous liveGfree box colors on some discounted sale items.  There were three different types of pastas sitting there…discounted…looking for a happy pantry to belong to.  I thought about just skipping that.  I’m trying to move things out, not bring more in, but they were discounted to $1.99…so I grabbed one of each flavor.

With this being an odd week with half days and holidays…my usual meal planning is thrown a bit off.  When I’m not going to be here, batch cooking that much just doesn’t make sense.  So, I pick and choose and then fill in.  So, when my roommate said to just throw together a pasta or something for a lunch on Monday, that’s exactly what I decided to do.

I knew we had these boxes of Aldi lifeGfree Gluten Free Pasta Meals in my pantry, so I gave her the choice of flavors…(all of which will be reviewed here…so watch this space)…and she decided to start with the Aldi liveGfree Gluten Free Penne Pesto Pasta Meal.

Cooking this up is super easy.  Simply throw 1-1/4 cup water into a pan and bring it to a boil.  Once there, pour the noodles and seasoning mix into the water.  Cook, uncovered, over medium heat for about 7-9 minutes.  Stir it occasionally, and continue to cook until the water is completely absorbed.  That’s it.  It’s ready to eat.

Well, here is the downside.  A box contains only 1-1/2 servings.  Yes…one and a half servings.  I don’t know where the logic is with that, but after I had this cooked up and split it between my roommate and I…there was hardly anything in our lunch bowls.  So, I reached into my freezer and pulled out the Beyond Meat Gluten Free and Vegan Italian Meatballs, cooking up some of those to add to the dish to bulk it up and make it bigger than just a side dish.  So, please be aware…1-1/2 servings per container.  If there is more than 1-1/2 of you eating…plan accordingly.

Aldi liveGfree Gluten Free Penne Pasta Meal  (cooked) with Beyond Meat Vegan and Gluten Free Italian Meatballs

Aldi liveGfree Gluten Free Penne Pasta Meal (cooked) with Beyond Meat Vegan and Gluten Free Italian Meatballs

At lunch today, I retrieved the Pyrex containers with the pasta and “meatballs” in it and popped each one in the microwave to heat.  Once heated all the way through…lunch was ready to go.  I do love a no-hassle, fuss-free, easy lunch to prepare at work when the kitchen can get quite chaotic with everyone fighting for counter space and the microwave.

I settled in at  my desk, gave it a sprinkle of red pepper flakes (because I like it hot, LOL!) and dug in.

First of all, I was very impressed with the way the pasta held up, not just in the cooking process, but also in the reheating. It didn’t fall apart or get gummy.  So, that’s a huge plus.  I loved the seasoning that was cooked down over the noodles.  A blend of basil and spinach, mixed with a touch of garlic and Parmesan.  So, yeah…not exactly dairy-free, eh?  I didn’t notice that when I bought it…but…it was all I had for lunch.  I’m not allergic to dairy…just highly intolerant to lactose.  So, I just hoped for the best.  Very full of flavor…which surprised me.  I never expect much from boxed pasta meals, but this one was actually very delicious.  I am, however, quite happy that I opted to include the vegan meatballs to bulk it out.  It also added to the depth of flavor of the dish.  For a pasta meal that I spent under $2 to purchase…this was the happy surprise of the week.  Didn’t see that one coming.

Let’s discuss the ingredients that go into Aldi liveGfree Gluten Free Penne Pesto Pasta Meal, shall we?  This boxed meal is made from gluten free pasta (corn flour, rice flour), process cheese food in powder [cheese blend (pasteurized milk, salt, cheese cultures, enzymes), whey powder, salt, sodium citrate, disodium phosphate], cream powder (cream, milk), natural flavor, potato starch, parmigano reggiano cheese (milk, salt, rennet), dehydrated spinach, dehydrated basil, salt, garlic powder, and turmeric powder.  This pasta meal is gluten free and wheat free.

Now that we know what goes into Aldi liveGfree Gluten Free Penne Pesto Pasta Meal, let’s look at the nutrition ingredients.  A serving size of this product is 2/3 cup (or 3/4 cup prepared), and there are 1.5 servings fer container.  One serving will provide you with 250 calories, 6 grams fat, 3 grams saturated fat, 0 grams trans fat, 15 mg cholesterol, 570 mg sodium, 42 grams carbohydrates, 1 gram dietary fiber, 4 grams sugars, and 8 grams protein.  If you were to eat the entire box yourself, you would only be consuming 375 calories in total.  Which, really isn’t too bad.  I just think that Aldi should either round it down to 1 serving or up to 2 servings, because this half serving really annoyed me, if you couldn’t tell.

I wasn’t expecting much from this Aldi meal, but, once again, Aldi surprised me.  I should have trusted them a little more.  If you can get your hands on the Aldi liveGfree Gluten Free Pasta Meal’s…it’s a cheap and delicious way to have something on hand for when you don’t really have time or energy to cook something else up.

Check your local Aldi…and pick some up.

Product Review: Dr. Praeger’s Gluten Free Broccoli Cakes

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Dr. Praeger’s Gluten Free Broccoli Cakes

Product: Dr. Praeger’s Gluten Free Broccoli Cakes – $3.99+

Sometimes, I don’t remember why I pick things out to try…they just sort of intrigue me at the time when I am at the grocery store.  It happens.  And while I have been steering mostly clear of packaged and processed foods, sometimes you just have to give in and try something that calls to you.

And that is apparently what happened when I snagged a box of Dr. Praeger’s Gluten Free Broccoli Cakes.  Let me tell you…the box makes these things look amazing.  Like little broccoli hashbrowns.  Or…broccoli and potato latkes.

I love potato pancakes (latkes)…and I love broccoli.  So this was basically Dr. Praeger’s brilliantly meshing the two of them together.  BRILLIANT!!

Dr. Praeger’s is a multi-generation, family-owned food company founded by two heart surgeons.  The company is committed to encouraging a more sensible and healthier way of eating.  Everything created by Dr. Praeger’s begins with their no-compromise recipes that help support an active lifestyle.  Every ingredient that goes into each and every Dr. Praeger’s product is pronounceable and recognizable.  You know how I love that!

As I stated above, I LOVE Broccoli!  Like…LOVE IT!  Always have.  Always will.

giphy (21)
So, imagine my elation when I spotted this little box in the freeze section of one of the many grocery stores I frequent.  I don’t know why I felt the need to snatch it up and try it…but it was like…meant to be.  Because it was BROCCOLI…and…

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…POTATO!

I’m Irish.  Potatoes and I are BFFs.  Like…for real BFFs.  I eat at least…at least two potatoes a week, but usually more.  No joke.

The box of Dr. Praeger’s Gluten Free Broccoli Cakes describes these little treats as a savory blend of broccoli, potatoes and onions.  There are six (6) cakes in each box, making it easy to decide whether you want to eat these as a snack, a side, or as a meal.

For me…MEAL!

Oh yes…meal time.

It was actually a Friday afternoon where these were pulled out of my freezer.  I had a half day at the office and was going to head into Louisville to get my grocery shopping done early so that I could go pick blueberries Saturday afternoon instead of running around and grocery shopping then.  So, I wanted something that was easy to make, not too big (as I was cooking up Gluten Free & Vegan BLT Sammies…with a side of guac and blue tortilla chips.  So, an easy, fast, and filling lunch was what I was looking to make for my roommate and I before we hit the numerous grocery stores.  Because otherwise we are a bit like this with any samples at said grocery/natural food stores.

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The Dr. Praeger’s Gluten Free Broccoli Cakes are really easy to prepare.  Each round cake is individually wrapped, so, again, you can pick how many you make.  The serving size is two (2) cakes, but as this was lunch, I made up all 6, so each of us could have three (3) each.  The preferred method for cooking these is the one I used…preheating the oven to 450°F and putting the cakes on an ungreased baking pan.  The cakes go into the oven for about 5-7 minutes until browned.  Then, you carefully flip them over, cook for another 4-6 minutes, until heated through and browned.  You can also cook these in a skillet or in the microwave, but the oven baked these up to perfection.

They honestly looked like little broccoli hashbrowns.  Which is fine.  Because hashbrowns are one of life’s best foods to ever be invented, created, and consumed.  They smelled fantastic.  And I ended up topping them off with a drizzle of a vegan lemon cream sauce that I had made earlier that week for another dish.  Lunch was served…and it took less than 20 minutes.  LOVE it.

First of all, the oven technique really does cook up the Dr. Praeger’s Gluten Free Broccoli Cakes to a crispy perfection, all without the use of butter or oil.  And as I’m trying to cut back on some of that…that was a big thing with me.  I was afraid they would be mushy and soft, but they totally crisped up on the outside, getting that gorgeous golden color and crunchy texture.  The inside…warm…soft…and perfect.  You get a lot of broccoli flavor in each bite, but you get potato and onion and whatever spices are blended into the mix.  It was delicious.  I was beyond surprised.  I had one without the sauce, and it was fantastic.  They have the same consistency as a latke or potato pancake…but the flavor is more complex with the addition of the broccoli.  I loved these.  So simple…yet so delicious!

So, let’s take a look at the ingredients that go into the Dr. Praeger’s Gluten Free Broccoli Cakes.  These amazing cakes of green goodness are made from broccoli, potatoes, onion, expeller pressed canola oil, oat bran, potato flakes, egg whites, arrowroot powder, sea salt, garlic, and black pepper.  The Broccoli Cakes are gluten-free, kosher, and non-GMO.

As far as nutrition goes, with ingredients like that, you will love the nutritional info in the Dr. Praeger’s Gluten Free Broccoli Cakes.  A serving size is two (2) of the cakes and their are 3 servings (or 6 individually wrapped cakes) per box.  This serving will provide you with 130 calories, 6 grams fat, 0.5 grams saturated fat, 0 grams trans fat, 0 mg cholesterol, 250 mg sodium, 16 grams carbohydrates, 3 grams fiber, 2 grams sugars, and 4 grams protein.  Believe it or not, these are quite filling…because the sampling snack monsters were kept at bay.

Dr. Praeger’s as a remarkable line of gluten-free and vegetarian offerings in their product line-up.  Not everything they make is gluten-free and vegetarian though, so read the boxes.  They label everything, so you will know just by looking at the box.  I have never had a Dr. Praeger’s product that I haven’t loved…and I think lots of that is that they really do strive to use real ingredients and real foods in each and every one of their products.  If you haven’t tried the Dr. Praeger’s Gluten Free Broccoli Cakes yet…go to wherever Dr. Praeger’s items are sold near you…and grab a box.  Trust me…you will not be disappointed.

Restaurant Review: Hops & Fire: Craft Tap House

Hops & Fire: Craft Tap House, Greenwood, Indiana

Hops & Fire: Craft Tap House, Greenwood, Indiana

Restaurant: Hops & Fire: Craft Tap House, Greenwood, Indiana

Normally, whenever I venture up to Indianapolis for an event, race, or whatnot, my one requirement is a stop at Cheeseburger in Paradise…because I can get a gluten-free veggie burger with gluten-free fries (or sweet potato fries)…and the burger custom made (no cheese; no sour cream) to fit my dietary needs.  This is awesome, as any frozen burger patty, or even homemade burger, tend to be a bit mushy and end up slipping out of any sort of gluten-free bread used as a bun (be it an actual gluten-free bun or just some gluten-free bread).  Cheeseburger in Paradise doesn’t have that problem…and it’s nice to be able to safely eat a veggie burger (so many use breadcrumbs as binder) out at a restaurant AND not have to eat it with a fork and knife (meaning…they have a gluten-free bun and I can pick it up).

Needless to say, I ran two half marathons, two weeks apart up in Indianapolis.  After the first one (OneAmerica 500 Festival Mini Marathon), I did hit up Cheeseburger in Paradise.  But two weeks later, I wasn’t ready to revisit Paradise.  I just had it.  My craving had been satisfied.

That being said, when I returned to the Indianapolis to run the Geist Half Marathon, I wanted to try something different.  Step out of the comfort zone…try something new.

I had been hearing some buzz around a place located in Greenwood, Indiana, by a bunch of my friends up in that area.  It was a craft beer tap house called Hops & Fire.  And what was pointed out more than once was that when you step inside to be seated, the hostess will ask if you require any special menus.  In addition to their regular menu, they have extensive vegan, vegetarian and gluten-free menus.  I told her I was a gluten-free vegetarian and she grabbed both of those menus and a regular one for Cathy and told me that the menus don’t often cross over each other, but anything on either menu can be made gluten-free, vegan, or vegetarian.  She took us to our table and we were seated.

Our waiter was totally adorable and came over to introduce himself.  His name was Kyle and he asked how we were doing.  Cathy pointed at me and said, “Well, she just ran a half marathon…”  He raised his eyebrows and said, “So I’m guessing you want water.”  HA!  He was so right.  Cathy had thought about trying one of their craft selections, but in the end started with the water.

Two menus and having so many options was a bit overwhelming to me.  The only thing I knew I wanted to try was Gluten Free 3-Cheese Garlic Bread.  I bought Lactaid specifically for this meal.  No joke.  We went ahead and mentioned that we wanted that as an appetizer and Kyle said he’d put that in while we finished making our decisions on what to eat, as it was the appetizer that took the longest to prepare.  While he was gone, I started to narrow down my choices, getting it down to three options.  After a little back and forth and pros and cons, I went for the one that didn’t contain cheese…as I was certain I was about to consume more cheese than my body was going to like momentarily.

Kyle returned to take our order, and as usual, as I’m the complicated one, I ordered first.  I went with the Gluten Free California Wrap…keeping the House Chips as a side.  Cathy went with the Stout Pork Belly BLT, which was served with a side of their Parmesan House Chips.  Orders were in…after Kyle had to go and figure out how to combine two menus to make a dish.  Poor guy!

Hops & Fire Gluten Free 3-Cheese Garlic Bread

Hops & Fire Gluten Free 3-Cheese Garlic Bread

Only a few moments late, a large plate was being carried to our table and put in front of us.  Clearly, when I saw the fact that I could get Gluten Free 3-Cheese Garlic Bread…I didn’t read the description.  This plate and appetizer was HUGE.  Definitely enough for 4-8 people.  Hops & Fire Gluten Free 3-Cheese Garlic Bread ($9.00), is a full gluten-free baguette, which is drenched in roasted garlic and salted butter, served with a gooey, melted blanket of shallots and chives, which are smothered in Provolone, Mozzarella, and Romano cheeses.  This is then baked so that the top of the cheese gets golden and everything is melty and ooey-gooey.  It comes with a side of marinara.  I took my Lactaid and hoped for the best (sometimes it helps; other times, it doesn’t).  I grabbed the slice on the end and pulled it away, the cheese stretching and making me…so happy.  I cut it up, dipped a piece into the marinara…and immediately lost my mind.  If you go to Hops & Fire, this is their signature appetizer and it is not to be missed.  The gluten-free baguette was crispy on the outside and that perfect toasty, but still soft on the inside.  The cheese was melted to perfection.  The garlic was superb.  Yeah…this made me SO happy.  And, for the record, the Lactaid worked…this time.  Thank goodness!  This was A LOT of food, so Cathy and I said we’d eat half of it and get a box and take the rest of it home.  That’s what we did as our food arrived.  We boxed it up…and it was lunch the next day.

Hops & Fire Stout Pork Belly BLT with a side of Parmesan House Chips

Hops & Fire Stout Pork Belly BLT with a side of Parmesan House Chips

So, let’s start with Cathy’s lunch, shall we?  My om-nom-nomnivore (haha) friend loves to eat pig in any form she can.  This is no joke.  She loves her pork products.  So it was no surprise to me that she chose the Hops & Fire Stout Pork Belly BLT ($12.00) off of their Brewed Baskets selections on the regular menu.  It came with a decent serving of their Parmesan House Chips on the side.  This sandwich is not your typical BLT.  Hops & Fire serves up a stout beer and kosher salt-brined local pork belly, which is seared, roasted, sliced thin, and pan fried, then topped with baby bibb lettuce, beefsteak tomatoes, and homemade apricot onion jam…served on their grilled garlic shallot bread.  Here’s the thing…they do NOT skimp on the pork belly bacon in this BLT.  Not one bit.  You’ll see by the photo I’m putting up here for those of you who are not a gluten-free vegetarian like me.  I mean…it was BACON. FOR. DAYS.  She had more bacon than Parmesan House Chips.  And that’s not a bad thing, as the protein is, honestly, what you are shelling out money for.  She said the garlic shallot bread was amazing (we Celiacs will never know…).  She said it could have used a slight bit more mayo…but it was awesome.  And yes…she devoured it all and the chips.  Carnivores.  Oy!

Hops & Fire Gluten Free California Wrap with a mountain of House Chips

Hops & Fire Gluten Free California Wrap with a side of House Chips

As for me…I went ahead and combined an offering on the Vegetarian Menu and asked that it be made gluten-free.  I opted for the Gluten Free California Wrap ($12.00)…mostly because it didn’t have cheese and avocado always wins.  The California Wrap is a gluten-free tortilla that is stuffed and rolled up around fresh sliced avocado, beefsteak tomato, bibb lettuce, pickled onions, and a roasted garlic aioli. OH MY GLUTEN FREE GODS!!  This was a simple, basic, wrap, but it tasted amazing to me.  Maybe it was because I had just pounded out 13.1 miles and was living off of watermelon and water at that point, but this wrap was great.  Gluten-free tortillas are nothing to write home about, and I’m pretty certain this was the standard gluten-free teff tortilla.  But it just serves as a way for me to pick up and devour the veggie-licious produce that was stuffed and rolled up inside.  The aioli, by the way, was delicious.  The avocado was ripe and sweet.  The tomatoes…so good.  I loved every bite of this wrap.  It came with a mountain…no…a landslide of their House Chips, which I couldn’t even finish.  Where Cathy had a decent side of hers, the chips serving was bigger than my wrap…so…I ate what I wanted and left the rest.

Hops & Fire Gluten Free and Vegan Ice Cream Sundae

Hops & Fire Gluten Free and Vegan Ice Cream Sundae

We were full, but we couldn’t end our experience there.  Kyle tempted us with a dessert menu, pointing out that those marked with a gf were gluten free and also the codes for vegan and vegetarian as well.  We were very tempted to get one of the Desserts For Two (yeah…we so wanted the Gluten Free and Vegan S’mores Cast Iron Cake), but in the end, decided we were too full for that and went with splitting a single serving of the Vegan Ice Cream Sundae ($5.00).  This was a small bowl (thank goodness) that had a scoop of vegan ice cream, drizzled lightly with hot fudge.  It was perfect and a great way to end the meal.  It was amazing.  The ice cream was not as creamy as regular ice cream, but it was cold and melty and amazing.  And the hot fudge…that’s always a welcome addition to anything ice cream-ish.

Kyle brought us our check once we had polished it off and we paid in cash and got our things together to go.  We talked about the food for a bit of the drive home…and how amazing and good it was.  I was beyond happy with the service and the attention paid to each dish that was ordered, making sure that it fit my dietary needs…nothing that made me take pause and question whether it was safe for me to eat or not.

I’m already planning my return to Hops & Fire.  So, if you happen to be in the Indianapolis area, or traveling through, do make the trip to Greenwood and check out this amazing and delicious place.  You have a specialty diet…they have you covered.  And I love it.

Next time…gluten-free onion rings.  It’s happening!