Smart Lunches interviews Jessica of Gluten Free Boston Girl

JessicaPic
Meet Jessica, the blogger behind Gluten Free Boston Girl

Meet Jessica: a food-lover, fellow-blogger, and Boston native who documents her experiences living a gluten-free lifestyle in the blog Gluten Free Boston Girl (www.glutenfreebostongirl.com). We love Jessica’s restaurant guides, gluten-free deals, and great stash of recipes (especially her Gluten-free Crab Cakes with Remoulade Sauce and her Chocolate Black Bean Brownies). Today, we’re lucky to have Jessica here on the Smart Lunches blog to answer a few questions and provide us with a delicious (and gluten-free) weeknight recipe that can be made into lunch the next day. Let’s hear what she has for us!

Interview with Jessica from Gluten Free Boston Girl: 

1. What prompted your passion for cooking, eating, and blogging?

I’ve always loved to cook and try new foods. When I was diagnosed with a gluten intolerance in 2009 I had to learn to cook new ways with new ingredients, and going out to eat was always a challenge. In 2009 the term “gluten free” was virtually unknown; no one knew what it meant and trying to find a restaurant that understood the complications of a gluten free diet and how to accommodate for it was daunting. When I moved to Boston I was frustrated with the lack of information available to gluten free diners. I would have to search for hours online and call restaurants to see if they had gluten free options. After spending countless hours gathering information I decided to share what I learned. My blog began as a simple list of restaurants in the city who offered gluten free menus, gluten free options, or could easily accommodate. Over time it grew to include restaurants all across Massachusetts, as well as product reviews, giveaways, and fitness. I’m glad I can share all the information I wished someone had told me when I was newly diagnosed. I’m glad that my blog has also become a vehicle to help others who are facing the same challenges. I love receiving e-mails from readers and visitors to Boston letting me know how much I helped them find restaurants to eat it; I wish someone had helped me too years ago.

2. As a child, did you bring lunch from home? If so, what were some of your favorite things to find in your lunchbox?

As a child I brought my lunch to school every single day. Once in a month, if that, I would buy lunch from the school cafeteria. I ate a turkey sandwich with lettuce, tomato, mayonnaise and mustard everyday from 1st grade through 12th grade. And usually when I bought lunch I would buy a turkey club sandwich. My favorite lunchbox items were Fruit Punch Capri Sun, Gold Fish, Cheese-it’s, pretzels, wheat thins, Dunkaroo’s, baby carrots with ranch dressing, and red grapes.

3. Whether it’s at the supermarket or in a restaurant, what are some of the biggest speed-bumps you run into being gluten-free?

Some of the biggest speed bumps I face when dining out are servers who are unaware and don’t know what gluten free means, or don’t take gluten free seriously. It’s also worrisome when servers who don’t know the ingredients used in certain menu items, and even more alarming when the chef is unsure! I’m not afraid to ask questions about how my food is prepared and what’s actually in it. But when I am faced with an unknowledgeable server a red flag goes up. If this happens I request to speak with the manager or chef. Don’t be afraid to speak up and ask questions.

Before mastering the list of ingredients that are safe, which I still rely on my gluten free phone app from time to time, I only bought fresh fruit and vegetables, plain chicken and meat, beans, brown rice, quinoa, eggs, nuts, and only packaged items that had a gluten free label. Learning how to read and decipher labels was challenging at first, but once I understood what I was looking for it greatly expanded my food options and also helped me to know which items to always avoid.

4. What did you make yourself for lunch today?

Today I had a spinach salad with tomatoes, cucumbers, asparagus, artichoke hearts, baby carrots, zucchini, and pea pods, topped with leftover salmon from last night’s dinner. For my afternoon snack I had crackers (gluten-free Nut Thins) and hummus.

Along with answering our questions, Jessica also provided us with a recipe for Lemon Artichoke Chicken with Herbed Quinoa–both delicious and nourishing, this recipe is perfect for a quick summer meal. Thanks Jessica!

Lemon Artichoke Chicken from Jessica's kitchen
Lemon Artichoke Chicken from Jessica’s kitchen

Lemon Artichoke Chicken with Herbed Quinoa

This dish is elegant enough for company but simple enough for weeknight meals. It is easy to prepare and packed with flavor.

For the Chicken

  • 4-6 skinless boneless chicken breasts
  • 1/4 cup white wine
  • 3 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon thyme
  • 1 tablespoon oregano
  • 2 teaspoons garlic powder
  • 2 teaspoons onion powder
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon pepper
  • 1 can (14 oz.) quartered artichoke hearts, drained
  • 1 lemon, thinly sliced
  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
  2. In a bowl combine all ingredients except for the chicken and artichokes.
  3. Place the chicken and artichokes into an 8 ½ x 11-inch glass baking dish.
  4. Pour the liquid mixture over the chicken.
  5. Top the chicken breasts with sliced lemon
  6. Bake for 25-20 minutes, or until chicken is thoroughly cooked.

For the Quinoa

  • 3 ¾ cups low sodium chicken stock or water
  • ¼ cup lemon juice
  • 2 cups quinoa
  • ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 teaspoons lemon juice
  • ½ cup chopped basil
  • ¼ cup chopped parsley
  • salt and pepper to taste
  1. In a medium saucepan, add the chicken stock or water, lemon juice and quinoa. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce the heat and simmer, covered, until all the liquid is absorbed.
  2. Mix together the remaining ingredients. Pour over the quinoa and toss until well coated.

Leftovers Lunch Idea:

The next day, I use the leftover quinoa to make a big vegetable quinoa salad. I add diced tomatoes, carrots, peas or pea pods, cucumber, yellow bell pepper, zucchini, and avocado. You can really use any vegetables you like or have on hand. If there is any chicken left over I will toss that in too. If not then I’ll throw in some black beans or chickpeas.

For more gluten-free tips, tricks, and recipes, visit Jessica’s blog at www.glutenfreebostongirl.com

 

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