Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Just Been Diagnosed? Here's My Advice...

So many times I run into folks who have just been diagnosed with celiac's or have a loved one who they care for that now requires gluten free food and the reaction is always the same: What in the name of Hostess can I eat? It can be so frustrating and really overwhelming to think of re-training not only your brain but your taste buds to the new foods that you now must eat for safety's sake. However, mental attitudes are key in dealing with a chronic condition, so the first thing to do is take a deep breath, settle down, and realize it's not the end of the world. In fact, it may be the best thing that ever happened to you. So, on that note, here's a checklist of what you can do in the first few days after your visit to the Gastroenterologist's office to ease into your new lifestyle:

*First, commit to eating gluten free, every meal, every day. Never, ever consciously cheat on your body and eat wheat products because you are craving them. In about six weeks those cravings will go away and you'll forget all about the foods that are toxic to your body. There will be times when you will accidentally get some wheat and you'll be able to feel it, and that's okay because it's an accident. But if you are constantly cheating and eating foods that you know are harming you, you'll keep on craving them and never be able to fully heal or fully embrace a gluten free diet.

*Stop at the grocery store and pick up some fresh fruits and vegetables to snack on. Grab some Fudge Graham Zone bars, find a box of Fruity Pebbles or Chex, pick up a package of your favorite fresh protein to grill up (steak, chicken, turkey, fish or pork, whatever is your most favorite), a bag of potatoes, some eggs, good cheese, white or brown rice, some Fritos and some greek yogurt and remind yourself that there are plenty of calories in the world for you to survive on. It makes a big difference knowing there's something in the pantry to eat while you're figuring out your options. This is your 72-hour-survival kit, so to speak. It'll get you through the next step: the great pantry clean-out.

*The next step is two-fold and you can practice one while you do the other: Learn to read labels while you clean out your pantry. This is such an important skill. You have to read every. single. label. And you have to read it almost every time you shop, because manufacturers can change their ingredients at any time. For example, I was eating Corn Pops for about a year on my gluten free diet, thinking I was outsmarting the world by eating cereal from Wal Mart. I am in the habit of just skimming the labels before I put stuff in my basket. The last time I bought Corn Pops I noticed that they had added wheat starch to the ingredients. Lucky for me I didn't eat those again and get sick, because I just check the labels. If you are the only one eating gluten free, or you have only one child that will be eating gluten free and the rest of the family will still eat wheat products, create a shelf for your special gluten free foods that is dedicated to only safe, gluten free snacks and ingredients that other people won't just eat because it's there. This is the place to stash the gluten free cookies you like, the soups and marinades you use, crackers and pastas. If the whole family will be switching to gluten free eating, then your job will be bigger but you won't have to worry so much about what goes where. Lots of foods don't say gluten free on the packaging, but are gluten free anyway. You will get to know what ingredients to look for on labels that mean wheat is involved, but until you learn it by heart, print out a copy of this list and keep it on the inside of the door of your pantry or in your purse to check while you're out shopping.

*Go online and check out and the Gluten Free Mall to see what information is available on celiac's disease and learn what products are out there, so you can look for them at your grocery store to try to save some money on shipping. Some of you may live nearby a health food store or a natural food store, or even have a local grocery store that will carry the gluten free products you like as well. But if you happen to live in a small town or can't get out and about to shop, learn to use the online sites as much as you can. I suggest buying one of an item to try and see if you like it before you purchase several packages. I have been stuck with fourteen boxes of Blueberry Buckwheat Muffin Mix and not been happy about it. Also search for sites that interest you, like gluten free recipes, where to eat gluten free fast food, or gluten free support groups, and add them to your favorites list so you can check them when you are feeling discouraged or in a slump with this whole eating gluten free lifestyle.

*Become aware of contamination. Wipe down your stand mixer to rid it of wheat contaminants that may be flying around, and do it after every time you use it with wheat flour. Most of us can't afford to have two stand mixers for two kinds of baking, so just be vigilant about cleaning it when you do use wheat flour in it. Don't forget to wash the bread knife after you slice the french bread with it, in case you use it for gluten free bread after. It's a good idea to use a separate cutting board if you can. Also, purchase a cheap toaster that you can dedicate to gluten free breads. After all the time and effort that goes into making or finding the bread you like to eat, don't contaminate it with crumbs from the toaster. Get in the habit of making gluten free pancakes or french toast on the griddle first before you add the wheat ones. Or use a separate, small pan-sized griddle on your stove top for gluten free items and the larger griddle for everyone else. Use separate spatulas for pancakes and separate spoons and colanders for pastas. Wash everything after you use it. (It seems like a no-brainer, but you'd be surprised.) Think before you touch the food.

*Gear up for the grocery store. In another post I'll show you a grocery shopping list of my favorite products you can find in almost any store. Plan on this trip taking at least two hours. You are going to be reading a lot of labels and thinking a lot about meals and how to put them together. Don't go when you're in a hurry and don't go on an empty stomach. You will be amazed at how many things you will have to put back on the shelf this trip, and you'll get discouraged if you're hungry. Browse through the food categories on Off the Wheaten Path and see what recipes you want to try that week, and then make a list of ingredients you'll need. Plan on using more fruits and vegetables, potatoes, rice, and protein in your meals to ease your transition to eating every meal gluten free. The goal here is to find some substitutes for the favorites you already have. Later on, after you're comfortable with the diet and know how to use gluten free products, the goal can be to be adventurous and try new things. But for now, go with the intent to not starve. Stick to the easiest gluten free things you can think of: potatoes, rice, corn tortillas, frozen and fresh plain vegetables, meats from the butcher that are fresh and plain, canned and fresh fruit, eggs, cheese, hot dogs (check that label!), lunchmeat (ask the deli about additives) and nuts.

*Have an open mind. Listen to me and trust me even though you don't want to: in time, you will be completely comfortable with the way you eat. That's all there is to it. But it will take time. For a while you will be eating tuna fish on a rice cake until you decide which of the gluten free breads or mixes you like the best, and that's okay. Sometimes you might have to order a hamburger without a bun from a fast food restaurant and they will look at you funny, and that's okay, too. The point is, things will taste different and you will be thinking about food a lot, but it's not the end of the world. Focus on healing and how great you will feel when you can paint that room without taking a nap or how you'll use your time when you don't have a stomachache after dinner. Be creative when looking at menus in restaurants, and don't be afraid to ask questions about what ingredients are in dishes you didn't make yourself. Attempt to look on the bright side and most often, you'll be able to do it. There are more important things in the world than food, and that's coming from someone who loves food. I always used to have a little party in my head for myself when I found something gluten free that I liked to eat. It's like finding the lost piece of a puzzle or coming across a skirt from the Gap for $2.99 at the thrift store--with the tags on. Sometimes simple joys are the best joys!

I hope this has helped some of you out there who are struggling with your new diagnosis. Keep a look out for the grocery list's coming soon.

Happy eating!

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Gluten Free on the Cheap? I'll Give It A Try

A few weeks ago, I was complaining to one of my girlfriends about how much money I spend every month. And most of that money is spent on groceries, I might add. Next to my mortgage the grocery bill is the biggest one I have. Granted (beware: rationalization ahead), I have five children and we eat nearly every meal at home. It would stand to reason that food should be a big expense. And shopping gluten free isn't necessarily bargain after bargain rolling down those grocery aisles. We celiacs and gluten free eaters just have to belly up to the fact that a bread mix will cost $5.99, and that's about the size of it. However, there is also a tremendous amount of waste in my food bill as well, and I'm not as good as I could be when it comes to leftovers and using up the produce before it spoils. So my girlfriend and I decided to go on a "money diet" to teach ourselves how to live within our means just a little bit better. We allotted each other a certain amount for groceries, gas, and "accidental" expenses (like the new church pants boys need when they "lose" the only pair they have, gifts for friends, school stuff, face cream, etc.) Then we take out that amount of cash each week and only use the cash to pay for stuff. Then we see who has more money left over every week. It is a genius plan, I tell you. So far she has beat the pants off me because she just had twins so she can't go anywhere *unfair advantage* and she only grocery shops every two weeks. She's great at being thrifty and planning cheap, easy meals ahead of time. But even though I haven't ever won I still have only gone over budget one time, and that's because I really had to indulge in a guilty pleasure of buying Prince of Persia on Blu-Ray so I could have a Jake Gyllenhall fix at any moment of my choosing.

I told her how much I spent on groceries a week and she said I ought to be able to do it for around $200 a week. $200? For seven people? You've got to be kidding me. But after almost one month of this little experiment, I'm here to tell you it can be done. I really pay attention to every dollar in my budget, and the trips through the drive through and Wal Mart have been reduced to almost zero. I allow fun in small doses now, not indulgent afternoons of buying food to try that I know will give me gas or in buying toys that, quite frankly, are my version of avoiding conflict with short people.

So, after that lengthy introduction, here's what happened the other day. I was reading a book, don't laugh because it's about money and frugality, two issues I run from when I see them coming, and I really needed some chocolate. I looked into my pantry and found some amaranth flour that was about to expire (reduce, reuse, recycle, right?) and made up some brownies with them. I didn't have any frosting and didn't feel like making any, so I just topped the baked brownies with mini marshmallows and popped them back in the oven for about 5 minutes and what do you know? Ooey gooey chocolate fix with no extra trip to the store. Along with a good feeling of using something before it spoiled and was wasted. I wish I could say that the blog would completely be turned over to frugal gluten free living, but I'm not good enough at it yet to pass on anything completely revolutionary. But I will be chronicling the exciting parts, like buying gluten free things when they're on sale instead of when I have to have some RIGHT NOW. It's a start.Happy eating!

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Gluten Free Green Beans Amandine...So Fancy

I happen to come from a family of two. Well, not anymore. Now I have a dad and siblings whom I all love very much and consider to be my family. But growing up, I was the only child of a single parent. Which really, if you think about in a positive way, had a ton of benefits. My mom says I got good at being bossy because I would just tell her what I wanted to do, and since there was no one else to compete with, I always got my way. My own room, no one stole my clothes, all the one-on-one parent time you could ask for, and always first pick of what to have for dinner. Hmm, I'm seeing some clues to my personality here. I may have to slow down on the past realizations for a minute. I don't know if I can handle any more self-awareness. Anyway, everytime my mom made green beans, whether they were fresh, frozen, or from a can, I asked for them to be Green Beans Amandine, which is a fancy way of saying add lemon juice, butter, and almonds to the beans. And they pretty much rule.

I love vegetables, and I am a fan of frozen or fresh whenever possible. I will admit that every dinner I cook for my family we have some kind of vegetable with it. Some are fancy and some aren't that nutritious, but they are vegetables nonetheless! My favorite green beans, even my favorite over fresh ones, are the petite whole green beans you can buy a giant bag of at Costco. They are truly de-lish. Anyway, I cook them in the microwave, and when they come out I put a couple of tablespoons of butter on them, 1 tablespoon of fresh or bottled lemon juice, and a handful of slivered almonds. Voila! Instantly impressive veggie side dish. Enjoy these with your next dinner with the in-laws. It's so easy, and it's guaranteed to impress.

Happy eating!

Monday, September 13, 2010

What To Do With All Those Tomatoes...

I have some tomato plants in my garden. Not as many as my dad, but still, more than one. So I get a lot of tomatoes lately. I bottled some *yay me* and most of the others I will eat like this
or on a BLT or salad, what have you. But the other day I decided to treat myself to some fresh, italian style pasta, and had my basil plant not died this year, it would have been even more italian styled.
I simply boiled up my Tinkyada pasta noodles, minced a clove of fresh garlic, diced a fresh tomato, and tossed it all with freshly grated parmesan. Mmm. It tastes like the end of summer to me.
Happy eating!

Friday, September 10, 2010

Introducing...Me at Macey's

This is one of those posts that I am so excited to write, but so dreading the writing. It's a toot your own horn type of post that most of us are uncomfortable with. But I think I'm going to put on my false bravado and go for it.

I have a great neighbor who has taught me so much about alternative grains. She even told me you can put pork and beans in your cake and when I asked her how she knew so much, she told me she was the grains teacher at Macey's Grocery Store in Sandy. They have a little theater in the store with a kitchen and they offer all kinds of classes on all kinds of foods. They have had a gluten free class for a long time that has functioned as not only a cooking class but as a support group as well. They've been without a teacher for a few months and this friend of mine suggested I ask them if they were interested in having me come and teach the class. I met with the lovely Susan and we decided I was a good fit for the job. Hooray! So I will be teaching the gluten free class at the Sandy, UT Macey's Grocery Store on 7800 South 1300 East from 7-8 p.m. If you're in the area and interested in a class, come on down! I'd love to see you. The class is usually held every other month, but this fall the schedule is a little different. I'll be holding a class featuring gluten free pumpkin recipes on October 21, and a class featuring gluten free Thanksgiving side dishes on November 11, because I figure most celiac eaters would rather know about that than Christmas food. Plus, who wants one more thing to do in December? Come January we'll probably be on the every other month schedule and I'll post here what days I'll be teaching.

This will be a change for me! I'm used to cooking in front of people, but only three of them for about six minutes on TV. And cooking in front of a friendly cameraman who can camouflage your mistakes is a lot easier than cooking an entire dish from start to finish in front of friendly people who have questions and opinions. So hopefully I'll rise to the occasion. Wish me luck and hopefully I can see some of you there!

Happy eating!

Monday, September 6, 2010

There's a New Pebbles in Town

Traipsing through the aisles of WalMart the other day (used to be my favorite activity, now somewhat of a chore...5 kids will do that to you) I came upon a most interesting new product: Cupcake Pebbles. A quick scan of the ingredient list came up gluten free, and further checking on the beloved internet confirms said gluten free sighting. So I joyfully took the box home and made my favorite treat: Pebbles treats (rice krispie treats with pebbles cereal; try it with Fruity Pebbles and Trix, too.) I must say, variety is the spice of life. Yum.
Happy eating!

Friday, September 3, 2010

The Best Gluten Free BLT You'll Ever Eat

This year I planted five tomato plants, which is a lot for me. I am the only one in my house who eats tomatoes, so that was pretty ambitious of me to plant so many. My real intent was to can some of those tomatoes, but first I have to figure out how to do it. Until I figure it out, I've made myself quite happy with Gluten Free Bacon, Lettuce, and Tomato sandwiches at lunchtime with my home grown tomatoes, which everybody knows are the best kind of tomatoes you can eat. I start with two slices of toasted Udi's Gluten Free Whole Grain Bread, and then I mix up the secret ingredient: Gorgonzola Mayonnaisse. Now, this may sound like something entirely too fancy for a housewife to be eating, but I assure you it's the easiest spread in the world. Take 2 T Best Foods Light Mayo and add 2 T crumbled Salemville Amish Gorgonzola and mix well. Spread this lumpy concoction over your toasted bread, add cooked Tyson bacon on one side and sliced tomatoes on the other (both will hold onto the mayo a little better than lettuce) and then add a couple of pieces of lettuce in the middle. Slice down the middle and you've got yourself the best gluten free BLT you'll ever eat. Mmm, I think I'll have one of those for lunch myself today. Good stuff.
Happy eating!

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

The World is Coming to an End...I'm Blogging about Bananas

Anyone who knows me well knows of my aversion to bananas. It's not that I hate them, it's just that I can think of 400,000 other foods I'd rather eat before I have to eat them. So when one of my daughters begged me for banana bread and I saw the gross overripe bananas on my counter, I decided to revisit the concept of a banana recipe. This is what I do when I cook with bananas: I add other tasty ingredients to mask the taste and then it's edible! Some of you may be banana nut fans and are so excited to finally see a banana nut recipe, but as for me, eh. I used a recipe from my Better Homes and Gardens Cookbook *the Bible* and used Grandpa's Kitchen gluten free baking flour. Then I added 1/2 cup of mini chocolate chips just to make extra sure I could eat some. It turned out pretty well. Here's the recipe:

Gluten Free Banana Bread
from Better Homes and Gardens

1 1/2 cups Grandpa's Kitchen gluten free flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/8 tsp salt
1 egg
1 cup mashed bananas (3 medium)
3/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup cooking oil or applesauce
1 tsp lemon zest
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
1/2 cup mini chocolate chips

1. Grease a loaf pan and preheat oven to 350 degrees. Combine the flour, baking powder, soda and salt. Make a well in the center and set aside.
2. In another bowl combine the egg, bananas, sugar, cooking oil, and lemon peel. Blend well and add all at once to the dry ingredients. Blend until just moistened and lumpy. Add nuts and chocolate chips.
3. Spoon batter into loaf pan. Bake 50-55 minutes or until wooden toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Cool completely on a wire rack.

I gave a few slices of this bread to my friend whose two children were recently diagnosed with celiac disease, and they apparently said it was delicious. I'd love to hear comments from any banana nut lovers to see if you like this recipe, too!
Happy eating!
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