Monday, November 23, 2009

Why I Am Giving the Bird...

As Peggy Noonan said in the Wall Street Journal weekend edition, I’m thankful to be here. What a totally haired-out, stress-filled year…I will not be sad to clink my glass of Proseco (it’s still a recession in my book) in a little over a month to put 2009 in the history books.

Here’s the latest. I went outside on Saturday to see what my son was doing. He was shooting hoops in the driveway and I stole the ball and sank a little jumper. We started a game of one on one and then I called a “time out” because I was playing in my socks and the pounding on the cement was killing my toes. I went inside to throw on the sneakers and to throw off the old Irish knit sweater I wear around my frigid house (the thermostat is set on "meat locker").

I go back out on the driveway to school that ten year old and the one on one continues. He’s losing…badly…because for some crazy reason all of my shots were going in. I never let my kids win, it’s my “bad mom” trait because I am just way too competitive by nature so I do not let up. He turns around to shoot a jumper and I go up to block it.

I successfully block the shot, but JAM THE DICKENS out of my right middle finger. I managed to suppress the f-bomb but shrieked in pain, wimp that I am.

It is hugely swollen and grotesquely purplish blue two days later. I have enough range of motion to type and to know that it is not broken, but the Costco grocery shop to get ready for cooking the Thanksgiving side dishes was brutal…especially when a ten pound box of sweet potatoes slipped from my grasp from cart to trunk and ended up pinning that particular finger to other boxes already in the trunk. (True confessions…I did not suppress the f-bomb that time.)

So basically, when I slice and peal and prep starting tomorrow and finishing up on Thursday, it’s going to look like I am giving everyone in my kitchen the bird as I keep this puffy finger elongated and out of the way.

In the end, the gluten-free side dishes will get finished! My kids think I should just stick to tennis, but for the record…the score was 20-7 in driveway hoops. That’s probably my last victory since my once-upon-a-time little celiac is now 100 pounds of solid muscle and the top of his head reaches my nose.

This finger will heal, a small thing to be thankful for. Health returned to my son after seven years on a gluten-free diet, a big thing to be thankful for.

Happy Thanksgiving to all-
Kendall Egan

Friday, November 20, 2009

Talking Gluten-Free Turkey with Butterball

I'm about to take a much anticipated vacation for the Thanksgiving holiday. My son is coming home for the first time since leaving for law school in the beginning of August. And my daughter has a week-long break from college. We don't have our whole family together that often these days. The chance to have everyone under one roof with myself, my husband and our 15-year-old son is one of the things I am most thankful for this year.

But before I shut down the computer for a full seven days, I wanted to share some info about Butterball Turkeys from my conversation with Sherri Brennan, a registered dietitian who works with the company's Turkey Talk-Line.

The good news that Butterball has changed the gravy packet that comes with its turkeys to make it gluten-free has been all over the gluten-free blog world.

Brennan said the move to gluten-free gravy mix came as a result of customers calling the Talk-Line to ask for it. Butterball decided it made sense to follow the suggestions and replaced wheat flour with rice flour and modified corn starch.

Brennan said the gluten-free mix is used with all turkeys that include gravy so you don't have to worry about which particular type of Butterball you are buying.

"All our fresh and frozen turkeys should have the new gravy," Brennan said. She noted it would be fairly unusual to find any Butterball with the old gravy packet but because Butterball does not control what is in grocery stores, you should read the label to be 100 percent certain.

The new gravy will list rice flour and modified cornstarch in the ingredients list.

All Butterball turkeys, with the exception of any that are pre-stuffed, are themselves gluten free.

That means you do not have to worry about any modified food starch that you see listed as an ingredient in the turkey itself. I have read comments from consumers who are confused about modified food starch in foods regulated by the USDA - mainly meat, poultry and eggs. The concern is that wheat might be used to make the modified food starch. Some consumers have said they do not trust any modified food starch, which is a shame because most of the time modified food starch is not made from wheat.

And since Butterball says the turkeys are gluten free, you do not need to worry that the modified food starch might be made from wheat. It is not.

As for me, I've never made gravy from a packet. In my family, gravy always comes from the flavorful drippings in the turkey pan and a slurry of water and cornstarch. So once I have a turkey that's gluten free - most are - I am good to go.

But if you like the convenience the gravy pack provides, this is great news from another big, mainstream company that is taking the concerns of the growing gluten-free community into consideration - something else to be thankful for this year.

In addition to my gathered family, my list includes my husband's new job after a scary and shocking layoff from the newspaper where he worked for 25 years, my father-in-law's slowly returning good health after major surgery last month and my newborn nephew's recovery from an unexpected trip to the operating room. Those are the big ticket items. I also have long list of constants in our lives that I am grateful for. But if I start spelling them out, I'll never leave for my vacation.

Instead, I will wish all our loyal readers and all our fellow bloggers a Happy Thanksgiving with lots to be thankful for.


Wednesday, November 18, 2009

More details on FDA gluten-free label study

The biggest change in the Food and Drug Administration's study of what consumers think about gluten-free labels is the way the agency will get volunteer participants.

Instead of using celiac support group membership lists, the FDA has asked major celiac disease centers around the US to publicise the study. The centers have been asked to invite those on their mailing lists to participate and to post flyers asking patients as well.

In another change, the FDA will add a paper version to provide greater access to the study to a more economically and geographically diverse group. Originally, the study was only going to be conducted on the Internet. The FDA estimated about 10,000 people will be screened, with about 7,000 completing the study.

The FDA wants to know what gluten-free consumers think of statements like "free of gluten," "without gluten," and "no gluten." The study will also look at what consumers think when they see a gluten-free label on a food that is naturally gluten free, milk for example. Finally, the FDA is trying to gauge consumer reaction to products that are both labeled gluten free and have a statement about how much gluten the product contains.

Under the FDA's proposed definition of the gluten free label, a food tested and found to have less than 20 parts per million of gluten could be labeled gluten free. The Food Allergen Labeling and Consumer Protection Act requires the FDA to come up with a definition for gluten-free labeling. An August 2008 deadline set in the law has long passed.

Changes in the way the consumer study will be done came as a result of public comments the FDA received.

Several comments noted that an Internet-only survey would make it more difficult for the elderly and those with lower incomes to participate so the FDA is adding a paper form. The agency will also select participants who have followed the gluten-free diet for varying periods of time in response to a comment that label reading needs and habits change with time.

In response to another comment, the FDA plans to include people who are avid label readers in its control group of those who do not follow the gluten-free diet.

It's not clear when the study will get underway or when it will be completed. The FDA said it will publish the results.

If you are on a celiac center mailing list, you should receive an invitation to participate.


Tuesday, November 17, 2009

FDA announcement about gluten-free label

The Food and Drug Administration is expected to announce today that it is changing a planned consumer study of the gluten-free label.

Andrea Levario, executive director of the American Celiac Disease Alliance, said the FDA plans to get input on the gluten-free label from a much larger and diverse group of people than originally planned.

The study, originally announced in March, will ultimately be used to test how effective the FDA's proposed definition for the term "gluten free" is. The Food Allergen Labeling and Consumer Protection Act requires the FDA to come up with a definition, althought the August 2008 deadline for doing so has long passed.

The FDA said it was doing the study to find out what gluten-free consumers think of statements like "free of gluten," "without gluten," and "no gluten." The FDA also wants to know what consumers think of advisory statements like, "made in a gluten free facility."

The FDA accepted comments on the study and as a result revised how it will collect data. Originally the FDA said about 5,000 people would participate, including those who have celiac disease or gluten intolerance or care for someone who does. A control group made up of participants who do not have celiac disease was to be used for comparison.

In addition to the consumer study, the FDA is still reviewing a safety assessment a detailed study of how much gluten can safely be allowed in gluten-free food.

We will keep you posted as we learn more details.


Monday, November 16, 2009

Our Gluten-Free blog is back and so is Miss Roben's!

I'm enjoying the cycle of the seasons now as I watch leaves skitter through the air and land in the multi-colored congregation on the deck outside my window.

At Gluten-Free Living we cycle through the year, too, following a pattern pinned to the production of four magazines annually. As we come close to finishing each issue, it becomes all consuming for myself, Ann, the editor and publisher, Kendall, the advertising manager, and Vicki, who proves herself to be the most committed designer each time we ask her to do the impossible with no time to spare.

We just put out our last issue of 2009, our first ever "Best Of" collection. We've culled all the articles that have drawn the most reader attention and updated them for you in one place. That's why we've been absent from this blog so much in the past few weeks. So we hope you are glad we're back. We know we are.

And speaking of glad they are back, I just heard from Glenn Molin, new owner of Miss Roben's/The Allergy Grocer who let me know that the company's new web site, is up and running.

You'll find a wide variety of products, including 62 Miss Roben's brand mixes. You can shop by allergen, checking off all those you have to avoid, and you'll get a list that meets all your needs. For example, we checked No to gluten, casein, corn and dairy and got a list of 180 items.

If you have celiac disease or gluten intolerance and other allergies and have been wondering what to do since Miss Roben's closed earlier this year, rebirth of the company will be welcome news.

Which brings us back to the cycle of the seasons, where each year we are lucky enough to see the splendor of fall lead to the brisk snap of winter, then the rebirth of spring and the warmth of summer.

At Gluten-Free Living each of these comes with a new magazine, our own way of marking off the calendar year. Our new "Best Of" issue will be mailed to subscribers in the coming weeks and will be available in December at bookstores nationwide.


Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Start Planning GF Thanksgiving!

Is blog writing like riding a bike? Even if you haven’t posted for a month, do you still remember how? I sure hope so.

We have been so busy putting together our next issue that everything web based has fallen by the wayside, but I have had so many wonderful gluten-free occurrences that I am looking forward to catching up.

Halloween has come and gone, thankfully. In my opinion, it’s a dreadful, cavity inducing holiday although it is one of the easiest for a celiac. Now I am turning my attention to my favorite holiday of the year, Thanksgiving!

My first Thanksgiving after diagnosis was a hungry affair. I was just completely unsure of what I should or shouldn't eat. I was worried about the ingredients and cross contamination in the dishes that were prepared by other people. Then my son was diagnosed and I really had to make sure the holiday was fun, memorable and not a hungry affair for him.

We now have a vast array of side dishes that safely fill the plates (and stomachs) of the celiacs in our family.

My kids and my nieces and nephews eagerly anticipate my sweet potatoes with marshmallows. The adults have a creamy version with a splash of sherry, but we all look longingly at those puffed up, golden brown marshmallows.

I also make an apple crisp with gluten-free oats, gluten-free flour and lots of brown sugar and cinnamon. It goes into the oven as the turkey comes out. Nobody ever realized it was gluten-free until they saw the two celiacs eating it. Hot from the oven with a heaping spoonful of fresh whipped cream, a squirt of Ready Whip or vanilla ice cream makes it a real family favorite now.

Then, in the spirit of family, my in-laws started substituting corn starch for flour in the cornbread for their sausage cornbread stuffing. For years I watched that dish get passed, and it always smelled fabulous. When my sister-in-law called to inquire about substituting the flour, I was touched.

The mashed potatoes are great, the green beans are safe, the tossed salad is full of craisins and nuts, and the tart cranberries are one of my favorite things. Typically, I don't eat much's my least favorite part of the meal. But, the side dishes are savory and de-lish (to quote a celebrity chef).

And the wine, the big reds and the fruity whites from my in-laws' cellar are some of my favorite gluten-free calories as we sit around the table and talk and laugh.

If you or a loved one is newly diagnosed or if you are a seasoned celiac having Thanksgiving somewhere new, start talking to family and friends now! All it takes is a little bit of planning ahead to make Thanksgiving a great day of football, family, friends and gluten-free food.

Kendall Egan