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!