Tuesday, December 30, 2008
Onion rings are a rare treat since they are rarely gluten-free in a restaurant and a total pain in the neck to prepare. I made the beer batter (Redbridge for my batter, Bard’s for me) and then let it rest for a half hour. Onion slicing, even Vidalia’s, is a tear inducing event and then there is that oil. Right now my house is an olfactory nightmare of hot cooking oil smells and the cover up smell of Pumpkin Spice and Baked Apple scented candles. It will smell like a greasy fry joint for a couple of days, yuck.
The first batch was a bust. The oil wasn’t hot enough and then I tried moving them around with my cooking tongs. Basically, all the batter stuck to the bottom and I had a bunch of naked onions swimming around in oil. I scooped everything out and ate the first batch anyway. The crispy bits of batter were really good. A moment on the lips, forever on the hips…and probably not doing much good for the arteries either.
The second batch wasn’t much better because the oil still wasn’t hot enough, but then it all kicked in to place. Golden brown, hot onion rings gently lifted out of the bubbling oil for a brief pat down on paper towels and then right to the table. It just doesn’t get any better than that.
Right now, the onion rings are sitting like lead but they tasted sweet, crispy and light as one after the other went from mouth to tummy. Good thing that my New Year’s resolution to get 150 minutes of exercise per week starts in a couple of days as well. Happy New Year!
Thursday, December 25, 2008
Today started with four kids piled on my bed to wake me up, the usual Christmas day tradition all captured on video. I swear there isn’t one minute of video where I look like a normal person. They were nice to me though, they waited until 8am.
By 8:15 the living room was a sea of torn paper and everyone was happy with their goodies. Since 9am we have had the cacophony of Christmas carols mixed with the atonal sounds of kids belting out Bon Jovi on Rock Band. A full on reminder that I forgot to purchase tomato juice for Bloody Marys today!
How does this relate to gluten? Good question. I did have a delicious Glutino bagel with cream cheese and lox for breakfast. I also used peanut butter, my favorite gluten-free food, to get a big wad of gum out of my youngest son’s hair. (My celiac was enthusiastically playing fake guitar on a Radiohead tune and the gum went flying out of his mouth…they paused the game to try to figure out where it landed. Big sister #2 laughed hysterically when she found it…madness ensued and all was resolved with peanut butter and a shower.) Another reminder of my tomato juice forgetfulness.
Dinner is in the oven and I’ve started prepping food for tomorrow’s extended family celebration. All of it is gluten-free! The marinade for the beef, sweet potato puree, the crumble for the apple crisp and the green salad with all the fixings are prepared for everyone to eat—celiacs included. Food is a large part of any celebration and adapting it to a gluten-free diet is so much easier today than it was eleven years ago when I was diagnosed.
The holiday season is perfect for those treats, savory and sweet, that remind us of our childhood. We in turn lovingly prepare these same treats for our children to carry with them into their adult lives. Gluten-free diets don’t change tradition, it just requires some ingenuity. All of us at Gluten-Free Living wish our readers a delicious holiday season!
Friday, December 19, 2008
It bears asking the question, why are we still serving snacks at school parties that are brought from home? In an era of allergies and in an obesity epidemic maybe the new “paradigm” should be food-free parties, because all these allergies turn the provider of food into a train wreck of fear. Gluten-free I could handle blindfolded with one arm tied behind my back, nut-free is ok too because enough of my kids have a friend with a peanut allergy...sesame seed-free kind of threw me.
Mind you, the celiac wasn’t mine this time! Yesterday's party was in my other son’s class, the one who lives for wheat containing carbohydrates. I really thought long and hard about this party snack---and I have to tell you in the crazy month of December, with only three weeks between Thanksgiving break and the start of holiday vacation AND two half days thrown in for teacher conferences—the last thing I had time for was worrying about this snack.
But, I think I worried enough to come up with a decent snack. I brought in grapes and ice cream sundae cups (strawberry and chocolate). The only mistake was bringing in two flavors, strawberry was definitely not cool. I was just grateful that no one had a dairy allergy because then perhaps I would have resorted to carrot sticks to accompany the grapes.
The real point is that kids have food issues by the dozens these days and too many of these kids are overweight, so I think as adults, we need to refocus kids' gatherings away from food. Perhaps these elementary school parties should include a movement game, a craft and a story and call it a day! I don’t think that sounds bah humbug at all.
A rushed holiday season can mean a stressed holiday season, no matter who you are. But if you are managing a gluten-free lifestyle along with all your cards, decorating and wrapping it might seem especially tense. You don't have the option of buying last minute store-bought cookies - unless you're lucky enough to live near a really great and well-stocked, gluten-free bakery.
We've tried to help with the holiday guide on our website, http://www.glutenfreeliving.com/.
And you, like everyone else, you can pick the things about the holidays that matter most or are the most fun and skip the things that you are just doing out of obligation without enjoyment. Sounds so hard, we know. Your family and friends have expectations. How do you cut back?
Interestingly, cutting back is the theme this holiday season. Mostly it's a matter of money and so many people have less of it. Mixed in, though, is a little hope that paring our holiday excess might lead us to a good place.All the holidays we celebrate this season are rooted in the best of the human spirit - hope, courage, faith, love and peace.
At Gluten-Free Living we wish you all of these both during the holidays and throughout 2009.
Tuesday, December 16, 2008
I figured this was a perfect opportunity—since there is still plenty of time to ship things before the holidays get here—to ask for some gluten-free gift suggestions from all of you. What are some great suggestions for a gluten-free gift for Christmas, Hanukkah, hostess gifts, New Year’s Eve and maybe we will just round this out to Valentine’s Day too?
While I think a subscription to Gluten-Free Living is a nice one, tell me your gift ideas…
Saturday, December 13, 2008
After we found our gorgeous tree, we went food shopping. Stew Leonard’s is a regional grocery store with top notch butcher, dairy, fish selection, bakery and produce. My kids never go shopping with me, but they enjoy Stew Leonard’s for all of the “food demos.” The celiacs in my family rarely get to sample much. Today, however, was different.
Stew Leonard’s is set up in maze fashion, which is pure marketing genius since shoppers must wind through the entire store to get to the check out. Trust me, extra stuff always ends up in the cart…even more so with four kids in tow. As I rounded a corner, familiar gluten-free packaging caught my eye. On the shelf was Gilbert’s Goodies! As I was pointing them out to my son and picking a few packages off the shelves, Liz Gilbert appeared.
I re-introduced myself because we had met each other at the Colin Leslie Walk in Rye, NY. The first time I met Liz, she was selling her products at farmer’s markets and by word of mouth. Liz inspired a little section called “Baker’s Dozen” in Gluten-Free Living because I thought it would be good to promote new bakers in the process of building their clientele.
Gilbert’s Goodies had a little write up in New for You in the Vol 8, #1 in the first section of “Baker’s Dozen.” Then something exciting happened for me, I saw Gilbert’s Goodies in Whole Foods in White Plains, NY. It means a lot to me to see entrepreneurs succeed and I hope Gluten-Free Living played a tiny part in that.
But, I digress! It was a thrill to see a gluten-free food demo in Stew Leonard’s. My son was excited and another guy rounded the corner and exclaimed “Wow, gluten-free cookies, that’s one less stop I have to make today.” It turns out the gentleman in charge of food demos at Stew Leonard’s, Joe, is a recently diagnosed celiac.
Joe was struggling to figure out what he could and couldn’t eat and I had him write down my website. In the meantime, he was a little sad because he was also setting up a garlic bread and lasagna food demo today…foods that he loved but could no longer eat.
I explained to Joe that in time, he would figure it all out and be able to replace the foods he loved. He had already taken a proactive step by introducing a gluten-free product to his store.
Our tree is now in a bucket getting a large drink of water, the groceries are unpacked and we’ve already opened up all the baked goods. Congratulations to Liz! For more information on these places, click on these links Gilbert’s Goodies and Stew Leonard’s. I hope everyone has a gluten-free happy moment during this holiday season!
Wednesday, December 10, 2008
Carol Fenster's new "1,000 Gluten-Free Recipes" was right up there with books from Bon Appetit and the editors of Food and Wine. Writer Kate Shatzkin said that because of the current economy, she chose books that pack a lot between their covers. "We want the cookbooks we give to offer more - more tips, more variety, more recipes," she wrote.
Carol's terrific new book certainly fills the bill. In fact, Gluten-Free Living editor and publisher Ann Whelan gives the book rave reviews in the new issue of our magazine. Ann also asked Carol to tell a little about what it's like to develop and taste test 1,000 recipes. Check out the magazine for details. (By the way, GFL is being sold at Borders bookstores for the first time this month! The first release is small so if you don't find us ask the manager about offering GFL in the future.)
I had the good fortune of running into Carol at a meeting recently, and I asked how she had managed to maintain her slender figure with all that cooking and sampling. With her usual good humor, Carol confessed she had added a few pounds. It looked like she had also managed to lose them!
If you really like the popover recipe from the book that the Sun included along with the story, you might find yourself tipping the scales with a few extra pounds. Ahh, but it would be worth it. To see the Sun story and recipe, go to http://www.baltimoresun.com/.
I should tell you that my husband is an editor at the Sun and gave me a heads up that Carol's book would be on the food page.
But my 14-year-old son (who may be one of the last teenagers in the country who still reads a real newspaper while eating his bowl of cereal) just happened to notice it. He was pretty excited to find a gluten-free cookbook in the newspaper and made sure he pointed it out to me. Now I'm pointing it out to you.
Thursday, December 4, 2008
It was unnerving to read in one story that Wellshire Farms chicken bites, and chicken and beef corn dogs that were labeled "gluten free" were independently tested and found to contain anywhere from 200 to 2,200 parts per million of gluten.
"How could that be?" you probably asked yourself while either sighing with relief that you had never bought the products or searching through the freezer to chuck any that you had purchased.
But the real question is how wide spread the problem of mislabeled gluten-free food really is? And the unnerving answer is that no one knows.
The Tribune, in its broader stories about problems with allergen labeling, reported mislabeling of gluten from only one company. (There was mention of the potential for gluten in Whole Foods corn tortillas, but independent tests found no gluten in them). What would we find if we tested a number of products that are labeled "gluten free?"
There are many specialty gluten-free food makers who take steps to make sure their products are safe. They make them in manufacturing plants where no gluten-containing products are made. They test ingredients and then they test the final food. Many gluten-free companies were started by individuals who have celiac disease or gluten intolerance who are aware of the dangers of cross-contamination and all the precautions that are needed.
But some companies who don't follow such strict practices. Some are small and can't afford to. Others are large and don't have the commitment to the gluten-free customer.
And there are still no regulations that establish one set of rules that every company has to follow before it can put a gluten-free label on a package.
That's why final approval of the proposed definition of "gluten free" is so important and why it's so frustrating that the Food and Drug Administration has let the deadline required in the Food Allergen Labeling and Consumer Protection Act go by without any action.
The Tribune stories faulted the FDA (and the US Department of Agriculture) for not doing a very good job enforcing the labeling laws that already exist. So you do have to wonder how the beleaguered agency will ever be able to police gluten-free companies adequately once a standard for gluten-free food is set.
But finalization of the standard is a necessary first step before those who have celiac disease can have real confidence in the gluten-free label.
It doesn't seem there is anything gluten-free consumers can do to get the FDA moving on the definition. The agency says it is still studying the safety of allowing only foods with less than 20 ppm of gluten to use the gluten-free label.
Maybe bad publicity from the Tribune articles will kick start the FDA because it's pretty clear that misleading consumers with a "gluten free" label on corn dogs that contain up to 100 times the proposed standard is not safe.
Tuesday, December 2, 2008
For one holiday celebration—an open house—I mixed up a batch of Pom-itinis for my friend. Pomegranate juice, simple syrup, an orange liquor and lots of vodka combined for a fragrant and fabulous cocktail. They had these delicate twists of orange zest as a garnish and were a lovely balance of tart and sweet. However, Pom-itinis went straight from an empty stomach to the head.
Everyone was sipping and munching as the early afternoon wore on, but there was a big difference for me. I wasn’t munching, only sipping. Those gorgeous canapés all had gluten. The lovely little puff pastry shells filled with salmon, those crostini topped with a bruschetta, the mini lamb burgers, the chicken skewers with a mystery dipping sauce….everything looked and smelled delicious and everything was off limits. I could eat the shrimp and the crudités platter.
But, I learned the hard way that all those little hors d’ouevres are bread related to absorb the alcohol at cocktail parties. So, I ended up pretty toasted and hoped for some food I could eat as they laid out a spread on the table. No luck, the main “filler” food for the open house….a gorgeous display of wrap sandwiches and then an array of desserts were also off limits. Curses…everything had gluten!
Just to finish the story, I didn’t embarrass myself by falling off my chair or slurring something inappropriate, but I remember participating in conversations with reckless gusto. And I had a killer hangover the next day, just a piercing headache accompanied by cravings for Diet Coke and greasy food.
Like most lessons learned the hard way, I have tried to be proactive about cocktail parties and gatherings. I just assume there will be nothing for me to eat and I eat a bowl of cereal, a peanut butter and jelly sandwich or a slice of pizza before I go out. The real reason I am there is to see friends, catch up and share some laughs…it’s never really about the food or the cocktail.
I also see the virtue in drinking water or a soda in between the glasses of wine because at this point in my life I don’t need the calories of the bottomless glass and my kids play way too many sports to spend a miserable Sunday on the couch.
As you begin to celebrate the holiday season, fill your tummy before you go out! You do not want to be the drunken buffoon that everyone gossips about the next day. Note to all celiacs, shrimp and carrots do not absorb alcohol!
Thursday, November 20, 2008
My celiac was tucking into his third helping of meatloaf (he's a growing boy, it's ok). I casually mentioned that he shouldn't order meatloaf in a restaurant because there are bread crumbs in meatloaf.
The conversation went something like this:
Celiac "So, am I always going to have this?"
Mom "Yes, maybe someone will invent a cure but count on always having it."
Celiac "But sometimes, you just want to try something like a Goldfish or a Cheese Nip."
Mom "Oh, really? Have you been eating Goldfish or Cheese Nips?" (Dramatic insight on Mom's brain-beneath the calm voice, I am FREAKING OUT that he has been scarfing contraband behind my back)
Celiac "When I was in second grade we were all in this classroom watching a movie and we had popcorn and Cheese Nips passed around. I wanted to try the Cheese Nips and you know, they were really good."
Mom "I know they are really good, I miss them."
I determined that it was a one time offense, and that he wasn't really eating gluten containing crackers behind my back. I only gave him a mini-talk about the long term health affects of eating Cheese Nips.
One day at a time. Beer, pizza, adolescence and peer pressure are the real challenges and they are blissfully a few years away with this one.
Monday, November 17, 2008
That's kind of ironic because when people find out I telecommute to my job at Gluten-Free Living (another way of saying I work from home), the first thing they often say is how lucky I am to be able to work in my PJ's.
The fact is I rarely ever do. I am usually dressed and at my computer about the same time as most 9-to-5'ers in the working world.
But last week we were in the production phase of putting out Gluten-Free Living, which in the magazine publishing world is the busiest time. That's why I didn't get dressed but woke up and went right to work, still in my robe and slippers. I suspect that my co-workers probably did some of their work in pajamas too, either early in the morning, late at night, or over the weekend.
One of the reasons we were especially busy this time is that we put out the largest issue of Gluten-Free Living in our history. The magazine, due in subscribers mailboxes in mid December, is packed with all kinds of valuable information. Included is a story on prescription drugs and the gluten-free diet and an expanded food section.
We all face lots of challenges right now. We hope the expanded magazine will help you deal with any that have to do with maintaining your happy, healthy gluten-free life even if it means we have to work a few days in our pajamas.
Sunday, November 9, 2008
I think short cuts in cooking are critical for survival as a working mom. True confessions are in order here, I despise baking. I'd rather have a tooth filled than whip up a batch of cookies, bake a cake or make a pie. Birthdays, and celiac disease, present a major challenge in this area for me.
My daughter asked for an apple pie for her birthday dessert. I had a few options. Making pie dough from scratch--a long process with cold unsalted butter, flour and a Cuisinart was the most unpalatable option. Mixing the dough to perfect "pea sized" consistency and letting it rest is soooo time consuming. Then, to add insult to injury, it still needs to be rolled out!
I thought about using Pillsbury ready made pie crust and just doing two baked apples for the celiacs. This was also not a great option because I really do try to be inclusive of every family member.
But, then I remembered that I had two Whole Foods Gluten Free Bakery pie crusts in the freezer and figured I could use them to make a double-crust pie. The crusts thawed at room temperature and I prepped a bunch of apples with lemon juice, cinnamon, sugar and gluten-free flour.
It worked! I piled the apples into one crust and put the other crust on top. After five minutes in the oven, I stretched the top crust and pinched the top and bottom crusts together.
It was absolutely gorgeous when it came out of the oven. The crust was a light golden brown and the aroma was tantalizing. Everyone eagerly came to the table to celebrate.
Since it was semi-home made, it was a snap. My celiac has put in his request for pumpkin and apple pie for Thanksgiving! I can do that EASILY. Frozen, ready made gluten-free pie crust is now my favorite thing in the freezer case.
Monday, November 3, 2008
Her story brought me up short because it laid bare the fear that every parent of a celiac teenager secretly lives with.
And it emphasized the unique world we mothers and fathers live in, separate even from those adults who have celiac disease and can make their own decisions. All of our specially made gluten-free pizza pies and chocolate cakes, all our knowledge about gluten in ingredients, all our pantries full of gluten-free pretzels, crackers and pasta don't make a difference if our children choose to cheat on the diet.
Simply, we are not in control, at least not once our children start eating out of our eyesight and beyond our lovingly packed brown bag lunches. Though we may keep it to ourselves, our worries rev up when they drive off with friends for what should be an innocent lunch or dinner out.
Still, we rely on the hope and a prayer that we have taught them well about the necessity of eating gluten free. When our sons and daughters were little, we did not want to scare them or cripple them with dire predictions of what would happen if they ever succumbed to the lures of food that's perfectly safe for everyone else, but poison to them. But now we wonder if a little fear isn't a good thing.
All we really have is trust. And maybe a little delusion even when presented with the possibility that our children might have had the occasional slice of pizza or breaded chicken finger. But what happens when we have the facts, when they admit to us that they've been eating gluten frequently?
I put the question directly to my own 18-year-old daughter, a college freshman living away from home for the first time. What would she say to this worried and frightened mother whose son has been eating breaded sesame chicken two or three times every week ?
My daughter responded right away -- it seemed she wanted to be helpful. "If he eats it two to three times a week he must really like the Chinese food, " she wrote in one of her rare emails to me. "I would probably suggest finding a gluten-free version that he can eat instead."
Beyond that, she admitted knowing what it's like for the boy. "I can understand the pressure, especially around that age. Not that kids would try to get him to eat wheat. But once you get to the age when you can drive with your friends, if they all go out to eat, I can see how it would be easier to just eat what they have," she explained.
And since Chinese food has always been a favorite in our family, she knows that you can order plain steamed dishes that are gluten free and suggested he try that. But she had further insight. "For boys it probably isn't as easy to order foods that aren't like everybody elses without feeling different. He probably is sick of dealing with the diet and finds it easier to just eat the gluten version."
I was impressed that she was trying so hard to come up with good advice while remaining empathetic. She earnestly asked at the end of her email if she had given me the kind of answer I wanted. And she did.
But I realized there was another part that perhaps I needed. I needed for her to write that she had never purposely eaten a food she knew contained gluten (aside from the one time she tried an Oreo cookie as little girl), forget about doing so occasionally or regularly. I needed her to remind me that she knows lack of symptoms after eating gluten doesn't mean damage isn't being done. But she didn't write about herself at all.
I don't have my reassurance. I just have my trust.
Friday, October 31, 2008
We cut open our pumpkins last night and the boys scooped out the slop. One of my kids has a major gag reflex, and the pumpkin smell and goo usually triggers a powerful reaction. I was busy cutting and hot gluing a Christmas tree costume for my daughter (she and her friends are going as “the holidays”) so I begged him to stop scooping if he felt ill. I was already up to my eyeballs in spilled glitter and silver lame fabric scraps for a future clean up.
They were so disappointed that our three big pumpkins yielded so few seeds because we will definitely finish them all tonight.
I am pre-heating the oven to 375 degrees as I type. I have rinsed my pumpkin seeds and dried them a bit with paper towels. I will stir in some olive oil, salt to taste and a healthy shake of garlic powder. They roast in the oven until the seeds are a golden pale brown color. Parents of trick or treaters always comment on the great smell coming from my house, it’s the garlic!
We eat them all night long. They are gluten-free and really delicious.
Thursday, October 23, 2008
I had a salad for lunch, sushi and a fruit plate for dinner, eggs, sausage and a yogurt for breakfast the next day….and then by the end of the morning session my brain was just a vast wasteland. Remember Jessica Simpson on that MTV show when she puzzling over how Chicken of the Sea was actually tuna and not really chicken, that’s about where I mentally stood. She blamed the Atkins diet, an intensive protein diet, for her dippiness and not many people bought that…but I kind-of did.
It is amazing how much your body needs those carbs to keep going throughout the day and how hard you hit the wall without them. I happened to be in New York City for this conference, just blocks from Columbus Circle and one of the nicest Whole Foods I’ve seen. They have a very large gluten-free section and I filled the hole in my stomach and revived my brain.
The good news is that gluten-free carbs are getting easier and easier to find. But, I remember times and places over the past few years where I would find myself carb starved, and then"solve" the problem by eating a huge plate of French fries or a gargantuan bag of potato chips. All I really needed was a piece of toast, which is something I could find with a little pre-trip preparation.
I am much more prepared when my son is traveling with me (read my post Three Celiacs in a Beach House), but I have to remember to take care of myself when he’s not. Otherwise, there is no end to how I could embarrass myself if my carb starved mush mind is in full force.
Monday, October 20, 2008
Not long ago, most of us claimed we were to busy to bother cutting coupons out of newspapers and magazines or, in a sign of the times, printing them off the Internet. Maybe we were all a little snobbish about saving a dime here and a dollar there.
But now we seem to be rethinking the balance between time and money and getting out the scissors again.
Just in time, gluten-free shoppers have a new source of coupons tailored to their special diet. It's a website, http://www.befreeforme.com/. The site is run by Kathleen Reale, who says it is "the first and only web site to offer coupons, samples and sharing to gluten and food allergy-free consumers. " Everything on the site is free -- a good thing when you are looking to save money.
You can sign up to get free samples and coupons sent to your mailbox. Yes, that means the little box visited six days a week by your postal delivery person.
You'll also get some email, including a product review newsletter and tips on where to find gluten-free money-saving offers online. If you have other food restrictions in addition to gluten, you can specify that when you sign up. You do have to register. Kathleen says you will get offers tailored to your family if you give her some information about you and yours. She also promises never to sell or share the information with "anyone ever."
Kathleen's website says she was diagnosed with celiac disease four years ago and decided to mesh her new gluten-free diet with her experience as the owner of an event marketing and in-store demonstration company.
If she can demonstrate how we can cut costs and still live and eat well gluten free, we'll be happy.
Monday, October 13, 2008
That's because my daughter, Amanda, was diagnosed with celiac disease about two weeks before Halloween 16 years ago. When October began that year, she was so sick she couldn't walk. She could barely lift her head let alone care about costumes and candy.
But by the middle of the month we had a diagnosis of celiac disease and a new diet that promised to cure her. Hard as it was for us to believe, by Halloween night, she was toddling around again, dressed up as a polka-dot unicorn and anxious to collect all her loot.
I'm not sure if that experience, when she was only 2-years-old, accounts for it, but you couldn't find a child anywhere who loved Halloween like Amanda.
Never mind that she couldn't eat every different kind of candy she collected in the pillow case that became as heavy she was by night's end. Amanda would spread all the candy out on the floor, organize it by type and pose in the middle for an annual photo. There was the year she was Cinderella and the pouring rain that sent so many kids home early couldn't deter her. In pictures, her sky blue Cinderella gown, sparkly shoes and up swept hair are soaking wet. But she is smiling widely in front of all that candy.
We never let worry about candy that contained gluten dampen her enthusiasm. From that first year I made sure I bought only gluten-free choices to hand out at our door. I bought bags and bags of the stuff, in part because we had one of those magical neighborhoods where a steady stream of pumpkins, princesses, and pirates filled the sidewalks, then banged on our door throughout the evening. But I also bought enough so that I could trade Amanda one-for-one, everything she couldn't have for something she could. So she never seemed to feel cheated on that wonderful night.
If you have someone in your house who will become Hannah Montana, a Transformer or maybe even Cinderella, here are a few links to lists of gluten-free candy:
Buy plenty and trade generously.
For Amanda dressing up as long list of characters over the years, including Pebbles, Belle, Geri from the Spice Girls, and Cleopatra, gave Halloween its bewitching power.
For me, the magic came when a very sick little girl was transformed back into a completely healthy child, love of costumes and candy in tact.
Friday, October 10, 2008
I was pretty smug and thought that my gluten-free diet, a sort-of permanent low-carb state, would prevent me from this middle age curse. After all, I don’t scarf down the left over crusts on a kid’s grilled cheese sandwich or eat an entire bag of Oreo’s in a PMS induced frenzy. I saw no reason to believe that there would ever come a day when I would need to leave the junior department when shopping for jeans.
But, then I turned “north of 40” and BOOM…this summer it appeared, the gluten-free muffin top. Shorts and pants that fit a year ago were straining to stay zipped as the waistband practically cut into my flesh. Breathing became labored and sitting down a challenge. The change in my body was confirmed at my annual physical….seven extra pounds from a year ago.
What’s a celiac to do? I always have cookie dough in my freezer, bread in the bread box and pretzels in my cupboard…but I’m not eating more than I did five years ago. I exercise the same amount, drink a nightly glass of wine for my mental well being (remember, I have four kids), and consume copious amounts of water, fruits and vegetables. But, as I look down while typing, there it is….just a big ole’ middle age pooch hanging out over my jeans.
So, this summer I dumped all my cute denim Bermudas, mini skirts and lo-rise jeans on my teen age daughter’s bed and shopped for things one size up. I was in near ecstatic bliss when I found these cute and oh-so-forgiving empire waist t-shirts that draped loosely around the middle and bought one in every color. I’m just waiting for the long sleeved version to come out for the winter.
I have upped the exercise, cut down the food intake a little and make every attempt to stand up really straight and suck in the gut at all times. But, at the end of the day…I won’t give up butter, I won’t give up cookies and my kids will be better off if I don’t give up that daily glass of wine.
Saturday, October 4, 2008
My husband took on the responsibility of making gluten-free bread years ago. I vaguely remember a hissy fit in my kitchen roughly six years ago where I was lamenting that our newly diagnosed celiac was pushing me into baking overload. I was trying to always have cupcakes and cookies on hand, along with bread for sandwiches….and there just wasn’t as much delicious ready made product available seven years ago.
I complained, loud and long, that every time I turned around, I was out of bread. He asked the fateful question “Is it difficult to make the bread?” And I’m sure that I unkindly said that anyone who knew how to read could bake a loaf of bread.
My husband baked his first loaf of bread, and then he just took it over. I haven’t baked a loaf of bread in---no exaggeration—years. It is my responsibility to buy the mixes and that’s it. It’s a beautiful thing.
So, last week he placed all the ingredients in the bread machine in their perfect order and set it in motion. I was blitzing through the kitchen doing a power clean and unplugging all the appliances because I read somewhere that this was a little “green” thing I could do to save energy.
I ACCIDENTALLY UNPLUGGED THE BREAD MACHINE!!!
Imagine his surprise when he popped open the top the next morning and there was a gooey mess instead of a finished loaf of bread! He left the half mixed dough for me to deal with, which I dumped.
I called him at the office to ask him what had happened to the bread machine last night. In a rather acerbic tone he responded that the machine doesn’t work so well when his wife unplugs it after he takes the time to get it all set up!
I was so embarrassed. What a dope. He started all over again after we had dinner that night and asked if I could just leave the bread machine plugged in and offset my carbon footprint somewhere else.
Monday, September 29, 2008
Being a word person -- honestly -- the numbers were still hard for me to picture clearly. How many people would that likely be in a room, in a school, in a stadium, in a country, in the world?
But I got a better focus when I went to the fifth birthday party for the National Foundation for Celiac Awareness in Philadelphia last week.
Nearly 1,400 people packed the concourse of the Wachovia Center, usually home to the Philadelphia Flyers ice hockey team, to feast on gluten-free nibbles offered by 35 Philly-area restaurants. When you see a group that big and enthusiastic, all focused on the gluten-free diet and lifestyle, the numbers take a new shape and meaning.
What they meant on this particular evening was a crowd welcomed and catered to by mainstream chefs. Each restaurant reportedly had to prepare at least 1,200 samples of whatever dish they were offering. The chefs were not shy about trying new and exciting things. There was octopus salad, and duck and lobster with macaroni and cheese. All delicious. Even better each restaurant committed to permanently add gluten-free dishes to its menu.
There's one more important thing to say about that night and numbers -- NFCA raised $340,000 for programs to spread awareness of celiac disease. That can only mean an even bigger crowd next time. Congratulations to NFCA and happy birthday!
Wednesday, September 24, 2008
Eighty-one dollars for gluten-free food, most of which has been eaten by now, is shocking. Stores need to make a profit and so do food vendors, they have bills to pay and families to feed too. During my five and a half years of selling advertising space to these vendors, I’ve gotten to know many of these brave entrepreneurs and they really deserve whatever profit margin they make.
People who want to create good gluten free foods face extraordinary hurdles to get their businesses up and running. Most start out in their own kitchens, and after finding a proprietary blend of ingredients that produces a great product, the journey towards mass production begins.
Sourcing ingredients and industrial kitchen space free from cross contaminants is not easy, I’ve heard many variations on this theme. The work is 24/7 and distribution is a Byzantine process to get to the holy grail of Whole Food’s shelf space. Each person has a story, and a passion to make sure that people have great tasting gluten-free food to replace what he or she loved before a celiac diagnosis.
I feel that we have helped some of these companies grow by mentioning their products or by offering an affordable ad for a new kid on the block. It helps all of us in the long run to spread the word about new vendors.
But, in a deepening economic crisis, I am going to have to figure out how to balance my “need” for cinnamon sugar donuts and my real need to cut back expenditures. Although, it does all come back to supply and demand and eventually the costs will go down. The more of us out there buying gluten-free food will lead to increased shelf space dedicated to gluten free food. And I can only hope that as production and distribution get larger, a greater economy of scale will mean lower prices for a finished product.
In the meantime, I will continue to buy those donuts because they are truly fabulous heated up and dunked in coffee while reading the depressing business news.
Thursday, September 18, 2008
So I was glad to be able to cover the Food and Drug Administration's hearing on advisory labels this week because it meant someone was going to start doing something about these pesky notations on foods.
When I'm in the grocery and I have one of those "Eureka" moments of finding a mainstream product that does not contain any wheat, barley or rye, I hate having it ruined by an aside that says something like, "May contain wheat," or "Made in a plant that also processes wheat," or "Made on a equipment that also processes wheat."
What am I supposed to do with this information? Not buy the product?
Am I really supposed to worry that a fruit snack might be a threat to my daughter who has celiac disease because somewhere in the plant wheat might be used? And what should I make of products labeled "gluten free" that also have this kind of warning?
At the hearing I learned I have a lot of company in my confusion. It includes others with celiac disease, gluten intolerance, and food allergies. Many of us are playing a guessing game in which we try to figure out exactly what food companies are trying to tell us with these warning labels.
Consumer advocates at the hearing said people try to evaluate how risky a food might be based on the wording of the label. They conclude it is safer to eat something made in plant that processes wheat, for example, than to eat something made on equipment that processes wheat.
That makes sense to me.
But food industry representatives said the logic does not match up with the facts. One company that shares equipment might do a much better job cleaning it up than a company that has an allergen cross-contaminating the manufacturing plant.
So really, what are we, and the people with allergies who face life threatening reactions, supposed to do?
The first thing is to write to the FDA and tell them how big a problem these labels are in your daily life. Use personal stories, that always seems to get attention. You can send a letter by regular mail or over the Internet. (You'll find both addresses on our website, http://www.glutenfreeliving.com/, under the current events/newsflash section.) The deadline is Jan. 14, 2009, which means improvements aren't coming in a few weeks or months, but at least there's hope they are coming.
The FDA said it wants to know if labels are helpful to consumers. That's an easy question to answer and the answer is "No."
Sunday, September 14, 2008
The recreation level soccer is the cutest four on four format on a micro field with the kids subbing in and out constantly during a scrimmage. When we started, parents were slated into a rotation to bring drinks during the break between drills and scrimmage. Somehow over the years, “snack” got inserted into the break.
It just befuddled me as to why kids needed a “snack” after thirty minutes of kicking drills. Soccer was a sum total of seventy minutes of exertion, and presumably these suburban kids had eaten a meal within a reasonable time of the soccer session.
This particular year, moms who were burdened with the responsibility of bringing snack along with the sugar laden sports drinks, mostly took the path of least resistance. Snack moms bought the gigantic Costco pack of brownies or cookies, or packaged crackers or chips for the team.
Now throw in a kid with celiac disease. All of a sudden, the sports field became another place where a young celiac had to say “no thank you.” The field, the gym, the baseball diamond and the gridiron were a place of equality with their peers…there is no gluten in sports! Or, there was no gluten in sports until someone decided that little kids needed a snack after a few kicks of the ball.
When it was my turn to be the snack mom, I wanted something my soccer player could eat. I too went to Costco and bought this huge bag of navel oranges. After scrubbing them, I got out my cutting board and sliced them all up and put them into a bowl. It took a lot of time and there was a lot of sticky juice to clean up. Yes, I’m whining. Every now and then things bug me…and making a gluten-free snack for recreation soccer bugged me.
My son was actually embarrassed that I was bringing oranges instead of “snack.” But I said that orange sections were a “retro” snack and explained to him that oranges and water were the only things allowed on the sidelines when all the parents played soccer as kids.
It was a really hot day and the oranges were lustily eaten by a bunch of sweaty boys. Peels were chucked at each other and eventually found their way into a trash bag. Costco items can feed the masses and several parents dug in for some orange sections too.
Celiac or not, no little soccer player needs a brownie washed down with a Fruit Punch Gatorade before he scrimmages. The second time I was snack mom, I got a little smarter….I bought the Costco size package of grapes!
Monday, September 8, 2008
My reaction is a mix of fascination and relief.
Who could help but be intrigued by the Japanese bento, described as a compact, balanced and visually appealing meal packed in a box?
First, they always look great in a photo. The collection of colorful, little containers in all kinds of shapes are designed to tuck snugly in the bento box. Then there is the food itself, everything from apple slices deftly sliced into bunnies to cucumbers cut into links like a construction paper chain to yellow peppers snipped into stars.
Aside from being really cute, it also struck me immediately that the bento box is perfect for a gluten-free lunch.
So I wasn't really surprised when I went to the blog "lunch in a box" and read that its founder, Deborah Hamilton, had originally started making bento box lunches for her husband when he was diagnosed with celiac disease. (He later found out he was misdiagnosed, but Deborah now makes bento box lunches for their young son, who is called "Bug" on the blog.)
The bento box takes the homemade lunch and turns it into a desirable meal instead of an also-ran to pre-packaged Lunchables or cafeteria fare. The little containers are perfect for cut-up fruit and vegetables, dip, cubed meat and cheese, and a little candy treat. And they don't emphasize the sandwich the way typical American lunches do.
There are a few blogs you can go to for packing ideas and recipes, some of which are gluten-free and others which can easily be adapted. Two possibilities are lunchinabox.net and lunchnugget.blogspot.com. It's not unusual to find that the blogger has some connection to a food allergy or intolerance. Be forewarned that some bento bloggers are actually artists with a paring knife posing to be merely moms making lunch. I'm just kidding!
But that's where my relief comes in. My gluten-free daughter is now in college and there's no way I can whip up culinary artwork -- I mean make lunch -- for her everyday.
Friday, September 5, 2008
My son rushes home to pack his toothbrush, pj’s and sleeping bag. I rush to pack a snack, dinner and breakfast. Luckily they had planned on cheeseburgers and fries, and this family is a seasoned bunch of pro’s on serving up bun less burgers and interesting snacks for celiacs.
Into his bag I placed two slices of cinnamon raisin bread, a huge baggie of cereal and a bag of pretzels. Being hungry would put a damper on the planned camp out on the screened porch, although I think tropical storm Hanna will wreak more havoc with their plans.
Honestly, if he had potato chips, an apple and vanilla ice cream for dinner and choked down a few eggs in the morning….it would be just fine. Maybe he wouldn’t achieve the right balance on the food pyramid, but it’s one night. He would be with one of his best buds and he’d have gluten-free food in his tummy.
Tuesday, September 2, 2008
Nearly 2 million Louisiana residents had to make that decision this past weekend when they were asked to leave home as Gustav barrelled toward them like teenage hot-rodder on an open road. Fortunately, the hurricane slowed down and veered away from still-healing New Orleans. While it did cause some damage, most people will return to all the comforts and contents of their homes.
But no one knew that when it was time to choose what to take on the one-way route out of town. Important papers were surely packed, along with medicine and money and enough clothes to keep a person decent. Perhaps computers with needed files, and old photographs, and precious artwork done by children got loaded into the car before a last look and a quick good by. If I had to choose, I would look for the things that are irreplaceable - old letters from my husband, cards sent by my grandparents, funny notes scribbled by my kids, and video tapes of their early years.
At least with Gustav there was time to think about what to take. When Hurricane Katrina hit almost exactly three years ago, evacuation was a matter of life and death and there was no time for many people to gather belongings. This time, having learned from Katrina's mistakes, city and state officials made it clear everyone should think ahead, pack up and go.
But what about gluten-free food for those who follow the gluten-free diet? Would it merit such valuable cargo space?
Soon after Katrina, we ran a story about emergency preparedness in Gluten-Free Living. The main point was that gluten-free disaster planning is pretty similar to regular disaster preparation. Experts recommend having on hand basic survival items that will last three days, including water, non-perishable food that requires no cooking, a manual can opener, ready-to-eat canned meats, fruits and vegetables, peanut butter, crackers, and protein or fruit bars. For more information go to http://www.americanredcross.org/ or http://www.fema.gov/.
Just make sure all the items you stockpile are gluten free. If you ever have to leave home on short notice, you'll have everything you need to get you through a few days. And you won't have to worry whether there will be any gluten-free food options on the road. Even if you never face a natural disaster, an emergency food supply can come in handy if power in your home and community is out for a few days.
I'm thankful New Orleans was largely spared, mindful some people in Louisiana did suffer damage to their homes and optimistic repairs will be rapid this time.
But hurricane season is just beginning -- Hanna is already lurking near the Bahamas and expected to hit the Southeastern coast by midweek -- so it makes sense to stockpile gluten-free essentials and think about what valuables you would pack if you had to choose.
Thursday, August 28, 2008
In hindsight, with my sun-kissed skin and still-in-vacation mentality, the edge is gone and I know that all the racing around and baking was worth it.
Suffice it to say, I had three shopping bags of gluten free food. I didn’t plan out all the meals, but planned in terms of “what if.” What if we decide to have pizza, what if there is a great bakery for breakfast goodies, what if I need to dredge something in flour….so that leads to tons of “what if” gluten free foods going on vacation with us.
For breakfast the celiacs had banana bread and blueberry muffins and some frozen waffles from the local Stop and Shop. My Dad loves to find a local bakery for daily breakfast treats, but he used to feel bad about those of us who couldn’t eat them. The celiacs had their own baked goodies, so everyone was happy.
The beach bag was filled with gluten free snacks thanks to so many vendors now individually packaging their cookies, bars, brownies and pretzels. Those individual packages are the best when dealing with sand. What do you do with a full bag of chips after a really sandy hand has plunged into the bag for a handful? There is nothing more disgusting than crunching through sandy potato chips.
The concession stand on the beach served frozen lemonade which was really refreshing and entirely safe. Speaking of refreshing, buried in ice in the cooler was a cold gluten-free beer to be popped open as the day turned to evening to savor the end of a beach day.
Our dinners were really delicious—sweet young lobster, little neck clams, local filets of fish….I had packed gluten free flour and bread crumbs in case we needed it, but melted butter and tartar sauce were the condiments of choice. The local produce was in peak season and we ate tons of corn on the cob and tomatoes. One night we had hot dogs with mac n’cheese as a side dish. I had packed gluten-free spaghetti noodles, which was odd with the cheese sauce, but tasted great after a full day of riding the waves.
The gluten-free bread was gone after Friday’s lunch, but when Saturday morning rolled around we improvised. My Mom had eggs for breakfast and my son had cereal. I had the last two huge, sugary, ginger cookies that I warmed up in the microwave and dunked in coffee. It was vacation, it was our last meal in the beach house and cookies for breakfast seemed perfect.
Monday, August 25, 2008
We packed her up last week and headed off to the large, out-of-state university she is attending. The week before she left, I spent most evenings in the kitchen, preparing all the gluten-free food I thought she could fit in her dorm room freezer. I made things that will be impossible to get at school, including gluten-free cookies, bread, and chicken nuggets.
And I snuck in a small, heart shaped cake that I will tell her about tomorrow - her 18th birthday. (I'm not worried she will read about it here, she's too busy with school to read this the first day it's posted!)
Amanda loves birthdays and was a little worried about being away from family and friends. So I spent a lot of time trying how to figure out a way to make it possible for her to have a special celebration so far from home. I was afraid to order a cake from one of the growing number of gluten-free bakeries that ship them because the university mail system is still a mystery to me. An on-campus service delivers cakes to students, but, of course, they are not gluten free. It's nice that the service also delivers balloons and flowers, so you can guess who is taking advantage of that offer! You can usually find ways to mark special days that don't center on food.
I'm hoping the homemade cake and other surprises will make Amanda's birthday a happy one.
When my husband and I were driving home alone after saying goodbye to her, I couldn't help but recall the trip 18 years ago when we brought her home from the hospital, a tiny bundle in a pink flannel blanket. That was a much easier car ride.
Happy Birthday to my sweet daughter, so quickly grown up.
Monday, August 18, 2008
I live in a building that gets together socially. This past weekend was our annual pool party. The food arrangements have been different each year. To date, my options have been limited so I bring something for myself.
This year our “social director” (yes, we have one!), Lynn, is very energetic. She takes care of everyone and everything. When I arrived, she said, “’Your’ chicken is grilling.” She had purchased it specifically for me.
When I got outside, my neighbor, Steve, was already grilling the chicken. He did a fine job and the chicken was delicious.
It just occurs to me as I write this that no one knew to clean off the grill first. I didn’t tell anyone (I was not expecting such personal service) and didn’t think of it then because, to be honest, I don’t worry too much about grills. The fire is always blazing hot and whatever gluten might remain from a previous item should be burned off quickly given its size. That’s my personal decision. It may not be everyone’s choice and that’s fine. Feeling comfortable about what we eat is a big part of living gluten free.
That’s not true in a restaurant where I cannot see the grill. Even if I can, I still explain that the grill has to be cleaned. In my view, that’s a different and less controllable venue and I want to feel comfortable.
We always have a New Year’s Eve building party, too. Like the pool party, the food arrangement varies each year. This year they used a caterer.
I had decided not to attend for a variety of reasons, food being one of them. I did run into Lynn the day before and said I wasn’t going to the party and gave food as the reason.
I thought that would be the end of it. So when the evening arrived, I was lying on the couch dealing with some sort of winter ailment and not feeling festive in any way. At roughly 9 pm, the doorman called up to say my food had arrived! Lynn had specifically ordered a meal for me.
Now I was in a bind. I felt awful. I also felt guilty staying home after Lynn went out of her way for me. So I hauled myself up off the couch and into the shower, which woke me up and gave me some energy. When I got there, my meal was waiting. And I enjoyed the party.
I never expect special accommodations at a party, especially a large party. Whatever the occasion, it’s not about the food but about friendship and family and getting together and celebrating in some way. At best, in my take, food is secondary.
Wednesday, August 13, 2008
The Olympic obsession in our house actually pre-dates Phelps and can be traced to my husband's childhood when he followed the 1968 Olympics in Mexico. My younger son carries on the tradition, tallying medal counts and watching every event until the wee hours of the night. Thank goodness it's summer. His grades actually fell during the winter Olympics in 2006.
While we are rooting for Phelps, we have our eye on another Olympic athlete as well. She's Amy Yoder Begley, an Olympic distance runner, who has celiac disease. She will compete in the women's 10,000 meter race as part of the US Olympic team. What a great inspiration Amy is for my daughter and all the young people like her who also have celiac disease. Amy is the embodiment of the important message that the disease should not stop you from doing anything you want to do.
Amy, 30, has been a runner for a long time, ever since high school in Kendallville, Indiana, according to the hometown paper there. But she was diagnosed with celiac disease only about three years ago. In part, the diagnosis explains some of the struggles she has faced in her running career, including low bone density, anemia and stomach problems. These are all symptoms of undiagnosed celiac disease.
Now, Amy feels healthy and strong and is one of the world's elite athletes. At the Opening Ceremony, she paraded with her US Olympic teammates and then had her picture taken with President George Bush.
In addition to her athletic goals, part of her quest in Beijing is to find gluten-free food. We could tell you about that, but it will be more fun to go to Amy's on-line journal, http://www.yoderbegley.com/, and read about it in her own words.
The only other things we have to say is,"Go Amy!"
Tuesday, August 12, 2008
The tangy aroma of vinegar draws people to his booth to sample sour pickles, mushrooms and most importantly for me, the sauerkraut. His homemade sauerkraut is the best and it makes the most delicious gluten-free Reuben sandwich.
On the way home I will stop for lean corned beef and then I’m ready to prep this delicacy. My open faced Reuben’s are piled high with a healthy spread of spicy mustard, corned beef, sauerkraut and Swiss cheese. The secret is to thoroughly toast the bread first so it doesn’t get soggy when placed under the broiler.
With a sense of adventure and endurance for trial and error, a gluten-free version of anything is possible. My gluten-free Reuben may not do my arteries any good, but it sends my taste buds into orbit.
Sunday, August 10, 2008
That’s why I’m here in the office on a beautiful August Saturday morning sitting at my desk and figuring out what to do next. I tell you that not to suggest you get your violins out and play sorrowful music, but so I can follow up with two things.
The first is what’s in the next issue. You’ll find information on cutting costs on the gluten-free diet, nutrition for GF children (and adults, too) and, get this, using an iron pan to make quick, easy, economical cornbread and a few other bread varieties.
There are the usual columns/departments: In On your plate, we answer your ingredient questions. In reality CD, we cover the modern gluten-free world (which trust me is a whole different ball game than the world that existed when I was diagnosed 15 years ago). Every issue includes a Last Word, which is a grab bag slice of life this time penned by our summer intern who has been a delight to have around. New for you tells you about new products and places to buy them not to mention GF bakeries! As someone who has been GF for 15 years, I find that astonishing and think I’ll talk about them in a future blog.
The second thing is that before I came here, I went to the Saturday farmer’s market here in Hastings, so it was a plus to travel down here (five minutes from my home so it’s no sacrifice at all) and get there early.
As you probably know, at farmer’s markets you can buy food that almost literally comes right out of the ground, onto a truck and down to Hastings. Some of the items I bought were likely picked yesterday. You can’t really get any fresher than that unless you grow things yourself.
I don’t have to tell you that fresh fruits and vegetables are a plus on the GF diet –or any diet for that matter. In this respect, they are worth whatever they cost for people who need to eat well and for our planet that needs to be sustained.
I’ll go home soon and start off my weekend. I hope all of you have a great weekend as the summer winds down.
Thursday, August 7, 2008
A lot of the traditional recipes my grandmother used to make were re-created, and the table was weighted with covered dishes. While someone on the gluten-free diet can easily take part in the bonding at gathering like this, the food is usually another story. Take a peek under the Tupperware lid and you'll often find pasta or breadcrumbs or flour. But keep looking and you're likely to find enough to fill your plate.
My daughter Amanda, who has celiac disease, piled her plate with a terrific potato salad made by one of my aunts. She had fruit salad from the huge bowl we brought and cut-up veggies and dip my brother supplied. There was my grandmother's special coleslaw carefully made by my sister-in-law. And the chicken wings were gluten free. Someone also made a jello salad I remember from my youth that consists of pear halves laid on the bottom of a glass pan that is then filled with green jello. Once the jello sets, each pear is topped with a dollop of whipped cream and a cherry. I never liked it much, and Amanda didn't eat it even though she could have. Hey, taste matters even when you're on a special diet!
Platters of cookies filled a whole table. Most were made with wheat flour, but my 14-year-old son made a batch from peanut butter, eggs, and sugar. He rolled this mix into balls, then rolled the balls in sugar, and baked them before topping each cookie with a chocolate kiss. Amanda knew these were safe.
By days end I think the whole family felt re-connected, especially after all that hugging. There was talk of trying to get together once a year, though it had been at least a decade since we had all gathered before this reunion. It's likely the college kids will be parents and the toddlers teenagers before we pull it off again.
Still we shared good company and good food. As we were cleaning up, I noticed something funny. The only cookie platter that was completely empty was the one with the gluten-free cookies. And the pear salad was hardly touched.
Monday, August 4, 2008
I flew in Friday evening and went to dinner with Betty Barfield and her husband, David, at The Cattleman's restaurant. Betty has celiac disease and we had surf and turf with a baked potato and salad. It's an ideal meal for those who follow a gluten-free diet. It was also the best meal I've tasted in many a moon. Even the salad AND the baked potato tasted terrific. After such a big meal, we quickly passed on dessert and left three very happy individuals.
On Saturday morning I spoke to Betty's group and it was fun. They were very friendly and also extremely knowledgeable. So there was a great give and take and I'd go back any time, but preferably in the winter! (Actually we were not out in the heat very much, but walking around in 105-degree weather is like walking around in an oven. I had a note from Betty today and it's 107 degrees in Fort Worth!)
Meanwhile, the weather is absolutely beautiful here in the northeast and we don't even need the air conditioner. But apparently a storm is brewing so that may not last for long. I didn't prepare as well as I should have for my Texas trip and went a long time between meals due to the long plane ride. I blame only myself and not the airline. They did have some "snacks" that were not gluten free -- nor were they all that healthy. Maybe we should hope that the airlines start offering fresh fruit on planes, which would be good for everyone.
Sunday was my grandson's fourth birthday. My daughter did the cooking and of course she knows about the diet, although she does not follow it herself. She replaced pasta in a lentil salad recipe with quinoa and it was delicious. That was the verdict of everyone present, not just me. Of course no one really knew what quinoa was, so I went through the drill about what it was, where it comes from and the health advantages for all. My great meals came to an abrupt halt today. Since I had been gone, there was little food at home so yogurt was all I had for breakfast and a peanut butter and jelly sandwich for lunch. Dinner won't be terrific either! But I'll survive, I'm sure.
This is my first blog and it was fun to do. I am really not familiar with the blogging world and it still boggles my mind that anyone might be interested in the things I do, but I guess some are. As we say here, "thanks for listening."
Friday, August 1, 2008
A diagnosis of celiac disease over ten years ago was a very important turning point for me. I was fortunate enough to return to health on a gluten-free diet. My son was diagnosed just after his third birthday and that was an even bigger turning point. A hungry, growing boy who attends birthday parties, team dinners and sleepovers needs lots of bread, cookies, cupcakes, pizza and pasta. Baking became a serious part of my life.
The little triumphs of making life "normal" are extremely satisfying and the little defeats of not achieving "normal" bum me out! I try to learn from both good and not so good gluten-free moments. With my apologies to Ann Whelan, a NY Met fan, the Egan’s are NY Yankee fans. I had one unforgettable gluten-free moment at a Yankee game two season’s ago.
In the 2005 season, my husband, four kids and I attended five or six games. Before the new stadium construction began, we parked in the same lot and visited the same hot dog vendor each game for our dinner. These were the “world famous” Ozzie Dogs. The celiacs in our family would buy a hot dog slit down the middle with ketchup, potato sticks and no bun.
Our “chef de hot dog cuisine” would carefully wrap it up in the waxy serving tissues so that Brett and I could hold it and munch away without ending up in a ketchup-y mess.
When we attended our first game of the 2006 season, we parked in our same lot and walked up to the Ozzie Dog cart. The woman said hello and asked us how we had been. She was always friendly, and I chatted back. She then asked, “Now which of you gets the bun-less Ozzie Dog slit down the middle with ketchup and potato sticks?”
My brain started whirring….it had been one year since we had been to a game, there are eighty home games per year, roughly 40,000 attendees per game and countless patrons who visit the Ozzie Dog stand. I don’t remember where I put my car keys on a daily basis, yet this woman remembered that someone in my family needed a special hot dog.
After I scooped my jaw off the ground, I asked her how she could possibly remember us out of the thousands of people who buy hot dogs from her cart. Her response was, “Your kids always said thank you and it’s not every day someone asks for a hot dog with no bun.”
It was one of those nice little triumphs, our special order hot dogs and nice manners made us unforgettable.
Sunday, July 27, 2008
I'm Amy Ratner, associate editor of GFL. For me, the gluten-free journey started 16 years ago, when my then 2-year-old daughter Amanda became acutely ill and was diagnosed with celiac disease. She miraculously recovered simply with the gluten-free diet. I can say "simply" now after years of experience with the diet. But I remember the panic and confusion I felt then.
And I remember how quickly, even back when celiac disease was virtually unheard of, someone reached out to help me. My older son had just started kindergarten. I was dropping him off late one morning amidst the chaos going on in our house as I tried to learn all about safe and unsafe foods and ingredients. I mentioned to his teacher that he was not on time because things were a little crazy due to Amanda's recent illness and this new diet. Immediately, she asked if Amanda had celiac disease. The teacher's neighbor had also been diagnosed. The next day, she brought a care package from her neighbor that included a copy of Bette Hagman's cookbook, "The Gluten-Free Gourmet," note cards with her own handwritten recipes and boxes of gluten-free mixes and pasta. Amanda gobbled up all the food as part of her hungry recovery, but I still have the cookbook and recipe cards.
The years since have flown by. Much has changed in our family's life and in the gluten-free world. I am constantly learning new things about the diet as Amanda's Mom and by writing for GFL. My confidence in my ability to help my daughter has grown. But this fall Amanda heads off to college. It is a thrilling but frightening experience for all the usual reasons -- plus the fact that she will have to contend with the gluten-free diet on campus and completely on her own for the first time.
Thankfully, we have once again serendipitously found someone willing to help at this important juncture. When Amanda attended college orientation last week, she discovered that one of her professors has celiac disease. The professor kindly offered space in her freezer for things that won't fit in Amanda's small dorm refrigerator, as well as rides to a nearby health food store. And she told my husband and I that she would take Amanda under her wing and keep an eye out for her. In a month, when we drive away and leave Amanda on a campus that is six hours away from home, it will be a big comfort knowing she has a guardian angel (Still, I can't guarantee I won't cry. Ok, maybe I know I will since I am tearing up even writing about it.)
I am struck that at the two points when I've felt most vulernable about the gluten-free diet someone has stepped up to help. I suspect you have met some guardian angels of your own.
While we can't drop a care package off at your house or give you space in our freezer, we hope that you can turn to this blog for observations and information about the gluten-free lifestyle that will be helpful to you.
For a start, we will post three times a week. Although we may veer from it every once in awhile, the plan is to have my blog appear on Mondays, editor and publisher Ann Whelan's on Wednesdays and marketing and sales director Kendall Egan's on Fridays. Ann and Kendall both have celiac disease, as does Kendall's son. We all have unique perspectives on the things that impact your gluten-free life and we look forward to sharing them with you. Check back often.