Friday, October 31, 2008

Halloween Tradition

We are a few short hours away from the festivities of trick or treating. The elementary school parade has occurred, the costumes are ready…but the one thing my kids keep asking about is the roasted pumpkin seeds. This is not the “thing” that I thought would become our tradition for Halloween. But, for a holiday that is entirely based around candy…roasted pumpkins seeds are a pretty healthy alternative.

We cut open our pumpkins last night and the boys scooped out the slop. One of my kids has a major gag reflex, and the pumpkin smell and goo usually triggers a powerful reaction. I was busy cutting and hot gluing a Christmas tree costume for my daughter (she and her friends are going as “the holidays”) so I begged him to stop scooping if he felt ill. I was already up to my eyeballs in spilled glitter and silver lame fabric scraps for a future clean up.

They were so disappointed that our three big pumpkins yielded so few seeds because we will definitely finish them all tonight.

I am pre-heating the oven to 375 degrees as I type. I have rinsed my pumpkin seeds and dried them a bit with paper towels. I will stir in some olive oil, salt to taste and a healthy shake of garlic powder. They roast in the oven until the seeds are a golden pale brown color. Parents of trick or treaters always comment on the great smell coming from my house, it’s the garlic!

We eat them all night long. They are gluten-free and really delicious.
Happy Halloween!
Kendall Egan

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Carb Starved

Last weekend I had a two day conference. On Friday, I got everyone off to school, had arranged rides for the kids, hastily grabbed a piece of toast and caught my train. As I settled in, I realized that I did not bring any food with me. Typically, I’ll travel with some pretzels, a roll or cookies or other type of carbohydrate to keep me going.

I had a salad for lunch, sushi and a fruit plate for dinner, eggs, sausage and a yogurt for breakfast the next day….and then by the end of the morning session my brain was just a vast wasteland. Remember Jessica Simpson on that MTV show when she puzzling over how Chicken of the Sea was actually tuna and not really chicken, that’s about where I mentally stood. She blamed the Atkins diet, an intensive protein diet, for her dippiness and not many people bought that…but I kind-of did.

It is amazing how much your body needs those carbs to keep going throughout the day and how hard you hit the wall without them. I happened to be in New York City for this conference, just blocks from Columbus Circle and one of the nicest Whole Foods I’ve seen. They have a very large gluten-free section and I filled the hole in my stomach and revived my brain.

The good news is that gluten-free carbs are getting easier and easier to find. But, I remember times and places over the past few years where I would find myself carb starved, and then"solve" the problem by eating a huge plate of French fries or a gargantuan bag of potato chips. All I really needed was a piece of toast, which is something I could find with a little pre-trip preparation.

I am much more prepared when my son is traveling with me (read my post Three Celiacs in a Beach House), but I have to remember to take care of myself when he’s not. Otherwise, there is no end to how I could embarrass myself if my carb starved mush mind is in full force.
Kendall Egan

Monday, October 20, 2008

Clipping GF Coupons

In the wake of all the bad economic news of late, there are lots of reports about people who have gone back to coupon clipping.

Not long ago, most of us claimed we were to busy to bother cutting coupons out of newspapers and magazines or, in a sign of the times, printing them off the Internet. Maybe we were all a little snobbish about saving a dime here and a dollar there.

But now we seem to be rethinking the balance between time and money and getting out the scissors again.

Just in time, gluten-free shoppers have a new source of coupons tailored to their special diet. It's a website, The site is run by Kathleen Reale, who says it is "the first and only web site to offer coupons, samples and sharing to gluten and food allergy-free consumers. " Everything on the site is free -- a good thing when you are looking to save money.

You can sign up to get free samples and coupons sent to your mailbox. Yes, that means the little box visited six days a week by your postal delivery person.

You'll also get some email, including a product review newsletter and tips on where to find gluten-free money-saving offers online. If you have other food restrictions in addition to gluten, you can specify that when you sign up. You do have to register. Kathleen says you will get offers tailored to your family if you give her some information about you and yours. She also promises never to sell or share the information with "anyone ever."

Kathleen's website says she was diagnosed with celiac disease four years ago and decided to mesh her new gluten-free diet with her experience as the owner of an event marketing and in-store demonstration company.

If she can demonstrate how we can cut costs and still live and eat well gluten free, we'll be happy.


Monday, October 13, 2008

From trick to treat

To me Halloween and celiac disease fuse together like two pieces of sticky, hard candy at the bottom of a trick-or-treat bag.

That's because my daughter, Amanda, was diagnosed with celiac disease about two weeks before Halloween 16 years ago. When October began that year, she was so sick she couldn't walk. She could barely lift her head let alone care about costumes and candy.

But by the middle of the month we had a diagnosis of celiac disease and a new diet that promised to cure her. Hard as it was for us to believe, by Halloween night, she was toddling around again, dressed up as a polka-dot unicorn and anxious to collect all her loot.

I'm not sure if that experience, when she was only 2-years-old, accounts for it, but you couldn't find a child anywhere who loved Halloween like Amanda.

Never mind that she couldn't eat every different kind of candy she collected in the pillow case that became as heavy she was by night's end. Amanda would spread all the candy out on the floor, organize it by type and pose in the middle for an annual photo. There was the year she was Cinderella and the pouring rain that sent so many kids home early couldn't deter her. In pictures, her sky blue Cinderella gown, sparkly shoes and up swept hair are soaking wet. But she is smiling widely in front of all that candy.

We never let worry about candy that contained gluten dampen her enthusiasm. From that first year I made sure I bought only gluten-free choices to hand out at our door. I bought bags and bags of the stuff, in part because we had one of those magical neighborhoods where a steady stream of pumpkins, princesses, and pirates filled the sidewalks, then banged on our door throughout the evening. But I also bought enough so that I could trade Amanda one-for-one, everything she couldn't have for something she could. So she never seemed to feel cheated on that wonderful night.

If you have someone in your house who will become Hannah Montana, a Transformer or maybe even Cinderella, here are a few links to lists of gluten-free candy:

Buy plenty and trade generously.

For Amanda dressing up as long list of characters over the years, including Pebbles, Belle, Geri from the Spice Girls, and Cleopatra, gave Halloween its bewitching power.

For me, the magic came when a very sick little girl was transformed back into a completely healthy child, love of costumes and candy in tact.


Friday, October 10, 2008

The Gluten-Free Muffin Top

While in my 30’s, I would listen to my friends in their 40’s speak about how little they ate and how much weight they had gained. “You’ll see” they said and warned that a day would come when my metabolism would screech to a halt and the dreaded “muffin top” would ooze over the waistband of my jeans.

I was pretty smug and thought that my gluten-free diet, a sort-of permanent low-carb state, would prevent me from this middle age curse. After all, I don’t scarf down the left over crusts on a kid’s grilled cheese sandwich or eat an entire bag of Oreo’s in a PMS induced frenzy. I saw no reason to believe that there would ever come a day when I would need to leave the junior department when shopping for jeans.

But, then I turned “north of 40” and BOOM…this summer it appeared, the gluten-free muffin top. Shorts and pants that fit a year ago were straining to stay zipped as the waistband practically cut into my flesh. Breathing became labored and sitting down a challenge. The change in my body was confirmed at my annual physical….seven extra pounds from a year ago.

What’s a celiac to do? I always have cookie dough in my freezer, bread in the bread box and pretzels in my cupboard…but I’m not eating more than I did five years ago. I exercise the same amount, drink a nightly glass of wine for my mental well being (remember, I have four kids), and consume copious amounts of water, fruits and vegetables. But, as I look down while typing, there it is….just a big ole’ middle age pooch hanging out over my jeans.

So, this summer I dumped all my cute denim Bermudas, mini skirts and lo-rise jeans on my teen age daughter’s bed and shopped for things one size up. I was in near ecstatic bliss when I found these cute and oh-so-forgiving empire waist t-shirts that draped loosely around the middle and bought one in every color. I’m just waiting for the long sleeved version to come out for the winter.

I have upped the exercise, cut down the food intake a little and make every attempt to stand up really straight and suck in the gut at all times. But, at the end of the day…I won’t give up butter, I won’t give up cookies and my kids will be better off if I don’t give up that daily glass of wine.
Kendall Egan

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Bread Machine Disaster

Disaster is probably too strong a word, stupidity is more like it.

My husband took on the responsibility of making gluten-free bread years ago. I vaguely remember a hissy fit in my kitchen roughly six years ago where I was lamenting that our newly diagnosed celiac was pushing me into baking overload. I was trying to always have cupcakes and cookies on hand, along with bread for sandwiches….and there just wasn’t as much delicious ready made product available seven years ago.

I complained, loud and long, that every time I turned around, I was out of bread. He asked the fateful question “Is it difficult to make the bread?” And I’m sure that I unkindly said that anyone who knew how to read could bake a loaf of bread.

My husband baked his first loaf of bread, and then he just took it over. I haven’t baked a loaf of bread in---no exaggeration—years. It is my responsibility to buy the mixes and that’s it. It’s a beautiful thing.

So, last week he placed all the ingredients in the bread machine in their perfect order and set it in motion. I was blitzing through the kitchen doing a power clean and unplugging all the appliances because I read somewhere that this was a little “green” thing I could do to save energy.


Imagine his surprise when he popped open the top the next morning and there was a gooey mess instead of a finished loaf of bread! He left the half mixed dough for me to deal with, which I dumped.

I called him at the office to ask him what had happened to the bread machine last night. In a rather acerbic tone he responded that the machine doesn’t work so well when his wife unplugs it after he takes the time to get it all set up!

I was so embarrassed. What a dope. He started all over again after we had dinner that night and asked if I could just leave the bread machine plugged in and offset my carbon footprint somewhere else.

Kendall Egan