Meaghan Penrod (Low Key Gluten Free)
We had the chance to speak with Meaghan Penrod, also know by her blog, Low Key Gluten Free to discuss what it’s like to be gluten free but still enjoy all the great food and options Connecticut has to offer.
Local Connecticut: When it comes to gluten free options in Connecticut what are some of your favorites?
Meaghan Penrod: My absolute favorites are Red Heat Tavern and Burton's Grill in South Windsor, Green Olive Diner in Meriden, Algarve Bar and Grill in Rocky Hill, and Maggie McFly's (which has locations all over Connecticut)! All of these restaurants go above and beyond to provide gluten free and Celiac-safe options. You can go to any of them and feel like a completely normal diner! They've got all the foods that are typically super hard to come by for us (aka all the fried foods like wings, mozzarella sticks, french fries, etc.).
LC: What is some advice you could give to someone looking to or is forced to go gluten free?
MP: I was forced to go gluten free back in 2012 when I was diagnosed with Celiac Disease and it was really overwhelming. Gluten is in so many things you wouldn't expect, like soy sauce or seasonings, and it takes a while to learn how to navigate living fully gluten free. It's also extremely emotional, as food is such a major element of most of our social lives--think happy hours, dinner with friends, holiday meals, work lunches, etc. There is definitely a mourning period where you feel a lot of grief over all the foods you can no longer have and a sense of overwhelm thinking about how you'll be a "burden" to your friends and family. My biggest piece of advice is to find a support system online. The gluten-free community on Instagram and Facebook is overwhelmingly supportive--we share recipes, product finds, restaurant recommendations, and overall struggles. You can direct message any of them and they'll happily give you advice on anything! I only found this community in the last couple of years and I so wish I had known about it earlier. Sometimes when you're the only person you know that has to be gluten free, it can feel like a big weight to carry...but seeing that there are thousands of others out there that know exactly what you're going through is priceless. So I'd say, go onto instagram and search a few hashtags like #glutenfreect or just #glutenfreeliving and start following people that seem relatable. You can also search "Celiac Disease" or "Gluten Free" on Facebook and a whole bunch of support groups will come up!
LC: You're going out for dinner, where are you going and what are you eating?
MP: Typically you can find my husband and I at Red Heat Tavern on either Tuesdays (for $3 tacos and trivia) or on Wednesdays (for $.75 wings and happy hour). Can't beat those deals!
LC: What town in Connecticut in your opinion has the best restaurant scene?
MP: That's a hard question! I've been to a lot of different areas through blogging and there are some awesome restaurant scenes all over the state! This may be biased, but I'm honestly partial to Manchester/South Windsor. I don't think most people in the state even know about it but I've had gluten-free friends from other states ask if they could come visit me just to go to the restaurants there! I could probably just eat at Evergreen Walk for the rest of my life and be totally happy.
LC: Lets talk blogs and social media. What should someone expect when they follow you?
MP: On my Instagram I post a little bit about food I get at restaurants and gluten free options in the state, but I think the majority of my posts are my own recipes! I do a lot of cooking at home for me and my husband and I love sharing that. My husband is not gluten free but everything I cook is, and he'll be the first to tell you that he doesn't even think about it at all because all the things I cook are just good...not "good for gluten free." Nearly all of my recipes take 30 minutes or less and have a short list of ingredients, because I love cooking but I also love eating...and I just can't wait an hour for dinner to be done! I also like to think that I have a good sense of humor, so I try to make people laugh with my Instagram stories (even if it's just me laughing at my own jokes). On my blog at lowkeyglutenfree.com you'll find the detailed recipes for some of my favorite meals. I also post a lot of advice pieces about gluten free living including how to go gluten free initially, traveling, dating, going to bars, and more. You'll also find that I created an online course called The Gluten Free Lifestyle 101 for anyone that's brand new to gluten free living. It walks you through everything, step by step. Living gluten free is about much more than what you eat, so I'd like to think I cover it all!
LC: Why should someone follow you?
MP: I called my blog Low Key Gluten Free because that's how I go about it--you'll never see me making crazy fancy recipes with a million ingredients or doing a 30 day juice cleanse. I feel like I'm just your average girl that wants to cook delicious food quickly, laugh at memes, and drink wine in my p.j's.. So if that's something you can relate to, I'm your girl.
We want to thank Meaghan for taking the time to speak with us. We highly suggest following her blog and social media for future tips and ideas on how to be low key gluten free in CT!