Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Risotto, Take 2

Yes, it has taken me this long to try again. I'm too lazy to look back right now and see how long it has actually been since my first attempt at risotto, but I know it has been awhile!

I tried adapting this recipe from Ina for my second take. It turned out way better than the first one!! Substitutions: didn't have any shallots, so I threw in some garlic. Bacon not pancetta. Only had pinot grigio. No saffron.

A few tips-- this time, I made sure to cook my bacon until very crispy. Actually, I scorched the first batch... had to redo it. Last time, it got chewy and disgusting, so I also got rid of most of the fat. I know, I know, that's the whole point of bacon... but I can't stand chewy fatness.

It took longer than expected (about 40 minutes) and was al dente. I'm not sure how you do it in 20-30 minutes!

My only gripe with this batch is that it is a little too sweet. I'm not sure whether using a dry wine would have helped. I think the natural sweetness of the squash may be a bigger factor. Regardless, it was pretty darn good.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Pumpkin Cake!!

I'm really not a carrot cake kind of person, but I somehow picked up this box at the store. Lo and behold, I discovered something wonderful... a recipe for PUMPKIN CAKE!!

It was just as those almost-fall days were approaching: where the temperature is the same, the leaves have only begun to get a tinge of color, and you can only just smell the change starting to happen. It was pumpkin time.

It is a super easy recipe. I whipped it up in minutes!

This is to die for with some cream cheese frosting, which I just made with a half stick of butter and cream cheese, with powdered sugar added until the consistency is right. And a touch of vanilla.

Only downfall? The price. I think I bought it for $4.69 on sale. Ouch! Granted, it is an organic product which typically drives up the price a tad (although less lately overall, it seems).

I did branch out and try the banana bread mix, with which I was less than impressed. Even though I was "careful not to underbake" as the directions warned, and my first slice wasn't too shabby, it soon turned into a gummy glob. I'm not going to say it wasn't my fault (double negative?) but this is not my favorite.

Pumpkin cake is! Time to go make frosting.

Celiac Survival Guide

In case you haven't noticed, dear readers, I don't often share the sunny outlook that many fellow Celiacs seem to have in common. I often am not feeling well, and that is unfortunately reflected in my posts here.

It is mostly about survival at this point.

Thankfully, I'm not feeling too overly horrible today. Not great, not awful. I celebrated with a new discovery with which I am currently in love: Haagen-Dazs raspberry sorbet.

My history includes a love affair with ice cream. I grew up next to an ice cream factory and store, and I worked there as my first job. The best perk? All the ice cream you could ever want to eat. And I did. I always wondered if I would get sick of it. Not so!

I've been trying to minimize the dairy lately, as I suspect I may not tolerate it so well. I'm going to make exceptions, such as pumpkin cake for Thanksgiving. It just isn't the same without the cream cheese frosting!

Especially when I've recently been glutened, which is about all the time now, ice cream hates me. I love it for about a half hour, and then I'm soon hating it. So is everyone around me.

Hence, sorbet.

ALMOST as good as ice cream! Definitely not a low-cal treat, but super satisfying.

So here is another tip to add to the survival guide. Eat sorbet.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Pomegranates are stellar!

So I'm still failing at life with the whole gluten thing. I just can't seem to shake it. In the meantime, while I'm trying for the millionth time to come up with hopeful things to think about, I realize how much going GF has forced me to branch out with what I eat.

A few things I didn't eat before GF: pomegranates, asparagus, roasted veggies, rice noodles, it's almost hard to remember now that they are such staples in my pantry. I can't believe I was missing out on pomegranates! I've had one every night since they appeared in the grocery store a couple weeks ago. Love.

So what have I eaten lately? I made baked spaghetti last night and had it again for lunch and tonight. Something is bothering me- last time I made it I thought it was the sauce. This time, I used Tinkyada spaghetti, Dei Fratelli sauce, and Kraft cheese. That's all. Maybe it's the cheese. I did have half a glass of Barefoot Riesling last night. I had salad for lunch, too. Organicville sun-dried tomato dressing. I doubt that my apple and peanut butter breakfast was an issue. I haven't even been drinking coffee!! Just green tea.

I'm having coffee tomorrow morning.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Still riding the coaster.

I love roller coasters. If you've never been to Cedar Point in Sandusky, Ohio, it is totally worth the trip! Favorites- Raptor and Millenium Force. Seriously awesome.

I don't like the gluten roller coaster. It stinks. I think I'm on the upswing again after something got me on Friday. Hard to tell, at that time I was recovering from my poor choice last Monday (hot chocolate at an awesome cafe... could tell almost immediately it was a problem).

My current rants after going to the store today- I'm already sick of the retail Christmas push. Seriously, it isn't even Thanksgiving yet. It started before Halloween. I love Christmastime, but it gets more and more commercial every year, earlier and earlier. It takes some of the joy out of it for me to see it on TV and hear the music in the stores, and to know that it is all a ploy to get me to support the retail economy. Joy to the World, the sales have come... or however the song goes...

On a completely unrelated note, food labeling and marketing bugs me. Please define "all natural." I have had so many people say to me, "Oh- it says it is natural. It can't hurt me!" Granted, this is usually said about herbals or dietary supplements, but the idea goes for food, too. There is no FDA definition of what natural means.

I could put my toenail clippings in a jar and label it "all natural." Ok, maybe not, just a thought (albeit a graphic one).

I'll be useful in my next post, I promise. What to write about... my discovery of easy-peasy GF pumpkin cake? With cream cheese frosting? Maybe.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Back to where I started.

I feel like crap.

Why, you may ask? Gluten has something to do with it, but it is not the only one to blame. Of course, perhaps if it were not for gluten, my immune system would do its normal immunity thing... just a thought.

My poor body is juggling a recent glutening, a reaction to the H1N1 vaccine (lymphadenopathy, same as with last year's vaccine. Yes, I hear you saying "I told you so."), fighting a cold from my coworker, and what I think was food poisoning at lunch today. That was a trip and a half (to the bathroom). Darn shrimp.

Needless to say, I am a bit run-down.

On another note, I received an email from a nice person at Jennie-O explaining their GF status. I'll post it here. My comment for this post, which I relayed in my reply, is that I feel like I'm in a situation where "fool me once, shame on you..." applies since I suspected it twice within a short time. I also have found that I have been sorely disappointed when trusting labels. Do with it what you will, dear readers. All four of you.

First, I would like to thank you for being a loyal customer and advocate of our products. I wanted to clarify that Jennie-O Turkey Store® hot Italian turkey sausage does not contain any wheat, rye, barley, triticale (a wheat hybrid) or oats. This is a gluten-free product that is safe for you and your readers to consume.

I also wanted to assure you that we require all suppliers to list out every ingredient, including possible allergenic ingredients or ingredients that are known to cause a reaction in sensitive individuals. We understand the frustration of trying to find gluten-free products, and we only want to make it easier for you and others affected by Celiac disease. We also hope, with this explanation, you might give Jennie-O Turkey® products a second chance. Feel free to contact me with any questions or concerns. I’d be happy to provide further explanation, if needed. Have a great day.

I also mentioned that I'll just let my husband eat it. It seriously is good stuff, I'm just wary.

Friday, October 2, 2009

I'm on a roll. No, not a dinner roll.

May I have a drumroll, please?

...I think I have officially gone an entire week and a half with no glutenings. I hesitate to even write this down, as I'm afraid the evil gluten monster will immediately show up at my door, knock me down, laugh in a sinister fashion, and say "I told you so!"

The skin on my fingers where I usually have DH blisters is starting to heal. There have been a couple of times where it has gotten a bit red and I've been apprehensive, but it isn't painful. It's weird to just have almost-normal skin there!

I was being super careful, but I then got caught up by some nasty flu-bug and couldn't tell which end was up. I stayed at my parents' house for the course of it, which provided myriad opportunities for cross-contamination. I'm pretty sure I was glutened. I was almost too sick to notice.

Being on the upswing, I HAVE to be careful what risks I take. I've been working a lot and have been stressing a bit much in the last few weeks about various subjects, so it's often hard to tell whether I'm tired from lack of sleep or potential gluten. Or both. The weird part is, I've noticed that being glutened is a different kind of tired. Both make it hard to get out of bed in the morning and both make my brain a bit foggy, but it is different. I can't really explain it.

On a random note- I also can't explain why after only two days without coffee last weekend and miraculously no headaches (thank you, green tea!) that my coffee made me CRAZY on Monday. It was almost like I hadn't been absorbing the caffeine in the past, and then WOWSA! Tachycardia! No attention span! Haven't felt like that in quite a while. I had to back it off, which was sad because I am in love with my strong morning coffee.

I'm going out of town tomorrow to take a big test. It is an all day thing, so I'm hoping there won't be too much drama come lunchtime!! (Yes, that's a lunchbox. No, I did not hide equations for reference in my string cheese.) And yes, I am currently procrastinating about my final review of material. Great idea when my estimated time of departure is at about 5:30 AM.

Anyway, just sharing the good news... I hope... Crossing your fingers makes it hard to type.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Warning! Jennie-O Turkey Sausage

Here's my first column under the Warning! heading.

It involves one of my former favorite ingredients, Jennie-O hot Italian turkey sausage. Loved the stuff, made it at least once a week in various forms... I now suspect glutening. Twice.

The first time, I thought it was a fluke. I had made it into sausage patties, serving mine plain and my hubbie's on a bun. (This was when I kept obviously gluten-y things in my kitchen, a thing of the past!) I blamed the bun, even though I was super careful with it, didn't touch it, and washed my hands a billion and a half times.

I don't think it was the bun. The next time we ate the sausage, I used my tried-and-true recipe of sausage, broccoli, and Tinkyada spaghetti in a garlic chili broth. Mmmm... until I got sick. I was stumped until I remembered "the bun incident."

Bun, indeed...

Beware the turkey sausage, GF buddies. I'm terribly sad to lose this as an ingredient, but I think I've learned my lesson. Next up- probably a lesson in making my own sausage.

So long, Jennie-O. You were a good friend until you turned on me, backstabber!

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Day 1

Here's the food breakdown for today. (and yes, I do snack all day)

B- smoothie with:
  • frozen bananas, strawberries, and blackberries
  • Stonyfield blueberry yogurt
  • some natural PB
  • a splash of Simply Orange with mango.
Weird combo, I know, but I like the PB&J flavor of it. May I also mention that I love Stonyfield yogurt. Too expensive, but not too sweet and not too tangy!

Morning snack- apple with PB and honey

L- leftover chicken and rice noodle stuff (posted prior). I've felt funky the last couple times I've eaten this recipe, so I'm not sure which component is the culprit. I used Dynasty Maifun, Mizkan rice vinegar, and San J wheat-free tamari. Everything else is pretty much whole foods. I've looked to see if anyone else has had issues with these products, and I can't find anything. Maybe it's something else.

Afternoon snacks (more like pre-dinner...)-
  • snow peapods
  • a nectarine
  • Sargento lite string cheese along with some cut up cherry tomatoes from the farmers market!
  • I also broke down and had a small bag of Smartfood popcorn.
Speaking of Smartfood, a Lays product, I have trusted Lays for awhile. I'm not sure if I do now. Sure, they have a GF list. They also have a huge disclaimer at the bottom (CYA) that says that they use gluten on the same lines as the supposedly GF lines. I've heard of enough people playing roulette with Lays products (50/50 chance of getting sick...) that I vowed to avoid them to figure out what is secretly glutening me. I cracked today.

D- This was a new one for me- Mrs. Leeper's corn/vegetable pasta with a touch of butter, EVOO, and parm. I don't necessarily recommend it. The pasta fell apart at al dente. I wasn't expecting my combo to taste like much, but it was even more bland than I anticipated. It did satisfy my carb craving, however.

I may just have to break down and have a half glass of wine. My current favorite is Sutter Home's Chenin Blanc. Sometimes, even small amounts of wine make me flush. Darn sulfites! I do need to continue researching wine/gluten safety. I don't know enough about the process to know where the problems arise...

Day 1 is done!

What to post, what to post...

I have so many Celiac-related topics that endlessly swirl around in my foggy little head that I find it ironic when I'd like to write a useful, thought out post and all I can come up with is uhh....

I need a theme.

I've thought about "What I ate today" for a few reasons- it would help me keep track of what I eat, maybe give out some ideas of real-life Celiac eating, and mostly help me determine what keeps glutening me (unless it is from my kitchen, which I'm starting to suspect sometimes...)

I've also thought about writing some medically applicable articles for lay Celiacs, like decoding Celiac-related journal articles, especially about upcoming ideas for drug treatment. That sounds like a lot of work-related work. No time right now.

I've also thought about recipes, but lots of people do that, and I'm not a cook. I throw stuff in a pan and hope it turns out edible!

I'm realizing more and more how much the GF diet (mostly lack thereof) affects every aspect of my life. I think it would help me to blog about that. Maybe you can relate.

So- in conclusion, this blog is going to be a random buffet of posts just like it has been.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Still Failing

It's been awhile. I'm still failing at staying un-glutened for more than a week. I start to feel good, then it's back down the spiral we go.

I have learned that just because it says gluten free, it is not always to be trusted. (I should have known that before.) I was starting to feel decent last week until I had a craving for baked spaghetti. Ok, I thought, why not? I have some Tinkyada pasta, I'll buy some sauce and cheese and make some! Pretty simple, right? 3 ingredients.

Beware Classico sweet basil sauce, oh gluten-free friend. Only after I immediately became ill when eating it did I think to look it up online. According to quite a few people on the celiac.com boards, I am NOT the only one who has had a problem. Beware the sauce. (Yes, it says GF right on the label.)

On another note- how is it possible to be instantly nauseous when ingesting gluten unknowingly? It wasn't until the next day that I suspected a gluten reaction. I've had this happen multiple times. I think I'm sick or I waited too long to eat or I'm stressed out or something, only to find out that it was gluten. There isn't even time for it to reach my duodenum! Go figure.

I'm not sure what to do anymore. I felt it again tonight, only not as severe. I now have some DH to prove it. I've got to figure out what else I'm reacting to. Yikes.

I'm hoping that someday, this site will serve as more than just my gripe fest. I want it to be hopeful and cheerful and full of life and inspiration! I guess we'll all just have to wait impatiently in negativity until I somehow get my act together.


Monday, July 6, 2009

I just don't get it.

Here comes another gluten-related lament. I can't seem to go for longer than a week without getting glutened. I'm about ready to stop eating altogether for awhile. (OK, maybe not, but the thought has crossed my foggy, tired mind!)

I start to wonder- how often does this happen to other Celiacs? Is everyone as sensitive as I am? I have been restricting myself more and more, and it doesn't seem to make a bit of difference.

Here's my current list of things that could have glutened me:
  • The "GF" potluck at work for my last day (big contender)
  • The frozen boneless, skinless chicken breasts I bought with "glucose solids" on the label. Poor quality, wish I would have read the label before I bought them. Not sure if I trust whatever they inject!
  • The 4th of July meal at a friend's house, where I helped make everything, looked up every ingredient online (like the Hormel chili with beans), and doubled-washed the pans and utensils
  • Breyer's natural vanilla ice cream from the milkshakes we made yesterday. I actually just ate some 5 minutes ago. What was I thinking?! I thought I already learned my lesson about vinegar and alcohol...
  • My latte last Friday from the only coffee shop I trust
It is so hard to tell once I get in the vicious glutening cycle. Since I have almost constant symptoms and they take at least two weeks to go away, I can't figure out when exactly I get glutened.

I guess I'm back to only food from my own home that is made from scratch. No ice cream if it has vanilla extract. Nothing with unidentifiable vinegar. Packing my lunch with no further prep at other people's houses. No processed foods.

I feel like I'm crazy for having to be so careful.

I also feel crazy for posting this online. The only way this post would be helpful to anyone is if they needed to relate!

Sunday, June 28, 2009


Newsflashes for the month:

We're moving. If I wasn't bad enough about posting before, it will probably be even worse now for awhile. Or maybe it will be better since I have a couple weeks off while we move? Who knows.

The awesome people at my old job got me a bread machine! I'm eagerly anticipating the first loaf, which should be ready in 2:48. I know it will take some tweaking to accommodate the GF-ness, but I'm so excited to try it! I also learned that there are a ton of GF bread machine recipes out there and that I don't think I had the exact ingredient list needed for any of them. Here's hoping my educated guessing works out!

I'll post my findings about my newfangled invention once I eat the results. Can't wait!

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Two years in, and I'm still learning (tangential post about soy)

Next month will mark two years since my Celiac diagnosis.

I still have a lot to learn!

I am as of yet unsuccessful in staying away from glutenation for longer than a couple weeks, even if I'm extremely vigilant. My list of choices continues to grow smaller as I add potential sources of contamination to the list... (which now includes PF Chang's with a question mark?!?!)

Besides trying (and often failing) to avoid gluten, I've also learned a few other things to minimize- dairy and soy. I was extremely lactose intolerant when I first went GF, but in my quest to not go completely nuts with my gluten deprivation, I continued to eat large amounts of dairy as I cut out the gluten.

Once I made the realization that I'd need to cut down the dairy for awhile, I thought that soy was the answer.

Wrong answer! I think soy milk dislikes me even more than dairy milk. If I'm going to deal with the GI consequences, I'll gladly take a tall glass of cow's milk. Cookies on the side, please!

I realized a few minutes ago that I ate a meal with tofu in it for lunch. I've been wondering why some of these frozen meals and I didn't agree... duh. I guess I know for the future!

Soy is a very interesting food. I've read a few books and articles about it, trying to separate fact from hype. It leaves me with a few questions:

1. Who first tasted a soy bean (especially mature beans, not edamame), and thought hmmm.... this is rather tasty. Let's make it into food! ?

If you've ever eaten a soybean out of the field, you know what I'm talking about- nasty bitterness! The soy products that we consume have been so processed that they become a tasteless shadow of their former selves for good measure- they taste pretty bad. Should we really be eating something that we have to beat into processed submission in order to make it acceptably palatable?

2. Are soy phytoestrogens a good idea to consume?

I've read studies about the link between various endocrine disorders and heavy soy consumption, including soy formula. They make a lot of sense. They are also somewhat scary when you consider that soy is considered a safe and healthy food.

These phytoestrogens are why menopausal women use soy supplements for symptom relief. They are also how some menopausal women that I know developed terrible "IBS" while taking such supplements...

3. Why does every single somewhat processed food product contain soy lecithin?

It really contains such small amounts of phytoestrogens that it is pretty much negligible in that respect, but seriously- what did we put in food before there was soy lecithin? Did we live an un-emulsified existence?

So in conclusion, Finally!- you say, I can't totally poo-poo the idea of soy (pardon the pun), but I know how my gut reacts. I'm going to stay away as much as possible.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Usefulness! Chicken Noodles with Peanut Sauce

I'm inspired to be somewhat useful here instead of my recent lamenting. So here comes my new favorite meal: a twist on a recipe in Danna Korn's Living Gluten-Free for Dummies, the perfect book for people like me :) I tried the recipe for Steak and Peanut Pepper Pasta and have since changed beef to chicken, used different pasta and veggies etc... the sauce is pretty much the same.

Chicken Noodles with Peanut Sauce

Chop chicken into bite size pieces. I used 3 boneless, skinless chicken breasts. That's what I had in the freezer.

Make sauce/marinade:

1/2 cup rice wine vinegar
1/2 cup olive oil
4 T. GF soy sauce
4 T. peanut butter (I used natural PB, the kind that is just ground up peanuts. Novel idea.)
2 T. fresh cilantro
2-3 cloves garlic
1/2 t. crushed red pepper

Blend together until smooth (no need to chop if you're gonna throw it all in the blender anyway). Use part as a marinade if you have time. Save the rest for sauce.

Cook chicken. I believe saute would be the correct term, but I'm not sure. So I'll go with: stick it in a skillet on the stove, turn up heat, and stir occasionally until done.

Soften some rice noodles (Mai Fun), use your judgment as to how many. I'm bad at that part.

Add some thinly sliced/chopped veggies. I personally like broccoli, carrots, and cabbage. I cheated this time and bought broccoli slaw mix. It was really good.

Mix the above together. Eat. Yum.

This is a very out-of-the-ordinary recipe for me. I'm pretty traditional. Once I got over the fact that it was a pretty unique flavor, I fell in love with an easy recipe. It's made even easier if you make lots of sauce and freeze it.


Monday, April 13, 2009

Renewing my vows...

I did it again. I ate food that other people, in their kindness, prepared with me in mind. Now I'm paying for it.

I am so tired of taking tiny risks and dealing with the huge consequences.

In response to this, I am renewing my vows to Gluten Freedom. I feel as though I need to define my commitment, though long-term, by setting some short-term goals. I post this for my own benefit... So for the next two weeks:
  1. I will only eat food that I have made myself or have personally supervised its preparation by someone who understands cross-contamination. (Like my mom!)
  2. If there is any question in my mind, I will err on the side of caution.
  3. I will not take risks because "I already feel terrible- what more can it hurt?"
  4. I will eat fresh fruits and vegetables.
  5. I will cut out as many dairy products as possible, as I know that they particularly bother me post-glutening.
  6. I will also avoid soy with the exception of tamari. I like soy, but it does not return the sentiment.
  7. I will exercise despite my fatigue.
  8. I will get as much sleep as possible.
Now, I just have a few hurdles to address for the above, the first being the conference I'll be attending next week. The people in charge have graciously offered me a meal card that would request gluten free meals. How much do I trust this? Am I willing to put my health into the hands of strangers? How difficult will it be to take all my own food and eat out of a hotel room for three days? Can I do a little bit of both? (like use my own food as a back-up in case I don't trust the food?) I see snack bars in my future...

To achieve #7, I need to go to bed. Good night.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Getting Glutened

What to do, what to do?!

You know that sinking feeling you get when you realize you just got glutened? It's terrible. I feel the effects of a mild glutening for weeks.

In the last almost 2 years since my celiac diagnosis, I have had a total of about 3 weeks where I have felt like my old self. Those weeks were amazing. I was a believer in the GF diet.

Unfortunately, I feel like I alternate getting glutened and getting sick. It seems like as soon as I start recovering from gluten, I come down with the latest fad virus. As soon as those symptoms go away, I'm back to being glutened. I wonder if they are related?

Maybe I'm willing to take more risks with food when I feel better?

I wish I knew of something constructive to do when I get that glutened feeling. I mostly just make sure I have plenty of coffee on hand to help me survive the next many mornings.

Easter is going to be interesting. I'm about a week post suspected glutening and 3 days post virus. I REALLY don't want to take any chances, but I'm not very good at telling people no-- especially when they have gone out of their way to (try to) meet my dietary needs.

Sorry for the downer post. I'm sure other sensitive celiacs can relate. I don't know how much more careful about being GF I can be unless I sit at home and constantly munch on fresh vegetables... Now there's an idea!

Saturday, March 14, 2009

My Friend, P.F. Chang

Apparently, I'm on the once-a-month posting plan.

Life is busy.

I'm having a blog identity crisis.

I don't write recipes, so I can't be one of those cool GF recipe blogs. I also haven't baked in a really long time (like since my last post with the yummy cookie pics).

I somehow find myself talking about Celiac all the time, but yet I don't feel like I have enough useful tips and information to share with the blog world.

So I guess, since I've been away from home all week (and way too close to PF Chang's), I'll consider this post a tribute to PF Chang's.

For those of you who are not lucky enough to have one near you, PF Chang's is a national chain upscale Chinese restaurant. "China Bistro" if you will. It is also one of the very few places that I feel comfortable eating and have not yet had a suspicion that I've been poisoned.

You walk in and ask for a gluten-free menu, and they hand you a GF menu. You then order off said menu. They bring you food. You eat it (with gusto). Then you are not sick.

Seriously, it is such a HUGE relief, especially for people like me who are uber-sensitive to gluten. I get giddy when I think about it!

I have eaten there or at Pei Wei (the carryout version) 3 times in the past week. I'll mention again that I was not home and I was staying with friends, so I do have some semblance of an excuse because I had to figure out some way to eat while there.

A few of my favorite things:
GF lettuce wraps- they are pretty much famous for them
Chang's spicy chicken- the definition of spicy often varies, but kind of like sweet and sour chicken with a kick
Singapore street noodles-thin rice noodles with chicken and shrimp
Flourless chocolate dome- more fudge than cake, not really worth the price unless it is your birthday or you really want a chocolate fix!

I know I sound like a salesperson, but no, I have no stake in the company. But, mental note, maybe I should...

Monday, February 16, 2009

Top Five things I did wrong as a newbie Celiac

I ran across a post at Gluten Free Mommy's website that detailed her top 10 silly mistakes she has made on the GF diet. Of course, it got me to thinking about my own Top 10. Except right now I think it is more of a Top 5, partly because I'm intimidated by coming up with 10 somewhat useful experiences to share. So here goes. (Note- this may be subject to future editing)

1. Distillation- I already mentioned distillation and how it is not my friend. I remember doing distillation in chem lab more than a few times. Gluten should not survive the process. However- I was led to believe that any distilled product (i.e. alcohol or vinegar) is ok.

Not so, says the small intestine!
Was that vodka really triple-distilled? Does Frank of Frank's Red Hot want to explain to me how the addition of hot sauce to my meal caused a severe gluten reaction? BBQ sauce is a whole 'nother topic.

2. Cross-contamination- basically, me thinking that cross-contamination is less of a risk than it really is. I remember reading my first bits of GF info online. I thought most of these people were nuts (apologies... I now see the error of my judgmental ways).

How could it be possible for something in such small amounts that you can't even see to poison a person and cause weeks of distress?! Come on, lighten up! WRONG. Example: Chipotle. Nuff said.

3. GF Definitions- "gluten free" on a label does not always mean gluten free. In fact, the FDA does not yet have an official definition of how many parts per million of gluten are acceptable in a product labeled GF. Personally, it is my opinion that because different people have different thresholds for the amount of gluten they can tolerate, GF SHOULD MEAN ABSOLUTELY GF!!

Of course, I am a tad biased because I know I am very sensitive. But seriously- how can anyone ever be sure about what a product's gluten status is if there is a ppm allowance? (label it as totally, absolutely, without a doubt, 100% GF?)

4. Coffee at church, coffee at my parents' house, anywhere but home- I would never have expected this one. I Love coffee. Yes, that is a capital L. I would not have made it through school without it.

The weird part was when I started noticing that almost any coffee except what I made at home went right through my system, if you catch my drift. I also started feeling glutened every time I would go visit my fam for the weekend. They have one of those sweet Gevalia coffee makers that they give you free if you sign up to get coffee delivered. Unfortunately, it took literally until a couple months ago for me to realize that Gevalia's flavored coffees are considered to contain gluten. Ugh. Contamination right there. No wonder I always felt awesome after I made French press coffee, not the drip stuff.

Same thing goes for church. God bless the people who serve in the coffee ministry! I'll be sticking to tea...

5. Underestimating the mental/emotional impact of being GF- There is a distinct feeling of relief that comes with a Celiac diagnosis. There is something physically wrong! I'm not crazy! There is an easy fix! (Or so I thought at first).

Our culture revolves around food. Many cultures do. How many times do you go out with friends for anything besides a meal and/or drinks? Our family gatherings are always situated around a meal.

We didn't eat out much before the diagnosis just because we didn't have the money. We still don't have the money, but it's hard to completely avoid going out to eat. I don't unless it is one of the restaurants where I know I can eat safely (and I can count them on one hand).

Try going on vacation and not getting glutened.

As wonderful as it is to know what caused my symptoms and how to fix it, I don't think I give myself enough credit for the emotional toll that it takes. I'm grateful that I can be healthy now. I genuinely laugh at jokes about my eating habits. I try to make light of the situation, but it sometimes really weighs on me. I feel like I talk about it too much, but maybe that's what I need to do to deal with being different and inconvenienced. And sometimes- I just REALLY don't feel like cooking.

That being said, this whole experience of going GF has taught me a alot about myself and the people I'm around. I'm indebted to those who have taken the time to send me an email with a gluten-free recipe they came across, or my coworker who made a flourless chocolate cake for my birthday, or my boss who brought me a bag of GF chocolate chip cookies when she knew everyone else was getting free pizza for lunch.

Long story not-so-short, I need to cut myself a break every once in awhile and admit that being GF is not always easy and that sometimes it really gets old. Then I need to regroup, be grateful for the awesome people in my life who try to make it better, and realize yet again that this is my chance for the first time in my 20-some-odd-year lifetime to be truly healthy.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Who needs a recipe?

In the last week or so, I've come to a realization. I am not a stellar cook, but I knew that already. I've always followed recipes as to-the-letter as possible (while passing on the onions!). Guess what- I don't really need recipes.

I would spend a lot of time searching for the perfect recipe- gluten free, with the ingredients I had on hand, with the taste I was looking for. This week, I made cookies. I don't do a lot of baking anymore, partially because I don't like my oven in my new place. I'm also not home much. Put them together, and the desire to bake is at a minimum. My waistline and my arteries probably aren't complaining...

Baking cookies used to be like therapy for me. In grad school, if I had a big exam or if I was stressed about a project, I would bake cookies. There was something calming about it. I had a kind of rough week this week, so I baked cookies. I really wanted white chocolate chip cranberry cookies. I couldn't find an appropriate recipe. What to do?

I used a chocolate chip cookie recipe, cut in half. I replaced the evil wheat flour with a random mixture of whatever GF flours I had on hand, plus a teaspoon of xanthan gum- the GF baker's best friend. (Now, given the nature of GF flours, this might not always work, but I got lucky). They would have been perfect if not for my weird oven. They were a little too brown on the bottom, but still incredibly yummy. I can't resist them.

Going along with this newly found freedom from recipes, I made soup today. It was definitely a "freezing outside need soup" kind of day. I put in a bunch of stuff I had on hand, according to what sounded good. I ended up with a sort of Italian chicken stew. It hit the spot! I ate this over some gluten free pasta. It was even better the next day.

If memory serves me correctly, it was a combo of:

bite size pieces of cooked chicken breast
frozen spinach
1 can of diced tomatoes with garlic and basil
1 can of great northern white beans
1 can of light kidney beans
chicken broth
1 large clove of garlic, chopped
parmesan cheese to top

My last experiment was a batch of chocolate cookies with white chocolate chips. Mmmm. Don't even have a pic of those. I ate them too quickly.

So I guess I'll keep up this whole recipe experimentation thing whenever I can. It's really fun until I emerge from the enormous mess in my teensy kitchen. I wonder what's next...

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Thanks, but no thanks

So the eating out part of the GF diet: it kinda sucks. And by kinda, I mean really.

It's just something you have to learn to deal with. Or avoid. I've vacillated among a few different approaches.

At first, I actually tried to explain myself and CD to restaurant staff. Ha. I live out in the Midwest Boonies. While it is more likely to find someone who has actually seen a wheat field, people are still pretty darn clueless about gluten in food.

Then I tried just eating at selected places, ordering the safest thing I could find.

Now I'm to the point where it is going to be a place that has an obvious, officially-printed gluten free menu AND a clear understanding of cross contamination. (PF Chang's anyone? That place will cause me to go broke. Mmmm... super kudos to them)

I got glutened last weekend from Chipotle. Now, I love their food and the fact that they are very forthcoming about allergen information. However, walking into that place feels a little like walking into a casino... high-stakes gambling about to begin. The process there just screams contamination. Now I've gambled there several times and come out ok, but there have been times that have left me wondering.

There was no wondering last weekend, if you catch my drift. I woke up Saturday morning feeling like I got run over by a bus. I spent a little time in the ladies' room. I'm just starting today to be able to make it through the day with only two cups of coffee. My dermatitis herpetiformis blisters that appeared are just starting to calm down. The sores in my mouth are starting to heal. Thank God. (I don't say that in vain, I am truly thankful)

So what is the point of this post? Really, there are two.

1. Watch out for places like Chipotle and Qdoba. I figured they were too good to be true. Even if they change their gloves, how many glutened gloves were already reaching into that cheese?

2. I happened to email Applebee's about gluten because someone was going to bring food into work and wondered if there was anything there I could eat. I got pretty much the answer that I expected, and I wanted to post it here. Needless to say, I will continue to avoid Applebee's like the plague. On a positive note, at least they don't claim to be able to meet my dietary needs and then disappoint.

Thank you for your recent request for a list of
gluten-free menu items available at Applebee's.
Due to the frequency in which we change our
menus, as well as the small risk of cross-
contamination, we can not provide the list you
requested. The health and safety of our guests
is simply too important to risk sharing inaccurate
or outdated nutritional information.

You may call us at 888-59APPLE and a Guest
Relations Coordinator can work with specific
requests regarding any of the FDA's Top 8
Allergens (milk, soy, wheat, eggs, shellfish,
fish, treenut and peanut) that may be contained
in our core menu items. You can reach us between
7:00 a.m. and 7:00 p.m. Monday through Thursday
and 7:00 a.m. and 4:00 p.m. Friday, central standard time.


Adam L.
Guest Relations Coordinator II

Right. Like I'm really going to even think about eating there.
Totally not worth it.

Be careful out there, GF friends, it's a dangerous world.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Random musings of the Celiac

-I should be used to this whole gluten-free thing by now.

-I don't typically miss gluten. I remember how I felt... Still do every couple weeks if I let my guard down one tiny bit...

-Sometimes, I miss my mom's sugar cookies. They are the best sugary substance in the world. Hard to replicate in the GF realm.

-CD diagnosis is overwhelming. There should be a counseling session between a newly diagnosed Celiac and an older, wiser one (preferably non-wacky and knows what they are talking about...) for every new diagnosis. Much better than sending you out the door of the doctor's office, still reeling, with nothing but the internet at your disposal. And a note scrawled that you should see a dietitian. Which your insurance won't cover unless you've just been diagnosed with diabetes. And who ask you for information on gluten when you talk to them. (Disclaimer- there are some awesome dietitians out there. I work with some. Just wish I knew them a couple years ago!)

-CD should be taken more seriously. Complications are dire. I have a friend who, at 24, has degenerative changes in her spine that cause her a lot of pain. I've had a few issues myself. I think I'm having more. It's scary.

-German gluten-free chocolate is really yummy. And it is labeled GF! Granted, the words are in German, but you can get the idea. Every Celiac should have a wonderful German friend who sends them boxes of goodies at Christmastime!

-Insurance companies are annoying. I don't know how the majority of patients work with them. I have a hard enough time as a health care professional taking care of my patients' insurance issues, much less my own personal ones. I spent sooooooooooooooo much time on the phone in the last few days to no avail trying to get a medication covered for a patient with a genetic clotting disorder. If the patient doesn't receive it, she could have a blood clot and die. Or not be able to have the surgery she needs. Or pay hundreds of dollars a day out of pocket even when she has prescription insurance. That's not right.

-I think that's it for now. Thanks for listening.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Risotto, Take 1

Well, I tried.

Risotto is a tricky thing. I knew that going into it, but I tried anyway. I made the bacon spinach risotto from Gluten Free Girl's blog. It deserved a big "eh, not-so-hot" rating. Mostly my fault, I think. I undercooked it just a tad. And my bacon never crisped up (I think it was drowning in butter instead...).

All in all, I ate it. And I think I know how to do better next time. We'll call it a learning experience :)

I did, however, make some pretty darn good soup a la Rachael Ray. Check this recipe out! We don't have fancy things like broccoli rabe around here, so I put in some spinach and some broccoli and it turned out quite nicely. I used my favorite Jennie-O hot italian turkey sausage
(as mentioned in a previous post). It was swell! Highly recommended!