Thursday, August 28, 2008

Three Celiacs in a Beach House

Three celiacs under one roof for a week at the beach requires a huge amount of food preparation. I wrote this post before I left on vacation, but didn’t quite master the technology of storing it to post while I was away. I went back and reworked it a little bit, my writing had the stressed out edge of a working mother of four packing for vacation.

In hindsight, with my sun-kissed skin and still-in-vacation mentality, the edge is gone and I know that all the racing around and baking was worth it.

Suffice it to say, I had three shopping bags of gluten free food. I didn’t plan out all the meals, but planned in terms of “what if.” What if we decide to have pizza, what if there is a great bakery for breakfast goodies, what if I need to dredge something in flour….so that leads to tons of “what if” gluten free foods going on vacation with us.

For breakfast the celiacs had banana bread and blueberry muffins and some frozen waffles from the local Stop and Shop. My Dad loves to find a local bakery for daily breakfast treats, but he used to feel bad about those of us who couldn’t eat them. The celiacs had their own baked goodies, so everyone was happy.

The beach bag was filled with gluten free snacks thanks to so many vendors now individually packaging their cookies, bars, brownies and pretzels. Those individual packages are the best when dealing with sand. What do you do with a full bag of chips after a really sandy hand has plunged into the bag for a handful? There is nothing more disgusting than crunching through sandy potato chips.

The concession stand on the beach served frozen lemonade which was really refreshing and entirely safe. Speaking of refreshing, buried in ice in the cooler was a cold gluten-free beer to be popped open as the day turned to evening to savor the end of a beach day.

Our dinners were really delicious—sweet young lobster, little neck clams, local filets of fish….I had packed gluten free flour and bread crumbs in case we needed it, but melted butter and tartar sauce were the condiments of choice. The local produce was in peak season and we ate tons of corn on the cob and tomatoes. One night we had hot dogs with mac n’cheese as a side dish. I had packed gluten-free spaghetti noodles, which was odd with the cheese sauce, but tasted great after a full day of riding the waves.

The gluten-free bread was gone after Friday’s lunch, but when Saturday morning rolled around we improvised. My Mom had eggs for breakfast and my son had cereal. I had the last two huge, sugary, ginger cookies that I warmed up in the microwave and dunked in coffee. It was vacation, it was our last meal in the beach house and cookies for breakfast seemed perfect.
Kendall Egan

Monday, August 25, 2008

A gluten-free birthday at college

It's a done deal now. My daughter, Amanda, officially started college classes this morning.

We packed her up last week and headed off to the large, out-of-state university she is attending. The week before she left, I spent most evenings in the kitchen, preparing all the gluten-free food I thought she could fit in her dorm room freezer. I made things that will be impossible to get at school, including gluten-free cookies, bread, and chicken nuggets.

And I snuck in a small, heart shaped cake that I will tell her about tomorrow - her 18th birthday. (I'm not worried she will read about it here, she's too busy with school to read this the first day it's posted!)

Amanda loves birthdays and was a little worried about being away from family and friends. So I spent a lot of time trying how to figure out a way to make it possible for her to have a special celebration so far from home. I was afraid to order a cake from one of the growing number of gluten-free bakeries that ship them because the university mail system is still a mystery to me. An on-campus service delivers cakes to students, but, of course, they are not gluten free. It's nice that the service also delivers balloons and flowers, so you can guess who is taking advantage of that offer! You can usually find ways to mark special days that don't center on food.

I'm hoping the homemade cake and other surprises will make Amanda's birthday a happy one.

When my husband and I were driving home alone after saying goodbye to her, I couldn't help but recall the trip 18 years ago when we brought her home from the hospital, a tiny bundle in a pink flannel blanket. That was a much easier car ride.

Happy Birthday to my sweet daughter, so quickly grown up.


Monday, August 18, 2008

Gluten-free poolside and at a party

It’s not about the food

I live in a building that gets together socially. This past weekend was our annual pool party. The food arrangements have been different each year. To date, my options have been limited so I bring something for myself.
This year our “social director” (yes, we have one!), Lynn, is very energetic. She takes care of everyone and everything. When I arrived, she said, “’Your’ chicken is grilling.” She had purchased it specifically for me.
When I got outside, my neighbor, Steve, was already grilling the chicken. He did a fine job and the chicken was delicious.
It just occurs to me as I write this that no one knew to clean off the grill first. I didn’t tell anyone (I was not expecting such personal service) and didn’t think of it then because, to be honest, I don’t worry too much about grills. The fire is always blazing hot and whatever gluten might remain from a previous item should be burned off quickly given its size. That’s my personal decision. It may not be everyone’s choice and that’s fine. Feeling comfortable about what we eat is a big part of living gluten free.
That’s not true in a restaurant where I cannot see the grill. Even if I can, I still explain that the grill has to be cleaned. In my view, that’s a different and less controllable venue and I want to feel comfortable.
We always have a New Year’s Eve building party, too. Like the pool party, the food arrangement varies each year. This year they used a caterer.
I had decided not to attend for a variety of reasons, food being one of them. I did run into Lynn the day before and said I wasn’t going to the party and gave food as the reason.
I thought that would be the end of it. So when the evening arrived, I was lying on the couch dealing with some sort of winter ailment and not feeling festive in any way. At roughly 9 pm, the doorman called up to say my food had arrived! Lynn had specifically ordered a meal for me.
Now I was in a bind. I felt awful. I also felt guilty staying home after Lynn went out of her way for me. So I hauled myself up off the couch and into the shower, which woke me up and gave me some energy. When I got there, my meal was waiting. And I enjoyed the party.
I never expect special accommodations at a party, especially a large party. Whatever the occasion, it’s not about the food but about friendship and family and getting together and celebrating in some way. At best, in my take, food is secondary.


Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Gluten-free Olympian

We live near Baltimore, so you can imagine it's all Michael Phelps, all the time now that the 2008 Summer Olympics have begun. If it seems like national attention is riveted on his quest to break Olympic medal records, you can imagine what it's like in this city and its suburbs. Just yesterday my hair stylist shared the very important info that Michael's Mom gets her hair done in the shop!

The Olympic obsession in our house actually pre-dates Phelps and can be traced to my husband's childhood when he followed the 1968 Olympics in Mexico. My younger son carries on the tradition, tallying medal counts and watching every event until the wee hours of the night. Thank goodness it's summer. His grades actually fell during the winter Olympics in 2006.

While we are rooting for Phelps, we have our eye on another Olympic athlete as well. She's Amy Yoder Begley, an Olympic distance runner, who has celiac disease. She will compete in the women's 10,000 meter race as part of the US Olympic team. What a great inspiration Amy is for my daughter and all the young people like her who also have celiac disease. Amy is the embodiment of the important message that the disease should not stop you from doing anything you want to do.

Amy, 30, has been a runner for a long time, ever since high school in Kendallville, Indiana, according to the hometown paper there. But she was diagnosed with celiac disease only about three years ago. In part, the diagnosis explains some of the struggles she has faced in her running career, including low bone density, anemia and stomach problems. These are all symptoms of undiagnosed celiac disease.

Now, Amy feels healthy and strong and is one of the world's elite athletes. At the Opening Ceremony, she paraded with her US Olympic teammates and then had her picture taken with President George Bush.

In addition to her athletic goals, part of her quest in Beijing is to find gluten-free food. We could tell you about that, but it will be more fun to go to Amy's on-line journal,, and read about it in her own words.

The only other things we have to say is,"Go Amy!"


Tuesday, August 12, 2008

The Gluten-Free Reuben

Part of the fun of posting to a blog is reading what your colleagues are posting. I too went to the Farmer’s Market over the weekend and returned home with a nice selection of organic and locally grown vegetables. But the real reason I attend Rye’s Farmer’s Market is to visit the pickle guy.

The tangy aroma of vinegar draws people to his booth to sample sour pickles, mushrooms and most importantly for me, the sauerkraut. His homemade sauerkraut is the best and it makes the most delicious gluten-free Reuben sandwich.

On the way home I will stop for lean corned beef and then I’m ready to prep this delicacy. My open faced Reuben’s are piled high with a healthy spread of spicy mustard, corned beef, sauerkraut and Swiss cheese. The secret is to thoroughly toast the bread first so it doesn’t get soggy when placed under the broiler.

With a sense of adventure and endurance for trial and error, a gluten-free version of anything is possible. My gluten-free Reuben may not do my arteries any good, but it sends my taste buds into orbit.
Kendall Egan

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Saturdays In Hastings

We have been busy getting our next issue out. As our issues get bigger, the work involved in putting them out gets tougher. But we hang in not only because we all truly love our work in publishing (like any industry, you have to love it to stay) but we like the fact that what we are doing is helpful for people who need help.

That’s why I’m here in the office on a beautiful August Saturday morning sitting at my desk and figuring out what to do next. I tell you that not to suggest you get your violins out and play sorrowful music, but so I can follow up with two things.

The first is what’s in the next issue. You’ll find information on cutting costs on the gluten-free diet, nutrition for GF children (and adults, too) and, get this, using an iron pan to make quick, easy, economical cornbread and a few other bread varieties.

There are the usual columns/departments: In On your plate, we answer your ingredient questions. In reality CD, we cover the modern gluten-free world (which trust me is a whole different ball game than the world that existed when I was diagnosed 15 years ago). Every issue includes a Last Word, which is a grab bag slice of life this time penned by our summer intern who has been a delight to have around. New for you tells you about new products and places to buy them not to mention GF bakeries! As someone who has been GF for 15 years, I find that astonishing and think I’ll talk about them in a future blog.

The second thing is that before I came here, I went to the Saturday farmer’s market here in Hastings, so it was a plus to travel down here (five minutes from my home so it’s no sacrifice at all) and get there early.

As you probably know, at farmer’s markets you can buy food that almost literally comes right out of the ground, onto a truck and down to Hastings. Some of the items I bought were likely picked yesterday. You can’t really get any fresher than that unless you grow things yourself.

I don’t have to tell you that fresh fruits and vegetables are a plus on the GF diet –or any diet for that matter. In this respect, they are worth whatever they cost for people who need to eat well and for our planet that needs to be sustained.

I’ll go home soon and start off my weekend. I hope all of you have a great weekend as the summer winds down.

Ann Whelan

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Gluten-free eating at the family reunion

We attended a family reunion last weekend that included everyone from my parents, who are in their 70s, to my great nephew who is only a few months old. All my aunts and uncles and most of my cousins where there. A lot was made over children who had sprouted faster than anyone could believe. Overall, the gathering was a tribute to my now-deceased grandparents who always loved to get the whole family together and feed them.

A lot of the traditional recipes my grandmother used to make were re-created, and the table was weighted with covered dishes. While someone on the gluten-free diet can easily take part in the bonding at gathering like this, the food is usually another story. Take a peek under the Tupperware lid and you'll often find pasta or breadcrumbs or flour. But keep looking and you're likely to find enough to fill your plate.

My daughter Amanda, who has celiac disease, piled her plate with a terrific potato salad made by one of my aunts. She had fruit salad from the huge bowl we brought and cut-up veggies and dip my brother supplied. There was my grandmother's special coleslaw carefully made by my sister-in-law. And the chicken wings were gluten free. Someone also made a jello salad I remember from my youth that consists of pear halves laid on the bottom of a glass pan that is then filled with green jello. Once the jello sets, each pear is topped with a dollop of whipped cream and a cherry. I never liked it much, and Amanda didn't eat it even though she could have. Hey, taste matters even when you're on a special diet!

Platters of cookies filled a whole table. Most were made with wheat flour, but my 14-year-old son made a batch from peanut butter, eggs, and sugar. He rolled this mix into balls, then rolled the balls in sugar, and baked them before topping each cookie with a chocolate kiss. Amanda knew these were safe.

By days end I think the whole family felt re-connected, especially after all that hugging. There was talk of trying to get together once a year, though it had been at least a decade since we had all gathered before this reunion. It's likely the college kids will be parents and the toddlers teenagers before we pull it off again.

Still we shared good company and good food. As we were cleaning up, I noticed something funny. The only cookie platter that was completely empty was the one with the gluten-free cookies. And the pear salad was hardly touched.


Monday, August 4, 2008

Gluten-free in Texas

I just returned from a short trip to Fort Worth, Texas, where I spoke to the North Texas celiac support group. It was an uneventful trip, unless you are not from that area of the country andhave never walked around in 105-degree weather.

I flew in Friday evening and went to dinner with Betty Barfield and her husband, David, at The Cattleman's restaurant. Betty has celiac disease and we had surf and turf with a baked potato and salad. It's an ideal meal for those who follow a gluten-free diet. It was also the best meal I've tasted in many a moon. Even the salad AND the baked potato tasted terrific. After such a big meal, we quickly passed on dessert and left three very happy individuals.

On Saturday morning I spoke to Betty's group and it was fun. They were very friendly and also extremely knowledgeable. So there was a great give and take and I'd go back any time, but preferably in the winter! (Actually we were not out in the heat very much, but walking around in 105-degree weather is like walking around in an oven. I had a note from Betty today and it's 107 degrees in Fort Worth!)

Meanwhile, the weather is absolutely beautiful here in the northeast and we don't even need the air conditioner. But apparently a storm is brewing so that may not last for long. I didn't prepare as well as I should have for my Texas trip and went a long time between meals due to the long plane ride. I blame only myself and not the airline. They did have some "snacks" that were not gluten free -- nor were they all that healthy. Maybe we should hope that the airlines start offering fresh fruit on planes, which would be good for everyone.

Sunday was my grandson's fourth birthday. My daughter did the cooking and of course she knows about the diet, although she does not follow it herself. She replaced pasta in a lentil salad recipe with quinoa and it was delicious. That was the verdict of everyone present, not just me. Of course no one really knew what quinoa was, so I went through the drill about what it was, where it comes from and the health advantages for all. My great meals came to an abrupt halt today. Since I had been gone, there was little food at home so yogurt was all I had for breakfast and a peanut butter and jelly sandwich for lunch. Dinner won't be terrific either! But I'll survive, I'm sure.

This is my first blog and it was fun to do. I am really not familiar with the blogging world and it still boggles my mind that anyone might be interested in the things I do, but I guess some are. As we say here, "thanks for listening."


Friday, August 1, 2008

A Yankee Stadium Gluten-Free Moment

My name is Kendall Egan and I have enjoyed working on advertising and marketing with Gluten-Free Living since 2003. I am very proud of what we have been able to accomplish and I feel so 21st century now that I am a "blogger."

A diagnosis of celiac disease over ten years ago was a very important turning point for me. I was fortunate enough to return to health on a gluten-free diet. My son was diagnosed just after his third birthday and that was an even bigger turning point. A hungry, growing boy who attends birthday parties, team dinners and sleepovers needs lots of bread, cookies, cupcakes, pizza and pasta. Baking became a serious part of my life.

The little triumphs of making life "normal" are extremely satisfying and the little defeats of not achieving "normal" bum me out! I try to learn from both good and not so good gluten-free moments. With my apologies to Ann Whelan, a NY Met fan, the Egan’s are NY Yankee fans. I had one unforgettable gluten-free moment at a Yankee game two season’s ago.

In the 2005 season, my husband, four kids and I attended five or six games. Before the new stadium construction began, we parked in the same lot and visited the same hot dog vendor each game for our dinner. These were the “world famous” Ozzie Dogs. The celiacs in our family would buy a hot dog slit down the middle with ketchup, potato sticks and no bun.

Our “chef de hot dog cuisine” would carefully wrap it up in the waxy serving tissues so that Brett and I could hold it and munch away without ending up in a ketchup-y mess.

When we attended our first game of the 2006 season, we parked in our same lot and walked up to the Ozzie Dog cart. The woman said hello and asked us how we had been. She was always friendly, and I chatted back. She then asked, “Now which of you gets the bun-less Ozzie Dog slit down the middle with ketchup and potato sticks?”

My brain started whirring….it had been one year since we had been to a game, there are eighty home games per year, roughly 40,000 attendees per game and countless patrons who visit the Ozzie Dog stand. I don’t remember where I put my car keys on a daily basis, yet this woman remembered that someone in my family needed a special hot dog.

After I scooped my jaw off the ground, I asked her how she could possibly remember us out of the thousands of people who buy hot dogs from her cart. Her response was, “Your kids always said thank you and it’s not every day someone asks for a hot dog with no bun.”

It was one of those nice little triumphs, our special order hot dogs and nice manners made us unforgettable.
Kendall Egan