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.


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!

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

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

A New Full Feeling

I went out to dinner last night, which isn’t unusual because I go out to eat all the time. What was unusual is what happened after I went to bed, I was so full that I couldn’t fall asleep right away.

I haven’t had the feeling of being so full that I was uncomfortable after eating out in at least a decade. As a celiac, I don’t hit the bread basket. My appetizer is usually a vegetable of some sort. My entre typically consists of a filet of fish, beef or chicken with a side of potato or rice or vegetables. My dessert, and I always order dessert, is either sorbet or a Crème Brule.

Last night I ate at Café Rustica, a restaurant in Great Neck, NY that was hosting the Celiac Sister’s 2nd Annual Fundraiser for the Celiac Disease Center at Columbia University.

The entire menu was gluten-free and it was pretty expansive---pizza, pasta, veal plus three different salads and desserts. So I hit the bread basket more than once, cheese bread and breadsticks. I had a Citrus Salad, followed by breaded veal cutlets with a lovely side of julienned vegetables. Dessert was a “silk and satin” cake which was half chocolate mousse and half cheesecake.

I was full early on, but I just kept eating. It was there, it was gluten-free and it all tasted good. I waddled to my car for the drive home and was grateful that I had selected a dress that had no buttons around my waistline.

I have come home from parties or BBQ’s famished, I have felt pleasantly satisfied after most meals eaten in restaurants and now I have experienced for the first time since my diagnosis eating way, way too much at one sitting! I hope the Celiac Sister's slept well last night, they really put on a great event.

Kendall Egan

Friday, July 2, 2010

101 suggestions – all GF or easy to make GF

I try to keep my excitement at all the new developments in the GF world well controlled, otherwise I would be way too excited to get any real work done. But I do want to tell you about this.

I picked up the dining section of Wednesday’s NY Times to see a special from Mark Bittman, cookbook author and television chef, called “101 Reasons to Light the Grill.” He does 101 “somethings” from time to time and I love them. They’re always full of exciting ideas that are doable and often gluten free.

In this case, if you substitute GF flour, bread and soy sauce (all easy substitutions) for the few times these items appeared, you’ll get all the way to his 78 th suggestion before you find gluten in the form of miso. According to Amy Ratner, our ingredient expert, miso, which is made from beans and grain, comes in GF and gluten-containing versions. Sometimes the name tells you the ingredients. Mugi miso always contains barley and tsubi miso always contains wheat. But brown rice miso is one example that would be gluten free. As always, read the label. According to Bittman, you can substitute hoisin sauce, but that is unlikely to be gluten free. Amy suggests mixing equal parts ketchup and molasses as a substitute

Bittman specifically mentions a flour tortilla (#87) but it would be easy to substitute corn. And there is also an odd mention of pita as a bread substitute, grilling shortbread (possibly available in a GF version) as well as pound cake and angel food cake (both are available in a GF version) and a rather standard suggestion for grilled s’mores which does call for wheat-containing graham crackers, but there are a few GF substitutes. That means for the most part you have 101 reasons for lighting the grill, all of which you can try -- which should keep you busy for the summer, never mind this holiday weekend.

I was a bit taken aback by his direction to simmer octopus tentacles until tender, cool, then grill and “cut into attractive little rounds.” I find it very difficult to imagine octopus tentacles even eaten never mind cut into “attractive little rounds,” but this might appeal to some of you and be my guest! I’ll stick to the tried and true.

And maybe these suggestions, which are stunning in terms of their simplicity: “# 61. Odd but good: Strawberries and cherry tomatoes, finished with basil-laced balsamic vinegar.” or
“# 72. Char iceberg wedges and cherry tomatoes (skewer these first). Top with blue cheese dressing.” (Yes, blue cheese is gluten free but be sure to read the label if you use a prepared dressing.)

You’ll find all 101 suggestions at Enjoy as many as you’d like – and have a great holiday weekend!