BD’s Mongolian Grill – The SAFE Restaurant
I had the pleasure of talking to Ken Leetch, the General Manager, at BD’s Mongolian Grill in Bolingbrook. He was nice enough to take the time out of his busy schedule to discuss their safety practices with me. This restaurant can be allergen free, gluten-free, Paleo, or Vegan. You pick, and they will try to accommodate. First off, BD’s Mongolian Grill is one of my favorite buffet type restaurant. Most buffet type restaurants are not very safe for Bean with her peanut allergy, due to cross contamination issues. I was comfortable taking her to BD’s before, but now that I know more about their safety practices I am confident that BD’s would be a safe place for her to eat.
If you have never been to BD’s Mongolian Grill, it is essentially a place where you pick the ingredients and then take it up to the grill. It’s amazing stir fry. You can purchase one bowl or unlimited bowls. With your bowl, you also get their soup and salad bar. Their soups recently changed to being 100% home-made in-house by BD’s. After you start off with the soup and salad, then you take your bowl and go up to the buffet and choose your ingredients. You have several choices of meat, vegetables, noodles, sauces, and spices. Once you have all your ingredients picked out, you can take your food up to a grill to be cooked.
Some of the safety practices they follow are:
- Temperatures are checked on the food lines every few hours to make sure everything stays cold and fresh
- The tongs are constantly changed to avoid any cross contamination
- If you are concerned about possible cross contamination due to a food restriction or allergy, they will make your bowl from fresh ingredients in the back that are kept segregated
- Also, they have an Allergy Friendly cooking station. It is a separate place to have your food cooked to avoid allergens in your food. The pans are used one time before being washed, and then they are heated up to 200 degrees to burn off any remaining allergens
- There is a MAC or MAM (Market Area Manager or Market Area Coordinator) walking around the food area, in a black chef coat. They can help create meals, give ideas, and also can provide you with a nutritional brochure.
They also have a .pdf file on their website that lists every single ingredient used in all of their items. If you are on the go, there is an Android and Iphone app called BD’s Go Mongo. The app lets you create-a-bowl, choose all your ingredients, and view all the ingredients in the bowl you made!
Disclaimer: I did this review, because this is one of my favorite restaurants. I was not given anything and did not receive any compensation in any way, in order to do this review. All opinions are my own and not influenced in any way.
The Never Ending Skin War….
My kids tend to have a slew of issues with their skin, as does my husband. Mine is sensitive as well. When my husband and I were dating, he had mentioned that he breaks out in these little red dots if he uses the wrong detergent. So he explained to me how he would find a detergent and fabric softener combo that would work for a while, and then they would come back and he would have to find something else.
Over the years, we have gotten used to lots of things. Then, when we had the kids, we noticed the same thing, even with us using the specially formulated baby detergent. So, we had to play the game all over again.
Unfortunately, no one has ever been able to pinpoint what causes these little rashes, usually localized to their upper arms. So, we just deal with it the best we can.
You can imagine how elated I was when we had finally come across a combination of things that worked. And it was something we have been successfully using for the last few years…. YEARS!! And just when I let myself start thinking, “wow, I think we have finally figured this out”….BOOM! The rashes were back.
So, we went back to scouring the supermarkets and health food stores to try to see what we could come up with. When I say that we have tried everything, I literally mean everything…..we have made our own, used vinegar, used essential oils, used commercial products…. and every combination of those things. And we spent days looking for something new, all the while the laundry kept piling up.
That’s when I had decided I had enough guessing and called my naturopath. He knows our history and everything that we have tried. I asked him to recommend something new for us to try. That is when he mentioned All Free and Clear. He asked us if we had ever tried it, and I was surprised when I checked our list (yes I keep a list) and found that we hadn’t. So, we went out to get some and while we were at the store, also came across Downey Free and Sensitive Fabric Softener. We bought that as well, since we had not tried that one either. Imagine, both these things right under our noses and how stupid we felt that we had never noticed them!
We began using them just a bit ago and so far so good (knock on wood for me though, would ya?)! I am hoping that for now, we at least have this at bay.
If anyone else has had any experiences with this, I would love for you to share them with me!
Where can gluten hide?
Recently, I posted about the strangest places that we have found gluten since living gluten free, and realized that there are a lot of places that people may not think about to check. Here is a quick list of where to find it and how to avoid cross contamination at home.
First, is to obviously remove all your basic food products that contain gluten. This will typically be your cereals, oatmeals, pastas, bread and bread based products. But, also make sure that any opened spread you have, peanut butter, jelly, jams, sauces or butter, that have been touched by a knife that has been put to bread get tossed. There is no telling whether or not these spreads are safe since bread particles could have been transferred over. This goes for cream cheese as well. When in doubt, throw it out! Your health is much more important that trying to salvage something.
Check your appliances! Toasters and toaster ovens will never be clean enough to use safely again. REplace them for peace of mind. Also, check your pots and pans. If there are scratches on your pots or pans that have previously contained gluten items, get rid of those too. There is no way to be sure that you have cleaned every tiny crevice well enough that gluten is not hiding in there.
Cleaning supplies! This can be tricky, because many times, companies do not list their ingredients completely on the labels. You will need to check your cleaning chemicals, detergents, dish soap, dishwasher soap and anything else you use. If the product does not specify, call the company and find out. Or, you can go with more specialized gluten free or all natural companies instead of conventional ones. Just remember, routinely check your products because companies can change their formulas at any time.
Now it is time to check those bathroom products! Make up, sunscreens, lotions, perfumes, deodorants, body sprays, soaps, shampoos, conditioners, self tanners, tanning lotions, hair dyes, even bug sprays. Check all of these things, and be diligent in keeping up with any manufacturing changes. They happen a lot in this area.
And probably one of the worst places gluten can hide, in is your medications and supplements. Check all your OTC medications, everything from pain medicine, to allergy medicine, to cough syrup. Usually medications that are safe will say gluten free on the label. Check supplements too, especially kid vitamins. If you are on prescription medications, be sure to ask your doctor about the gluten content of your medications. Often, if there is, your doctor can set you up on a different course of treatment to avoid it. Just be careful about asking pharmacists, in my experience they often are not as well versed in medication contents and gluten. Obviously, this does not mean that there aren’t some that do know, but in my experiences, I have often found that I am more well versed in the topic than they tend to be.
One more area…pet foods! Depending on your level of sensitivity, it may be best for you to feed your pet gluten free as well. I have heard of people having reactions from pets who eat gluten. Often times it winds up being s skin reaction once the pet has licked the affected person. This is not something that effects us directly. But this is something that you will want to think about depending on the severity of your symptoms.
Hope this helps, please let me know if there are any places that I may have missed!
Lizzie”s Wordless Wednesday
My princess always has to match what I do, and I love it…I would NOT ask for it any other way…. But that does come with its own set of drawbacks. This picture shoes why it is so critically important for me to follow a gluten free diet, even though gluten is not an issue for me. As parents, we lead by example, and in my case, I have my fantastic little copycats watching my every move. They are my reasons for living, my everything, and I owe it to them to provide the right kind of example to follow. Me cheating and adding gluten only cheats the people I hold dearest to my heart.
Product Review: Second Helping
In my quest to continuously seek out the best of the best in gluten-free companies and products, I have come across a real winner and an instant kid friendly, family favorite! I am happy to share with you today, Second Helping! They are a great company that provides fantastic meatballs, called Mama’s Meatballs and awesome corn dogs, called Corn Puppies! Check out their website here.
Second Helping was nice enough to send me both of their products to try.
After checking out this great nutritional info….we could not wait to try them out!
In fact, we were so excited about these that we decided to have the Corn Puppies for lunch and incorporated Mama’s Meatballs into our dinner!
The first thing I noticed when I opened up the Corn Puppies was their plentiful size! With two as a serving, we were feeling entirely satisfied! Bonus is, there are 5 servings per bag! We made these on a day my kids actually had friends over, and it was the perfect food for our play date! The turkey hot dogs inside are nice and plump and juicy. The ratio of corn to hot dog is perfect. Just enough corn to add that great flavor, without masking the hot dog, like I have seen from other companies. They are incredibly easy to make, just toss in the oven ( we used our counter top convention) and let them cook while the kids are finishing up playing and lunch is all done. There was no turning or messing with them and they came out deliciously golden brown and crunchy! After they were cooled and served, I was surprised to see even my pickiest eater, Bear, dig right in! After getting the approval from my youngest critics, I got the chance to sample them. I loved that they tasted so home-made! If I would have been served these at a friend’s house, I would have never guessed that they were frozen and store-bought. What a great find!
After the great success with our lunch, I quickly refocused dinner to a pasta night ( gluten-free of course!) so that I had a great excuse to make Mama’s Meatballs! I opened the package and could not believe how BIG these meatballs were!! I knew for sure that it would be more than enough to satisfy everyone for dinner, since we tend to have some pretty large appetites. There are a bunch of easy options on how to prepare these. Luckily, there is also a speed method. We were really busy that day and by the time I had a chance to start dinner, I just went the quick and easy way, using pre made sauce. Luckily, Second Helping thinks of everything! Just a few seconds per meatball in the microwave and they were nice and hot and ready to go. I, of course, like to pretend I am a big fancy chef, so I tossed them into the sauce before I served anyone 🙂 . I could not resist so after I took them out of the microwave, I took a taste of one, just plain. Oh my goodness! The texture ( even microwaved!) was amazing! They were meaty and juicy and packed full of flavor! I wanted to eat the whole thing, right then and there. A perfect blend of just the right spices.
After we sat down at the table, I watched and waited, I was so excited to get everyone’s thoughts. My husband was very surprised, and could not believe they had once been frozen! He remarked how fresh and great tasting they were, and I had to agree. My daughter Bee dug right in, as I figured she would and told me how much she liked the new meats. Then we came to my son Bear. I waited, pretty positive that I could not get lucky twice in the same day. Getting him to eat is always an adventure. Much to my surprise and delight, he tasted the meatballs and told me how yummy they were!! You can only imagine how happy I was that I had finally found a company that I know my whole family enjoys! Second Helping should get awards just for getting my son to eat!!
We all had such a great time with Second Helping and their products, I know they are going to become a staple in my house. I love that they are quick and easy, especially with how busy and fast paced my days seem to get. I love that everyone in my family enjoys them, since that is something that rarely, if ever, happens. I love that you can order their products and have them shipped to you, so there is no need to worry about whether or not your local stores carry them ( although some do!!). I love that I can have pride in these foods, that I know exactly what I am feeding my family. Most of all, I love, that for that day at least, we really felt like we were eating “like everyone else”. While I always tell my kids there is nothing wrong with being different, no one can argue against the fact that it IS nice to feel “normal” every once and awhile, and I am so thankful to find a company that allows me to do that.
I would love for you guys to check them out on Facebook and Twitter and give them your support!
**Disclaimer** Second Helping provided me with free products in exchange for my honest opinions of those products. I was not financially compensated in any way, nor were my opinions swayed or altered for any purpose. These opinions are all my own.
Awareness in the Food Service Industry
It was another one of those nights tonight…
You know, the whole, hey let’s try and go out and grab something for dinner. For those of you who can do this effortlessly, and without any kind of thought, I envy you…dearly. For us, it is a lovely game of first, finding somewhere safe, and then second, trying to find somewhere that my uber picky Bear will eat from.
After a long debate and thought process, we finally settled on somewhere. As usual, once we were there and getting ready to order, I went through our typical “we can NOT have anything with gluten, so I need to know what your ingredients are” speech. And this was met with the typical “Oh is this for an allergy” question. I begrudgingly say yes, not wanting to get into how it is NOT an allergy (that is another post for another day). But then, to my dismay, our server said they would have to go and ask someone else, and they would get back to us about what was safe. It took quite awhile, and finally someone else came out to talk to us, with a large book that they told me contained all the items they had and what was in each item. And I am NOT kidding when I say that this binder had to be 3 or 4 inches thick. At this point, we explained that we did not feel safe enough to continue our experience, thanked the establishment, left a small tip for our server ( I used to waitress, so I feel that it is only right to leave a little something for taking up some time at a table) and wound up back home eating leftovers.
But here is my point, I just feel like if you work in an establishment where food is served, you should be knowledgeable enough to explain to patrons what is or is not in your products. Not just for those with gluten issues or food allergies, but for anyone who asks. People are becoming more and more aware of what they put in their bodies, and typically most like to know what they are eating. I just find it amazing that in most cases the servers or counter staff typically have no clue what they serve. Even worse, as in our case, the management did not even know what was in the products they were serving. Um…what? While I understand that this may be a paycheck for you, this could be a life threatening mistake for someone else. I am not at all trying to downplay the need for us with food issues to do our homework…but it would be nice for places to start educating their staff on the make up of the their products. Also, maybe a bit of education on the plethora of food issues that people can have. It would be nice to walk into a restaurant and explain my situation and have it met with something more than a weird look. A bit of extra effort on the part of restaurants could do wonders for their customer service, and open up their businesses to a whole new market of people who may have previously been unaware that eating there was a safe place.
Gluten Free Candy
Over the past few days I have been working on some research and emailing companies to try and bring you the best list of gluten free candy that I can. This is is not, by any means, complete. What I mean by that is, it does not contain all of the candy out there that is gluten free. If it did, it would probably be as long as a book! I have not included any of the specialty candy brands that only work with gluten free candies, but rather chose to focus on what “normal” candies are safe. This is because, odds are, you and your children will come into contact with these mainstream candies way more often than those of a specialty nature. As always, please make sure to check the labels. While all of this information is current, that does not guarantee that the manufacturers will not change their recipes or manufacturing processes.
Tic Tacs are considered by the company to be gluten free. They said that none of their items contain any gluten containing ingrediants. For more information, you can reach the maker of Tic Tacs, Ferrero at 732-764-9300.
Jelly Belly jelly beans are considered by the company to be gluten free. ALL of their jelly beans, in ALL flavors are safe. However, sometimes Jelly Belly will package their items as a mixed set that may contain malted milk balls, or other candies that are not safe. Always make sure to check the packaging… as long as its JUST jelly beans, you are free and clear. You can contact Jelly Belly at 800-522-3267.
Wrigleys makes gum, mints and other candies. They also make Lifesavers, Creme Savers, Skittles and Starburst. Almost all of their items are considered to be gluten free. The company assured me that the only products that are NOT considered to be gluten free are: Altoids Smalls Peppermints, Altoids Chocolate Dipped Mints, Hubba Bubba Gummie Tape and Lucas and Swinkles Candy Strips. Contact Wrigley at (800) 974-4539.
Necco is another famous brand of candies that replied to me with a list of their gluten free options. They include : Necco Wafers and Chocolate Wafers, the Sweethearts Valentine Conversation Hearts, Mary Janes, and Peanut Butter Mary Janes, Sky Bar, Mint Julep Chews, Banana Split Chews, Candy House Candy Buttons, Haviland Thin Mints, Wintergreen Patty, Nonpareils and Chocolate Stars, and Canada Mint, Wintergreen and Spearmint Lozenges. You can contact Necco at 781-485-4800.
Nestles also makes are variety of candies, both under their name as well as Willy Wonka. The items that they have assured me are currently considered to be gluten free are: Laffy Taffy, Pixie Stix, Bit O Honey, Baby Ruth, Original Flavor Butterfinger (no seasonal flavors, or shapes), Goobers, Nips, O Henry, Nestles Milk Chocolate, Snowcaps, and Raisinets. For more information, you can contact Nestles at 800-225-2270.
Just Born makes the marshmallow peeps that we usually see on Easter, and they also make Mike and Ikes. The company said that any of their marshmallow products that are gluten free will be labelled gluten free. They began this process last October. While some of the products do say modified food starch, the company assured me it was corn, so it was safe. This list of Mike and Ike candies that are safe are the following flavor varieties: Hot Tamales, Zours, Tropical Typhoon, Jelly Beans, Berry Blast, Italian Ice, Original Fruits, Tangy Twister, Redrageous. You can contact Just Born at 888-645-3453.
Smarties says that most of their line is gluten free with the exception of the Smarties Gummies. While the Smarties Gummies have no gluten containing ingredients, they are processed on machinery that also processes gluten containing ingredients. However, something to be aware of with Smarties, is that the company often sells them to other companies to bag together with other items. In these cases, the other items that the products may be bagged with cannot always be considered safe. Note from the Smarties Company…. “Note: If the UPC number on the packaging begins with “0 11206”, you can be assured that it is manufactured in a facility that is gluten free and safe to eat if you have Celiac Disease.” If you need to contact Smarties, you can do so through their website.
Mars Chocolates sent me the following list of what was safe. Please note that some varieties of M&Ms are NOT safe and you are always going to want to check the packaging! Here is what is safe from Mars: all flavors of 3 musketeers and Snickers Bars, M&Ms EXCEPT for pretzel and SOME mint and coconut, Milky Way Midnight and Milky Way caramel bars, and ALL Dove chocolate products EXCEPT cinnamon graham and cookies and creme flavors. You can contact Mars at 800-627-7852.
Tootsie Roll who also makes Charms Products has ensured me that as of October of last year, ALL of their products are considered to be gluten free, with the only EXCEPTION being Andes Cookies. Great job Tootsie Roll! You can call Tootsie at 773-838-3400.
Hersheys Chocolate lists the following products on their website as gluten free. The list is: all Almond Joy and Mounds, Milk Chocolate Kisses, the caramel and cherry cordial filled chocolate kisses, Hersheys nuggets, Heath Bars, Skor and Skor Toffee bars, all York Peppermint Patties, all Reeses peanut butter cups EXCEPT holiday shapes. Hersheys chocolate bar and Hersheys chocolate bar with almonds are also considered to be gluten free, but ONLY certain sizes. The plain chocolate bar is gluten free in the 1.55 ounce size and the Hersheys with almonds is gluten free in the 1.45 ounce size. I think that this is strange and in our house we avoid those two bars altogether though. You can contact
Hersheys at 800-468-1714.
I hope this helps to put your mind at ease a bit when your kids want candy, or come home with candy from school or from friends houses. I recommend printing out this list, or one of your own if your children have other allergies, and giving it to friends, family, babysitters, or school teachers. Anyone who could possible give your child candy. This safe list allows for a little more freedom and normalcy for your child when they are not with you. If you have any questions, or if there is anything you think I may have missed, please feel free to let me know.
Thursday – Wowbutter Banana Graham Snacks
My kids love this recipe and it is so super easy and quick to make. It is basically the same recipe that is on the Wowbutter website. I changed it a little bit though to our taste and preference. My kids do not like frozen bananas, so we just put them in the fridge instead. They don’t last long in our house. The original recipe can be found on the Wowbutter website here. Below is our version of it – I did change the name since I altered the recipe a little.
Wowbutter Banana Graham Snacks
- 1/2 cup Wowbutter – we mix half smooth and half chunky
- 3 tbsp honey
- graham crackers broken in half
- 2 small bananas
Blend WOWBUTTER and honey in small bowl.
Spread about 1 tablespoon of mixture on 10 of the graham wafers, top with banana slices and remaining 10 graham wafers.
Eat right away or place in the refrigerator for an hour. Depends on if you like them cold or not. :0) ENJOY!