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Gluten Free On the Road

Gluten Free Polenta Casserole

I am always amazed that I even get up enough energy and stamina to plan a trip anywhere outside of our own home. For anyone who has started a Gluten Free Life Style for a Family of Four, they will appreciate the fact that it is not always easy. Not only that, the trip is ‘saturated’ with bribes! ‘If you are a good eater on the trip…If you do not complain ONCE on the trip….If you eat at a restaurant and smile on our trip….I will….take you to Dairy Queen for a week, the movie of your choice, and my latest bribe for our trip to the New England States was…ANYTHING you want from Starbucks!’ Oh my goodness, and not only that, but I have turned into one of those cheerleaders that I vowed I would never become because I did not make the team in High School! “Come on, this will be fun, oohh, that looks soooooooooo good, oh, I bet you will LOVE it after the first 7 bites!”

Hey, I never said going Gluten Free was easy. I just promised that I would MAKE it easier for YOU! Well this is my first article in my series on travel. Hopefully, next month, I can share more of what I have learned when traveling gluten free around the United States. When planning for the trip we went on, I found an amazing website called www.glutenfreeregistry.com. It is an awesome site when you are looking for places to eat that are gluten free. You simply click on the state you are visiting. Then you can look in that state, or narrow your choices by picking a city you are visiting. For each location listed, you can click directly on the website of the restaurant or bakery. They also have ‘star ratings’ next to some of the choices. The site also mentions how to find out more about the Gluten Free options that are available. Are they just advertising their vegetables and meats as gluten free options, or are they offering you gluten free pastas and breads to SUBSTITUTE for a gluten-filled version? In addition, next to the restaurant you can click on a map to help you find it. This was really helpful to me because there were some cities that did NOT have a gluten free restaurant, but I would find another city that did have a gluten free restaurant that I mapped as not far from the city we were going to be in. I was really impressed with the site and it helped me navigate around 5 states that I had never been to before.

My only recommendation is to call ahead. A few times, unfortunately, we found the restaurant was no longer in business. Or, not all locations may accommodate gluten free needs. We found this out the hard way on a trip to California, when we went to the Islands Restaurant. The Islands in Colorado has gluten free (not fried) fish tacos on corn tortillas. The Islands in California does not offer the non-fried option OR the corn tortillas. As always, I wish you much luck in your travels and I hope in the next several months, because it is ‘vacation season’ to provide you with great tips for an easy Gluten Free Vacation.

Here is my last Passover dish recipe. I actually decided to bring it to my 2nd Seder this year. Note, this contains cornmeal (if you don’t eat corn during Passover, save it for later!) I hope it is a hit!

Gluten-Free Polenta Casserole

Ingredients:
3 c chicken or vegetable broth
1 c polenta (coarse-ground cornmeal)
salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 large egg, beaten
1 medium zucchini sliced
1 medium red, yellow and/or green pepper, sliced
3 medium tomatoes, sliced
2-3 cloves garlic, sliced
1 T butter (or substitute kosher alternative)
4 T olive oil
2 T balsamic vinegar
1 sweet onion, sliced
Olive oil (preferably extra-virgin)
½ cup Freshly-grated Parmesan cheese (optional)
Freshly chopped basil
1 large organic chicken breast (can substitute tofu or large portobello mushrooms to make vegetarian or dairy)

Directions:
Preheat oven to 400°.
Bake chicken breast for 1 hour in 2 T olive oil and 2 T balsamic vinegar seasoned with salt and pepper (if using tofu or mushrooms, cook until roasted). Slice into strips.
Heat the broth over medium-high heat until boiling. When the broth comes to a rolling boil, turn heat down as low as it will go and add polenta, salt, and pepper.
Simmer polenta, stirring frequently, for 15 minutes. When the polenta is cooked, take it off the heat and stir in the 1 T butter.
Prepare the crust. In a 9 X 13 greased baking dish mix polenta and beaten egg thoroughly.
Spread polenta across the bottom of the pan until the entire pan is evenly covered. Put polenta in oven to brown for 30 minutes at 400 degrees.
Roast the tomatoes, peppers, zucchini and onions by spreading them as evenly as possible on a greased cookie sheet. Lightly salt them and put them in the oven with the polenta to roast and caramelize.
Assemble the torte. When the crust is lightly browned and the vegetables are fragrant, remove them from the oven and lower the oven temperature to 325°.
Top crust with a thin layer of olive oil. This will help keep the liquid content of the vegetables from making the polenta soggy. Evenly top with chicken (or tofu or mushrooms) and veggie mixture. Top with Parmesan cheese (or cheese alternative). Place in oven and bake for 20 minutes, or until the cheese is bubbly and just beginning to brown.
Turn on the broiler and broil for 4 minutes until cheese is golden-brown.

About Lisa Velick

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