Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Simple Pleasures

I went to the Suffolk county Food Fair on Sunday and it was a rip roaring success. They had over 50 gluten-free vendors there and had to turn away another 20 or 30 for space reasons. There were plenty of samples available and you could easily have eaten breakfast and lunch just by walking around tasting things. Another plus was the ability to buy products all under one roof and without a shipping charge.
My prize purchase was two long baguettes and a half dozen rolls from Everybody Eats. While there are plenty of really good GF bread products currently available, Everybody Eats is in a league of its own. Toasted, the baguettes crunch as well as the very best wheat-containing baguettes you remember from your gluten-eating days, maybe even better.
So far I have eaten them for breakfast topped with a soft boiled egg or cottage cheese and for lunch, topped with a thin layer of mayo, slices of ripe tomato and plenty of salt. Divine. Absolutely divine. Simple. Healthful. Delicious. These products are pricey but worth every penny. I will be very sad when they are gone.
It was a lovely day but for one down note. In a food-laden milieu, no one cares about magazines! In the great scheme of human pleasures, gulping down good information is just not in the same league as gulping down good food. Still we love what we do, and since we are all on a gluten-free diet, we eat, too, and enjoy that.
The “take home” message is this: Our gluten-free lives have gone from difficult, even sometimes pitiful, to glorious in a few short years. Who needs a cure? I certainly don’t. A baguette, a tomato and sunshine and I am a happy woman!

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Help with cost of gluten-free foood

Recently, I wrote about an innovative program to help those in need with the cost of gluten-free food.
Now the Palm Beach Post is reporting that the Palm Beach County Celiac Support Group is helping a mother and her daughter by providing a $25 per month voucher through the group's Gluten-Free Assistance program.
Phyllis Kessler, support group president, told the Post the daughter was diagnosed but her mother was struggling to feed her.
It’s great that the program is helping one family. But Kessler said it can help up to 30 participants this year, with the possibility of doubling that number next year.
Hopefully word of the program’s first participant will help spur others in South Florida with financial need to apply. The program is open to those who have celiac disease or dermatitis herpetiformis and are living at or below the poverty line. The voucher can be used at designated stores to buy gluten-free items.
Applicants must provide proof of income that meets federal poverty guideline levels and/or proof of participation in other public assistance programs, including food stamps, federal public housing assistance or Medicaid. The PBC board of directors will then determine who qualifies for the assistance program. All information provided as part of the application process will be strictly confidential.
Kessler is also looking for the program to spread beyond her own group. "I hope other celiac support groups across the country do something similar," she said. South Florida residents who are interested in applying should contact Kessler at 561-637-0396 or


Friday, April 17, 2009

Gluten-free goody goes national at Starbucks

Starbucks just announced that a gluten-free cake will be available at all Starbucks nationwide beginning May 5.

The company has been testing gluten-free items in some of its stores, but this is the first product to be offered everywhere. The launch was announced on Starbucks blog, called My Starbucks Idea: Ideas in Action. The blog says the gluten-free Orange Valencia Cake with Almonds was designed, named and merchandised based on consumer comments made on the blog.

The cake will be sold in the pastry case and labeled “gluten free,” two things consumers also said they wanted. With Starbucks in so many places, gluten-free consumers all around the country will now have a chance to enjoy a little cake with their coffee!

This is another example of a large mainstream company deciding the lucrative gluten-free market deserves some much needed attention. To that we say, bottoms up!


Thursday, April 16, 2009

Gluten-Free Comfort Food

I am on the Board of Education in my town and on this past Tuesday we had a rough meeting. To make the long story short, I arrived home exhausted at 1am.

The next morning I went to a ballet class right after school drop off to “decompress.” But, the teacher is somewhat fussy and demanding, and it just wasn’t the stress reducing experience that I was hoping for.

I always stack my post-meeting Wednesday’s with somewhat easy tasks because I need my sleep and I am borderline dysfunctional without it. So I spent the day analyzing web metrics, circulation reports and searching for images for the next cover of Gluten-Free Living.

I won’t tell you what the cover will look like, but I got really hungry looking at images! Around 4pm, I hit that wall…the point where I either must caffeinate my body or try to power through with a carbohydrate snack. I chose to shove my face full of cookies.

At that moment I remembered that the Business Official of my district has offered to stop by The Three Dogs Bakery on her way in to work to pick up gluten free stuff if I wanted to peruse the website and put in an order. I flipped her an email explaining that ballet had just not done it for me today and that I would have preferred “diving headlong into a box of high calorie confections” and that I wanted to put in an order.

Today I got a call telling me that she had stopped and picked out a bag full of stuff that looked good to her. I skipped my toast that I had burnt in the toaster and went to a meeting hungry. After that, I stopped by the office to grab my gluten-free, baked good booty and settle up.

I just melted a tablespoon of butter and fried up a blueberry muffin and it was de-lish! I know that I’m supposed to eat because I’m hungry, but sometimes you just need comfort food. Sometimes that warm chocolate chip cookie and ice-y cold milk is just the right thing for what ails you. It’s so exciting to me that there are gluten-free bakeries springing up all over the country to supply celiacs with much needed comfort food.

Kendall Egan

Friday, April 10, 2009

Malt extract in gluten-free food

Michael Jones, an astute gluten-free consumer, just told us that he found new gluten-free Cinnamon French Toast Sticks and Pancakes made by Van's. The company has produced gluten-free waffles for a long time.

The interesting thing about the new products is that they contain malt extract made from barley.

Barley malt extract has long been prohibited on the gluten-free diet. So Michael quickly contacted Van's to see what was up.

Here's what the company told him:

"While the malt extract in these two products is derived from barely, it is tested and meets the gluten-free standard as the gluten protein found in barley is removed during the malt extraction process. "

Van's said processing includes steeping, germination, drying, grinding, mashing and evaporation, all of which remove gluten from the barley. Also, the company says the French toast sticks contain less than 1 percent of the malt extract and the pancakes less than 2 percent. Van's tests both the raw materials and the finished products to make sure they meet the Food and Drug
Administration's proposed standard of less than 20 parts per million.

"We understand the concern regarding the use of malt extract in gluten-free products. (We want) to assure you that these new products meet the same standards as all other Van's Wheat-Free products," the company wrote in an email to Michael.

There are ingredients made from wheat that are so highly processed that all the gluten is removed, including glucose syrup, maltodextrin, and citric acid, so it does not surprise me that the same thing is being said about barley malt extract.

Still, it is hard for those who follow the gluten-free diet to accept that information even when food scientists say the proof is in the testing. Maybe that's because for so many years, the only thing gluten-free consumers had to go by were lists of ingredients that were allowed and prohibited. These ingredients and the products they are in were rarely, if ever, tested. That meant no one knew how much gluten protein they actually contained, only that there was a risk they contained some.

But things are changing, mainly spurred by the FDA's move to come up with the first definition for exactly what "gluten-free" means when it appears on a food label. The definition, which sets a standard of less than 20 parts per million of gluten in foods labeled gluten free and requires testing to prove the standard is met, does not yet have final approval. An international group that sets standards for gluten-free foods, CODEX, recently adopted the less than 20 ppm threshold.

It appears more food companies are testing their gluten-free products, and they are confident they can meet the standard when they use highly processed ingredients that previously were prohibited.

These changes can be very confusing to gluten-free consumers. But we are entering a new era e of figuring out what is gluten-free and what isn't. The best thing you can do is learn the facts and apply them to your gluten-free life. At Gluten-Free Living, our goal has always been to dig out those facts and we will continue to do so.


Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Seven things you don't know about me

1. I have a son, a daughter and five grandchildren ranging in age from nearly seven to one. They are, of course, perfect and the absolute delights of my life. To our knowledge, none has celiac disease.

2. I have reached a point where retirement is looking pretty sweet. My goals would be to see more of my grandchildren, travel, go back to some serious photography and write a novel in which the heroine is gluten free.

3. My son is a die-hard Mets fan and my daughter met her husband at Shea Stadium, where he works. So in solidarity, I am also a big Mets fan. Sometimes this is difficult because I live in a Yankee oriented environment. Go Mets.

4. I am taking a Tai Chi course and having a hard time learning to like it. I thought since I love yoga, I’d love Tai Chi but it’s just not working for me. I’ll keep trying. Yoga helps make me a happy, healthy gluten-free person.

5. I eat to live not live to eat, hate to cook but love to watch cooking shows. Following the gluten-free diet is, to me, a piece of cake.

6. My favorite television show is Mad Men. It brings me back to an era I lived through. Yes, folks, things like you see on the show did happen. Admittedly it is a bit exaggerated, but in business, those were not the days for the female portion of our society.

7. Today is my birthday. This is a really nice time of year to celebrate a birthday. Following up on a previous blog, I did get a seven-layer cake and the timing is perfect!


Friday, April 3, 2009

Seven-Layer Cake, Stew Leonard and Me

I had a cold, the weather was awful and I felt awful, too. All I wanted to do was go home and get comfortable. But I didn’t. Despite the fact that there was plenty to eat at home, last night I hauled myself to the local Stew Leonards because I knew there was a chance they had Passover products from Shabtai on the shelves. And they did!

I bought only sponge cake and some cookies because I am the only one eating them. I open the box, tell myself I will eat one cookie or one piece of cake and freeze the rest – but that’s not what happens. Whether I eat more on the spot or go back for more, the bottom line is that I am going to finish them off in short order.

I even went home for lunch today, not because I had nothing here at the office but because I did not have any dessert here and knew what was waiting for me at home. I did eat a decent lunch but then I ate not one, not two but three cookies. These are not small cookies and they are plenty sweet and filling. But you can’t eat just one.

Now I find myself wondering if I should segue over to Stew Leonards on my way home. Actually, it’s in the opposite direction, has a pain-in-the neck parking lot and, trust me, I do not need any more cake. But last night they did not have the Shabtai seven layer cake, which is my absolute favorite.

The weather is worse now than it was yesterday. Since it’s Friday, a lot of people will be shopping to stock up for the weekend. Moreover, Passover starts on Wednesday. On the one hand, that crowds the store and the parking lot even more. On the other hand, many will be buying Passover products so the supply will dwindle. In the event the shelves are bare, I envision myself attacking shoppers in the parking lot and running off with their Shabtai products.

Will I go to Stew Leonards? Will they have seven layer cake? Will I gain ten pounds in fewer days? Will I wind up in a news story with the headline: GF magazine editor socks other customers to get 7-layer cake!

Hmmm. I can hardly wait to find out.


Thursday, April 2, 2009

Seven Things You May Not Know About Me

Sandra Robins at Gluten Free Optimist tagged me to do "Seven Things You May Not Know About Me."

Thank goodness it's not 25 like the posts on Facebook recently. I'm pretty much an open book, but here goes.

1-My family bleeds blue for the Penn State Nittany Lions. We have a big party every year PSU is in a bowl, even if the game is at 11 a.m. on New Year's Day. It's the only team - aside from my son's soccer, basketball and baseball teams - whose victories and defeats really matter to me.

2-My husband and I met at Penn State. I had the English book. He did not. I shared. The rest is history.

3-I have two kids in college, neither one at Penn State! They go to school in Washington, D.C. and Virginia. We're holding out for the youngest. There's still hope.

4-I do not have celiac disease, but I have lived through almost every life phase of the gluten-free diet because my daughter was diagnosed when she was two and she is now 18.

5-I was a newspaper reporter, editor of college alumni magazine, and a trade union newspaper before working for Gluten-Free Living. I still have a reporter's instinct for news and what's happening to newspapers is a great tragedy to me.

6-We are a combined Jewish/Catholic family. When you add in celiac disease, Easter and Passover can be quite interesting around here. By the way, I'm the Catholic.

7-I was a pretty lousy cook before I started having to spend more time in the kitchen to make gluten-free meals for my daughter. I had to have a recipe with exact measurements and I would follow them no matter what. Now, I understand what my Polish Grandmother, who was a great cook, meant when she said things like "add milk until it's not too dry" or "beat it until it's done." I'm also grateful she taught me how to fold things in.

The way this list works, I now have to tag seven other people, who have to come up with lists and then tag seven more -- you see how this goes. I'm picking people from the gluten-free community who work hard to make life easier for all of us in many different ways.

Gluten Free Meals
National Foundation for Celiac Awareness
Celiac Handbook
Cream Hill Estates
gluten free in baltimore

“The rules are simple. Link to your original tagger and list these rules in your post. Simply share seven facts about yourself in the post. Tag seven people at the end of your post and let them know they’ve been tagged. And have fun!”