Thursday, December 27, 2012

A New Dilemma: Good GF Party Food and Tight Jeans!

This year I followed my usual advice of eating a little something before going out to a holiday party.  Whether it was a peanut butter and jelly sandwich or some rice with a little stir fried vegetables or some noodle soup, I ate before I went out this entire month.   Now, squeezing into my jeans is nearly impossible.

Everyone in my circle of family and friends seems to be serving up gluten-free hors d’ouvres, side dishes, main courses and desserts.
Two Saturdays ago, I went to an annual party that is a collective December birthday party.  My husband is one of those December birthdays.  The appetizers were all laid out on the table with little signs that said “gluten-free,” “nut-free” and in some cases “dairy-free.”  I had serious choices and everything was fabulous.  Then the entrée and sides were laid out…beautiful tenderloins of beef, one rare and one medium to well,  potatoes roasted simply with olive oil and garlic, a green salad and a quinoa–kale salad, green beans and maybe one other vegetable.  Then the hostess laid out the desserts…a Pavlova, labeled “gluten-free,” fruit and berries and an assortment of GF cookies from a local bakery. 

I have never been so stuffed at a dinner party and was very grateful when the Christmas music went off and the dance music went on because I needed a work out!
At my cookie exchange last week, which I wrote about earlier this month, the hostess had made gluten-free crostinis for me. She had found gluten-free baguettes and toasted them up and topped them with a variety of GF garnishes.  There was a basket of rice crackers for the dips and cheeses as well.   I was in heaven and other people who snacked from the gluten-free crostini platter never realized they were eating a gluten-free baguette with savory toppings!

At the family Christmas celebration, my dishes were gluten-free but so was my brother-in-law’s cornbread stuffing and my sister-in-law’s butternut squash with gluten-free panko.  My other sister-in-law tried a gluten-free corn bread mix for her corn bread pudding and declared the gluten-free version better than the original. 
I thanked each and every person for the extra effort to make the entire dish gluten-free, or to provide gluten-free starters or desserts, and one good friend looked at me and said “the gluten-free stuff is right there on the store shelves, I didn’t really go to any extra effort.”

I think that was the best thing anyone has said to me all year.  Have we finally reached the point where enough people are aware of gluten-free and are there enough readily available products that a gluten-free option isn’t any extra effort?  I REALLY hope that is a movement that continues into 2013 and beyond.
Happy New Year!

Kendall Egan

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Update on Celiac Disease in New England Journal of Medicine

A review article on celiac disease by Alessio Fasano, MD, and Carlo Catassi, MD, was published today in The New England Journal of Medicine. The article, titled Celiac Disease, provides updates on gluten intolerance and celiac disease, including how the conditions are diagnosed and how they affect the body. The article is designed to help make sense of the changing landscape of gluten-related disorders. 

It’s been 10 years since publication of Fasano’s and Catassi’s seminal article that established the rate of celiac disease at 1 in 133 Americans. This follow up a decade later presents a comprehensive review of the condition. It includes the latest epidemiological findings, guidance on diagnosis and treatment, and a discussion on gluten sensitivity, which Fasano calls “the new kid on the block of gluten-related disorders.

Fasano and Catassi are among the leading international experts in the field of celiac disease.  Fasano is the director of the Center for Celiac Research, which is in the process of moving from the University of Maryland to Massachusetts General Hospital for Children. Catassi is the co-director. Their research has helped increase the awareness of  these conditions, resulting in a higher rate of diagnosis and a greater variety in resources to meet the needs of those living a gluten-free lifestyle. 

The full-text of “Celiac Disease” is available directly through The New England Journal of Medicine. 

Beata Rybka

Maryland Celiac Research Center moves to Boston

The University of Maryland's Center for Celiac Research, the first of its kind in the U.S., is moving from Baltimore to Boston in January.

The center will leave the University of Maryland School of Medicine and affiliate with the Massachusetts General Hospital for Children. Mass General is the largest teaching hospital of the Harvard Medical School.

CFCR will collaborate with the Celiac Center at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, also affiliated with Harvard. The two are expected to combine to form the Harvard Center for Celiac Research, pending approval by the dean of the medical school.

Alessio Fasano, MD, founder, director and face of the CFCR, said the move will allow for widespread research collaboration and new advances in the treatment of celiac disease, gluten intolerance and other disorders.

"Our new location in Boston is providing the critical mass of collaborators that would be difficult to achieve in any other institution," Fasano said. He noted that Mass General was ranked the number one hospital in the U.S. and "offers a wealth of investigators, clinicians and scientists with a collegial approach to doing science."

Fasano will continue as director of the center and the Mucosal Biology and Immunology Research Laboratory at Mass General. The Center for Celiac Research Center at Mass General will begin seeing patients in January as a staff of about eight people move there. The celiac clinic in Baltimore will close Dec. 31, and patients have received letters recommending gastroenterologists who are available to provide continuing care.

Fasano said about 60 percent of the patients seen in Baltimore flew there from out of the area, and he expects the clinic in Boston to similarly draw patients from around the country.

"As we adjust to our new environment and learn the research portfolios of scientists around us, new areas for development and exploration will undoubtedly arise," he said. "Meantime, we will continue to treat both children and adults who have celiac disease, gluten intolerance, acute and chronic diarrheal diseases and difficult-to-treat gastrointestinal problems."

At the same time, research into gut permeability, the human genome and microbiome, biomarkers for gluten sensitivity and the relationship between gluten sensitivity and autism and schizophrenia already in progress will continue. Research operations will move over the next few months, with all Boston by June.

Once fully staffed the center will have 10 clinicians, 25 scientists, and five administrators. 

Fasano said several institutions had invited him to move the lab and clinical operations of the celiac center over the nearly 20 years it was in Baltimore. This time, he said, the opportunity was too good to pass up. "I believe this is the right time with the right people and the right circumstances to take the CFCR to an even higher level of excellence," he noted.

He credited early supporters in Maryland with the success of the CFCR and said the center would not have been possible without them. When the center was set up in 1996, there were no labs doing the blood tests that are now routinely used to diagnose celiac disease so the center opened its own.

"Clinical care was very erratic and patients knew more than their physicians," Fasano said, citing the center's landmark study establishing the prevalence of celiac disease at one in 133. He called it the "signature" of the center and said it's what finally convinced U.S. physicians that celiac disease was not a rare disorder. Today, there are celiac centers located across the country.

Fasano will continue to teach at the University of Maryland School of Medicine, where he is a popular professor, at least through this academic year.

Pam King, the center's director of development and operations, will continue in that role at Mass General. She said the Baltimore Celiac Walk, a major fund raiser, will continue and is scheduled for May 19. Donations from the walk and individual donors have always gone directly to the center so there will be no disruption in fund raising related to the move, King said. Mass General is covering the cost of the move, though the amount was not available.

Amy Ratner

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Expanding My Gluten-Free Comfort Zone

For years I have studiously avoided oysters.  Just the look of them turned me off.  Anything that looks like something coughed up on the half shell should be avoided, right?

I eat any type of sushi out there, which is raw and fresh from the ocean but couldn’t get beyond the look of oysters…until last night.  I have an annual night out with my sisters-in-law in New York City.  We tried to figure it out last night and decided that next year would be our ten year celebration of this December GNO. 
The first time we went I was in charge of picking the place and I chose The Mermaid Inn on 2nd Avenue and picked a nice wine bar as a starter…the only thing that has changed in all these years is the starter location.   We now have instituted a summer dinner out to satisfy my need to try new places, but we will continue to come back to The Mermaid Inn as long as it remains such a delicious option!  In fact, we just call our night out, “mermaiding.”

Oysters are gluten free and as I came to find out last night, they are a succulent, briny and fantastic bite of seafood!   We paired our two dozen oysters with two orders of “Bay Fries,” double fried frites with a liberal sprinkling of Old Bay Seasoning.   That could have been my dinner!
Seafood restaurants are my favorite choice for eating out because simple fish dishes, grilled or pan seared, are delicious and easy to confirm if they are indeed, gluten-free.  As much as I love fried fish, I would choose a grilled filet with just some salt, pepper and olive oil any day of the week.  Last night’s pan seared trout had a light sauté of red peppers with some greens and fingerling potatoes.   They prepare gorgeous filets with just a few, fresh ingredients.

Even though the night out stays the same year after year, which is reassuring in its own way, I was forced out of my comfort zone to try something new.  As a person with a gluten intolerance, I fall into safe ordering patterns when eating out, who wants to get sick?  But last year, my sister-in-law told me to give the grilled octopus at the tapas place a try.  This year it was oysters.  Both the grilled octopus and the oysters were gluten-free and both of them rejected by me previously because of the way each looked on a plate.   Glad I have my sisters-in-law to push me outside of my comfort zone because I will order both grilled octopus and oysters on the half shell again at a future restaurant outing!
Kendall Egan

Thursday, December 13, 2012

General Mills closing gluten-free online store

General Mills is shutting down Gluten Freely, it's online gluten-free store and moving its gluten-free recipes onto two general interest websites run by the company.

The store  is closing Jan. 8 because a wider selection of gluten-free items in supermarkets and groceries has reduced the need for an online gluten-free store, the company said in an email. Gluten-Freely sold both General Mills gluten-free brands, like Betty Crocker and Chex, and those produced by other companies.

General Mills said the closing of the store and website is not an indication that the company is losing its commitment to the gluten-free community "We remain committed to the gluten-free community by continuing to offer more than 300 gluten-free products," the email sent to Gluten Freely subscribers said. Future innovations are also on tap, according to the company.

Gluten-free recipes will be available at in the recipe section under health and diet and will offer "healthified" gluten-free recipes, resources and articles under healthy living gluten free.

Consumers will no longer receive emails from Gluten Freely. While you can sign up for information from BettyCrocker and LiveBetterAmerica, it will not always be specific to the gluten-free diet. The Gluten Freely Facebook page, which has more than 100,000 likes, will continue to operate.

Consumers started reacting to news of the closing on the Facebook page shortly after the email was sent. "I understand for most people it is easier to get gluten-free items locally, but for me it is difficult," Nikki Evans wrote. I have to travel over 90 minutes to a Whole Foods store."

Catherine Barrett wrote, "So sad you are closing. I can't find most of the things I like locally and the prices are outrageous in the stores. I will miss being able to order what I want and need."

Others asked whether the move would mean brands they like would no longer be available. The store closing is not connected to the discontinuation of any products sold through it.

Products sold through the store will be up to 50 percent off until the closing. They will continue to come with a guarantee that they are 30 days from their  expiration date. The consumer services department will be staffed through January to handle questions about final orders. Once the store closes remaining inventory will be donated to food shelters, include some impacted by Hurricane Sandy.

Amy Ratner

Monday, December 10, 2012

Surviving the Cookie Swap in a Gluten-Filled World

It’s that time of year again, when my friends gather together with our four dozen homemade cookies and swap them for four dozen mixed cookies.  When you are a celiac, you exchange cookies for the gluten-eaters in your family.   Three of my four kids absolutely love checking out the cookies I bring home and each kid has developed a favorite cookie over the years.  My celiac has slim pickings, but one person ALWAYS makes “magic” fudge (it is the recipe on the side of the jar of Fluff) in addition to her cookies just for me.

But, it’s not just me with food issues!  At my cookie exchange we have a tree nut allergy, a severe peanut allergy and a dairy and egg allergy among the moms or other family members of the women present.  Last year I made cake pops that were gluten free and nut free, but not egg or dairy free.  My cake pops were shaped by hand and then dipped in the Wilson cake melts…red and green…and they were a hit!

In the past, I have also made chocolate dipped pretzel rods, puff pastry Palmiers, peppermint bark and almond brittle.  I have even cheated with frozen cookie dough with fancy glazing. Most people got into a rhythm of bringing the same cookie every year.  Lucky for my celiac, one person always brings red and green peppermint-chocolate chip meringues. 

I have learned a few survival tips over the years.  First of all, make sure you bake up a selection of gluten-free cookies to have at home.  This is getting easier every year with the vast selection of frozen gluten-free cookie dough and high quality mixes.

For the party, buy a cute cookie plate and pick a recipe that looks appetizing.  The plate doesn’t have to be expensive and the cookies do not need to be elaborate, but you don’t want to have the unappetizing platter of plain cookies that everyone politely skips!
Bring a great big tub for cookie collecting.   It is important to have a lid on that container after you have gently packed up your four dozen mixed cookies to bring home.  One year I had to slam on the brakes to avoid hitting a deer and all of my cookies from the exchange went sliding right out from under the plastic wrap, off the tray and onto the floor of the car.  They were covered with dirt, bits of leaves and hair and went right from the car floor into the garbage. 

I always bring a set of small Tupperware containers so those of us with food intolerances can separate the allergen free selections from all the rest of the cookies.

The most important piece of advice is to really know what ingredients are in your cookies.  I would be upset if someone came back to me later and said that she forgot that there was a little bit of flour in the recipe, with the “sorry” and “it was just a little bit of flour.”  The same goes for nuts, egg and dairy.  If you can’t emphatically tell someone “this cookie is gluten free, nut free, egg free or dairy free” then just say so.  I don’t want someone dashing for an Epi pen because I thought the ingredients were nut free but didn’t really scope it out thoroughly.
Also, know why you really go to these parties year after year…it’s for the friendships, the memories, the stories about your kids, the laughter and the chance to pause and enjoy time with friends in the frenetic build up to the holidays.   I don’t really need cookies, no woman my age really needs cookies, but I do need my friends and that is what a cookie exchange is all about!

Kendall Egan

Friday, December 7, 2012

Gluten-Free Living's Holiday Gift Guide

‘Tis the season to give and to receive, but forget the fruitcake as we’ve compiled a gift guide from the personal wish lists of the GFL staff to please every kind of cook, chef or baker. And don’t worry – we won’t judge you if you buy two – one for them, one for you.

1.    Kuhn Rikon Cookie & Cupcake Decorating Set, $19.95, Sur La Table
No more futzing around with flimsy icing tubes or make-shift tinfoil funnels – a cookie and cupcake decorating set like this one from Kuhn Rikon can make putting on those finishing flourishes a cinch. Plus, it also comes in pastel colors.

2.    Magnetic Knife Holder, $16.99, Bed Bath and Beyond
Karen Morgan, the author of the cookbook Blackbird Bakery, Gluten-Free, recommends a magnetic knife holder as just one of the many space-saving tricks featured in the Saving column of the Jan/Feb 2013 issue of GFL on newsstands Jan. 2. Here’s one that comes with a reasonable price tag.

3.    Mini Holiday Silicone Spatula, Set of 3, $16.95, Williams-Sonoma
Whimsical cooking utensils like these spatulas make awesome stocking stuffers. These even come in a set of 3 so you can spread the love without spreading yourself thin.

4.    All is Bright Snowman Set, $8.99 - $14.99, Target
Holiday china can really transform a meal; after all, “Cookies for Santa” without proper signage are just cookies on a plate. “We have a set of Christmas plates that we use from Dec. 1 – Dec. 31 which just adds something festive to the entire month,” says our Associate Publisher, Kendall Egan.

5.    Paper Eskimo Red and White Dot Baking Cups, Set of 25, $7.95, Sur La Table
Think outside the box – baking cups aren’t just for muffins and cupcakes anymore. Sturdy paper ones like these are great for mini ice cream sundaes and holding or displaying toppings like sprinkles and marshmallows.

6.    Flat Stainless-Steel Icing Spatula, $35, Williams-Sonoma
“You would be amazed at how much easier it is to ice a cake with a really good icing spatula,” says our Editor Amy Ratner. “Mine was a treat from me to me. It and a good bread knife I bought are among my favorite kitchen tools.”  We love this one from Williams-Sonoma.

7.    Silpat Silicone Cookie Sheet Liners, $19.96, Williams-Sonoma
I tend to be a pretty by-the-book kind of baker, but greasing the cookie sheet is my weakness – I almost never do it. As a result, things stick, burn, and clean-up’s a mess. Santa, if you’re reading this, slip a silicone cookie sheet under the tree, for me; I’ve been an awfully good girl.  

8.    Claro Cake Stand, $49, Pottery Barn
After you spend hours mixing, baking, and frosting, your baked work of art deserves a place of honor at the holiday table - especially if it’s a gift for the host or a contribution to a holiday potluck. A domed cake stand will not only make your cake look majestic, but also protect it while in transit.

Beata Rybka

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Gluten-Free Cookie Bars

On Monday, my gluten-free pantry of packaged snacks was like Old Mother Hubbard’s cupboard…bare.   I have a six foot tall, 13 year old celiac with a hollow leg and when he walks in the house at 5pm with a wild-eyed, half-starved look in his eye, after skipping breakfast, eating lunch at 11am, following full school day and a two hour basketball try out, he will NOT be nominating me mother-of-the-year with cupboards lacking any gluten-free options.

Thankfully, I was pulling my creation from the oven…my gluten-free pan bars.  I had a box of King Arthur Flour cookie mix in the cupboard and I noticed that I had all of the “wet” ingredients handy.  I also have this laborious recipe for homemade, healthy oat and fruit bars that I really did not have the time to make.  What I did was prepare the cookie batter and use the essence of the oat and fruit bar recipe to come up with my own concoction.

I had leftover thinly sliced almonds and craisins from a Thanksgiving side dish.  I toasted the almonds on the stove top in my cast iron skillet and then dumped both ingredients into my cookie batter.  I had Trader Joe’s White Baking chips for making Peppermint Bark, so I tossed the vanilla chips into the cookie mix. I also had Glutenfreeda Apple Cinnamon instant oatmeal with flax so I dumped two packets of that into the mix as well. 

I used my heavy duty bamboo spoon to incorporate all of those ingredients and then baked them up as pan bars.  I had to guess at how long to bake it but all I know is that I pulled it out from the oven and barely got the pan onto the counter before hungry man was scooping out a massive corner wedge onto a plate.
Of course, you are supposed to let it sit and cool but he happily ate a pile of hot cookie crumble.

Everyone tried a properly cooled and cut cookie bars after dinner and by Tuesday afternoon the entire pan was eaten.   I did not follow either one of the recipes as they were written, but sometimes kitchen experiments turn out to be something worth repeating.

Kendall Egan

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

An easy approach to gluten-free recipes

I am thinking ahead a few weeks and planning what I will make for dinner for the two holidays we celebrate in our house in December.

Most of my dishes are family favorites, with some recipes written out in my  grandmother's Catholic grade school perfect penmanship. Others I've scribbled myself while talking on the phone with my mother and getting directions and advice on how to make something. Some come from my mother-in-law, an artist, who sometimes draws illustrations in the margins.

None of these are specifically gluten-free recipes and most of them required just a little change or none at all to make them gluten free.

When you are new to the gluten-free diet, it's easy to get the impression that you always need a specialty gluten-free recipe. When you are unsure of exactly what might contain gluten, it's reassuring to have a recipe that comes from a gluten-free cookbook, magazine, blog or website. And some types of food need a specialty gluten-free recipe, including pretty much any baked good like bread, cookies, cake and more.

 That's why Gluten-Free Living now includes more recipes. We get great feedback on recipes from our Food Editor Jacqueline Mallorca, a true gluten-free expert with impeccable culinary credentials.

But as you grow in knowledge and confidence, you can step outside specifically gluten-free sources and find many wonderful, tasty recipes that don't require a whole cabinet full of specialty items.

I was reminded of this fact this weekend by my daughter, who happened to be home and in the mood to try a new dish. She often looks through magazines, Pinterest, and other general websites to find interesting recipes.

She may look more than she cooks, but she is not intimidated by the gluten-free diet when she does decide to make something. So this weekend she prepared Potato and Butternut Squash Gratin and an escarole salad with toasted walnuts and pomegranate seeds that she found in one of her searches.

She didn't need any specialty gluten-free items, though she did have to buy heavy cream, fresh thyme and peppercorns, which we did not happen to have on hand. And since the recipes were designed for holiday entertaining,  they took a little more work than your average Saturday night dinner.

But the whole experience showed that you can find perfectly safe, delicious, innovative recipes that will work in your gluten-free diet without need of a special gluten-free ingredient. And so can friends who want to invite you to dinner or for a holiday meal.

 It seems to me it's a lot easier for someone unfamiliar with the gluten-free diet to prepare recipes like these than to try to learn about specialty gluten-free cooking for one night. In addition to GFL's specialty gluten-free recipes,  we also publish a number that are naturally gluten free.

The next time you get a dinner invitation, try asking what your host wants to prepare and then suggest a recipe that uses techniques and ingredients familiar to them. It's so easy to share recipes digitally they can easily take a look online or on a cell phone and decide if it's something they might want to try. And it might lighten the load of dishes you have to tote along.

Or when you do bring something, make it from a naturally gluten-free recipe. Then you can skip the characterization as some who needs "special food." Instead you will be seen simply as someone who brought the dish that everyone loved and now wants the recipe for.

Amy Ratner

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Gluten-Free Blogger Helps Organize Post-Sandy Relief

Two weeks have passed since Hurricane Sandy made landfall on the east coast, but many hit hard by the disaster have yet to recover.

While cities and independent organizations are prepared for natural disasters to a certain extent, resources are limited and rarely account for those struggling with special needs, like food allergies. That’s why Erin Smith, the creator of the blog Gluten-Free Fun, started using her social media presence to connect those in need of gluten-free with resources.

Smith lives in Queens, New York and spent a frightening night while Sandy roared outside her home. But she was spared the more devastating consequences of the hurricane and quickly turned her attention to others with celiac disease who were not so lucky.

She contacted food shelters and pantries in her area to see if they had any gluten-free options for those in need and posted the information on her blog, Gluten-Free Fun. She found that grassroots movements within individual communities, like donations at Three Dogs Bakery in Westchester and G-Free NYC, the first gluten-free store in New York City, were most effective in connecting those in need with necessary supplies. “These people are living the gluten-free lifestyle and know exactly what’s needed, and they’re bringing it to the people who need it,” Smith says.

While people have expressed great generosity in donating food and supplies to other relief centers, these items are not usually gluten-free. “People are going to these facilities but there’s nothing safe to eat,” Smith says. “People are making soups and sandwiches, but everything has gluten.” While some larger relief locations reported having limited quantities of gluten-free food, they said it was difficult to ration due to many volunteers not understanding celiac disease. “People don’t know what gluten-free means,” Smith says.

One organization that did achieve success catering to those with special dietary needs was Long Island Cares, a food bank in Freeport. When Smith contacted them, they responded very proactively to meeting gluten-free needs, vowing to keep gluten-free products separate from other food and making them available by request to those in need until there was enough of a supply to advertise openly without fear of running out.  Smith also helped coordinate donations from a number of major gluten-free companies, like Kinnikinnick, by letting them know which local food banks were accepting donations. Kinnikinnick sent 600 cases of gluten-free breads and buns to City Harvest of Long Island, N.Y., and the Chapin Food Bank in Hauppauge, N.Y.

While the emergency efforts of the food bank on Long Island are commendable, Smith says Sandy shows why a specific gluten-free food bank in the New York area is so necessary. “I would love if we had a gluten-free food bank,” she says. “A place you knew you could go to get food that’s safe to eat. It would be amazing.”

There are food banks in a few other cities around the country, like Loveland, Colo., Pittsburgh, Pa., and participating Pierce’s Pantry locations throughout Massachusetts. These food banks do the important job of helping those in the gluten-free community who are in need day-to-day, but they could also be invaluable when natural disaster strikes.

Beata Rybka

All I want for Christmas is a…

...Generator.  I whispered sweet nothings to my husband and told him he could shop for me at Home Depot this year.  Ho-Ho-Home Depot!!  If these storms…God forbid…are an annual event, then here is my wish list for Santa.

LED Candles-The holiday season is a great time to stock up on these.  LED pillars and votives are found at Costco and Bed Bath & Beyond this time of year.  They aren’t terribly bright, but they are safe.  I had LED votives on for seven straight days in my powder room.  (I could slide in a crass joke about darkness and missing the toilet, but I’ll let it go.)  I had votives on each stair going to the upstairs and on a little table in the landing at the top. 
Unscented Pillar Candles & Bags of Tea Lights-The candle wattage of a real candle is better than an LED candle, but scented candles are the absolute worst in a power outage.   Nothing will get your eyes burning or turn your stomach faster than Pumpkin Spice competing with Pear and Apple Cinnamon.  Don’t even get me started on the Christmas tree scented candles!  Scented candles are lovely in small doses, but if you are lighting candles night after night…it is disgusting.  My daughter walked in one night when we had grilled Salmon and had the Pumpkin Spice candle going and her quote, “Our house smells really odd…fish and pumpkin pie.”

One Full Deck of Cards-We have a drawer full of cards…some with 50 cards, or 51 cards.  The best CVS purchase I made was a full deck of cards on the day after the storm.  We had a wholesome game of Poker with our young sons, which was a lesson in math and gambling that was fun for one night and maybe half of the second.

A Fireplace or BBQ Lighter-If you are lighting the fireplace or twenty candles every night, there is no need to be all Little House on The Prairie with matches.
A Variety of Duct & Painters Tape-Our duct tape held together our neighbor’s generator and painter’s tape sealed the crack on the window after threading the plug from his generator into our house.

Heavy Duty Foil-I put peppers and onions drizzled with a little olive oil, salt and pepper into a heavy duty foil packet and threw it on top of the BBQ.  Next night I did the same thing with potatoes in one packet and green beans in another.   After a while, you just want a vegetable that isn’t from a take-out container.
The Flashlight App-It is REALLY dark trying to get into your house with no lights on anywhere.  The iPhone flashlight app is incredible.

Snack Packs of Pudding-Ok, this might need some explaining.  My husband and sons got stuck in the Florida hurricane that threatened in late August.  My husband bought pudding snack packs as part of his food hurricane provisions.   When I asked why, he said it was non-perishable and gluten-free.  He bought it again this time around and we all had a good laugh…until pudding actually became comfort food.  It’s velvety, unctuous texture and rich chocolate or vanilla flavor was quite simply, delicious, when sitting around in the dark after dinner.
Other non-perishables and a manual can opener-Trail Mix, Peanut Butter, Thai Kitchen Noodle Soup, Annie’s Gluten-Free Mac n’ Cheese, Chex Cereals, Schar Rolls, a variety of protein and nut bars.  The manual can opener is kind of obvious.

Red Wine-The Wall Street Journal used to have an “open that bottle” night which was a wonderful feature where people planned to open a special bottle of wine to share.  From talking to my friends and neighbors, every night after the storm was an “open that bottle” night.
While some of this is tongue in cheek, the one lesson I learned was that you must pay the kindness forward.  A long time gluten-free friend had us all over for dinner and to watch the Giant football game because they got power back first.  Then when I got power back, I opened up my home, my kitchen and my Wi-Fi key for my friends without power. 

Now that I have actually seen the footage of the devastation, it’s about paying it forward even further with cleaning supplies, donations and food for the people who lost everything.    We got the word yesterday that everyone in my community, except for approximately six homes with extensive damage, has power back up and running.  Thanks to the local crews and to the crews I saw from Montreal, Iowa, Texas and Louisiana who were working in our neighborhood.

Gratitude and paying it forward are actually the only two things I am going to think about this holiday season!  But if anyone else has a “must have” item for surviving a week or longer without power, feel free to add to the list.
Kendall Egan

Friday, November 2, 2012

This is My Brain on Sandy

Today I started my day at 8:45 am, not normal on a Friday.  There are no working clocks so I go to bed really early, but lie awake for several hours in the middle of the night worrying.  Stupid, right? But we have no working anything, I don’t know if smoke detectors are even working so I worry.

I threw on my jeans and went down the street to the deli with a generator and bought two large coffees with milk.  When I got home I strategized on where we would spend our day…two hours at the library, two hours at the Y, and a few hours at Panera.  I joked with the cashier on my third Panera meal on Wednesday that I was a “Panera barnacle.”
No school for the kids again, so I was offering up magazines, the movies, books and whatever to keep them busy.  All they really want to do is go back to school.

I fired up the gas burners and fried up some toast in a little butter.  Everyone is eating the gluten-free bread because I had four loaves in the freezer.  I threw away a ton of other really good frozen gluten-free food, along with everything else, that I couldn’t cook!
Ninety percent of the homes in my town are without power, but miraculously most of the center of town is intact.  We just rotate locations to warm up and charge iStuff like everyone else.

I am so grateful that my flight got in on Sunday.  My plane was the last Jet Blue flight to leave the west coast for the east coast.  We received the scary warning about getting trapped in JFK for days or not landing in New York if the storm changed, but we made it.  I got my car from the parking lot and headed home on eerily empty roads around midnight.  Highways in New York are never that empty.
I am so grateful that a gas station on the Hutchinson River Parkway was still open so I could get my gas tank totally filled.  It was desolate and creepy, and I paid a King’s Ransom price for the gas but I am so glad my tank is full today with two hour waits for gas.

There are no stop lights and it just makes me crazy when people don’t follow the rules of stop signs.  Do you really need to sneak through instead of just waiting your turn?  My kids have heard ever cuss word in the book.

At Chipotle last night I got all choked up seeing the out of state power crews roll in to town in a convoy.  We are all fraying around the edges and we are the lucky ones…the storm surge ruined businesses, not homes in my neck of the woods.

I keep telling people who email me with their concerns from the devastation they have seen on the news that I have not seen the devastation in other parts of the east coast because I have no power and no internet.  And, when I hopped on a treadmill at the YMCA, JUST to watch the news, the TV froze.
I do feel lucky.  It’s not terribly cold yet.  Now I have an estimate for power, November 9th, and even though it is seven more days, it is a date.  I have been given assurances that schools are a top priority for power in order to get the kids back to a sense of normalcy.  I have a husband who brilliantly prepared for the storm while I was visiting my family in California and who leaves the house every day with a cooler for provisions and ice.   I have hot water and I just found a laundromat that is operational.

Of course, when I packed up the kids for our day of roaming…I left my big beautiful cups of coffee at home.  My brain on Sandy.  Be safe and be well to everyone in this region.  We will all get through this.
Kendall Egan

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Just because it’s gluten-free…

I was on an airplane last Friday and ordered a cup of tea when the stewardess came down the aisle.  I like tea in the afternoon and I like it with milk.

She handed me the cup of tea and two little plastic packages of non-dairy creamer.  Due to sixteen years of living with celiac disease, out of sheer habit I read the label.   It seemed gluten-free and it also seemed like a whole lot of “yuck.”  The “contains” label said that soy and milk ingredients were present and my inner voice asked, “Where?”
Here is what was in my little plastic container of non-dairy creamer.  My apologies for any misspellings, mouse print labels are very tough to read even with glasses.

Partially hydrogenated soybean oil
Corn syrup solids
Sodium caseinate
Dipotassium Phosphate
Mono and diglycerides
Sodium Stearoyl
Soy Lecithin
Artificial colors
Artificial flavors

All I really wanted was a splash of milk to cool off my tea and lighten it a little bit.  I asked her if I could have milk and she didn’t have any on her cart.  So the choice was to dump the two plastic packets of chemicals into my tea for a milk-like flavor or drink it black.

The non-dairy creamer was safe to consume from a gluten perspective, but totally gross from every other perspective.  I drank half the cup black and switched back to my water bottle.  The moral of the story for me is that sometimes reading labels can turn you off a product completely even if it is gluten-free!

Kendall Egan

Thursday, October 11, 2012

A yogurt that contains wheat

Typically, yogurt that doesn't contain granola, pieces of cookies or cereal is gluten free.

So you can imagine my surprise when I read the ingredients of Quaker's new Muller yogurt and discovered most varieties and flavors contain wheat. It's clearly labeled at the end of the ingredients list in a "Contains" statement. So while this is surprising, it's surely not hidden.

The company says modified food starch is the source of wheat in all flavors of Corner and Fruit Up products. Also, all flavors of Greek Corner Yogurt contain modified wheat starch except Honeyed Apricot, which has modified food starch made from corn. A few products with granola or cereal also contain wheat flour, which is listed on the label.

The Muller brand originated in Europe where wheat starch and modified wheat starch are used much more commonly than in the US. The products introduced to the US market by Quaker continue to be made in Germany, although a US plant is under construction. It's not yet clear whether there will be a change in formulation once the US plant opens.

Wheat starch has been allowed in gluten-free foods in Europe for a number of years. Muller notes that many of its yogurt products contain no more than 20 parts per million of gluten in accordance with European Commission  regulations for products labeled gluten free. 

The Food and Drug Administration has proposed a similar standard for products labeled gluten free in the US, but the standard still doesn't have final approval. Meanwhile products that contain wheat starch cannot be labeled gluten free.

The proposed rules would allow foods with an ingredient made from a gluten-containing grain that has been processed to remove the protein harmful to those who have celiac disease to be labeled gluten free. However, it's not completely clear whether wheat starch or modified wheat starch would fall into that category.

The FDA has said it will finalize a gluten-free definition "as soon as possible," but it's unlikely to happen before the end of the year.

US allergen labeling laws passed in 2004 do require that any wheat used in a product has to be noted on the label. It can either appear as part of the ingredient listing, for example modified wheat starch, or at the end of the ingredients list in a "Contains" statement as in the Muller yogurt.

Since modified wheat starch is currently not considered gluten free in the US, those who follow the gluten-free diet are advised not to eat products that contain it. That means most of the Muller products in your supermarket are off limits.

And it's another reminder that no matter how familiar you are with the ins and outs of the gluten-free diet, you always have to read labels.

Amy Ratner

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Gluten-Free University Family Weekend

Across the country parents of college freshman are heading to campuses for Family Weekend. It's often the first chance they have to lay eyes on their newly independent children and make sure everything seems to be OK.

My youngest son is a freshman and so our family traveled to his university this past weekend for a tailgate, barbecue and football game. (The home team happily won). My daughter, who has celiac disease, went with us to see her younger brother. So I was glad to see that the university had posted information on foods at the barbecue that were gluten free. Even better, it turns out almost everything on the menu was.

It included hot dogs, sausages, pulled pork BBQ, BBQ chicken, baked beans, potato salad, coleslaw, and fresh fruit. Only  the veggie burgers, cupcakes and buns weren't gluten free. We did not request gluten-free items and the university's decision to make the menu so gluten friendly was prompted internally. Many foods were also dairy and nut free and several were vegetarian or vegan. 

Ironically, this same university had only 11 gluten-free items on its entire dining hall menu when my daughter looked into attending about five years ago. That's not the reason she chose another school, but it was in the negative column. It was just another reminder of how much has changed so quickly.

And at the barbecue, it turns out there was even a dessert that was gluten free. My daughter was able to enjoy Rita's Italian Ice, which had set up a free stand nearby.

All in all, a very inclusive event.

And my son does seem to be doing fine as a new college student.

Amy Ratner

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Latest on Gluten-Free Labeling Law

The end of the third quarter has rolled around and, as pretty much everyone expected, the Food and Drug Administration still has not finalized rules for gluten-free labeling.

The agency, under pressure from the gluten-free community, had said final approval would likely come by September 30. That deadline became a little less likely months ago when a presidential budget proposal seemed to move action to the end of the year.

Today, an FDA representative told me the agency is working to publish a final rule as soon as possible.

The FDA received about 2,000 new comments last year when it once again asked consumers, food makers, support groups and medical and gluten-free testing experts to weigh in on proposed rules that were supposed to be passed by 2008.

Comments now being considered by the FDA touch on many issues, including important questions about how to detect gluten in food. The FDA says the gluten-free definition remains "a high priority."

But the gluten-free community is trying to take its case for precise gluten-free labeling to another level by attracting attention from the White House. It's looking for grassroots support through a petition you can sign on the White House website, We the People. The petition calls on the Obama administration to finalize standards for gluten-free labeling so that those who have celiac disease and gluten sensitivity can make safe food choices.

"If a petition on the website gets enough support, White House staff will review it, ensure it’s sent to the appropriate policy experts, and issue an official response," the website says. A petition has to get 25,000 signatures within 30 days to trigger review. You can read more about the gluten-free labeling petition on the American Celiac Disease Alliance website.

A strong push for FDA action came last year when 1in133, a grassroots group, drew attention to the long ignored gluten-free labeling proposal by building the world's tallest gluten-free cake at an event in Washington, D.C. Mike Taylor, FDA deputy commissioner, promised to "get it done."

The FDA then reopened public comment, saying it was looking for information on any new developments in research or testing that might impact a final gluten-free labeling law. 

Currently there is no precise definition for the gluten-free label aside from a general requirement that food labels have to be truthful. Wheat, barley and rye cannot be used as an ingredients in foods labeled gluten-free. The Food Allergen Labeling and Consumer Protection Act directed the FDA to come up with better definition. In 2007, the agency proposed less than 20 parts per million of gluten from any source, including cross-contamination, as a standard for foods labeled gluten free. But progress then stalled until it was kick-started by 1in133.

It's still hard to say for certain when labeling rules will finally be passed. But it's pretty clear it's important to make your voice heard and the petition is one way to do that.

Amy Ratner


Monday, October 1, 2012

October Pinterest Contest!

Now that we have our first contest under our belt, we want to lots of people to have fun with this topic!   How many people have plans to go apple picking over the Columbus Day weekend?  I have such fond memories of my kids when they were little going apple picking with all of their cousins.  It was a ton of work and inevitably one or more of the aunts or uncles got bopped in the head with that big picker-stick with the basket on top.

For the next three weeks we would race to use up the bushels of apples we brought home!  I was always the best cheater on apple pie…two frozen gluten-free pie crusts thawed will yield a lot of tarts or a double crust apple pie.  But, maybe it’s time to try something new….

Pin It to Win It October Apple Recipe Contest
It is peak apple picking season in many regions of the country! What is your favorite way to use those apples? A muffin? A cake? A hot apple cider toddy? Share your Granny's baked apple recipe! Or create a spook-tacular (and healthy) Halloween apple party snack! Do it and you could win big in our Pin It to Win It October Apple Recipe contest.

Create a Pinterest board and fill it with your favorite tasty and creative gluten-free apple ideas. Then, head over to our Facebook page and share a link to your board for others to see until October 22, 2012. Our staff will judge each board and choose a favorite, and that Pinner will win a free one-year subscription to Gluten-Free Living and will be our featured Pinner on our blog and in our newsletters. Here's how to enter:

1. Follow Gluten Free Living on Pinterest at
2. Create a Pinterest board with your favorite gluten-free apple recipe ideas.
3. Post a link to your board on our Facebook wall for a chance to win!

If you are a mom or dad who packs lunches for your gluten-free child, be sure to click on September's gluten-free lunch box winners Pinterest board.   Jordan Nicole Chapman continues to add delicious and fun ideas for any child’s lunchbox.
We can’t wait to share the apple boards with you!

Kendall Egan

Friday, September 28, 2012

Gluten-Free Yom Kippur

We observed Yom Kippur, the Jewish Day of Atonement, earlier this week. By tradition, a day of fast is followed by a "break the fast" meal designed to fill your stomach without overwhelming it.

This is the first Yom Kippur my daughter has been home in four years since she had been away at college. But now she has graduated and is working nearby so she returned to the Yom Kippur table.

That meant I had to keep her gluten-free diet in mind as I decided what to serve. After the years away, she had a few special requests, too.  I have to admit I was surprised by how easy it was to fill those requests and allow her to eat the same dishes as everyone else even if a few had to be separately prepared.

It's a reflection of tremendous change in the availability and quality of ready-made gluten-free foods over the past four years. Meanwhile it also shows how much more comfortable I am switching up recipes to make them completely gluten free.

On the first point, I no longer have to make her bagels from scratch. That used to be a multi-step process not for the faint of heart. You had to make the dough, let it rise, boil the bagels and then bake them. I wish I could say they were so terrific it was worth all the effort. Now I can easily choose from a variety of gluten-free bagels right in the supermarket freezer.

I was also easily able to find gluten-free noodles just like the wheat-based noodles used in the apricot noodle pudding I always make. Again I just picked them up at the grocery. I did not make the whole recipe gluten free because I was not sure how well the noodles would hold up being boiled and then baked. Instead I reserved a bit of the sauce (naturally gluten free) and mixed the gluten-free serving in a small ramekin. Next year, the whole dish can be gluten free.

The carrot pudding my daughter wanted most of all was easy to convert to a gluten-free dish by simply substituting gluten-free flour for the exact amount called for in the recipe. This rather unusual recipe, which is more bread than pudding, tastes exactly the same as it did when I used to use wheat flour.

Homemade chicken soup is a favorite with my whole family and naturally gluten free, as is the chicken salad I make from the chicken used to cook the soup.

But matzo balls are another story. In the past I've had a lot of failures -- think a pot of mush when the balls don't hold together -- and a few successes. So I was excited this year to find a recipe on the Gluten Free A-Z Blog complete with photos of matzo balls that look just like the "regular" kind. One of the reasons they work is the use of Glutino gluten-free bread crumbs that look more like matzo meal than anything I have ever seen. (They are made from milled corn). Happy to say the matzo balls turned out perfectly.

With all the holidays that will come sneaking up faster than you can imagine, I hope you will find that it's easier than ever to make a wider assortment of gluten-free dishes. There's nothing better than a celebratory table where everyone gathered around feels included in the meal and part of the joy and conversation.

Our next issue of Gluten-Free Living is all about the Winter holidays and is full of advice and recipes to help you enjoy the wonderful foods of the season. It will be mailed to our subscribers about mid October and will be on newsstands across the country beginning Oct. 30. That will give you plenty of time to plan holiday meals and treats that are perfect for everyone.

Amy Ratner

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Gluten-Free Living on Pinterest!

The spice of life is continual learning, trying new things and being open minded to different experiences.  And so it goes with my introduction to Pinterest.

I’ve learned how to blog, post and tweet, but things move and evolve in the blink of an eye and I was asked to leap into Pinterest…this is what my desk looks like.  I am busy!!!!  Now I have to snap photos of my gluten-free food and find links and cool pictures and tweet it out AND have a contest? 

But, here is what happened…I LOVE Pinterest!  For a visual and creative person, this is the coolest social media tool ever.  It goes beyond eye candy; this is a sea of creativity. 

Through our inaugural Pinterest lunch box contest, I learned that a cucumber could be a vehicle for a “cucumber hero” sandwich.  Or that a muffin tin is a great place to make pizza muffins, which is the perfect portion size for a lunch box.  I learned that there are a lot of people who are taking waste free lunches very seriously and are literally creating GF bento style box lunches for their kids every single day.  
I saw gluten-free bread creations that went well beyond cutting off the crusts…there were owl, flower and house shaped sandwiches. 

This is a place that is teaming with fantastic, original and completely helpful ideas.  I am so grateful that our contest entrants shared their lunch box ideas with Gluten-Free Living. 
Pinterest is a place where mom and dad-preneurs who think up something really fun for their gluten-free kids can share their idea so that others don’t have to reinvent the wheel.   This might be the place for creative chefs to get the next great business idea!  Maybe this will inspire a child to take matters into his or her own hands and create something original and gluten-free.

That is my hope, I would love our Gluten-Free Living Pinterest boards become a place for sharing inventive ways of preparing gluten-free food.  To that end, we will invite guest pinners who will share their great ideas and recipes.   We will also run contests on monthly basis using a special theme for the season.

October is a huge apple harvesting month, how many people go apple picking this time of year?   Contest instructions will follow in the next blog, but start thinking about great apple ideas…apple cider toddies, apple cinnamon tarts, muffins, pies, cakes, baked apples, apples in a savory dish…
Please join our Gluten-Free Living Pinterest community!  Contest winners will receive a one year complimentary subscription to Gluten-Free Living magazine.

Kendall Egan