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!

Gluten-Free Tortilla Soup

My sister makes the BEST Mexican tortilla soup.  She’s famous for making it after football games and the heat from the spices always warmed you up from the inside out.  Problem is, the ingredients she included in her recipe weren’t available in  my local grocery store.

I really had it in my head that I wanted to make that soup.  So, I headed to Wegman’s to  seek out new ingredients to use.  Instead of Campbell’s Fiesta Cheese soup, I found LaPreferida’s nacho sauce.  It was really thick, but all the reviews I read said that it was very “flavorful,” and they were right.

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Next I found Image Harvest Corn Soup in place of Pacific Brand Corn Chowder, which was not listed as gluten-free on their website.  It was perfectly thick, creamy and sweet.

The best part of this soup is that you just put everything in a crock pot and cook on high for 3-4 hours.  I served it with fresh avocado, sour cream and g.f. corn chips.  I’ll be honest with you, it had great heat, but the avocado and sour cream gave it a nice creamy end.

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Try it and let me know what you think!


We had our with a nice glass of wine, but a gluten-free Redbridge beer would’ve been excellent with it!

 

 

Minnie’s Tortilla Soup

  • 2 split breasts with bone in and skin on (remove chicken from bone and shred when cooked)
  • 1/2 box of Image Harvest Corn Soup
  • 1/2 can La Preferida Nacho sauce
  • 2 cans Ro-tel Original tomatoes
  • 1 can Black Beans (drained)
  • 1 can Corn (drained)
  • 1 box G.F. Chicken Broth (Homemade is best)
  • Fresh Chopped Cilantro, Red Peppers and Sour Cream for Garnish

Allergens are like “Onions”

I thought that eliminating gluten from my diet was going to “ZAP” every weird symptom out of my body.  Well, it did on the larger level.  My digestive system calmed down, my circulatory system calmed down, no more migraines.  I really felt like my immune system was getting strong and I was healing from the inside out.

Then one morning I woke up with a stiff neck.  I never really “loved” my feather pillow, and would actually sleep with 2 pillows behind my head, one under my knees and one behind me in case I rolled over.  The stiff neck turned into a sore neck and I started noticing that I couldn’t lay on my sides with our my legs going numb.  Nice.

The search began for the “perfect” pillow.  First was the curved latex pillow from Costco.  GREAT support.  I LOVED it, but I noticed that my face started to break-out after I purchased it.  I couldn’t imagine it was the pillow, since the packaging said “natural latex”.  I was willing to fore-go the blemishes to have a restful nights sleep.  My skin got worse, so I covered my pillow with my husband’s t-shirts, bath towels or anything to separate myself from the latex, but it didn’t’ help.  I even eliminated all laundry detergents that contained any fragrance in case that was contributing to my skin issues.  

After a long period of suffering I disgarded the “natural latex” pillow and moved to a buckwheat hull pillow.  LOVED IT!  It carressed my neck and helped align my whole body.  Problem was, my skin still looked horrible and was getting worse.  I was going crazy!  I still needed the neck support, and buckwheat was truly natural, so I went to Mauree Kai to have the material tested for allergens.  I wanted so badly to keep that pillow, but she informed me that I had an allergy to buckwheat.  UGH!!!  What next????

I found a neck support pillow on line called “The Bone“.  It was used in nursing homes and rehab facilities to support the heads and necks of people who had been incapacitated or injured.  I LOVED it.  It was small, and colorful and filled with fiberfill, so it kept it’s shape nicely.  My skin was looking a little better at this point, but I still looked like I had the skin of a 14 year old teenager.  

I purchased hundreds of dollars of skin care products over the last 2 years, and finally resorted to washing my face with Dove soap and washing my hair everynight with a gluten-free hair product call No Poo.  I followed up with a Salasylic Acid lotion and spot treated with Benzoyl Peroxide creams.  Everyday I woke up with a new blemish.  No kidding…EVERYDAY!  I do LOVE Deva Curl products and continue to use them!

I took the bone, covered it in my husbands mildly detergent washed t-shirts and slept on my back so my face wouldn’t touch my pillow.  I was close to getting clear skin back, but not close enough.

My last resort was the 100% organic cotton pillow.  It was plain, flat and uninteresting looking compared to the curves of the pillows I purchased before.  It was also twice as much money.  Now imagine my husbands reaction when the 5th pillow in 18 months showed up.  We were both pleasantly surprised when my skin got noticably better with the new pillow.  It wasn’t fancy, but it supported my neck perfectly and I noticed I could sleep on my side with no numbness.

Last week I went back to Mauree Kai and told her my whole pillow story.  We decided to use her Bioset/IQS system to test my body for chemical allergies.  The system showed I was allergic to latex (curved pillow), petroleum based products (bone pillow), salysylic acid and hydrogen peroxide (facial washes/acne medicine) and she had previously tested me and found I was allergic to buckwheat.

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Layer by layer, pillow by pillow, I finally found my answer.  Yesterday I went to Wegman’s grocery store and purchased an organic natural facial wash.  No kidding, I woke up this morning and my face was completely clear.  My husband I were AMAZED!  2 years, 5 pillows and hundreds of dollars of facial products.  I was finally down to the core of my onion for this part of my journey.  I can’t imagine how my body was while eating gluten and fighting all these allergens.  No wonder I was sick all the time, my immune system was so rocked from my foods and skin products, how could it possibly find time to heal.  

It’s amazing to think of how many times I had gone to the dematologist and had gotten perscriptions for products, which I now see I was allergic to.  I had even been turned down  health insurance because, among other pre-existing conditions, I had “acne”.  They determined this diagnosis because of all the skin/acne presciptions I had gotten for my skin over the years. 

My hope is that someday, every MD doctor will have an Bioset IQS in their office to help diagnose people from the inside, instead of trying to diagnose from just the symptoms.

BBQ Chicken Nacho’s

Wondering what to do with that leftover Costco rotisserie chicken?  I bought one the other day and in 3 days, we barely made a dent in it.  They are so inexpensive, so it’s hard not to grab one when I’m at Costco, but it was such a busy weekend that we didn’t even have time to sit down and eat.  One of our family favorite uses for left over chicken is BBQ chicken nacho’s.  They are easy and delicious!

I’m one of those “crazy” people that likes to make my own nacho chips.  It’s a great way to use that already opened corn tortillas, and it only takes a few minutes.  Heat up a pan with an inch of canola or other vegetable oil.  Cut the corn tortillas into 4 or 6 inch pieces and fry on each side until lightly browned.  I usually sprinkle them with a little salt at the end and place them on a wire rack lined with paper towels.  You can also use your favorite gluten-free corn chips as well.  I’ve used blue corn chips and scoops and they work great too.

Next, shred the rotisserie chicken and cover with your favorite BBQ sauce.  I like to use a combination of several kinds to give it spice and sweet flavors.  My favorite combination is Kraft BBQ sauce and Bullseye brand.  Make sure you read the ingredient list for any hidden gluten (i.e. soy sauce, malt flavoring, etc.).  Heat BBQ coated chicken on a stove top in a cooking spray covered pan until warmed completely.

I’ve used different pans to assemble my nacho’s, but found that using one with sides works the best.  Coat pan with non-stick spray and begin layering chips, chicken and sharp cheddar cheese.  Top with a layer of cheese and heat in a broiler until the cheese is melted.  After it comes out of the oven, put a bit more BBQ sauce on and top with whatever Mexican fixings you like; onions, black beans, cilantro, corn, sour cream, salsa, guacamole, re-fried beans, jalapeno peppers, etc.

The list is endless of what you can serve on them.

Try it and let me know what you think!

BBQ Chicken Nacho Recipe

  • Shredded Chicken
  • Bag of Shredded Sharp Cheddar Cheese
  • Bag of Gluten-Free Tortilla Chips
  • Mexican Fixings (Guacamole, Sour Cream, Sweet Corn, Salsa, Chopped Onions, Chopped Cilantro)
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I only sprinkled 1/2 with onions and cilantro so my kids wouldn’t scream!

Eating gluten-free doesn’t mean it’s healthy…

When most people think about a gluten-free diet, they immediately think it’s for weight loss.  I myself lost 8 pounds when I first eliminated wheat products from my diet.  But, after about a year, I started to notice that the 8 pounds returned…in “new” places (Grrrrr!).  It all started when I got really hungry and needed something quick.  Needless to say, I ate potato chips and prepackaged gluten-free product (hence the 8 pounds around my middle).  Matter of fact, most people on a gluten-free diet gain an average of 22 pounds.  Probably because gluten-free products contain an average of 1/3 more calories and fat than regular products and their portion size is much smaller.

Thankfully, for flavors sake, gluten-free manufacturers are on a “mission”  to produce products that replace or at least come close to those familiar tastes of what sufferers used to eat.  I’ve met so many small gluten-free business owners that started because they were diagnosed with celiac and wanted to make a product that tasted like what they missed.  More fats and sugars usually help consumers get past new textures and unfamiliar flavors.

Gluten-free grains are not required to be fortified like standard bread products in America.  This add’s to problems for gluten intolerance sufferers who are already vitamin deficient.  Gluten protein causes the tiny villi that line the intestines to lay flat in celiac patients.  The villi are there to aid in nutrition absorption, so without healthy villi, celiac sufferers starve nutritionally from the inside out.  No healthy villi, no vitamin absorption.  This is what causes the multitude of symptoms for sufferers.  For example, vitamin B is necessary for red blood cells (to prevent anemia), healthy skin, hair and muscles.  That’s just one common vitamin deficiency, sadly there are lots more.

What the answer?  SUBSTITUTION!  Newly diagnosed suffers usually consume the three most recognizable ingredients;  rice, potato and corn.  This works great until they get used to what is safe to eat.  But, by switching to alternative grains, the protein, fiber, iron and vitamins go up…naturally.

Here’s some alternative grains to choose from…

  • Amaranth – Protein, fiber, iron, magnesium, zinc, calcium, B vitamins
  • Buckwheat – Protein, fiber, B6, niacin, thiamin, iron, zinc
  • Millet – Protein, fiber
  • Oats – Fiber, B vitamins
  • Quinoa – High quality protein, fiber, calcium, magnesium, iron, B vitamins
  • Teff – Protein, calcium, iron, B vitamins
  • Wild rice – If enriched B vitamins
  • Wild rice – Protein, fiber, potassium, zinc

The key to staying healthy on a gluten-free diet is to incorporate a wide variety of grains, watch portion sizes of prepackaged gluten-free products and exercise.  Lord knows, I need to work on that 3rd one if I want to get these 8 pounds off!!!

If you aren’t sure where to begin, talk with a registered dietitian to help you on your way.

What do you do when your problem is not theirs?

Last weekend, my husband and I, traveled up to the finger lakes region of New York with some friends.  It was the perfect weekend for the fall foliage, so despite my “eating-out” fears, we didn’t want to miss all the fun.

My friends are VERY accommodating to my gluten-free eating.  Matter of fact, my good friend Cathy, who coordinated the weekend, even had her husband ask if the B&B we were staying at would be able to provide gluten-free menu items for breakfast for me, which she said was not a problem.

As a back-up, I called the proprietor, and again she assured me that she has people stay at her house with all kinds of food issues, including gluten and dairy restrictions.  I left my house feeling very comfortable staying there, but I brought some Udi’s bread, just as a back-up.

The first morning I woke to a lovely apple crepe, but when I asked if the granola on top was gluten-free, she apologetically took the plate back to the kitchen and brought me a new crepe with no granola.  Luckily, I brought my own granola and sprinkled that on top.  It was such a treat to have someone else make me breakfast, so I enjoyed every bite from that moment on.

The second morning I let my guard down.  When she brought my eggs over, I devoured them without thinking a second about the sauce on top.  She explained to my friend that it was a horseradish sauce, that began with a basic cream sauce.  We both froze when she finished her sentence.  I was too nervous to ask if it contained flour since I was almost done with my eggs.  She exited the dining area in haste without offering the ingredient list for my knowledge.

Needless to say…24 hours later, I was stuck in the house, perched close to the bathroom, doubled over with discomfort.  Was it her fault?  I say NO.  It was my responsibility to question every ingredient.  She truly believed that she was good at recognizing what ingredients are gluten-free, but unless you are a sufferer or trained to prepare gluten-free menu items on a regular basis, it’s really hard not to make mistakes.

It certainly was a lesson for me.  Always question, always come prepared and always assume it contains gluten, unless you ask what the ingredients are.