Monday, January 28, 2013

The Dessert Table

A good friend of mine has an annual party for the AFC and NFC championship games.  Four attendees this year were celiacs and so there was a 50-50 mix of gluten-free and gluten containing desserts.

I brought a gluten-free Apple Cake from By the Way Bakery in Hastings-on-Hudson.  One person bought a hazelnut flour based torte with whipped cream and cocoa from a different bakery and another person made gluten-free snickerdoodles and ginger snaps.

The hostess pointed out to my son the gluten-free offerings in front of everyone and so people started backing off the gluten-free desserts.  I don’t know if they felt that they shouldn’t eat them because the four of us couldn’t eat the chocolate cake or the chocolate chip cookies.  Maybe they felt the gluten-free offerings would not taste as good as the regular desserts? Who can say what the reasons were, but the reaction to leave the gluten-free desserts on the table was unanimous from the gluten eaters!

One woman had been in mid-slice of the apple cake and then pulled back when she heard it was gluten-free so I insisted she try it.  The cake was outstanding and no one would have ever known that it was anything other than moist, spicy and really fluffy.  She did try a slice and insisted everyone else try some as well.

I did the same thing with the gluten-free ginger snaps and snickerdoodles…they were just delicious cookies and I made sure everyone got a taste.

From now on I am not going to announce loudly which items are gluten-free, I will quietly tell the person who needs to know and then let everyone partake in the sweet or savory item.   One way to dispel the myth that everything tastes like cardboard is to share the really delicious food out there that just happens to be gluten free!

Kendall Egan

Thursday, January 24, 2013

In Celebration of National Peanut Butter Day

Almost seventeen years ago after receiving a diagnosis of celiac disease, I experienced profound relief that I was not, in fact, dying.  I got one piece of good advice from the nurse who ironically served me a bagel with cream cheese in the recovery room after my first endoscopy…”Don’t eat this bagel, JIF is a safe food.”  I left the bagel untouched on my hospital tray.
I started my gluten-free journey with a jar of JIF Creamy Peanut Butter and a spoon.  When I read stories about Plumpy’Nut, which is a vitamin fortified peanut butter in a squeeze tube for malnourished and starving children in developing countries, I think to myself, of course that will save them from starvation because peanut butter saved me from starvation as well.
I was an emaciated 103 pounds at 5’7” of height, with every bone jutting out and my knees and elbows looking grotesquely large on my stick figure arms and legs.  My abdomen was distended, patches of hair were falling out, my cheeks were sunken and I had horrible dark circles under my eyes.
I had a six month old daughter and a three year old daughter and each night I lay awake at night with worry that I would not see them grow up.
I left the hospital with a diagnosis and a cure, eat a gluten-free diet.  I also got the sorrowful warning from my gastroenterologist that my life was going to be really hard from now on because it was so difficult not to eat wheat.  Um, really?  Did he not notice my current state of health or how I looked right then?
Nope, the diet was not hard and it was a huge relief knowing that it was just a diet that could return me to health.  I just opened up a new jar of JIF Creamy peanut butter and dug right in.  Sometimes I put it on a banana or an apple, but I had scribbled my name across the lid with a Sharpie, so I mostly dug right in with a spoon for a “peanut butter pop.”
I added rice to my diet, a little plain chicken and a multi vitamin and slowly but surely came back to full health.  Today, there is glorious selection of gluten-free food, awareness, GF menus in restaurants and a sense of normalcy surrounding a gluten-free diet.
So in celebration of National Peanut Butter Day, I say “thanks” to a comfort food that sustained me through my worst days of celiac disease.  I still love to eat a JIF Creamy peanut butter “pop” every now and then!
Kendall Egan


Monday, January 14, 2013

Easy GF Pasta Dinners!

When I was a newlywed and living in New York City, one of my favorite things to do was go to a gourmet Italian market for fresh ravioli, manicotti or stuffed shells and sauce.  This was long before Eataly and Agata & Valentina, so the stores were small, neighborhood based and literally, grandma would be there making the food.

Those dinners were the best.  The pasta and sauce were fresh and the preparation was simple since all of the work except for staging and heating was done for you.  The only other dinner preparation was to throw a crusty loaf in the oven, prep a salad and open a bottle of wine.   When everything was heated up, we would enjoy the meal and some conversation.  When babies came along, this was an even better meal choice since dinner time always seemed to be the bewitching hour with little ones.

But then came a diagnosis of celiac disease and that meant the end of ravioli, manicotti and stuffed shells.  Back in the dark ages, these things did not exist in a gluten-free form!  I could still purchase lobster ravioli for my husband, but I would be stuck with rice pasta and extra dirty pots.

The times they are a changing!  Last week, I picked up a package of Pastosa Gluten Free Stuffed Shells and a package of regular Pastosa Stuffed Shells and some wonderful sauce at DeCicco’s Marketplace for dinner.  This was a variety that I had not tried before and they were very good.

I can find Conte’s Pasta in one store and DePuma’s pasta in another…this is such a wonderful addition to our weekly meals.  I never thought I would have choices and variety like this when I was newly diagnosed.

Here is the funny thing, my celiac did not grow up with this variety of pasta and he doesn’t like it!  He just prefers the noodles with sauce so when I make ravioli or shells, he gets a bowl of cereal for dinner and I get leftovers for lunch the next day!  We are both ok with that arrangement.

Kendall Egan