Gluten-Free Tips and Tricks Class

I have a secret ambition to be a teacher.  I should’ve been one, but my path took me other directions.  Now it’s my time to work toward what I love the most…educating others!

If you, or a friend, live in the Chester County, PA area, I am teaching a Gluten-Free Lifestyle course on two different dates, Wednesday, April 2 and April 9th.  It’s the perfect class for newly diagnosed as celiac, gluten-intolerant, thinking about going gluten-free or have a need to know how to help a family member or friend who is gluten-free.

For $29 you will get lots of great information and LOTS of samples and fun conversation.  Classes for Chester County Night School are easy to sign-up for. Spread the word and see you there!

 

Maisy’s Farmfest Sunday, September 22nd

Hi All!  If you’re in the Eastern, PA vicinity, please come out to Glenmoore, PA to support a wonderful local farm.  I started going to Maisy’s farm when my children were just babies.  It was a local CSA that allowed its shareholders to pick-up organic vegetables weekly.  For the first 4 years of my children’s lives, this was our school.  The farm gave me to tools to teach my children where our food came from and how important organic farming is.  I’ll never forget seeing my children’s faces when they saw how brussels sprouts grow.  To this day, they enjoy eating raw vegetables more than cooked ones, probably because they were taught at a young age (through Maisy’s), that food tastes better when you pick it fresh and enjoyed on the spot. 

Now it’s time for me to give back…

Maysie's FarmFest 2013

Tomorrow Maisy’s is sponsoring an all day Farmfest to support their farm.  There will be a dozen different local bands, local organic/non-GMO food vendors and lots of local craftspeople.  I’ll be on the Mic as the co-MC, so you’ll get to hear my lovely voice on the microphone all day talking about the importance of sustainable, organic and non-GMO farming. 

It’s going to be a BEAUTIFUL day, so please come out and support this wonderful event.  Gates open at 11:30.  Bring a chair or blanket and plan to spend the day enjoying….Great Food, Great Music and FUN activities for the children.  Hope to see you there!

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Chester County Night School

Do you know anyone new to gluten-free?  Are you thinking about going gluten-free (or being forced)?  I’m teaching a class in October on how to start a gluten-free lifestyle.  It will be filled with great information, recipes, tips, samples and lots of enthusiasm and encouragement!!!  If you live in the Philadelphia area, please consider signing up through Chester County Night School website.  Just click on the link above or cut and paste the following link… https://chestercountynightschool.org/CourseStatus.awp?&course=13FFH785

Quick things come from boxed cakes…

It seems that I’m always volunteering for something. Church, school, local events, you name it, and I’ve helped. My favorite is helping with the children’s activities. This morning we helped out at church and provided childcare while the parent attended a talk. At the end, we all get together (parents and children) to enjoy some light snacks and conversation. I usually end up watching everyone else eating, but lately I’ve been bringing fun creations that take no time at all.

My lovely sister-in-law introduced me to The Cake Mix Doctor. She made some wonderful muffins and shared her secret recipe from the Cake Doctor’s Gluten-Free recipe book. This morning I made Gluten-Free Chocolate Chip muffins using Betty Crocker’s gluten-free cake mix. This time, I didn’t have to stand behind and watch everyone else enjoying the muffins, I got to enjoy them too. I even made a few extra and put them in the freezer for the future.

The best part of the book is that the recipe variations contain ingredients I already had in my house (sour cream, vanilla, applesauce, etc), so not having to go out for special ingredients was wonderful. She even puts in little bullet points to show how to make certain recipes Dairy Free as well.

This is a great gift for someone you know that is starting their gluten-free journey. What a nice way to spread the gluten-free Love! 🙂

Be Prepared…

I’ve been talking to so many people this past month who want to start a gluten-free lifestyle, but don’t know where to begin.  My mantra has always been, “It’s about substitution, NOT elimination.”  But, when your hungry and you want to eat a donut, it’s hard to think clearly about what to substitute.  That’s why preparation is so important.

Before you go gluten-free, you need to think 2 steps ahead.  Not only do you have to think about what to have in your own house to snack on and prepare foods, but you need to think about what is available when you are not at home.

Here are some things to keep in mind when preparing to go gluten-free…

Home:

Eating at home takes the fear out of cross-contamination.  Whenever you can prepare items yourself, you can take ownership of the process and that takes the anxiety out of eating.   It’s hard to do, but planning a menu is very helpful to make sure you have ingredients on hand.  Most gluten-full recipe ingredients can be substituted with gluten-free ingredients.  Taking the time to read the recipe beforehand, will give you time to see what you need to purchase or can substitute.  There is nothing worse than standing in the pantry when your hungry trying to figure out what to make.

Snacks needs to be quick, easy and healthy.  Portion control is important with snacks, so keep a measuring cup close by for nuts, or read the serving size for each item and stick to it.  When in doubt, go fresh and local and eat whatever is in season.  Here are some things to consider keeping on hand…

SNACKS

  • Nuts and seeds (almonds, pumpkin seeds, pistachios, sunflower seeds)
  • Gluten-free pretzels & humus
  • Celery with laughing cow cheese or peanut butter
  • Gluten-free corn chips and salsa
  • Yogurt with fruit (add nuts & seeds)
  • Prepackaged gluten-free cookies (Annie’s, Enjoy Life, Trader Joe’s, etc.)
  • Gluten-free Chex mix (make a big batch – it lasts for weeks!)
  • Cut-up veggies and ranch dressing
  • Gluten-free crackers and cheese

FOOD PREPARATION

  • Gluten-Free bread crumbs (Panko Style and Regular)
  • Gluten-Free Bisquick
  • Corn Tortillas
  • Rice Flour & Corn Starch for breading or thickening
  • Quinoa, Wild Rice, Brown Rice, White Rice (Great side dishes)
  • Fresh potatoes and sweet potatoes (Great side dish)
  • Canned beans (Refried, black, garbanzo, etc.)
  • Jarred salsa
  • Gluten-Free Pasta (Rice for White Sauce / Corn for Red Sauce)
  • Gluten-Free broths (Chicken, Beef & Veggie) – Great for cooking rice & quinoa in!

Eating Out:

Eating out takes whole different kind of preparation.  It can be very stressful for people and some people would rather stay home than deal with the inconvenience of their diagnosis.  I like to be prepared so I don’t have to make a “big deal” about what to order.  This is “my” eating problem not everyone at the table.  Therefore, I want everyone to enjoy themselves without being concerned about what I’m going to eat.   I also want to make sure that what I’m eating isn’t going to make me sick, so I usually do the following…

  • Research the restaurants reputation in preparing gluten-free menu items on the internet (Gluten Free Philly is a great Blog locally).
  • Review the menu and choose something before I get there.
  • Contact the chef before dining to see if they are knowledgable – otherwise…let the eater BEWARE!
  • Keep notes and frequent gluten-free friendly establishments.
  • Contact local groups to see if they have a list of restaurants they support (Gluten Intolerance Group (GIG).

FOOD ON THE GO

If you are like me, I’m on the go all the time.  I’m in one door and out the other.  We are a busy family with activities every night and all weekend.  My family is not gluten-free, so I need to balance what I can eat in their world.  My problem is not their problem, so I make sure I have food with me all the time as a back-up.  Here are some things I keep in my backpack or purse, just in case we end up in a facility that cannot accommodate my diet restrictions.

  • Protein bars (Kind bars are my favorite and are like a meal replacement)
  • Raw nuts
  • Peanut butter (snack size)
  • Gluten-free crackers, pretzels or rice cakes in plastic containers so they don’t break.
  • Gluten-free soy sauce (Tamari)
  • Gluten-free salad dressings
  • Sliced gluten-free bread
  • Cheese sticks
  • humus (snack size)

The most important thing I bring when we go on vacation is homemade granola.  It’s simple, lasts a long time and is great for breakfast, snacking or as a dessert.  It takes the stress out of eating for me at hotels and on the road.  I eat it with yogurt or vanilla almond milk in the morning for breakfast.  It’s great on fresh fruit, ice-cream or by itself.  It makes a large amount, so keep it in an airtight container and enjoy it for weeks.

Remember…

“Poor planning on your part, doesn’t make an emergency on mine.”

Gluten-Free Eating at Walt Disney World, Florida

I am one of those people who loves Disney.  I’m not just talking about for my kids, I’m talking about ALL the time.  If I could decorate my house in Mickey themed items I would.  Mickey hand towels, kitchen utensils, rugs, you get the idea.  I don’t go over board with the theme because I want to make visiting the theme parks a special event.  You know, that “magical feeling”.

Lucky for me, I married a Disney lover as well.  Before we were married, we had annual passes for Disneyland in California.  We would renew them every year on our anniversary and spend evenings walking around the park eating corn dogs and ice-cream.  This was before the whole “gluten” thing for me.

Now we have children and Disney has a whole new meaning.  It’s safe and clean and happy, and everything we try to instill in our children.  Especially appreciation, happiness and kindness.  It’s got a whole new meaning for me as well.  Since going gluten-free, I’ve visited the parks two times.  The first time, there was limited food items and to tell you the truth, I was hungry all the time.

What a difference a year can make.  This week went again and I was blown away by all the food choices.  EVERY restaurant…I repeat…EVERY restaurant had gluten-free (and allergy) menu items.  Really good ones.  Udi’s pizza, chicken breast on Udi’s roll, french fries cooked in a dedicated fryer, g.f. cookies, rosemary chicken, salads, etc.

Before ordering at any Disney resort, I would ask an attendant to call a chef out from the kitchen.  Some restaurants had a designated allergy person that stayed with you through the ordering process too.  This person (or chef) would explain what menu items were available and place the order with the cashier and call it back to the kitchen.  Several restaurants even offered to prepare the food in a designated part of the kitchen to prevent cross-contamination.  I was BLOWN away.

I kept thanking everyone and they kept thanking me for coming.  I never felt like it was a big deal.  Best part, the prices were almost always in line with the items listed on the standard menu.  For example, I ordered a gluten-free chicken sandwich and it was priced exactly the same as the gluten-full.  I came home feeling (and looking) fat and happy!  I didn’t feel like I was an inconvenience at all.  Most of the time, my meal came out at the same time as my families or a few minutes later, so they weren’t inconvenienced by the process at all.

I know some people are not “Disney People”, but they may want to reconsider if they have food allergies.  5 days at themed parks and I didn’t get “glutened” once.  What a relief!

Allergyfreemouse.com (which isn’t affiliated with Disney), is a great resource for anyone  with allergies planning a trip to Disney World.  Don’t do what I did and read it after you get home.  It doesn’t do you much good at that point. 🙂

http://www.allergyfreemouse.com/dining/gluten-free-at-walt-disney-world-parks/

Cup4Cup

I have a confession….I’m addicted to buying gluten-free flour.  I stop in the aisles of every grocery store, TJ Maxx, Home Goods, Ross and Tuesday Morning to see what unique gluten-free flours are hidden on their shelves.  I used to buy them for the curiosity, trying to figure out what each type of flour was good for.  Then I bought them for necessity once I knew the flour types that worked for my recipes.  But, most recently, I find myself buying blends of flours that help me recreate the flavors from my “previous” life, also known as my “gluten-full” past.

For the last two years, I’ve stood by the mantra, “it’s not about elimination, it’s about substitution,” but secretly, I missed my homemade scones, muffins and coffee cakes.  I do enjoy using almond flour for my recipes, but it’s too decadent (and expensive) for a 7-year-old to “hork-down.”

When last I counted, I have 9 different types of flours in my closet.  I call it my “flour bin” and everyone in the house knows when I pull it out, something is going in the oven.  Much of the time I don’t use flour blends.  I’ll use corn or rice flour for breading, almond and coconut flour for flavor and texture and tapioca and rice flour for thickening.

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However, for baking I did try to make my own flour blend using brown rice flour, tapioca flour and garbonzo bean flour.  I’ll be honest, it was nutritionally better for me, but there was a strong “beanie” after taste that didn’t work in baking.

For Christmas, I received a bag of Cup4Cup baking flour from my San Francisco sister.  It was a VERY generous gift as she paid around $25 for the 2 lb. bag (Wegmans has it for $15ish).  Cup4Cup was “developed in the famed French Laundry kitchen in Napa Valley, Calif. Co-founder Lena Kwak, then the restaurant’s R&D Chef, started devising a gluten-free flour blend. One day, a diner tasted Lena’s brioche and cried because she hadn’t eaten bread for a decade. Inspired, Lena refined the proprietary multipurpose blend, encouraged by her mentor, Thomas Keller, Chef/Owner of The French Laundry”.

Cup4Cup Flour

The true test of flours in my house is the Toll House Chocolate Cookie recipe.  My family LOVES them.  I’ve perfected the “puffy” style (more cake like) using wheat flour, so I was curious to see if I could recreate the texture using C4C.  I’m excited to say, they were darn near perfect.  Matter of fact, the whole family agreed that their flavor didn’t taste any different from the “gluten-full” style they were used to.

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Next I made Grandma’s Blueberry Buttermilk Coffee Cake.

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Again, the flavor and texture were EXACTLY like the original “gluten-full” recipe.  This was the closest in taste I’ve been able to come to the original since going gluten-free two years ago.

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Since everyone liked the C4C recipes, there is no longer a need to make separate pans of “gluten-free” and “gluten-full” for my family.  This cuts down on the chances of cross-contamination, saves money on all the ingredients, and only having one type of flour in the house, instead of nine, is going to save us even more money.

Can’t wait to try their new pizza dough flour!  That will allow me to get the three different types of pizza crusts out of my pantry as well!

Thanks C4C for making life a little easier in my house!

Nancy’s Buttermilk Coffee Cake Recipe

Heat oven to 350 degrees – Grease 9″ round cake pan

Cake:

1/2 cup Butter Softened
1 cup Sugar
2 cup Cup4Cup Flour
1/2 tsp. Salt
1/2 tsp. Baking Powder
1 cup Buttermilk
1/2 tsp. Baking Soda
Topping:
1/4 cup of crumb mixture (above)
1/4 cup sugar
2 1/2 tsp. cinnamon

Combine butter, sugar, C4C, salt and baking powder in a bowl with a pastry blender until crumbled into small pieces.

Dissolve baking soda into buttermilk and add to dry ingredients.

Stir until moistened (it’s very thick).  Pour into greased 9″ round pan and poke with 1/4 c. blueberries (if desired).  Sprinkle with topping.  Bake 35-40 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean.

Gluten-Free Labeling

Today I went to a talk sponsored by our local GIG (Gluten Intolerance Group) Group.

Gluten Intolerance Group

It was presented by Cynthia Kupper, Executive Director of GIG.  If you haven’t joined a GIG Group or attended a GIG meeting, you really should.  You leave the meeting with great information.  Today they had a raffle and snacks, so you left with a full belly, and lucky for me a gift certificate to a local restaurant (I won the raffle!). My favorite part is talking with people at the end of the meeting to hear about their journeys.  There is always comfort in hearing what other people have experienced.

Here are a few good points that I walked away with about reading labels…

  1. Make sure it says “Gluten-Free.”
  2. Look through the ingredients list to make sure it doesn’t include; wheat, barley, rye, malt, oats or brewers yeast.
  3. Be aware of hidden words on USDA stamped foods like; dextrin, food starch, modified food starch .
  4. Don’t trust the Voluntary Advisory Statement.  Not all companies use it correctly.  It’s more to cover them from liability and may not pertain to the product itself.

When in doubt…call the company and ask them about their processing plant, or don’t buy it.  See you at the next GIG meeting!

Alla Famiglia! Tips for the Gluten-Free Family Members!

Two years ago the thought of being gluten-free through a holiday at my childhood home seemed an impossible thought.  I couldn’t imagine a pierogi-less Christmas Eve, or a Thanksgiving without my mom’s thick and dreamy gravy.

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360 Pierogies

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But, I’m excited and proud to say that I survived my first “full” year of being gluten-free.  And, thanks to the support of my family, I didn’t feel like I missed anything (except mom’s fresh pierogi’s – I had frozen ones).

My sisters and I love two things…food and eating!  Food IS family in our house and my sisters are always up to new culinary challenges (or at least they act like they do!).  One sister made a separate dish of her fabulous sweet potato casserole.  Another sister made a flourless chocolate torte.  Nieces gathered to decorate gluten-free cookies so I had dessert too.  There are now 4 of the 36 of us (siblings and grandchildren) that are gluten-free (and/or dairy free).  Somehow there is comfort in knowing that I am no longer the only one with special eating requirements.   My sisters (and mom) were proactive in talking with me about what dishes and ingredients were safe and tolerable.  They were genuinely concerned about cross-contamination of dishes, which was an incredible feat with all the food going around.   Without the patience, compassion and support of my family (especially my husband and children), I wouldn’t have been able to get and stay well.

I’ve thought about how my husband and family have changed over the last two years of my journey.  It was the following attributes that helped me though the ups and downs.  If you are a family member of a gluten-intollerant sufferer here are some things to remember…

  • Be Supportive AND BELIEVE it can and will help!
  • Be Empathetic (Being “glutened” is NO fun for anyone in the house)
  • Encouragement is always appreciated (“You CAN do this” instead of “Just give up, it’s not working fast enough”)
  • Be an Advocate
  • TRY and be Patient (Especially when eating out)
  • Remember to be Tolerant
  • Try and make yourself knowledeable on the illness
  • Act Concerned
  • Begin to explore Holistic Health and be Supportive of it

Thank you to my husband, kids, siblings, nieces, nephews and dog for always being there for me!