Eating GF Update September 2017

Eating gluten free can seem impossible when you first explore the possibility of giving up all sources of gluten. But then a few weeks or months you are able to make it work, you find gluten free flours, mixes, recipes for naturally gluten free meals and ones for gluten free breads, rolls, cakes, pies and cookies. After a while great food comes out of your kitchen that anyone is happy to enjoy.

composed shrimp and pasta salad

 composed shrimp salad with green goddess dressing

But, there are days that are difficult for someone with celiac.  Days where I crave a real wheat based New York bagel toasted and topped with cream cheese.  A slice of pizza from either of my favorite parlors of past years when I could eat pizza anywhere it was sold. Days where I would give anything to just walk into a hoagie shop and buy a big Italian sub with all the trimmings, not asking any questions, just forking over my money and diving into that big fatty treat with that crisp and tender roll made with wheat flour. Real puff pastry formed into crust for a dainty dessert.  Oh so many things I miss.

quiche slice

quiche with bacon and mushrooms

Still, I am so glad to be healthy. I don’t need any medicine to combat my celiac disease.  Just better food choices. And I find many things can be replicated out of gf flours and grains.  Folks are often surprised by how tasty my gf desserts are.  They are shocked by cookies that are even more delicate and flavorful made with my favorite gf flour blend. My pie crust is just wonderful, I honestly don’t miss the old one at all. And I make cobblers, crisps, waffles and pancakes.  So many tasty treats and entrees that I have swapped out all purpose flour for a gf flour choice. It can be done and it gets easier over time. I avoid eating too many processed gf foods; my preference is to cook from scratch and make the majority of my food in my own kitchen. Free of chemicals and weird things that are so unhealthy; like hydrogenated fats or excessive sugar or salt which is much better for all of my body.  So, I am doing great.

fig and greek yogurt cake

Fig and Greek yogurt cake

Please don’t feel sorry for me or anyone you know with celiac.  We are doing just fine and enjoying great food while being so much healthier.  I would much rather give up gluten than give up chocolate! Truth.

Be safe, eat well and be happy. Enjoy life.

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GF Playdough, Yeap… That’s For Real!

If you have small kids, teach or have grandkids then you as a celiac have to deal with playdough.  Any parent with celiac or if you have a child with celiac should or does know that playdough contains wheat.  Not safe in the least.  What can you do if the kiddos want to do the playdough thing? I am totally loath to even touch the stuff much less actually shape it. I hate getting it stuck in the carpet. Even a bit on the tables/desks freaks me out!  I teach in elementary school and unfortunately I have to deal with playdough especially if I am in kindergarten.  Which is where I spent some of the past three days in, so I was really struggling with the playdough issue. Luckily I was only assisting and the regular teacher was so kind; she made allowances for my issues with gluten and I didn’t have to touch the stuff.  Still, I itched to show the kids how to form it; I have a serious hobby as a potter and I love to form things of clay. I found it tough to stand back from teaching how to mold and shape it.

So I did some research and found a few gluten free playdough recipes.  Here is the one I used in case you want to make some for your kids. I only made half the recipe as I was low on rice flour and really didn’t need a lot. I think a whole batch could be divided in half so you could have 2 colors. Don’t make a giant batch but you could quickly make several in a row to have a variety of colors. It is as easy as can be. Put all the dry ingredients in a sauce pan, mix it with a whisk and add the oil then water and cook briefly. Turn it out, cool a couple minutes; color with food dye and let cool before bagging it.  Here is the original recipe (celiacfamily.com) and I list the ingredients below for my half batch. Just double the recipe for enough for two balls of playdough.

playdough

GF Playdough

½ cup white rice flour

¼ cup cornstarch

¼ cup salt

1 ½ tsp. cream of tartar

1 tsp. canola oil

½ cup hot water (not boiling)

Food coloring; a few drops

Mix all the dry ingredients in the sauce pan, add oil then water, cook on low heat for 1-3 minutes stirring constantly; it looks watery at first and then quickly becomes solid and can easily be formed into a ball.

Turn the bump of rough dough out onto a sheet of parchment paper, cool for 4-5 minutes, sprinkle with a few drops of food dye, knead it until it is a solid color and smooth. Store your playdough in a Ziploc bag.  The recipe says it keeps fine for at least 2 years!

Have fun!

Pickles Without the Heat

Some of us adore pickles and some dislike them.  If you are a pickle fan read on.  If not, read anyway as these are far better than the tired flabby canned pickles found at the grocery store.  A good gardening friend gave me this recipe.  It is really easy and rather fun to construct.  Even better is that you can pickle most any veggies. I have tried zucchini, carrots, cauliflower, green peppers, cabbage and red peppers.  Of course, cucumbers are in there too!  Debating beets….hummm. Plus there is no heating up the kitchen with canning equipment which has real appeal in this endless heat wave. sausage and beans, beets 006.JPG

You do need a couple grape leaves.  You might be able to find a neighbor with a grape vine.  I am sure you could use wild grape leaves from a state park or along a country road.   They really add to the authenticity of it so snag a few from somewhere.

Also needed are 3 dill heads (the flowers of a dill plant).  This might be more problematic but if you know a real gardener, aka someone like me, you can beg the dill heads as frankly they are not used much for cooking and I was happy to give some to the friend who gave me this recipe.  Grow your own dill for next summer; it is so easy to do and it does reseed and come back year after year.  Dill is lovely in potato salad and in other salads like my stuffed tomatoes, see that blog post… pickle jar

Refrigerator Pickles

2 cups white vinegar

¼ cup salt, I used kosher salt in mine

4 cups water (I used 3)

¾ cup sugar

3 garlic cloves cut up

3 dill heads

2 grape leaves

Bring the first four ingredients to a boil in a sauce pan and let cool fully.  Put the other three ingredients in the bottom of a gallon jar.  Cut up your veggies and pile in the jar.  Top with the vinegar mixture. Put on the lid. Put in the fridge and let marinate for 3 days before trying it.

I have pickled cucumbers, short zucchini spears, broken up cauliflower heads, thin slices of white turnip, peppers, broccoli spears, and celery chunks.

My grandson Aiden who is almost five clamors for the pickle jar to come out when he eats meals here.  I say, eat your food and you can have some pickles! He gobbles up his food and waits expectantly for me to fish out a pickle or two.

I like how fresh they are and how crunchy the pieces still are. Plus they have no additives or preservatives.  You can keep adding veggies as you use them up.  I think the tough part is fishing them out of the jar.  The other day I lost a fork in there but luckily it didn’t go to the bottom of the jar; a cuke round stopped its descent! Now, go pickle fresh veggies and have some fun with it….

Originally posted by me late last summer 2014.

Angie’s GF Traveler Tales

 

Recently I went down to Florida to visit family and friends. After landing I shopped at the local grocery store; leaving with food for cooking at my daughter’s place as well as some cinnamon chex for breakfast and Kind bars for snacking.   My hotel had a full breakfast but the only things I ate from there was milk, juice and yogurt. Hence the box of cinnamon chex….

I baked a birthday cake for my daughter using a box of Pillsbury GF Funfetti cake.  Not too pricy and it made two layers *some gf cake mixes only make one layer. No mixer so I used a floppy big old plastic spoon to beat the cake batter. No cooling racks; placed each layer on a plate. I frosted it with chocolate chocolate chip canned icing.  Turned out amazingly delicious and my humble gf offering was well received by a hungry-for-cake public!trip to kasey 003 Flying 1350 miles to sing happy birthday to my dear child: pricy.  The joyous look on Kasey’s face as we sung: priceless.

I cooked two suppers and two lunches for them in a very not gluten free kitchen (bread, bread crumbs, all purpose flour and cereal everywhere)  My efforts were complete with lots of pan washing and counter wiping and a host of praying for safe gluten free eating.  Prayers answered.  I did not get glutened at her apartment.  I did get a twinge on the plane back after passing a packet of pretzels to my return flight seatmate since I couldn’t eat them and he could.  Take away: don’t even touch those small snack packets; pretzel dust on the outside makes them a hazard!

I went on to The Villages for a couple of days.  My friends there have been known to bake cake but I was knocked out by two things Claire made for me; thin little cloud breads for my lunch sandwiches which I stuffed with Boar’s Head deli meat and cheese and she baked a from scratch gluten free pineapple spice cake with cream cheese icing!  The cloud bread has very few ingredients and is baked on a sheet of parchment paper on a cookie sheet. She made the recipe a few days before I got there: froze several of the pieces for my sandwich enjoyment and said she was surprised to find how tasty it was.

As to the cake, Claire bought a 9×14 throw away pan and washed all her cooking stuff carefully before hand.  The cake was excellent, a substantial fruity and nutty treat!  The cloud bread was just like mine if smaller.  She had no trouble in making either item.  I was so impressed that someone would go to this level of effort to make my visit wonderful. I didn’t ask nor would I expect anyone to bake like that for me but she did. What a friend!

They also took me out to The Outback where I enjoyed a lovely gluten free meal of grilled salmon, sautéed veggies and a baked yam. This was a real treat for sure for someone who rarely eats out. Outback is known for its great steaks but I was in the mood for salmon and I was well rewarded with my tasty entree.  They both had steaks and I was a tad envious but my entree choice was no sacrifice; it was delish indeed.

salmon at outbck

My salmon came without the salsa but was well seasoned with lemon pepper.

I then traveled north to another family member’s home up in Gainesville, she eats gluten free for wheat intolerance; no worries there for me and very good eating indeed.  I left with a sandwich supper for my long drive plus a blueberry muffin for a snack and a tummy full of safe food!

Moral of this little story: if you have celiac don’t just stay home this summer. Advise and educate others on how to feed and care for your celiac needs.  If your family and friends are educated they can make your visit safe and very yummy. Oh and a little bit of luck is necessary because gluten is just all over this country!

Aldi’s Celebrates National Celiac Awareness Month

Aldi’s has some new gluten free stuff of late.  May is National Celiac Awareness Month so everyone I know who has celiac is buzzing to help everyone understand celiac disease and it seems Aldi’s has brought out a bunch of new LiveGFree products in the past few weeks.  Aldi’s is a German company but they have a number of stores in the US and sell many gluten free products (the LiveGFree line comes to mind) and mark some of their store brand prepared foods GF which is a big help…I get tired of reading tiny print to check for questionable ingredients.  Anyway, I got a few things there last week and I want to share my thoughts.

First off, gluten free spinach and cheese ravioli sold as frozen loose ones in a bag. I boiled them for 7-8 minutes and served with a simple puttanesca sauce; spicy tomato sauce with black olives and capers.  Topped it with some fresh grated real Parmesan cheese.  Fantastic! The texture of the dough was great and the filling delish. Bet they would be great sautéed with onions and butter.

aldi ravioli

I have some plain cheese ones too; I am guessing they are good too. They also sell a rectangular box of ravioli in sauce that is pretty tasty when heated in the microwave, get them often for a treat. I just don’t have time to make homemade ravioli these day so I am thrilled that Aldi’s is providing tasty choices for me; was really missing my ravs!

multigrain tortilla chips

Secondly, I love their Simply Nature multigrain tortilla chips….just addictive with hummus.  Speaking of which, Giant has store brand hummus in a wide variety of flavors.  Most are marked gluten free right on the lid.  Excellent flavor and texture and I especially like the spinach artichoke and roasted garlic varieties.hummus

Aldi’s has some yummy crackers and chips; these sweet chili ones are nearly addictive if spicy! chili rice crisps

Finally, I found a couple varieties of gf hot pockets, ham and cheese and spinach, artichoke and kale pockets. I think I wrote before about the tasty pepperoni hot pockets and the Southwestern ones which are okay.  Ham and cheese hot pockets are quite nice but I really enjoy the spinach, artichoke and kale ones, really great flavor.  Love them for quick work lunches, with a yogurt and a piece of fresh fruit. spinach hot pockets

They sell eggs cheap which I use in great quantity when I bake as well as decent produce like baby kale, arugula, berries, citrus and avocados.  Better prices than most grocery stores.

I got a few other new food items at Aldi’s.  I will be testing them in coming weeks. Yumm!

Cherry Kefir Quick Smoothie

Sometimes I want a healthy snack that is in a drink format.  Especially if I am in a rush I can drink a glass of something while I change clothes, feed the cats, put out the garbage and then run out the door to my second job.  So a liquid snack is welcome.  I don’t want to drink ensure; not even sure it is safe for me so I thought of kefir. pots 003

I make my own kefir, a fermented beverage that is usually made with milk although you can use coconut water or even plain water, I think, in creating it. It is chock full of healthy probiotics that everyone could use in making a healthy environment in your gut, especially we celiacs. You can buy kefir at the grocery store in a bottle; a bit pricier than making your own.  They sell fancy flavors of kefir.

But my plain kefir can be boring after a while. I like to mix it with fruit juice like pineapple juice.  Then, the other day I had a brain storm and took some Ocean Spray Cherry Juice Cocktail (about 4 ounces) and mixed it in my blender with a banana, 2-3 ice cubes and some of my kefir (about 4 ounces); magically transforming the bland kefir into a fancy cherry smoothie.  cherry kefir and winter wonderland 001The resulting tall cold glass of pink yummy stuff was so much more healthy than soda or Gatorade and as quick to make as most smoothies.  The cherry juice drink has 55 calories for 4 ounces and your kefir’s calories will depend on what kind of milk you made it from.  The banana’s calories depends on it’s size; not much regardless. No added sugar by me either. Regardless, it is healthy, tasty and a great change of pace.  Try one made with your favorite juice beverage.  Let me know of any good combos you create!

Surprising facts on GF Safety for You Non-Celiacs

Did you know that once a person with celiac disease stops eating wheat it becomes even worse when they do accidentally consume a food containing gluten?  After I quit wheat I thought that I could cheat once in a while and not really suffer any consequences.  Not so. It is like your body becomes incredibly sensitive to all gluten substances and even a tiny bit is too much.

A few examples: if I splash beer on my hands while serving a mug at Musikfest and then unthinkingly touch a finger to my mouth; instant contamination and feeling sick is sure to follow.  Same goes if I am volunteering in a church kitchen and touch bread or flour and then touch my mouth with that contaminated hand. Zapped again!

Then there are multiple ways to be contaminated by food that should be safe: If I eat at a pancake house and order eggs and home fries, if my food is cooked on the same griddle spot as your pancakes five minutes earlier; instantly it is contaminated and unsafe for anyone with celiac disease.  And sometimes the home fries have flour in them and waitresses seldom know about every bit of what goes into a dish and may tell you it is safe when it contains wheat of some sort.

If the chef sprinkles seasoned salt or spice mixes on my rice or potatoes, it is likely uneatable for me.  The reason is that manufacturers often put all purpose flour in seasoning mixes to facilitate flow and to create a smooth mixture of spices.  This is why many things that appear safe are not; “seasoning mixes” are the culprit that makes rice pilafs often uneatable by celiacs.  rice pilaf

Thanksgiving is coming up.  Beware, some turkeys have brine that contains some gluten; I got sick that way last November.  Butterball turkeys fresh or frozen are gluten free.  Plus, a turkey stuffed with regular bread stuffing is unsafe for someone with celiac to eat even if they don’t touch the stuffing.  Really. You need to buy or make a gluten free stuffing; either based in rice, gf cornbread or just buy a bag of gluten free bread to make your stuffing. Aldi’s has gluten free stuffing for both chickens and turkeys.

butterballbutterball

Even GF pasta can be contaminated if it is drained in a colander that is used for wheat pasta.  The gluten in pasta is extra sticky and it is nearly impossible to get all of it off a colander.  So, many times pasta that should be safe gets contaminated when the cook drains it in a colander that has tiny particles of wheat gluten sticking around the strainer holes. Restaurants that advertise GF menus need to have dedicated equipment like strainers, colanders, pots and utensils. Really: I often ask about the colander when I attempt to safely eat pasta at a restaurant.colander

The times I fail to carefully read a list of ingredients are the times I have to throw things away later as I find out they are unsafe for me.  Same goes for times I eat at places which don’t have GF menus.  They often tell me they serve GF foods but they really don’t understand fully how much they have to do to keep my food safe.  See three paragraphs above….

A few people seem to feel celiacs are exaggerating or being over cautious.  When in reality all that caution is necessary to eat safely and avoid gluten.  It only takes a tiny amount of gluten to contaminate food or drink.

So if you are cooking for someone with gluten intolerance, be sure to read my previous posts that cover how to plan, prepare, and serve a GF meal that is safe (November 2014) and your meal will be a success for everyone enjoying it!

And if you are in a restaurant don’t roll your eyes when the person at the next table starts to ask pointed questions on ingredients and method of preparation with respect to gluten.  They are just trying to eat a safe meal out.  Sometimes this experience is kinda a roll of the dice for us celiacs so be patient and polite if you come into contact with this situation when you are dining out.  And yes, that goes double for you wait staff persons!  We are not trying to hassle you, just attempting to stay safe and enjoy a good safe meal.

Also, I know people who get exasperated by labels that say gluten free on stuff you assume is safe.  I hear those comments sometimes in the store! Well, I as a celiac applaud when companies put that GF label on foods. I feel much more safe consuming food that is labeled gluten free because of all the sneaky or hidden ways we can accidentally eat food with some amount of gluten.  Still, there are stories going around about food labeled gluten free which upon closer examination clearly had a gluten ingredient.  I am guessing companies love to slap those two words on labels to sell food, whether the food is really gluten free or not.  I have to read the label regardless just to be sure.

Finally, foods labeled gluten free make my life easier as I’m someone who must avoid the stuff at all costs.  Just know that I am thrilled when I find something safe to snack on, especially when it is in the main stream of foods; food not specifically manufactured for me as a celiac.  Why? I love it because those things tend to be cheaper and tastier than stuff marketed solely to the gluten free consumer.  If it is for everyone the price is better; they can’t afford to sock your average buyer with a doubled price just because it is also gluten free.  And if it doesn’t taste good; few in the main stream will purchase it so we are ensured better tasting products.

In summary; now you can see how important it is to have products that are labeled gluten free and why your friend with celiac has a zillion questions when you have lunch together! Be understanding!

Revised but originally published November 2014.