Thursday, December 30, 2010

Tiny Typo Topples GF Treat

Subscribers to Gluten-Free Living know I’m not happy in the kitchen. But, like a 95-pound weakling giving advice on tackling in football, I ventured into the baking field in our last issue by including a recipe for my mother-in-law’s cheesecake. It’s delicious and really easy to make.

But like anything else, you need a little experience and careful attention to details. In this case, the attention to tiny details should have extended to the production portion of the last issue. The recipe, as printed in the magazine, says, “Beat the egg yolks until stiff.” Frankly, I know enough to be dangerous in the kitchen, but I have a feeling you could beat those yolks until New Years Eve 2011 and they still might not be stiff.

The recipe in the magazine directs you to first separate the eggs and then beat the yolks until thick. So far so good. But then comes the mention of beating the yolks until stiff. The copy should have read, “Beat the egg whites until stiff.” That tiny typo got by me, our entire editorial staff, our graphic designer and our proofreader. I’m really sorry.

So, in the event you are looking for something to serve New Year’s Eve 2010, here’s the corrected version of Lily’s Cheesecake:

Preheat oven to 325o

Crust: Actually the cake is fine without a crust. But if you want one, try Kinnikinnick’s Graham Style Crumbs, see if there is a recipe in one of your GF cookbooks, or simply crush some GF cookies with a rolling pin and mix them with melted butter (1-2/3 cup cookie crumbs to 1/3 cup melted butter). Press the crumbs into the bottom of a 9-inch spring form pan.

Filling:

6 eggs, separated
1 cup sugar
1 pinch salt
1 tspn. vanilla
1 tspn, lemon juice
1 lb. cream cheese (2 8-oz. pkgs.)
1 pint sour cream

Beat the yolks until thick. Then add sugar, salt, vanilla and lemon juice. Add cream cheese and beat, and then add sour cream. In a separate bowl, beat the egg whites until stiff (but not dry) and fold into the egg yolk mixture. Pour into crust.
Bake at 325o for one hour. Turn the oven off and leave cake in the oven for one hour more without opening the door.
Serve plain or with whatever topping you’d like. This makes a very big cake.

Whether or not you serve Lily’s Cheesecake for your New Year’s celebration, I join Amy and Kendall in wishing everyone a Happy New Year and the best of everything in 2011. For my part, I promise to aim for no typos in our issues and no more terrible headlines!

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Are You Prepared for a Blizzard?

What a storm! It put a damper on our travel plans, but I was so grateful to be safe and sound at home. Over the years I have tried to make sure my household had a level of preparedness for anything, but I have to admit that I was woefully unprepared this time around.

My refrigerator had the leftovers of Christmas and all the goodies I was supposed to take to our extended family celebration. I had our favorite sweet potato dish to feed twenty people. I also had salad fixings for that same number. I always make an apple crisp, so I have apples coming out the wazoo.

Milk, bread and other staples were still there but I had no bottled water and very few canned goods.

I can tell the kids are getting older because I did not have any AA or D batteries. Typically, Christmas time is the one time when I am loaded with batteries for toys or games! As a quirky twist of fate, I had picked up keychain LED flashlights at Home Depot as a stocking stuffer. Other than those, I only had one working flashlight. I had four pillar candles, two tapers and precisely three tea lights left. I had two logs for the fireplace after Christmas Eve and Christmas Day fires.

As the snow swirled and the inches piled up, I became increasingly concerned as I saw these pops of light from a transformer up on a power pole.

The next day, after the snow had stopped and we had finished digging out, we did lose power. As the house started to get cold and there were no Con Ed trucks in sight, I went out to gather some things to get us through the night. I picked up a jumbo pack of hand warmers, a jumbo pack of LED candles, lots of unscented candles, firewood and something to heat on the stove for dinner.

I illuminated the house with candles and everything glowed. Even though the wind was whipping, the house had not dropped below 60 degrees so it was fine.

I whipped up a huge pasta dinner that, according to my husband, managed to involve every pot in the kitchen. The celiacs had Tinkyada shells and the regulars had sausage and cheese raviolis that I had picked up in my shopping adventure. We grabbed some of the lettuce from the fridge and placed the milk and some juice into a snow bank right outside the back door so that we could keep the refrigerator closed.

All in all, it was a pretty cozy few hours. My blackberry was dead, my daughter’s iTouch was dead, the wireless was down, the celiac’s cell phone went dead…so we just hung out. As we were about to fire up an Uno game, we heard the big Con Ed cherry picker rumble down the street. Power was restored and we were back in business!

To me, this was a wake-up call. We are so wired and in constant communication that it’s easy to forget that when the power goes down, those little devices aren’t going to get you through an emergency. You have to actually take time to prepare. It’s time to stock up on canned goods, long shelf life GF food, batteries, bottled water and grab some of those LED candles too!

Something tells me it’s going to be a very long winter.
Kendall Egan

Monday, December 27, 2010

Gluten-Free Cookie Keepers

In my last blog I wrote about trying some new cookie recipes from General Mills "live gluten freely" website.
I'm happy to report that not only did they look very appealing, they tasted great too.
The Russian tea cakes had the traditional short-bread texture, softened a bit by the powdery confectioner's sugar. No one suspected they were made without wheat flour. And surely no one would have guessed the key ingredient was gluten-free Bisquick.
The grasshopper bars are made with a base of Betty Crocker gluten-free devil's food cake mix, topped with creamy icing tinted green and flavored with mint. They were easy to cut and  the bottom held together unlike some gluten-free bar cookies that crumble. They tasted moist and had that terrific combination of chocolate and mint.
Since these two recipes turned out so well, I was encouraged to try at third from the website, holiday layer bars. I had originally put the recipe aside because it uses the Betty Crocker chocolate chip cookie mix. I don't like the mix because it results in cookies that have that tale-tell gritty gluten-free taste and so many other chocolate chip recipes make much better cookies for less money. And the recipe called for candied cherries, which look and taste like plastic to me.
But I decided to just skip the cherries and see if this recipe, too, was a keeper.
The cookie mix forms the base of the bar, which is then topped by a mix of white baking chips, coconut, cashews and sweetened condensed milk. You end up with a rich, chewy bar. I think the rich topping helps cut the grittiness of the cookie bottom.
So I will file all three in my recipe box. You can find the recipes here.


Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Last minute gluten-free Christmas tips

I am at that point in the holidays when I don't ever want to be in a grocery store, department store, discount store or mall ever again.
At this point what I need most, I think, is the liquor store!
I jest.
Instead I am spending a lot of time in my kitchen making the holiday cookies that matter to me even though my family is scratching their heads over why we need so many different kinds.
A few years ago I started making almost exclusively gluten-free cookies. It saves me from having to keep my gluten-free daughter's cookies meticulously separated from cookies made with wheat flour.
In the early years, I made two versions of everything. My recipe cards still have notations on how to divide out a portion of the wet ingredients to mix with gluten-free flours.
But gluten-free flour mixes and recipes have improved so dramatically that I find the gluten-free cookies I make are fine for everyone.
I thought I would share some of the things I am doing this year, in case you are searching about for some ideas as the minutes count down to Christmas.

Birds' Nests
My family likes these treats made with a simple combination of one cup of  melted chocolate chips, one cup of melted peanut butter chips, one cup of potato sticks and one cup of peanuts mixed all together and dropped by a teaspoon onto wax paper laid on cookies sheets. Then just leave them to harden. The original recipe called for butterscotch chips, but I had trouble finding a brand that did not contain gluten from barley malt so I just switched to peanut butter chips.
This recipe couldn't be easier.

Peppermint Sticks
I found this recipe in an old magazine and thought it looked very pretty. Essentially, you dip the tips of old fashioned Peppermint Sticks in a chocolate mix made by combining four squares (1 oz) of bittersweet or semi-sweet chocolate with 1 tablespoon of shortening in a saucepan and heating until melted. Dip one end of the stick into the chocolate, then dip that into chopped nuts or sprinkles.  Lay on wax paper until the chocolate hardens.

Peanut Blossoms
Aside from cut-out sugar cookies, these have to be one of the most popular holiday favorites. I always made two versions of this recipe until I realized that if you use a basic cookie recipe that calls for one cup of peanut butter, one cup of sugar and two eggs you will have a cookie that pleases everyone. After I mix the above ingredients I put the mixture in the refrigerator so it hardens up a little. Then I roll 1 inch balls, quickly roll them in granulated sugar and bake at 350 for about 10 minutes. While the cookies are still warm and on the cookie sheets, I press one unwrapped Hershey Kiss onto each cookie. Unwrapping the kisses is a great job for a child, teenager or spouse who is otherwise not much into holiday baking.

This year I also added some cookies from General Mills "live gluten freely" website. I tried the grasshopper bars and the Russian tea cakes, which are interestingly made with the gluten-free Bisquick mix. Both were easy to make and handled well. (One reviewer who made the tea cakes said they fell apart when she tried to roll them in powdered sugar. I did not have this problem, but I waited until the cookies were just slightly warm before picking them up. I also handled them very gingerly). I still don't know if these cookies pass the taste test since I quickly packaged them up and put them away for the holidays. I will let you know if they get raves or boos from my family. You will also find a Peanut Blossom recipe on this site, but I am happy with my easy and relatively inexpensive version.

I hope these suggestions come in handy as you try to get everything done by Christmas Day.

Happy Holidays!

Amy Ratner

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Bagels are the Bah-Hum-Bug Cure

It’s four days to Christmas and in looking over my list and checking it twice, I realize that I find shopping for girls a whole lot easier! I just texted my husband to inform him that I have “screwed” the boys and could he help think of a couple of stocking stuffers to inexpensively ease the inequity!

I also just realized that I have a niece and nephew that I haven’t shopped for yet.

Twenty minutes ago, I had to tack on extra, extra FedEx fees to make sure that the 75th birthday present for my Dad arrived on the 24th.

I sat through a two and a half hour elementary school holiday concert this morning, nothing like a fourth grade orchestra performance!

Today is the last day of school and then the kids are off, so it was a “wrapping day” but one son left for school and then walked back in the door fifteen minutes later and announced that his breakfast was upchucked in the woods…so I’ve had the pleasure of his company as I did some paperwork and phone calls this afternoon.

So, there is it. At this moment I am as bah-hug as it gets four days before Christmas. But, then what to my wondering eyes should appear but an email saying that gluten-free goodies are on their way to me!

Joan Popkin, of Joan’s Bagels, is sending me a gluten-free care package. That news turned a frown upside down….I am so excited! For those of you who have not had the pleasure of Joan’s Bagels or Bialys, you need to do yourself a favor and try them.

The bagels arrive frozen and you bake them up yourself. There is an Everything Bagel that is one of my absolute favorite gluten-free products on the market! A Sunday morning with the New York Times, a bagel hot from the oven with a little cream cheese, a slice of tomato and some slivers of red onion are just to die for. A week-day lunch of a hot bagel, cream cheese, smoked salmon and a few capers sprinkled on top with a bowl of tomato soup…it just doesn’t get any better!

So thank you Joan Popkin for making my day merry and bright! Check out their website for a terrific story on a grandmother's love and an extensive line of really great products.

Kendall Egan

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Gluten-Free Holiday gifts in Gluten-Free Living

Our new issue includes great holiday gift suggestions from a wide selection of people in the gluten-free community.

Everyone really put on their thinking caps when we asked what they were wishing for this year. And some could not resist sharing ideas based on wonderful gifts they had received in the past. Here's a sample:

From Shauna James Ahern, who just got the exciting news that her new cookbook, Gluten-Free Girl and the Chef, was picked as a top cookbook by the New York Times, smoked paprika, which she says is a special spice everyone should own.

From Danny Ahern, the chef, good stone ground polenta, which you can use to make great gluten-free pasta.

From Carol Fenster, author of 10 gluten-free cookbooks, a cushioned floor mat to stand on while working in the kitchen.

From Alice Bast, founder and president of the National Foundation for Celiac Awareness, a rice cooker for making delicious grains like quinoa.

From Stephen, author of the the gluten-free blog, GlutenFreeways, gift cards from PF Changs, Trader Joe's and Whole Foods.

And that's just the beginning. We have lots more from these contributors and others to help you find that perfect gift for the special gluten-free someone on your list.

Our new magazine also includes an in-depth interview with Alessio Fasano, director of the University of Maryland's Center for Celiac Research, on the future of celiac disease. You will find out what he think about changes in the need for the biopsy to diagnose celiac disease, a pill to treat it, the impact the economy is having on research and much more.

We also have a recipe for a cheesecake that once won Gluten-Free Living Editor and Publisher Ann Whelan a prize in a baking contest, no small feat! It might be just the holiday dessert you are looking for.

If you are wondering whether you have to worry about gluten when you take medicine to treat your winter cold or flu, you'll find the answer on our pages.

We also have details on why lack of Vitamin D is a particular concern if you are gluten free, what a gluten-free seal means on a package label, and advice on how to stay positive and gluten free. Food Editor Jackie Mallorca offers recipes using nuts, seeds and grains and we have more on cross-contamination of gluten-free grains.

Gluten-Free Living is available in more stores than ever with this issue, including select Target and Publix locations, and should begin to show up on shelves very soon. You can also subscribe on our website.

We hope the gift ideas help make your shopping a little easier this holiday season and that our magazine makes your gluten-free life healthier and happier all through the year.

Amy Ratner

Semi Home Made Gluten-Free Holiday Pies

Kendall wrote about this easy short-cut for making pies two holidays ago, but we thought it might come in handy again this season.


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.
Kendall Egan

Friday, December 3, 2010

Better food safety benefits gluten-free community

I follow food news pretty closely, mainly because I am interested in writing about anything related to the gluten-free diet for readers of Gluten-Free Living magazine and this blog.

Over the years, I've come to trust a number of others with a specialized interest and expertise in the foods we eat and the laws that regulate them. Michael Pollan, author of Food Rules, an Eater's Manual, is often a voice of reason when it comes to food. And the Center for Science in the Public Interest has pit bull jaws when it comes to exposing false food claims and pushing for healthier eating.

So I paid attention to what both had to say about food safety reform legislation passed by the Senate earlier this week. (Meanwhile, I tuned out the rants of Glenn Beck and the humor of Jon Stewart on the subject.)

Pollan, writing an op-ed piece for the New York Times, called the bill the "best opportunity in a generation to improve the safety of the American food supply." Michael F. Jacobson, executive director of CSPI, said "everyone who eats will benefit from this historic legislation."

In what is being called a sweeping overhaul of food safety regulation, the Senate version of the bill would result in more inspections of large-scale, high-risk food processing facilities. Now, a plant might get a visit from an inspector only every five to ten years as an unsuspecting public found out in August when 1,500 people were sickened by salmonella-contaminated eggs.

Another important change would give the FDA the authority to order a recall when a food is tainted. Now the FDA can only ask a food company to voluntarily recall foods and, amazingly, some companies drag their feet even when it's clear a food poses a health risk to consumers.

"The agency would finally have the resources and authority to prevent food safety problems, rather than respond only after people have become ill," Pollan wrote in the New York Times.
Another provision would require every food processing facility to have a safety plan and to run tests to show the plan is working. The bill also set standards for the safety of produce and imported foods.

While these improvements are not specific to gluten-free foods, the gluten-free community would benefit in a few ways.  Quick and forceful removal of tainted products from the food supply is good for everyone. Three contaminated foods that made people sick in the past year - eggs, spinach and pistachios - could all be eaten by someone who is gluten free.

And I would assume gluten-free processors would have to have safety plans just like any other company. (The bill does propose exempting food makers with less than $500,000 in sales who sell most of their food locally and some gluten-free companies would be in that category.)

Another possible, though still theoretical, benefit to gluten-free consumers could come when the FDA finalizes rules for foods labeled gluten free. The FDA has proposed requiring all gluten-free foods to test to less than 20 parts per million of gluten. Some who have been watching the tortuous path of the definition through numerous FDA studies and reviews have wondered all along exactly how the agency will enforce the 20 ppm standard when and if it is approved.

The food safety legislation could create a model for how to meaningfully and regularly inspect food plants. This model could be used to make sure companies that use the labels are held to the gluten-free rules.

Of course the food safety legislation has a few hurdles of its own to clear before it becomes law. The House passed its own bill last year. Now the two bodies have to hash out a final version and it looks like a procedural error in the Senate bill may slow things down.

Still, let's hope they move quickly. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates 5,000 people die from food borne illnesses every year.
While food safety for those who are gluten-free has additional layers, we are just as vulnerable as anyone else when it comes to the kind of dangers tainted foods present.

Amy Ratner

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Gluten-Free Chanukah - Hurry it's almost here!

Even though you probably still have Thanksgiving leftovers in the fridge, your thoughts are turning to latkes, applesauce and beef brisket if you celebrate Chanukah. The eight-day Jewish holiday begins at sundown tomorrow, less than a week after the table was laden with turkey and all the trimmings.

With the two holidays snug against each other, you might not be ready for another big, filling meal. And, if your house if anything like ours, gathering everyone together again so quickly might not be possible. Students have returned to college, relatives who visited from far away may not yet have recovered from holiday traffic and the first night is right in the middle of the week.

Perhaps more than other years, this Chanukah seems to call for a relatively simple, easy to prepare dinner with traditional latkes as the center piece. I am thinking roasted chicken, a wonderful salad full of dark greens studded with some leftover dried cranberries and nuts, latkes and sufganiyot (donuts).

The latkes and sufganiyot will serve as reminders of the drop of oil that  Chanukah legend says miraculously burned for eight days in the temple in Jerusalem following the Macabees' victorious fight for religious freedom.

Traditional latke recipes call for some flour, but I have found all you really need are shredded potatoes, eggs, salt, a little onion and oil for frying. If you want the consistency flour creates, almost any gluten-free flour or starch will work. I have used corn starch, potato starch and some ready-made flour mixes over the years. I would just stay away from any that have a strong flavor, plain bean flour or sorghum for example, unless you want to add that flavor to the latkes.

The food processor makes shredding easy, just be sure to squeeze out the excess liquid before you put the shredded potato in a bowl. Mix in the eggs, salt and onion and any gluten-free flour if you are using it. (The amount of each will depend on how many latkes you want to make. Three to four  large potatoes, 2 eggs and about 1 tablespoon of flour if using will make about 24 latkes.)

Drop the potato mix into oil that has been heated in a skillet. When the latkes are brown around the edges, you know it's time to flip them. Fry until the second side is crispy. Drain on paper towels. (You can keep the latkes warm in the oven but they will lose a little crispiness compared to latkes that come right from the frying pan.) Serve with applesauce, sour cream or if you have a real sweet tooth like my family, sprinkle them with sugar.

There is a great recipe for simple donut holes in The Gluten-Free Gourmet, the late Bette Hagman's first and still fabulous cookbook. I have used if for many years. If you are more ambitious and, even with little time, want jelly-filled doughnuts, there is a whole website to devoted to sufganiyot. I am not kidding - it's sufganiyot.com, that includes a gluten-free recipe.

The blog elana's pantry is another good gluten-free resource this Chanukah. Elana has a full dinner menu featuring luscious roasted chicken with olives and prunes that's Chanukah-worthy without being too hard to make. The dinner takes an interesting twist with butternut squash latkes.  The menu meets all my requirements for simplicity and exceptional flavor.

If you have other allergies in addition to celiac disease, check out the Chanukah recipes at hipp kitchen.

I have to admit I feel a little badly that Chanukah will not get a lot of attention this year due to its spot on the calendar. But if you have a nice dinner and light the candles in your menorah ( a total of 44 over eight nights), the holiday will serve as the light that warms and cheers us during the time of year when daylight is shortest.

Happy Chanukah!
Amy Ratner





Swirling Mutant Ninja Glutens

I am not a person who sweats every crumb. I do the best I can in a household that contains 2 celiacs and 4 regulars. Put another way, I do not own two colanders for pasta. I use it first for gluten-free noodles and then for wheat pasta and then I trust that my dishwasher will take care of any sticky gluten particles.

I try not to be paranoid about my kitchen, except for two weeks ago when I had regular flour everywhere. Then I had the freaked out vision of little mutant ninja glutens with fangs settling on every appliance, cutting board, knife and gluten-free product in my house.

My 4th grader, one of my “regulars,” had this incredible Life Skills Bread Baking Program by King Arthur Flour come to his school to teach the kids how to make bread. Baking is incredibly scientific. Bubbling yeast is a chemical reaction that will not work effectively without the right temperature water and the sugar. Kneading the dough creates the “stretchiness,” measurements and temperatures must be precise in order for the gas to form air pockets in the dough. Baking bread is a tactile, and delicious, science lesson!

Part of the Life Skills Bread Baking Program included a home project. King Arthur Flour gave each child flour and yeast in order to make a recipe to showcase the skills learned at school. Their recipe made two loaves, one loaf for the family to enjoy and one loaf to bring back and give as part of an outreach project for people in need.

My son enthusiastically, and sloppily, dove right in. We had spills. We had plumes of flour dust rising from the bowl with his vigorous stirring. We had spoons and bowls and splatters everywhere. All of that was on the kitchen counter, which we decided was too high so we moved the process to the kitchen table. More spills, more plumes and more flour everywhere.

Normally, as I said, I am not paranoid about a crumb or two but this was a stage 4 gluten contamination of my kitchen, a “red” alert on the discarded color-coded terror chart. I scrubbed, I swept, I spritzed, I swabbed and I continued to find lightly flour-coated things in my kitchen.

The bread was beautiful and my son felt a huge sense of accomplishment from his baking project. He proudly brought in his second loaf for a local shelter with several cans of tuna and a jar of peanut butter.

I sent my marketing contact at King Arthur Flour an email telling him how much most of my family enjoyed the program. He informed me that they include gluten-free bread mix if it’s requested for the kids who need it.

Ugh, if only I had known that before…..
Kendall Egan

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

GFL Gratitude Blog

Since the front page of any newspaper these days is a section of political and financial doom and gloom, I take the Pollyanna approach and skip right to the special sections of the newspaper. As an aside, there were two separate mentions of celiac disease in yesterday’s New York Times “Science Times” section, but my favorite special section these days is the “Personal Journal” of the Wall Street Journal.

Yesterday’s Personal Journal had a front page article about gratitude and the many health benefits of practicing gratitude. It is so easy to ruminate on the slights and unpleasantness of daily life, or the aches and pains of growing older but people who practice showing gratitude and who focus on things they are thankful for lead happier, healthier lives.

So as I sit in my home office with the smell of roasting sweet potatoes wafting up the stairs, I am going to focus on what I’m thankful for in celiac-land this year.

I’m grateful for the latitude to have a home office so that I can juggle career and kids in a fairly chaotic, yet seamless fashion.

I’m grateful that our print order has doubled since our March, Vol 10, #1, issue.

I’m grateful that the editors and the graphic artist are still speaking to me after harping on them about the importance of deadlines for the past four issues.

I’m grateful to our partners in advertising, distribution, fulfillment, web hosting and printing who have helped us grow.

I’m grateful for every single inventor—large or small—who created a new gluten-free food this year.

I’m grateful to our readers who subscribe and purchase GFL from newsstands nationwide.

I’m grateful to the fabulous women I work with—Ann, Amy, Vicki, Carolyn and Unkyung. You all have enriched my life.

I’m grateful to my wonderful husband who searched the internet for a sausage and cornbread stuffing recipe and who is making it gluten-free, all by himself!

I’m grateful to my four kids who bust my chops every time I inappropriately get lost in my blackberry with a smarty-pants quip---“whatcha doing mom, blogging again?”

Maybe there is something to be said about this exercise in gratitude! I feel happier and healthier already. To everyone, a very Happy Thanksgiving!

Kendall Egan

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Sandwich Screw Up

Yesterday I was in a big meeting at Gluten-Free Living HQ and I received the familiar “ba-dink” from my Blackberry alerting me that I had a new text message. The only person who texts me in the middle of the day is my high school senior from whatever class she’s in and that’s a different problem altogether. Kids these days don’t ever pay attention to one thing at a time.

But, it was the lunch hour and since she has nine scheduled periods, she eats lunch in chorus so I apologized to Ann Whelan and looked at the text.

“I think you gave me the wrong sandwich.”

“Oh crap…” I texted back. Hardly a politically correct or maternal tone, but what she really was saying is that she got the turkey sandwich with the gluten-free bread and my celiac got the turkey sandwich on the loaded-with-gluten bread.

Two minutes later and there is another “ba-dink.” My other daughter happens to be in chorus as well and since both are Altos, they sit next to each other.

“Rach thinks its GF bread too.”

Now at this point, I’m wondering if I packed my celiac the Wheat Thins or the Pirate Booty and gluten-free chocolate chip cookies. Did I switch up the entire lunch or just the sandwiches? I confirmed that my daughter had the Wheat Thins so at least my celiac had something to eat in his lunch.

I assumed he was smart enough to look at the sandwich and deduce that he had whole wheat bread there. But, when you are hungry, you tend to make rationalizations. I was really ticked off at myself because that’s just a really dumb error.

When my daughter walked in, I asked her if she ate the sandwich and she did. She said that it tasted pretty good and that it took her a while to decide if it was GF or not. I typically buy whole wheat bread for the rest of them, so the fact that it looked more like white bread tipped her off.

When my celiac walked in from school he was grouchy, not because he felt sick but because he was hungry! He did not eat the sandwich, took it out of his back pack and asked me what to do with it. He didn’t even eat the turkey from the bread.

I said chuck the sandwich and I’ll fix you a nice big, GF bagel with cream cheese. What a relief, I’ll take a grouchy, hungry celiac over a kid who made the wrong decision any day. And to Ann Whelan, who puts up with these interruptions during meetings…thank you.

Kendall Egan

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Fixed by Facebook?

I was scrolling through my celiac Facebook page recently. There was a posting asking a medical question, if you realize you’ve accidentally eaten gluten is there anything you can do to blunt the side effects before they hit?

There were 57 responses! It was crazy, some of the stuff folks had you popping into your already distressed gut were things I'd never even heard of as "treatments" to an accidental gluten ingestion…aloe vera juice, digestive enzymes, Tylenol, antacids, huge volumes of water and probiotics. There was some practical advice…hot water bottle on yucky tummy and taking a “wait and see” attitude. But who is to say which advice is a conflict of interest from a person representing a product or advice from a complete wack-a-doo or true physician’s advice?

Most of the people on my celiac Facebook page are complete strangers with a common thread of celiac disease. There are some great recipes and good baking tips shared by all sorts of home and professional cooks, which I really appreciate. There are some postings about things going in the medical community or celiac news. But, seeking “medical” advice from just anyone seems weird, even risky. Or maybe not...maybe I am the only one who thinks this is strange.

Would you take medical advice from your Facebook wall?
Kendall Egan

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Justifying an Impulse Purchase

The temperature plummeted in the northeast this weekend reminding me that winter is just around the corner. I think it was the fact that I was chilled to the bone while out and about on a rare Sunday to myself up in Providence, RI that prompted a purchase of a set of totally useless hot chocolate spoons.

They are adorable, don’t get me wrong, but why does anyone need a special spoon for chocolate milk or hot chocolate? In a moment of weakness, I thought they perfectly matched the mugs I purchased for my kids on Valentine’s Day several years ago.

I also bought a Halloween themed silicon spatula that was marked down, but that was a useful and necessary item in my kitchen even with the orange and black, witchy and spidery theme going on. I just keep shaking my head when I look at these hot chocolate spoons.

Every afternoon I have a big mug of green tea. I guess I could shake it up every once and a while and have a hot cocoa…both are gluten-free. My kids make hot cocoa all the time, but they don’t shove all the other mugs out of the way to get to their Valentine’s Day mugs and I certainly can’t see them freaking out if they can’t find the hot chocolate spoons!

I have the green tea for the little bit of caffeine around 2:30 to preempt the late afternoon sinker. Green tea is also in that “good for you” category since it is full of anti-oxidants, unlike a caffeinated soda.

However, as a celiac who is slightly vitamin D deficient, I am thinking that one or two mugs of hot cocoa per week may be an idea to ponder. If I make hot cocoa using skim milk and a high quality dark cocoa, I will get a little bit of caffeine, a little bit of anti-oxidants, calcium and vitamin D. Plus, it has a certain level of decadence even if I use skim milk!

I am going to do it! Who has a fantastic gluten-free cocoa powder to recommend? I am trying really hard to justify my very silly purchase of hot chocolate spoons.

Kendall Egan

Thursday, October 28, 2010

In the blink of a celiac click

Add $45 million to the lengthening list of big numbers associated with celiac disease. That’s the amount the family of a grateful patient from Indiana is donating to the University of Maryland Center for Celiac Research for the study of celiac disease and other autoimmune disorders such as multiple sclerosis and Type 1 diabetes. Alessio Fasano, MD, professor and director of the Center for Celiac Research, will be the first director of the new research enterprise.

I am astounded by the amount of the donation but not that this family has chosen Dr. Fasano to be the recipient of their generosity. He certainly deserves it.

I met Dr. Fasano nearly 20 years ago at a medical meeting shortly after I had been diagnosed with celiac disease. He was new to this country and not as fluent in English as he wanted or needed to be. His language frustration was palpable, but it didn’t last for long. While plenty of funny constructions still seep into his heavily accented English, language is absolutely no barrier in his life.

I like to say that Dr. Fasano landed on US soil, held up a celiac disease flag, and has not put it down since them. There has been success after success and we have him to thank for many of them. But it seems he’s just getting started. He is indefatigable, brilliant and an awful lot of fun to be around. My favorite Alessio slip was this comment referring to the speed with which one gets answers on the web: “It happened in the blink of a click,”

It’s easy to get lost in the challenges of leading a gluten-free life and to forget the damage autoimmune disease brings to the human race. Dr. Fasano once said, “If I had to have to have an autoimmune disease, I would want it to be celiac disease.” I couldn’t agree more. Diabetes, for example, is one of the leading causes of illness and death not only in this country but around the world. It is a constant hassle and those who cope with diabetes cannot let their guard down for one minute. I actually take some pride in thinking that study of “my” disease might bring some help to those who are challenged with diabetes.

Multiple sclerosis patients deal with many physical challenges and often with a shortened life. This simple explanation from the Mayo Clinic says it all:

“Multiple sclerosis (MS) is a potentially debilitating disease in which your body’s immune system eats away at the protective sheath that covers your nerves. This interferes with the communication between your brain and the rest of your body. Ultimately, this may result in deterioration of the nerves themselves, a process that’s not reversible.”

I grew up in the 50s and was one of the original ardent fans of the Mickey Mouse Club. Annette Funicello was perhaps the most outstanding of the Mousekateers on the show and went on to star in several teen-oriented flicks. She was the one who usually got the guy, who was usually played by Frankie Avalon, one of my teen heartthrobs. To say I was jealous would be an understatement.

Funicello was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in her forties. One of the sadder aspects of MS is that it tends to strike when people are relatively young. I’ve seen her on television where she sometimes appears as MS spokesperson and, like Michael J. Fox does with Parkinson’s Disease, she does not hide her symptoms. That takes courage.

My point is that other autoimmune disease, like diabetes and MS, seem to have a much more profound effect on our ability to live a happy, healthy life than does celiac disease. It might even be safe to say that CD might not receive the research attention it does now were it not for these connections.

But all this is not meant to debate which is the worst autoimmune disease on the planet. It would be great to get rid of all of them. The $45 million that the Center for Celiac Research will receive will be put to good, targeted use and those of us with celiac disease will likely be prime beneficiaries. Please join me in congratulating Dr. Fasano and in hoping this money gives him to opportunity to do great things for this planet. And, of course, it wouldn’t hurt if your congratulations come attached to a monetary donation to the CFCR Here is a link to the website In the blink of a click, you can contribute to what is certainly a noble effort.

Ann

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

You’re (over) Due

I have had two people recently tell me that I am over due for a blog post. I was shocked, and secretly stoked. Someone actually wanted to read more gluten-free musings from me, that was a thoroughly exciting “yeah me” moment.

I thought about what was getting in the way of my weekly post. There is a high school senior in my house who is pulling her hair out over college applications and providing me ample “I told you so” moments since I had been suggesting since July to write this essay. I’ve bit my tongue so many times, because only a jerk tells a stressed out 17 year old “I told you so,” that I’ve “rendered myself practically mute.”(Those are Obama’s words to describe Rahm Emmanuel’s middle finger injury.)

I have the high school freshman who is a whirl wind of disorganization. Every morning there is a flurry of panicked action requiring her to run around the house and shove things into bags. As the resident smarty pants in the house, I can’t help but wonder out loud why the fact that she has to bring in her homework or pack a bag for soccer is such a daily surprise for her. So far we have had some calamitous things left behind, like yesterday when she left two sets of cleats behind but packed up the uniform for a game, but the ball always seems to bounce her way. The game was canceled and she grabbed her sneakers from her gym locker and practiced in those.

Then there is the celiac. He went off to middle school, no problem there. I have just decided that even though he is a very talented football player, I have no stomach to watch him play. After watching two bigger guys sandwich him and “ring his bell,” I prefer to watch the game film later. I missed a long run, a touchdown catch and a game saving tackle by sitting home last week…but I think I prefer watching other people’s children play football to my own.

My baby is busy doing 4th grade stuff. This weekend is my last Circus Arts performance. I am celebrating all those “last time” milestones. I relish attending his soccer games because he is just so good, all of that time spent trying to keep up with the older kids channels beautifully into aggressive, strong play “on the pitch.” Starting today, he will go to school two days a week an hour early for extra-curricular activities…newly “found” time for me.

What I’m not thinking about, at all, is gluten. I don’t even have to go to two grocery stores anymore because every store in my area has gluten-free foods. My pizzeria has gluten-free pizza. I have bread mix but I also have a couple of good loaves of readymade bread in the freezer. I have cookies in a box, frozen dough in the freezer and mixes in my pantry. I have a cupboard with a variety of rice (including purple rice) and different types of corn or brown rice pasta. In that sense, I can’t believe how easy a gluten-free diet has become.

One less worry and one less errand is a good thing because life is hectic, but it’s also good. Thanks for reading!

Kendall Egan

Monday, October 4, 2010

Join the effort to get the gluten-free label defined

We are a few days into October, which is Celiac Disease Awareness month. But both Congress and the Food and Drug Administration do not seem to be aware that we're now more than two years past a deadline for important legislation that would benefit everyone with celiac disease.
Congress directed the FDA to define exactly what "gluten free" on a label means by August 2008 when it passed the Food Allergen Labeling and Consumer Protection Act. The FDA has come up with a proposal, but the proposal has been in limbo for far too long.
I attended a Celiac conference in Delaware last weekend where many people, both those who just found out they have celiac disease and those who have been on the gluten-free diet for a long time, had questions about confusing labels. Their lives would be much simpler if the gluten-free label clearly meant one thing.
That's not the case now.
Currently the only law that governs use of the "gluten free" on a package is a general requirement that a label be truthful and not misleading.
The proposed definition is much more specific, spelling out that: wheat, barley and rye can not be used outright in a food labeled gluten; ingredients made from those three grains can only be used if they are processed to remove the gluten protein; all gluten-free food must test to less than 20 parts per million of gluten; and only specially grown gluten-free oats can be used.
When I contacted the FDA recently to find out if there is anything new to report on the gluten-free definition, I got a very short answer. No updates.
So it seems like nothing is going to happen on this for a very long time unless the gluten-free community organizes a push to make something happen.
The American Celiac Disease Alliance, an advocacy group made up of celiac disease support groups, gluten-free businesses, medical centers and professionals, seems the logical leader of an organized effort to get the attention of both the FDA and Congress.
You can join the effort by going to the ACDA website and sending emails to your US Senators and House Representative. Then send another directly to the FDA. Forms on the site make this very easy to do.
I know there are enough gluten-free consumers out there to make their voices heard. On facebook and twitter, some gluten-free sites have 10,000 to nearly 30,000 followers. Just think how loud a group this large and with so much at stake could be. I can't think of a better, more productive way to mark Celiac Awareness month.
With a unified effort, we can make Congress and the FDA aware of how important a defined gluten-free label  is.

Amy Ratner

Friday, October 1, 2010

Transitioning to Middle School

For my celiac, the start of this school year brought a new building, new kids, new schedule and different teachers for each subject as he transitioned from elementary to middle school.

That’s a whole lot of explaining to do about what he can’t eat and why. Celiac Disease just screams “different” when “sameness” is so desirable. But, after the first month, it has been okay.

In language arts, one of the first writing assignments was to compare paragraph structure to an Oreo. The teacher passed out Oreo’s to drive the lesson home and then asked my celiac why he didn’t eat his.

I was unaware of this lesson until my celiac came home and asked, “Mom, where do you buy gluten-free Oreo’s?” Instead of giving him the answer, I asked “Why?” He explained the lesson, and the good news here is that the sentence structure component of the paragraph lesson stuck, but added that his teacher wanted to get him some Oreo’s that he could eat since they would be reinforcing the Oreo concept in Social Studies.

I emailed the teacher and told her where to get them, but offered to drop off an unopened package at the school for her. She found the GF Oreo’s, the Glutino version, in her local Stop n Shop and all was fine…my celiac even got to bring home the rest of the package!

Our first little roadblock and we skirted around it with zero problem. I know there are many pizza parties, dinners out and Oreo type lessons in the near future and a lot more explaining to do, but the good news is that it’s like water off a duck’s back for this kid.

There will be lots of those moments when my celiac will be called upon to explain why he isn’t eating or drinking something that looks delicious, but contains gluten. I hope it continues to be no big deal for him to stay gluten-free.

Kendall Egan

Monday, September 27, 2010

You are never too old to get celiac disease, study shows

The number of people in the US who have celiac disease has been doubling every 15 years, with most of the increase found among the elderly, according to a new study released today.

Researchers at the University of Maryland's Center for Celiac Research looked at blood tests of 3,511 people and found that one in 501 were positive for celiac disease in 1974, increasing to one in 219 in 1989. As people in the study aged, the incidence of celiac disease rose, according to  results published in the online version of The Annals of Medicine. The CFCR's landmark study into the prevelance of celiac disease in 2003 put the number at one in 133.

Carlo Catassi, MD, lead author and co-director of the CFCR, said you are not necessarily born with celiac disease and urged physicians to screen their elderly patients. The new research echoes the results of a 2008 Finnish study that found the prevalence of celiac disease in the elderly is nearly two and a half times higher than in the general population.

"You are never too old to develop celiac disease," said Alessio Fasano, MD, director of the CFCR.

Fasano said the study shows that environmental factors cause a person to stop being able to tolerate gluten at some point in their lifetime. If individuals can tolerate gluten for many decades before developing celiac disease, something other than gluten must be in play, Fasano said.

If those factors could be identified and manipulated, new treatments and prevention of celiac disease would be possible, he said.  Researchers have already identified specific genetic markers for the development of celiac disease, but these markers do not guarantee that an individual will eventually get it. How and why someone loses tolerance to gluten remains a mystery.

The increase in celiac diagnosis in the elderly also calls into question the assumption that celiac disease usually develops in childhood.

The study was based on blood samples from more than 3,500 adults who were followed over time. The Universita Politecnica delle Marche in Ancona, Italy, the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, the Women & Children's Hospital of Buffalo and Quest Diagnostics also participated.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Are Lipton soup mixes still gluten free?

The oven-roasted potatoes recipe on the Lipton Onion Soup mix box has been a favorite side dish in our house for years.

So when an observant celiac support group leader from Philadelphia called Gluten-Free Living to ask if we knew if it was still gluten-free despite a change in the ingredients, I ran to my pantry. I had just bought a six pack of the mix at a warehouse club.

I am sorry to admit I did not look at the multi-pack in the store, especially since Gluten-Free Living always says you have to read the ingredients list every time you buy a food!

Both Lipton's Recipe Secrets Onion and Vegetable soup mixes now list autolyzed yeast extract made from barley. A consumer representative said this is a change in the formulation.

Lipton has a policy of always listing any potentially gluten-containing ingredient on its labels. Allergen labeling laws require wheat to be noted, but Lipton, a Unilever brand, voluntarily also lists any barley or rye. Consumers are advised to use the labels to determine if products are gluten free.

But the consumer representative said the onion soup is estimated to contain only 0.09 parts per million of gluten and the vegetable only 0.04 ppm. These levels are far below the 20 ppm of gluten the Food And Drug Administration has proposed as the cut-off for foods that can be considered gluten free.

I contacted Unilever's press office for more information about the tests used to get these amounts. Barley can sometimes present specific problems when it comes to testing. But so far I have not heard back. I'll follow up when I do.

Meanwhile, I had already researched autolyzed yeast extract made from barley for an On Your Plate column in an issue of Gluten-Free Living published earlier this year.

It turns out that autolyzed yeast made from barley is fairly rare. But I did find one company, Bio Springer, that produces some. Jean-Marc Pernet, head of market development for Bio Springer, said soup is one place that you might expect to find it.

Pernet said only a small amount of barley malt extract is used and only minimal traces of gluten remain in the final autolyzed yeast extract -- far below 20 ppm. In fact, Bio Springer certifies its product as gluten free.

Also keep in mind that yeast extract is typically used in very small amounts in a finished food. Pernet said there is little, if any, risk of finding gluten from yeast extract in a soup.

I don't know if the Lipton soup mixes use the Bio Springer yeast extract. But it would still seem the mixes poses little risk of containing any significant gluten.

I should also note the soup mix label says they are made in a facility that also processes wheat. It is very hard to know exactly what advisory statements like this mean because they are not regulated or required. A shared facility does not mean a product is automatically cross contaminated by other foods made there, but allows for the potential to exist.

Like all things gluten free, you have to weigh the facts that are available in deciding whether to keep using the Lipton soup mixes.

And remember to always read the label!

Amy Ratner

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Gluten-free news from Gluten-Free Living magazine




A study getting some recent online attention reports that when people are newly diagnosed the first place they go for information is the Internet. This doesn't surprise us at Gluten-Free Living.

We have been active online for a number of years, offering information on our website, blog, Twitter and Face book page, especially with the newly diagnosed in mind. It's not unusual for someone seeking information of any kind to do their initial searching on the Internet.

But we do think it's a little premature to use the study to declare that those who follow the gluten-free diet rely only on online information. And when we read the study for ourselves, we did not find evidence to support one blogger's declaration that "people are no longer subscribing to magazines because they can get pertinent information more quickly on Twitter."

In fact our own growing circulation and distribution -- up 130 percent -- would refute that claim, which was based on only one comment in the study.

The study was done by Mitch McKenney, an assistant professor of journalism and mass communications at Kent State University-Stark, for the Civic and Civilian Journalism Interest Group. He interviewed 24 people who maintain gluten-free websites or blogs to find out about their "civilian journalism" activities. One blogger posted his questions on her site, which generated another four responses. McKenney says that "to round out the reporting," the contents of sites mentioned by others in the reporting process were examined and included. Personally, I question the real value of a study that relies on a group with a vested interest in a particular outcome.

Since Gluten-Free Living is in the fairly rare position of both producing a gluten-free magazine and being active in the online gluten-free community, we can see the strengths of each.

Online you have speed.

You can ask a question and get an answer almost as fast as you can type it. (This is true about everything, not just the gluten-free diet.) But even the Internet writers in the study said they have some reservations about the accuracy of some information shared online. We know about this uncertainty because we regularly get letters and emails that start something like, "I just read on the Internet ....Can you tell me if this is true?"

In addition to speed, we love being in constant contact with our Twitter followers and Face book fans. We thoroughly enjoy being able to "talk" regularly on our blog and share ideas and experiences that might not make it into the magazine. And we hold all of our Internet sites to the same standard of accuracy as the magazine.

But in print, you have both accuracy and depth.

In each issue, Gluten-Free Living offers 62 pages, cover to cover, of well-researched information and advertisements completely about the gluten-free diet and lifestyle. We have nearly 20 years of experience looking into gluten-free topics and our reputation is well established. We have always advocated a common sense approach to the diet based on fact and not unfounded fear.

Our readers tell us they save issues of the magazine and go back to refer to them again and again. And they pull them out when someone else has a question about ingredients, labeling, nutrition, dining out, going to school - well you get the drift.

One part of the study in particular caught our attention and has some valuable lessons to teach, even if unwittingly. A support group blogger recalls how accurate information was hard to come by when she was first diagnosed 10 years ago, saying that there were rules that don’t apply today. “We were told to avoid all items that had vinegar,” she said, while it’s known today that most items with distilled vinegar are fine.

The study's author, who did not include specialty gluten-free magazines in his research or any of his questions, probably did not realize that Gluten-Free Living is responsible for the information on vinegar. Most newer bloggers also probably don't.

But we looked into this question a number of years ago when all the dietetic, support, and medical groups said distilled vinegar was not safe. Slowly all of them came to accept our reporting and research on the fact that distilled vinegar is gluten free.

Without the kind of work a gluten-free magazine can do -- and not simply "retweeting" -- we would all still be worrying about distilled vinegar in salad dressing and marinades, not to mention distilled alcohol which is gluten free for the same reason as distilled vinegar.

And in the magazine we continue to use our expertise to follow other gluten-free developments. We have extensively covered labeling, from the very first mention of new laws governing it through work on a definition of "gluten free." We were among the first to look into the controversy over McDonald's french fries and gluten. The topics we cover are often complex and some answers might not come as quickly as a blog that just repeats what is found in a study. But we are hard at work looking for the facts that can have a big impact on your gluten-free life.

We see Gluten-Free Living and the world of blogs, Twitter and Face book existing all at once. Each one can provide those in the gluten-free community with different kinds of important information.

Although we have recipes in each issue, we enjoy many of the cooking, baking, you-name-it sites that provide readers with information, instruction and inspiration in the kitchen.

We know that reading a personal story of diagnosis and return to good health can be comforting for someone who is newly struggling with the gluten-free diet. Many of these stories are available online. Although we advocate learning how to read a label yourself, when you are new to the gluten-free diet, you might want lists of specific brands of products that are safe and these can be found on the Internet. Other sites chronicle every study related to celiac disease or give details about gluten-free dining and shopping opportunities in individual cities. And some provide very specific advice for those who have other allergies or intolerances in addition to celiac disease. Many give their opinion on products sent to them by gluten-free companies.

We read numerous online sites as part of the process of keeping tabs on gluten-free concerns. We like many of them. And we count ourselves as part of the online community that can help anyone with celiac disease, gluten intolerance or gluten sensitivity live a happy, healthy gluten-free life.

But we know there is still a lot of room, and more important, a real need for Gluten-Free Living, the magazine.

Amy Ratner

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Food Rules


I recently read Michael Pollan's pocket sized novelette, Food Rules, which is a collection of mostly common sense rules about healthy eating. We have all heard about smaller portions, the importance of fruits and vegetables and the gospel of local, organic foods as better for the environment and for our health. It never hurts to read these rules if only to reinforce what you already know. It never makes the “right” decisions about eating any easier in tempting situations though!

The funny thing from my perspective is that he opens the book with two mentions of “gluten-free,” but then never mentions gluten-free again in any of his food rules. I was really hoping he would set everyone straight in one of his rules that a gluten-free diet is a fabulous diet for people with celiac disease or a gluten intolerance, and that includes a lot of people in the US, but that folks should look to other rules to lose weight…like portion control and decreasing sugary and fatty foods.

There was one little tip that I thought was particularly brilliant, which I will share. The tip was to save the water from steaming vegetables to re-use in sauces or soups because flavor and nutrients are in that water!

I have visions of putting spinach water into pasta sauce or steaming carrots in chicken broth and then using the broth later for a soup. Imagine the color if you put steamed beet water into a muffin mix?

Since the farmer’s markets are bursting with end of summer produce, now is the time to steam vegetables and then freeze the water for winter stews!

Maybe I didn’t glean any gluten-free wisdom from Food Rules, but I am definitely going to make flamboyantly pink gluten-free blueberry muffins after my next batch of steamed beets!

Kendall Egan

Monday, September 13, 2010

Our take on Celiac Awareness Day

Today is Celiac Awareness Day, by resolution of the US Senate.

With news of celiac disease and the gluten-free diet everywhere, I couldn't help but think of how far we have come in raising awareness of a disease hardly ever heard of when my own daughter was diagnosed almost exactly 18 years ago.

It has come with some very hard work by every day people spreading the word, as well as through organized efforts by foundations, support groups, businesses and the medical community.

At Gluten-Free Living we have tried to do our part with a commitment to wipe out incorrect information about the gluten-free diet, while searching for the most reliable information we can find. We think this is the best way to ensure that you have a happy, healthy gluten-free life.

But every once in awhile I am reminded that there is still a lot of work to do.

I spent several hours on the phone last week with someone recently diagnosed who is struggling to eat gluten-free meals that are safe, varied, nutritious and tasty. In our conversation, I was transported to the early days after my daughter was diagnosed and I stood in the bread aisle of my local supermarket barely able to breath. All I could think was that if we were trapped among the shelves stacked high with food, she would still have nothing to eat.

It's been a long time since I recalled that feeling.But the person I was talking to had just had a very similar experience. She was nearly in tears as she roamed her grocery looking to fill her shopping cart.
One of the things making her job so difficult was bad information she had been given about what was and was not safe to eat. For example, she was desperately searching for gluten-free vanilla extract, having given away the perfectly fine bottle she had had at home. She thought tomato soup was the only one safe on the gluten-free diet. And anything with vinegar, she had read, was out.

It doesn't take long to figure out how someone with celiac disease can get bad information, when only two weeks ago the Wall Street Journal ran a story that incorrectly said ketchup and ice cream have gluten-containing fillers, that vinegar is fermented with gluten and that lipstick and envelope glue contain gluten. In a letter to the editor we wrote in response to the story we said, "The gluten-free diet is the only cure available to those who have celiac disease and results in improved health for those who are gluten sensitive or intolerant. But it is a challenging diet and misinformation only makes it needlessly more difficult."

Although the Wall Street Journal ran a correction, I saw its information about ketchup repeated in a Washington Post blog about barbecue sauce.
To stop the spread of bad information, we don't promote stories that contain inaccuracies on this blog or on our Twitter or Facebook sites. We know how hard it is to pull back bad information once its blasts across the Internet.

The first step in improving celiac disease awareness is to make it so well know that doctors test for it in every case where it is a possibility. The second is to make sure that once a person is diagnosed they are given accurate information about how to follow the diet. From there, we can do amazing things like getting food makers to produce better gluten-free products, restaurants to prepare truly gluten-free meals, schools and colleges to provide options for gluten-free students, and ball parks to offer gluten-free hot dogs, buns and beer.

When I started the gluten-free journey with my then two-year-old daughter, only the most optimistic in the gluten-free community dared to dream about these things--which are now becoming realities. The rest of us were just trying to figure out how to prepare a gluten-free breakfast, lunch and dinner every day.

We can't forget that the challenge of eating gluten-free is still very real, especially for the newly diagnosed. We have come a very long way, but we still have ground to cover.

Amy

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

A Bad Turn in “Fad Diet”

Yesterday’s Wall Street Journal’s sports page had a “What You Need to Know” Q & A about football that mentioned a gluten-free diet.

In my opinion, this mention of a gluten-free diet wasn’t really a good thing. They were talking about the Jets (an offensive subject at any level to a diehard Giant’s fan, but I digress). The reporter was answering the question “are the Jet’s for real,” as in are they worth all the media hype they have received thus far in the season.

I quote, “Potty-mouthed head coach Rex Ryan, a/k/a Magic Khakis, is more popular here than gluten-free diets, and the Super Bowl talk flows freely, and alarmingly.”

First off, I highly doubt the Jet’s will make it to the Super Bowl. But, more alarmingly the “popularity” of a gluten-free diet, as it is stated here, is not something I think is entirely positive. Even though medical professionals have stated that a “g-free” diet is not really a weight loss tool, people are still hopping on the trend bandwagon of going gluten-free to lose weight.

I have to say I just get so…ticked off, trying to keep it “G” rated…when a person extols the virtues of a gluten-free diet when it’s just a temporary diversion for them. “I feel so fabulous.” “I have so much energy.” Blah, Blah, Blah…

I know that within weeks a slice of pizza or a loaf of French bread or a plate of pasta will sneak back in and then the door will open to a regular intake of foods containing gluten again. It’s annoying and I regularly point out the big difference between the trendster and a celiac, I am on a gluten-free diet forever and for far different reasons. I’m trying to avoid a plethora of scary diseases, plus I would be sick as a dog if I were to eat a plate of regular pasta.

What I really feel like saying, is take your trendy enthusiasm for the gluten-free diet and…well, channeling the “G” rating again, you get the idea.

Kendall Egan

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Blood types and celiac disease

Many years ago, when I was wandering around from doctor to doctor trying to figure out what was wrong with me, I happened to visit one of the Dr. D’Adamos (there is more than one Dr. D’Adamo pushing the blood type theories) at the suggestion of my then yoga instructor, who I liked a lot. That’s probably why I followed up on her suggestion. She seemed to know a lot about health and a lot of doctors didn’t seem to know anything at all about my health in general and my many physical complaints in particular. Plus, his office was not very far from my home.

The Dr. D’Adamo I saw said I had Type O blood and therefore I should eat meat. I was getting desperate, so I did begin to eat a lot of meat. At that point, I was avoiding a lot of food items thinking they made me ill, so the meat I ate was probably plain and therefore gluten free.

But I didn’t get any better because what I really had was celiac disease. Dr. D’Adamo did not advance my health one bit. In fact, he set me back while I experimented with the idea that eating meat would make me better.

The blood type theory arises every few years or so but to be honest, I don’t think it ever pans out in any helpful way. I vaguely remember a quote we had in one issue when a reader wrote in asking about the Blood Type theories. The doctor said (and I am paraphrasing from memory), if that were true, meaning blood type can guide treatment, then wouldn’t we all be much healthier than we are today?

I have been diagnosed with celiac disease for 20 years. I will agree that there are still, in 2010, medical doctors who don’t know squat about celiac disease. But I do know that theories I might term “outré” can delay a celiac disease diagnosis.

Certainly Dr. D’Adamo did me no good and some harm while I toyed with his theories. So I take issue with the idea that knowing your blood type will help you manage your gluten-free life. Frankly I don’t think it will do you any good at all.

Ann

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Gluten-Free Success in the Kitchen

For my second try at real cooking, I decided to stay away from meat altogether and found a perfect sandwich recipe.
As I’ve mentioned before, my sandwiches are usually pretty simple - peanut butter on toasted gluten-free bread. I never put a lot of thought into lunch so I figured this sandwich could help change that.
The recipe for Arugla-Pear Focaccia Panini comes from Carol Fenster’s “1,000 Gluten-Free Recipes.” I think you can find a recipe for almost anything in this book – it has 700 pages!
I did adapt the recipe a little, something that I learned can be important from the last time I cooked. First, I used bread that I already had instead of making the Focaccia. I wanted something that I could make quickly so preparing a special bread wouldn’t have fit my goal.
Second, the recipe calls for a Panini press. I definitely don’t own one of those so I made the sandwich more like a grilled cheese with a little bit of cooking oil on a frying pan. Then I pressed the spatula down hard onto the bread to flatten it out.
Carol Fenster also suggests flattening the sandwich out by putting a heavy skillet on top if you do not own a Panini press.
But before all that I put the sandwich together. The recipe called for a little bit of spinach, Swiss cheese, very thin pear slices, red onion and a special spread (the recipe for the spread is in the cookbook) all layered between two slices of bread. After the sandwich was assembled, I put it in the pan on the stove for a few minutes, flipped it and cooked it for another minute or two. Overall it was a very simple recipe that did not require much more time than it does to toast bread and then put some peanut butter on it.
I did have to go out to get a few of the items because they were not all things that I had at home.
The sandwich tasted great and was not like anything that I have previously tried. I would never have thought of using pears with onions and cheese on a sandwich.
I would definitely make this sandwich again! Another lesson I learned is that I can create interesting and different meals that aren’t much harder than very basic things I’m used to. The key is just to get a little creative and think outside the box.
I know I have said I want to make healthy meals, but once I opened the cookbook I used for this recipe, I couldn’t resist some of the desserts. So that’s what’s up next!

Amanda

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Vitamin D Deficient

This summer I have read article after article on the prevalence of Vitamin D deficiencies in American woman. We all know that calcium is important for strong bones and teeth, but vitamin D is important for calcium absorption. You don’t want your daily calcium coming from your bones so having the daily dose of calcium is so important to preventing osteoporosis. As a celiac, I have been very careful the past ten years to make sure I was getting plenty of calcium daily and doing weight bearing exercise for bone health.

I have never even worried about vitamin D because I am an outdoorsy person—tennis, swimming, walking—and I assumed I received plenty of vitamin D through sunlight. I am not a milk drinker, but I take a calcium supplement that has vitamin D in it.

I went in for some standard blood work for an upcoming physical and all was well, except my doctor said that I was vitamin D deficient! I guess the sunscreen I wear 365 days a year was really working. The funny thing is that I still have my “SPF 50” tan and the dermatologist still looks at me cross eyed when I walk in to her office with skin in a golden honey hue.

So to prevent one problem, I have created another. I guess that is the way it goes with health and prevention. Now I need to take even more vitamin D in supplement form and I’m trying to choke down a little more milk (yuck) every day. I don’t want to forgo my sunscreen though, having freckles removed is low on my list of fun things to do.

Kendall Egan

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Dinner's ready, gluten-free that is!

As part of my plan to learn how to cook while home from college this summer, I attempted to prepare my first, real complete dinner meal last week.

I made Chicken Satay with Peanut sauce, which seemed like a good choice because I wanted something simple but more interesting than plain grilled chicken.

It was a bit of a risk because I get squeamish touching uncooked meat. Actually, once I see raw meat I have trouble eating it even after it’s cooked. I know that if I want to learn to cook – I’m not a vegetarian and don’t have trouble eating meat others make – I have to get over it.

I started preparing the meal around 4 pm, mixing together sauce and cutting the chicken while holding it down with a fork so that I didn't have to touch it. Then I put the raw chicken into a Ziploc bag with the sauce and refrigerated it. Two hours later I took out the chicken, stuck a few pieces together on skewers and put it on the grill. The recipe said to leave the chicken on for about four minutes, but I ended up keeping it there for close to twenty. With the chicken pushed together on skewers it didn’t cook as fast as the recipe said it would. When it was finally done, I spread on a peanut sauce I had made while the chicken was cooking.

For a side dish I made Hamburger Helper's gluten-free fried rice. I left out the chicken in the recipe on the box since I was serving it with the Chicken Satay. Overall I thought that the fried rice was pretty good.

The Chicken Satay was a little less tasty to me. If I ever make it again I would not put the chicken on skewers or add the peanut sauce at the end. The skewers took too much effort and time. While grilling the chicken, the skewers burnt and broke off so that I had the stick new skewers in most of the pieces at the end anyway. The sauce was a little too spicy and thick for me. Changing the sauce recipe by adding more water and less crushed red pepper could help fix that.

I made the dinner for my whole family and my mom said that she liked the meal a lot, but that might have had more to do with the fact that she didn't have to cook for once.

While the recipe was a change from plain chicken and rice, I can't say that I would definitely make it again. At school I know I would not have enough time.

But I did learn a few things, like the fact that sometimes you have to change a recipe a little to make it work for you. I also found out not everything will go smoothly.

Don't worry, though. I am not giving up in my attempt to learn how to cook. Next time I think I will stay away from meat – just not ready for it yet. I found a recipe for Spinach, Pear Panini that sounds pretty good. I’ll let you know my next experience in the kitchen goes.

Amanda

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

The Trend is “bite sized”

Small plates, tapas, bite sized portions are a huge trend right now. It could almost be called a “right sized” portion after years of “supersize me.” Pamela’s Products annual recipe contest for 2010 reflects this new idea by casting a net far and wide for gluten-free mini-creation using Pamela’s Products.

Scratch chefs have until August 16th at 11:59pm PST to submit new recipes using something from Pamela’s Products. Look to the website for the entry form, www.pamelasproducts.com.

Here is my idea…mini chipwhiches! I would use the Simplebites chocolate chip cookies and sandwich vanilla ice cream in the middle and roll the edges in mini-chocolate chips. Simple, bite-sized and delicious.

What I’m hoping is that someone submits a recipe for a slider bun. I think sliders are the most sublime bite size burger going. How fabulous does a mini-bacon cheeseburger with sautéed onions and a toasted bun sound? I’m sure more inventive people could come up with better toppings, but the novelty would be to enjoy a slider with a bun for a change.

Maybe even some maple-walnut silver dollar pancakes or a twist on mini-cupcakes….the possibilities are endless! We’ll know soon enough what bite sized entry captures the Pamela’s panel of judges’ taste buds. The recipes will be featured on the website and in the newsletter.

I can’t wait to find out who wins.
Kendall Egan

Monday, August 2, 2010

Gluten-Free Tastykake?!


I have exciting news for anyone who lives near a Rita's Italian Ice.
Rita's just introduced a Tastykake Butterscotch Krimpet cream ice flavor. And yes it’s……GLUTEN FREE!
The Rita's website does not have the allergen information for this flavor yet, but my summer job for the past few years has been serving up Italian ice on hot and sunny days so I was able to sneak a peek at the ingredients for the ice.
I was surprised that the Tastykake ice is gluten free because the Birthday Cake cream ice does have wheat flour in it. (Most Rita's products are gluten free besides the ices that contain things like cookies and the Blendini's that have cookies or pretzels. You can check most allergen information on their website.)
I’ve had never had a Tastykake before so I was very excited to go to work and taste one without the gluten and with a lot less of the fat and calories. I can’t tell you how close the taste is to an actual Tastykake, but the other ices associated with products, like the Swedish fish and Peeps ices, taste just like the real thing.
To me the Tastykake ice was creamy and sweet and that is how I imagine a butterscotch krimpet would taste.
Not all of the customers that I waited on loved it though. Some people thought it didn’t have a lot of flavor while others said it was too sweet.
You can taste the ice before you buy it. Just ask the worker waiting on you for a sample.
Let me know if you try the Tastykake Krimpet Cream Ice and how you like it!

Amanda

Friday, July 30, 2010

Chelsea Clinton's gluten-free cake

On the Today show this morning there was more discussion of Chelsea Clinton's gluten-free wedding cake.
Today's Natalie Morales, reporting from Rhinebeck, NY, where the wedding is expected to take place this weekend, was interviewing some local officials and a celebrity wedding planner.
Morales asked the wedding planner if the cake was going to be vegan. The wedding planner said it's pretty certain the cake will be gluten free. "We don't know about the taste," he quipped.
So we'd like to weigh in and say that Chelsea's reported 400 guests need not worry that the wedding cake will be lacking in taste. Gluten-free cakes have improved so much in recent years that we suspect those who have scored an invite to what Today called the "the event of the summer" won't even notice.
In fact, if there is a spare invite laying around we have a few staffers who live close enough to get to the reception, take a taste and give it an honest review!
Ok, so that's not going to happen. Instead we'll extend good wishes to the couple, to their parents and to everyone who is lucky enough to get a bite of that gluten-free cake!
In addition to the show's report, Today's website has a story about how Chelsea's decision to have a vegan and gluten-free wedding may have a trickle down effect.
Chelsea is said to have a gluten allergy. With the growing number of people following the gluten-free diet because they have celiac disease or are gluten intolerant, we suspect some of her guests will be grateful that they, along with the bride, can eat the cake.

Amy

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

“Beer Me”

It’s always fun when an event you planned months in advance works out perfectly, that was last night. My husband and I had tickets to see Sting with the Philharmonic Orchestra at Jones Beach Theater. For those of you outside this area, it’s an outdoor amphitheater. Jones Beach Theater is an intimate setting that is heavily dependent on weather.

Summer nights have been beastly hot this year and three weeks ago, an outdoor summer concert would have been a breeze-less, unpleasant, sweat fest. Not last night, it was cool and dry with a lovely breeze and a huge, reddish-orange full moon that rose behind the stage and cast a glimmer on the water.

Back up a few hours, it was my husband’s intent to take most of the day and hang at the beach, have a picnic dinner and then go to the concert…but as Murphy’s law would have it, life got in the way of that all day plan at the beach.

We got a late start, like 4pm, driving to Long Island. Those of you who live here know that we sat it a lot of traffic to get to the beach. Once we arrived, the stress melted away. I dug my toes in the sand and enjoyed the cool, salty breezes. The water was pleasant and after an hour of chatting and reading magazines, I turned to my husband and said “beer me.”

It’s a college phrase, or it was in my day, meaning “please open up a beer for me.”

I earned a big eye roll for that, but he did pop open a Bard’s Beer for me. Does it get any better than this? A beautiful evening, good company, lots of good snacks and a well chilled beer on the beach (of course, poured into a cup so as not to flout any open container rules).

I like this beer, it’s got a great color and great taste. Plus, as beer aficionados, the founders of Bard’s Beer, Craig Belser and Kevin Seplowitz, have a great story. Their website promotes the theory of great conversation over a cold beer, which they have made available for the growing number of celiac beer aficionados.

So I may have gotten a little ‘tude for my “beer me” comment, but I also got a great beer to compliment a great evening.

Kendall Egan

Monday, July 26, 2010

Home Grown Tomato

I have lived in my house for fifteen years and have tried to grow things requiring “full sun” for every single one of those years. You would think after wasting all of that money on plants I would come to realize that I have one of the shadiest yards in this neck of the woods.

Growing my own vegetables? Not going to happen on a few scant hours of sunlight per day. However, there is one spot that gets an ample amount of dappled sunlight the entire day and that is the table on my little patio. Last year I grew lettuce in planters. This year I figured I would try tomatoes.

Stop and Shop sells these planters that contain a tomato plant with a cage, basil and marigolds for approximately $20 and I figured that even if I only managed to ripen the two little green tomatoes that were on the plant when I bought it, it would be worth it to have two home grown tomatoes.

This summer has been so brutally hot that the tomatoes ripened quickly and a few more sprouted. I have to admit that I have watered diligently and fussed over them daily. Over the weekend I decided it was time to eat them.

Tomatoes grown in this heat have an indescribable sweetness to them and I was tempted to just sprinkle with salt and eat, but decided to use my tomatoes on one of my favorite sandwiches…a grilled cheese.

I had never imagined that a grilled cheese with tomato could be so tasty, but I discovered it at the Stewart Dining Hall at Boston College my freshman year. In all honesty, that sandwich was one of the many reasons I returned home with a large spare tire around my mid-section and a big butt. My friends and I ordered grilled cheese and tomato, French fries and a Diet Coke from “Large Marge” (the dining hall cashier) on a daily basis.

Good times, good times…thank you for indulging my walk down memory lane. I picked one of the ripe tomatoes and didn’t even need to wash it since it was still wet from a morning thunderstorm. I sliced off the bottom, sprinkled it with salt and ate it.

I made paper thin slices with the rest of my tomato and paired them with smoked mozzarella and two big slabs of gluten-free bread. I should have brushed the bread with olive oil for the full Italian theme, but I reached for the mayonnaise. Even though I am not a big fan of mayonnaise, it is the best fat to use to make crispy bread on a grilled cheese.

A few minutes in a hot fry pan and lunch was served. It really was good the BC dining hall way on white bread with American cheese, but fancied up and turned into a gluten free lunch didn’t change how really, really good that sandwich tastes. I can’t wait for the rest of them to ripen.

Kendall Egan

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Introducing Gluten-Free Living's Guest Blogger

Hi! I’m Amanda Ratner. Throughout the rest of the summer I’ll be a guest blogger for Gluten- Free Living, giving a college student’s perspective on dealing with the gluten-free diet.
You already know my Mom, Amy, who blogs here on all kinds of topics. She first started writing for the magazine shortly after I was diagnosed with celiac disease when I was 2-years-old. Now I'm helping out at the magazine while I am home for the summer.
My freshman and sophomore years in college I relied on dining hall salads, grilled chicken, vegetable sushi rolls and lots of coffee for lunch and dinner. I stuck with a few familiar meals throughout the year because I knew that they were gluten free. When I wanted to try something new, I could check out all the ingredients on my university’s dining hall website. OK, so I didn’t do that too often because who really has time when they are rushing to class.
I usually felt like I had a lot of options, but there were also days when being able to grab a sandwich between classes would have been nice.
I’ll be a junior this fall, but honestly I’m only beginning to learn how to cook real meals for myself.
I’ve always had an advantage with my Mom working for Gluten-Free Living because it has meant that she knows so much about the diet that I felt that I could just listen to what she told me I could eat. I never had too many questions about celiac disease because I was diagnosed before I was too young to even understand what was going on and by the time I was older a gluten-free lifestyle was just second nature.
In college I got a job at the health center and became very interested in health and wellness. Learning about health in general made me more curious and interested in my own health and exactly how celiac disease works.
I took a writing class where I had to conduct a few interviews throughout the semester and always chose to talk to people in the celiac disease community. Dr. Alessio Fasano was nice enough to take the time to let me interview him on the phone! Talking to people about the diet myself really helped me understand why I don’t eat Wonderbread or Oreo cookies.
I’m still working on eating healthy balanced meals – probably like lots of other college students out there. I enjoy fruits and vegetables, but I also love potato chips. And I’m not big on meat so I have to be forced to eat foods with more protein.
This summer I picked up a few gluten-free cookbooks so that I can: a) learn how to cook b) have more of a variety of foods while I’m at school and c) maintain a healthy gluten-free diet.
Maybe you can help. Have any recipes that you think I should try? Remember nothing too complicated! And I think to start I better stay away from meat because I don’t really like to touch it raw. (Maybe I’ll get over that!)
Also let me know if you or a college student you know have set any summer goals for the gluten-free diet. Or get in touch just to say hi. I’m excited that I have some time and place to get to know you!
Amanda

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

The Return of the Gluten-Free Casserole

I received a can of the new gluten-free Progresso Cream of Mushroom soup in my swag bag from a recent celiac event and I had the notion to make the famous chicken, rice and cream of mushroom soup casserole. I think it has been at least fifteen years since I had a casserole.

I pulled the standard recipe from the internet, but decided to put a new spin on it. The recipe calls for chicken, rice, soup, water and a packet of onion soup mix. I did not have a packet of onion soup mix, but didn’t want the extra sodium anyway. I told a friend that I was going to “tart it up a bit” with a sauté of onion and garlic, lots of pepper and some herbs de Provence…plus, I had organic chicken breasts. How’s that for taking a can of soup dinner and kicking it up a notch?

This is one of those throwback, 1950’s style meals that can only be described as comfort food. Is it fancy? Nope. Is it pretty? Well…it sort of, not to be gross, looks like someone barfed in a bowl. Is it gourmet? Not even close. But every now and then, something creamy and savory and ridiculously easy to make is just what I need. The green bean casserole on millions of Thanksgiving tables across this country and other can of soup casseroles have been off limits to celiacs because of the wheat in the can of mushroom soup.

While I am a huge believer in simple, local, vegetable and fruit based meals, there are nights when everyone has to be somewhere at 6pm….a baseball game, a meeting, a swim meet, a teen’s night out and it’s just nice to have a one pot dinner that people can eat whenever they have a minute. I even made it ahead of time---and it smells really good---so that it can quickly be re-heated at some point this evening by each of my family members.

The fact that companies like General Mills are taking “gluten-free” seriously enough to make pantry staples is pretty exciting. I think this is going to become a pantry item for me.

Kendall Egan