Navigating the wheat free, gluten free diet

Posts tagged ‘Custom Choice’

Celiac Gift-Giving

Somehow it’s already December 7 and if you’re anything like me, Christmas/Hanukkah shopping has become priority number 1.  Seriously, now that I’m classified as a “grown-up” all of the fun has been taken out of the holidays by the stress of figuring out what to get everyone.  Well, I’m a big fan of those online lists that tell you exactly what to buy “the tech geek” or the “journalist” (cough cough).  So I’m jumping on the list-making bandwagon.

Here it is: 10 thing to buy your Celiac friend or family member, from cheapest to most awesome:

1. Food


This may seem weird, but keep in mind that gluten-free food is a lot more expensive than the average budget allows.  I don’t know a Celiac who wouldn’t be grateful for a fresh stock of the essentials, like pasta or boxed meals, and even some non-essentials, like GF cookies, cakes and other treats.

2. Personalized cereal


Here’s a thoughtful gift: create a cereal you think your friend, girlfriend/boyfriend, brother sister, etc. might enjoy, and then name it after them.  See my previous post for details.

3. Gift Cards:

Restaurant Gift Card


Many Celiacs have a shortlist of favorite safe restaurants they frequent, and even a few they wish they could afford to visit more often.  Do a little reconnaissance  to find out what those eateries might be, then get him/her a gift card.

Gluten Free Mall Gift Card

$10-$50’s affiliate, The Gluten Free Mall has everything a Celiac good ask for under one virtual roof, from homeopathic medicines to cookbooks to an abundant array of gluten-free foods.  This is kind of like the first gift, except they can pick and choose for themselves.  Great if you don’t know the person all that well.

4. Books:

Gluten-free Cooking for Dummies


Great for newly-minted Celiacs, as the beginning section tells all about what is safe to eat, what isn’t, and why.  The bulk of the book is filled with healthy, relatively easy GF recipes for all of your favorite glutenous foods, and plenty of new ones.  Also a good excuse to call your friend/family members a dummy.

Gluten-free Quick and Easy


Gluten-free cooking can be work and ingredient intensive, so when buying cookbooks for non-experienced cooks, it’s best to stick with ones like this.  No 2-page list of ingredients and fairly quick store-to-table time on most recipes.  Plus, it comes with a handy list of ingredients to always have in your GF pantry.

5. Subscription to Journal of Gluten Sensitivity


This quarterly journal offers the most up-to-date information on gluten sensitivity and Celiac Disease.  Much of the content is not available online, though some is available in a weekly e-newsletter.  Online subscriptions are available, as well as 1-year and 2-year paper subscriptions.

6. Allergen Restaurant Guides


Restaurant guides are an invaluable resource to Celiacs because at worst they lay out to the right questions to ask to ensure a safe meal and at best they offer safe menu items at almost every major restaurant in all 50 states.  The in-depth ones, like the Essential Gluten-free Restaurant guide aren’t exactly pocket-worthy, but many are.

7. Apron


Okay, so this isn’t a Celiac-specific gift, but it’s a great accessory to have when concocting gluten-free pizzas, cakes, pies and other baked goods that can’t be purchased easily already-made.  I’d start here because pretty-much all of these aprons are adorable and affordable. Get me one, too, while you’re there.

8. Bread machine


I can’t think of a more appropriate gift for a Celiac than his or her very own bread maker.  You’re not giving them another kitchen gadget to clutter their counter tops, you’re giving them homemade, fresh, never frozen gluten-free bread whenever and however they want.  And it’ll make their house smell fantastic.


A Gluten-free Conversation with Satchel Raye

That’s right, the Satchel, owner and namesake of the ESPN-recognized Satchel’s Pizza here in Gainesville.  The pizza is tasty, the deep-dish is incredible, the salad is addictive, and the millet and flax crust is the ultimate indulgence.  You can only order a full-size “gluten-free” pizza (more on that later), so every time I order one I happily eat cold pizza for a week.

Satchel’s is one of the few restaurants here in town with a worthwhile gluten-free option, even if it’s not technically 100 percent GF. (I’ve been lucky enough not to get sick off of it).

I talked to Satchel about the inception of their millet and flax pies and why we should all be grateful it’s even on the menu.  Check it out below:

How long have you been serving gluten-free pizza at Satchel’s?

Oh, I can’t remember for sure.   Maybe 2 or 3 years at least.

Is the dough homemade or brought in?

We could not make a gluten-free product very well simply because our prep room is tiny and we make lots of gluten full products there, like our pizza dough. We buy it from Sami’s Bakery.  They ship them to us weekly.

What made you start serving it?

A customer who works at Ward’s, who is gluten intolerant, brought one in and suggested we sell them. Since my mother in-law has Celiac Disease, and I knew many people were gluten intolerant, I thought it would be a great idea. At first we were buying 4 or 5 a week from Ward’s, and soon they were popular enough to get straight from Sami’s.

Has it been a hit? I certainly love treating myself to a Pineapple and Sausage GF pizza once in awhile.

It has mostly been a huge success.  We sell about 50 per week now and even people who eat gluten like the crunchy sweetness of the millet and flax crust. We used to call them our “gluten-free” pizza, but we had a woman come through who is highly sensitive to wheat and got sick from eating them. She informed us that while she can only tolerate 1 part per 2000 of wheat, the Sami’s crusts are about 1 part per 200 wheat, (or some such ratio,) and she said that since Sami’s isn’t a gluten-free bakery that there food is not entirely gluten-free.

Exactly how safe do you think the pizza is, in terms of cross contamination? I know there’s a warning on the menu, but I’ve never gotten sick from it. Do you take steps to keep it away from glutenous pizza?

Well, I know there are products out there that would be more gluten-free but from what I’ve tasted none of them are great pizza crust alternatives to the one we use currently. Also, since our kitchen has gluten floating all over it, even if we got an entirely gluten-free crust that I approved of, there is no way to ensure it wouldn’t be contaminated in our facility.  So, I decided to stick with what we have, call them a millet and flax crust, and let people know that they contain traces of gluten. We use different peels to make them on, we wipe down the oven stone, and we try and stop spinning pies when they are heading out of the kitchen. We try to make sure they stay as gluten-free as possible but there are limits inside a small pizza kitchen.

Has anyone ever complained that they got sick?

Over the last few years I have heard of 2 people complaining of getting sick from the millet and flax pies. Both were obviously highly intolerant to gluten. Of course, as owner of a restaurant the last thing I want to hear is someone has gotten sick from our food so it is sad. But that’s why we have the warning to customers. We are always trying to make the pizzas with less possibility of contamination from the gluten , but even the product is not 100 percent gluten-free.

How about positive comments?

We have so many people compliment us on this pie. There are folks practically in tears over eating a pizza for the first time in so many years. There are health nuts who are happy to have a more healthy option. Lots and lots of positive feedback on this.

Any plans for more GF offerings?  Your homemade desserts always look so delicious!

We do vegan desserts from time to time and they don’t always sell so good. I have not considered a gluten-free dessert mostly because our baker is so busy keeping up with the dessert menu we already have.  Not to mention that there is the added chance for contamination of gluten. But, I never say never, so it may be something we try in the future.

I know a few people who’d love to not have to order an entire pizza.  Could a smaller serving, perhaps a personal sized pizza, ever be possible?

You know, the restaurant business is crazy… Our food cost is supposed to be 25 percent to allow us to cover the labor and overhead and come out with a profit later. If we put this formula to the millet and flax pizza it would be $16 before we ever put sauce or cheese or toppings on it. It is very expensive to buy and have shipped to us.  So, unfortunately, there is not much of a chance I can see of making a smaller portion.  Seems to me that gluten intolerant people would love to have a couple extra meals in the fridge for the days ahead.  When this pie was something we sold 10 per week of as a bonus to our customers we could take the hit on the cost, but now we are making so many, the cost will have to go up. We can’t have a lot of items that we don’t make money on.

Right now we are well over 50 percent food cost on the millet and flax pies and also our deep dish pies. So, these are specialty items that we will have to raise prices on to continue to be profitable and also have products people want. This is a very difficult aspect to the job, raising prices when I know that people have tight budgets, but in the end it is best if we stay open, have a place the community enjoys, offer great jobs, and are able to pay the bills. The items that will be hardest are the ones that cost so much to make.  Trying to keep one of these millet and flax pies around to cut slices from is just not a viable option since there is so much flour floating around the kitchen and it is trouble to keep them free of gluten as we make them. We’re trying to keep it simple and selling them as we do is the best thing we have come up with so far.


Custom Choice Cereal: Best Customer Service Ever?

Not only did I receive my custom-made cereal lightning fast (in about two days), but I also got an e-mail from the founder, Hajo Engelke.  Turns out they really liked the name of my cereal (named after this blog of course), and featured it on their blog.  Even more exciting,  Hajo had read my blog post and wanted to clear things up personally about the shipping issue.

Here’s what he said:

I saw your blog entry and wanted to apologize for the obvious confusion regarding the shipping cost.  The deal is that there is a $3.80 flat rate charge, and $1.00 for each bag, i.e. $4.80 for the first bag and only $1.00 for each bag you add to an order.  We are aware that that’s not cheap.  While we are already working on a solution to lower shipping costs, we are already cross-subsidizing it.
Thanks for your understanding and have a great weekend.

So yes, shipping costs a lot, but it’s not a bad deal if you buy in bulk, which I will be doing.  My simple corn-flake cereal with organic raisins is the perfect Raisin Bran substitute, especially with a sprinkle of sugar on top.  I was truly impressed by the transparency of this company.  Let’s hope it sticks around.


Custom Choice Cereal: A Gluten-free Indulgence

Not many 23-year-olds do breakfast, but I can’t leave the house in the morning without putting something in my stomach.  Sometimes this means a gloriously toasted Millet bagel from Sami’s Bakery, but more often than not it’s a quick bowl of cereal.  Nine times out of 10 it’s Chex. I love Chex for going gluten-free, but I’m starting to hate Chex for being the only gluten-free cereal.

Enter Custom Choice Cereal, a website founded by Hajo Engelke, whose gluten-intolerant friend was frustrated with less than tolerable GF breakfast food.  Hajo had a thing for cereal, so he founded the site, where those on a GF diet can choose from three cereal bases (granola, cornflakes, and something called good morning flakes made from a variety of GF grains) and a veritable spectrum of dried fruits, nuts and “extras” (chocolate chips!). 

I ordered a box (more on that in a minute), but I’d say there are some definite pros and cons.

The Good:

  • You get to name your certified organic creation whatever you want.
  • The products are made in a certified GF facility.
  • The nutrition facts show up and update as you design your cereal
  • According to the website, the first bag is free to ship, with $1.00 for every cereal you add to the order.
  • The ingredients are organic, and many of the add-ins are $1 or less.
  • The initial price is about as much as the GF cereals you can buy at the store, but with a lot more variety.
  • It’s a nice interface and pretty fun to make your own cereal
  • Taste? We’ll see in about 5 days.

The really-really bad:

  • After the first order, shipping costs $4.80, about as much as the cereal itself, so you better buy in bulk if you want any sort of a deal.
  • When I ordered the cereal, it still charged me for the $4.80 shipping, even though it was my first bag.  Still working that one out. $9.88 for a bag of cereal is, well, not on a college student’s budget.

Bottom line:

Custom Choice is a great, fun idea, but a definite breakfast indulgence.

Even with the hefty price tag, I’m excited to get my cereal in the mail, and I’ll certainly let you know when I do. 


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