Oatmeal is Good for the Soul: Bakery on Main Oatmeal!

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As a celiac, breakfast is one of my favorite meals of the day because my choices are almost limitless.  Eggs, omelettes, grits, and breakfast meats are fantastic, naturally gluten-free go-to’s, and it’s easy to find gluten-free versions of pancakes, waffles and toast.  Oatmeal, while a much-enjoyed breakfast food, is also a point of contention for celiacs.  Many  farmers grow their oatmeal crops when wheat is out of season; as a result, the soil that had previously grown wheat contaminates the gluten-free oatmeal crops.  Thus, it’s important to buy oats and oatmeal that is grown in fields free from wheat, as well as processed in a dedicated gluten-free facility.

A wise woman named Kate Thompson (she’s an author), once said, “You have to eat oatmeal or you’ll dry up.  Anybody knows that.” Bakery on Main, one of my favorite gluten-free companies, sent me some incredible gluten-free oatmeal samples this month, and I’ve been excited for the opportunity to review a variety of flavors, while, at the same time, am able to feel safe knowing that these oats are certified gluten-free.   Bakery on Main’s instant oatmeal comes in a variety of flavors, and makes the ideal breakfast for fast-paced college students;  because it’s instant, all you need to do is add is hot water, mix and let sit for a few minutes.  It’s incredibly filling, and perfect for holding you over until your college cafeteria opens for lunch!

My favorite flavors were Strawberry Shortcake, Blueberry Scone and Maple Multigrain Muffin.  These flavors achieved the perfect balance of sweet, while letting the grainy flavor of the oat come through!  Because of the variety of flavors, and the delicious taste, I didn’t get tired of the oatmeal, even though I’ve eaten Bakery on Main’s Oatmeal quite consistently over the last few days.  It was hard to get an attractive picture of the oatmeal once cooked (I’m a sub-par photographer and oatmeal isn’t the prettiest food), but did manage to get a picture of the oatmeal right before I poured the hot water in!

Bakery on Main Oatmeal

Have you tried Bakery on Main Oatmeal?  If so, what’s your favorite flavor?  Is oatmeal your favorite food breakfast food, or your go-to afternoon snack?!  Comment below and let me know!

 

Product Review! Dancing Deer Baking Co. Gluten-Free Brownies

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A few weeks ago, Dancing Deer Baking Co. contacted me about sampling their new line of gluten-free brownies!  The company, though known for their gluten-filled baked goods, wanted to expand their products to include those that were celiac-friendly.  The brownies arrived, with the promise that their gluten-free version would match the taste of their regular Chocolate Chunk Brownie.  Eager to see how it would compare, I was more than excited when the brownies arrived in my mailbox at Rice!

photo 1 (2)The first thing I made sure to do once the brownies arrived was make sure that they were safe for those with celiac disease.  A company can make a product that doesn’t have gluten-containing ingredients, but may not be classified as gluten-free because of issues of cross contamination.  I was pleasantly surprised to read the label of the brownies, which stated that they were produced in a dedicated gluten-free facility!  Instantly put at ease, I could then focus on the brownie’s taste!

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Dancing Deer Baking Co.’s gluten-free brownies were delicious!!  They were made with a brown rice flour, potato starch and sorghum blend, and I particularly enjoyed the softness and consistency of the brownie.  It didn’t crumble or break, and had a moist chocolatey taste.  These brownies are perfect for your on-campus dorm; you could easily bring one to your college cafeteria and have it for dessert.  I’m excited to see if Dancing Deer Baking Co. will expand their gluten-free line of products in the future; they are perfect for gift baskets and as treats when you’re craving a rich, chocolate-filled dessert!

Restaurant Review: Risotteria NYC

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Before heading back to school in Houston this weekend, I was lucky enough to have one of my best friends at Rice, Michelle, come visit me in New York. She had never experienced New York City before, so we took the nearest train down yesterday in order to explore, shop, and of course eat in one of my favorite cities in the works!
Michelle isn’t gluten-free so finding food for her was super easy! She got to have her first NYC bagel off a cart on the street, and some authentic New York pizza (it smelled delicious)!
By the time we reached Greenwich, a beautiful section of the city, it was well past lunch and I was starving! I looked up the directions to a gluten-free restaurant I had heard fantastic things about, Risotteria NYC, and found the small, quaint eatery nestled on a street corner at 270 Bleecker Street.
Risotteria is an on-site gluten-free restaurant and bakery, which boasts quite an extensive menu. We were greeted by a friendly, charismatic waitstaff, as well as some delicious gluten-free breadsticks that were flaky on the outside, and soft and chewy on the inside.
The drink and dessert menus were posted on empty wine bottles, an idea that I think contributed greatly to the decor! If you are 21 or older, the drink menu has numerous types of gluten-free beer.

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Risotteria offers gourmet versions of gluten-free risotto, pizza and paninis. I was overwhelmed by the variety, and after a long time reading the menu, finally settled on a gluten-free leg of lamb, Gorgonzola and spinach panini.

20140113-111734.jpgThe sandwich was a good size, and I enjoyed the toasted bread, which melted the cheese and warmed the lamb to a perfect temperature. It was the perfect meal to eat after walking miles through single digit temperatures. I grabbed a gluten-free red velvet cupcake to go, which was probably one of the best gluten-free desserts I’ve ever tasted! The dessert menu is all gluten-free, and I hope I can revisit Risotteria soon and sample more of their menu items!
Risotteria NYC is well worth the price! Have you tried Risotteria or any other NYC gluten-free restaurants?! Comment below and let me know!

Restaurant Review: Sukhothai Authentic Thai Cuisine

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Love this abandoned building-turned-art canvas directly across from Sukhothai.  Such a beautiful view while we eat!

Love this abandoned building-turned-art canvas directly across from Sukhothai. Such a beautiful view while we eat!

One of my favorite parts about going home is the chance to eat a delicious dinner with my family almost every night.  While most of our meals are home cooked, every once in a while, we find an excuse to travel to Beacon, NY,  and enjoy some delicious gluten-free Thai cuisine from our favorite restaurant, Sukhothai.  Located on Main Street in Beacon, NY, Sukhothai is about an hour north of New York City (and easily accessibly by train).  Recently, the city of Beacon has experienced tremendous growth culturally, and there is a lot of art, food and shopping to explore.

My favorite thing about Sukhothai is the variety of options that exist for those who are gluten-free.  The majority of items on the menu are naturally gluten-free, as most dishes are based around rice noodles, or curries.  All dishes that are gluten-free are labeled so on the menu.  I wanted to share with you two of my favorite celiac-friendly items from the menu!

Pad Thai

Pad Thai!

One of the first items I tried at Sukhothai was their Pad Thai; the restaurant has a variety of options.  You can vary the type of rice noodle (thin versus thick), and choose what protein you would like to add (chicken, pork, vegetarian or seafood)!  The flavor is incredible, and the portions are huge!

Massaman Curry

Massaman Curry

The Massaman Curry has been my go-to choice every time we venture to Sukhothai.  I really love the curry with beef or tofu, and the dish is served with a delicious bowl of steamed white rice.  The curry also has carrots, potatoes and peanuts, a combination that you wouldn’t expect to taste so good until you try it.  I highly recommend this dish if you visit Sukhothai!

Other notable items on the menu include the various fried rice options, the drunken noodles, the chicken satay appetizer and the Thai Pepper Steak.  Check out the entire menu on Sukhothai’s website!

If you live in New York City, I highly recommend taking a Sunday day trip up to Beacon to shop, explore some lovely art galleries, and enjoy a delicious meal at Sukhothai!  Let me know if you’ve tried Sukhothai by commenting below!

The Overlooked Psychological Effects of Celiac Disease

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With 2014 quickly approaching, I can’t help but reflect upon the past year. I’ve experienced tremendous growth with my blog; I can’t believe it has over 800 follows and over 10,000 views!  I wanted to thank everyone for the support you have shown as I aim to provide other celiacs with support, resources and encouragement!

I’ve also analyzed how much I’ve grown as an person with celiac disease, and during the past two weeks of winter break (finally time to relax and enjoy each day!), I’ve begun to look at how celiac disease has affected me psychologically.  And as reluctant as I am to admit it, my journey with celiac disease has not been all rainbows and sunshine.  Though my personality type tends to see ONLY the positive outcomes of each experience, I have, in some ways, been affected by celiac disease psychologically (not always in the most positive way).  I think we all, in some way, are.  However, because the gluten-free diet, in most cases, heals and changes our bodies in almost miraculous ways, most people assume that our medical diets solves all our problems!

What is not usually addressed, however, is the restrictions, trials and hardships associated with the gluten-free diet.  I remember the first few months of my gluten-free life; my mother, scarred from the fact that she had, in her mind, been poisoning me for twelve years, restricted my diet pretty harshly.  I was twelve, eating only meat and vegetables. Looking back, this doesn’t seem like a terrible thing, but for a twelve year old, thinking you’d never be able to eat a piece of chocolate, or a scoop of ice cream, was, a traumatizing thing. In eighth grade, I was kept from my middle school’s multiple day trip to Washington D.C. simply because my school could not accommodate my gluten-free diet.  Thankfully, this led to a classification under the American Disability Act (you can read my blog post about it here), but nonetheless, left some mark on how I perceived my celiac lifestyle.

As I grew older, managing the gluten-free diet became easier; we visited a dietician at the Columbia University Medical Center (Anne Roland Lee, MSEd, RD, LD, who is now the Director of Nutritional Services for Schar USA), who left a lasting impact on my experience as a celiac by showing me how to manage the gluten-free diet, with my favorite treats!  Still, my gluten-free lifestyle required numerous restrictions.  Was I going on a trip with my marching band?  If so, I had to pack extra snacks, meals and foods, as not every restaurant we stopped at, or hotel meal, was guaranteed to be gluten-free.  Was I invited out to eat with friends? I could go out, but I had to eat beforehand since the restaurant we went to had no gluten-free options.  I remember having to request a gluten-free meal at prom; was it fair that I had to eat broiled chicken and broccoli on such a special occasion, when everyone else was eating food a bit more gourmet?

The first day of college I had to approach the chef at my college cafeteria, by myself, and request gluten-free food.  I have to burden my friends, when we go out to eat, by asking if we can go somewhere with gluten-free options.  Dates need to be planned carefully, and I lose out on the casual, spontaneous experiences with friends and loved ones by having to calculate and predict (oftentimes unsuccessfully) where, when and what I will be eating.

While I am not one to complain, and I am incredibly thankful for the gluten-free diet (I’ve found something I’m passionate about and want to explore as a future gastroenterologist), being diagnosed with celiac disease at such a crucial age in my adolescence was, in some ways, a trauma.  I’m not a newly diagnosed celiac, at an age when I can rationalize the disease (and especially during a time when there are gluten-free options everywhere).  I was forced to grow up, as that childhood spontaneity and carefree attitude was shadowed by the restrictions on my lifestyle.  There will always be some planning ahead associated with going out to eat, or hanging out with friends.  Celiac disease, in some ways, is a trauma.  Whether it be the diagnosis itself, the trials of managing the gluten-free diet without it harshly impacting our social lives, or even the fear that arises when we do accidentally eat gluten, the trauma and hardships do not simply go away once we receive the results of our biopsy and blood test.

The past week has been an incredibly impactful one; I finally recognized that over the years, I’ve tried to sugar-coat my disease.  No one wants to admit that a change in their diet has affected their lives so much, but I’m finally starting to see that I have been psychologically affected by celiac disease.  I overeat a lot, and this week, I realized that it’s not simply because I love food and grew up Italian.  It’s because I’ve been much more restricted by my gluten-free diet than I previously thought.  When I eat food, I overeat as a means of ‘proving’, in a way, that I am not controlled or restricted by my disease.  Even though there are so many gluten-free options available, I’m still traumatized by the restrictions placed on my diet and social life during my formative years (in some ways, I wasn’t allowed to totally be a child).  Is it fair that I have to take risks every time I go out to eat, or have to plan ahead, bring my own snacks, and ask others to change their plans to accommodate me?  I’m eating gluten-free, but I’m eating too much as a means of ‘defeating’ my disease and showing that it can’t totally restrict me.  2014 is the year in which I am going to explore this psychological effect, and help myself realize that I can control my disease and don’t have to perceive the gluten-free diet as a restriction.  Without acknowledging our struggles, our journey wouldn’t be as powerful or impactful to ourselves and others.

I don’t despise my disease; in fact, I’m incredibly thankful for my good health, ability to provide encouragement and support for others, and the ability to be more aware of what I am eating, nutritionally.  But I wonder-how have YOU been psychologically affected by celiac disease or a gluten intolerance?  What’s your story?  Share it below, and let’s show that we are not controlled by our disease, but that we instead can embrace it and use it to help others!

End of December Product Reviews: Quinoa Esta! Bakery

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There’s something  inherently beautiful about the transition from fall to winter.  Though Houston was finally starting to cool down, I’m excited to be in New York for the next three weeks, as well as wear fuzzy sweaters and justify endless amount of hot cocoa (gluten-free, of course)!  I wanted to devote today’s post to some amazing products that I received during the semester but didn’t have much time to blog about!

Quinoa Esta! Bakery

Quinoa Esta! Bakery is a Phoenix-based company that prepares their baked goods using organic, gluten-free quinoa flour.  If you are a newly diagnosed celiac unfamiliar with quinoa, this ancient gluten-free grain is one of the healthiest, most versatile, and delicious staples.  Though they bake to order and deliver in the metro Phoenix area (you are quite lucky if you live in Phoenix!), they do ship many of their dry mixes to various locations in the U.S.  Quinoa Esta! Bakery ensures that when you indulge in a gluten-free sweet, you are, in fact, also consuming nutrients like protein and fiber!

I received a few different products from Sharon, the owner of Quinoa Esta! Bakery, including Snickerdoodle Cookies, Pecan Pine Nut Shortbread Cookies, Cherry Chocolate Chunk cookies, a Raspberry Shortbread Bar, and Brownie Bon-Bons dusted with Cocoa!

I took some pictures of my favorites!

photo 5The Raspberry Shortbread Bar was one of my favorite treats from Quinoa Esta! Bakery.  The bar was moist and chewy, and I appreciated the fact that the bar was not too overpowering in terms of sweetness.  It was the perfect blend of tart (from the cherries), with a small, sugary kick that didn’t overwhelm the taste buds.  The natural flavor of the quinoa flour also added to the overall taste of the bar, and I enjoyed knowing that was I was eating was nutritious as well!

Brownie Bon-Bons Dusted in Cocoa

Brownie Bon-Bon The Brownie Bon-Bons were so delicious!  Quinoa Esta! Bakery manages to pack a lot of flavor into a small bon-bon!  Once again, the flavors of the quinoa flour, chocolate and sugar mixed wonderfully.  I liked that the bon-bon was the perfect size and cured my sweet tooth wonderfully!

Check out the delicious chocolate inside the Brownie Bon-Bon!

Check out the delicious chocolate inside the Brownie Bon-Bon!

Check out the Quinoa Esta! Bakery Website!  Currently, the website is selling a $100 gift certificate for 20% off through New Year’s Day, and you can check out all of the products the company offers!!  Be sure to check out Sharon’s Quinoa Recipe section for some awesome New Year’s recipe ideas (Quinoa Fried Chicken & Waffles for those Texans!)

Have you tried Quinoa Esta! Bakery in Phoenix?  If so, comment below and let me know!!!!

A Gluten-Free Christmas Celebration!

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I hope you have had a lovely holiday season!  I was happy to return to New York to visit my family for winter break, and was even more delighted to help prepare our gluten-free Christmas dinner!! I don’t normally get to indulge in gluten-free pastas and desserts at school, and with the holiday season coming to a close (only a few more days until 2014), I wanted to share some of the food we prepared for Christmas Eve and Christmas Day!  There’s enough time to make some of these gluten-free dishes for your New Year’s Eve or Day celebrations!

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Turkey Stuffed with Gluten-Free Stuffing & Gluten-Free Shells Stuffed with Seasoned Ricotta in a Cream Sauce

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Our family loves cooking a turkey during the holidays; once Christmas is over, the turkey serves a versatile component of almost all of meals for the next week.  Make sure your turkey is gluten-free, and don’t forget to stuff it using Udi’s or Schar gluten-free bread and my homemade stuffing recipe.

We also made Stuffed Shells in a Cream Sauce for the first time.  We stuffed Tinkyada shells, once cooked, with ricotta cheese, and baked them in a heavy cream-based sauce.  They turned out quite delicious, and seemed to taste even better the next day!

Gluten-Free Lasagna

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Tinkyada makes a fantastic pasta that serves as the ideal lasagna noodle!  Simply boil the pasta (the noodles do not break while cooking, which allows for easy layering when preparing the dish), and layer in a dish, adding sauce, ricotta cheese and parmesan cheese between each layer.  My sister enjoys the meatless version, but you can add sausage or ground beef as well!  Bake the lasagna dish and let the cheese melt!

Gluten-Free Cheesecake 

cheesecakeWe prepared this gluten-free cheesecake according to Philadelphia Cream Cheese’s recipe!  We used Mi-Del gluten-free ginger snaps for the crust; all we did was crumble up a bag of cookies, and added a little bit of butter so that the crust would keep its shape.

How did you celebrate the holidays this year?  Comment below and let me know!

Brazi Bites Product Review

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As a resident of Texas and a native New Yorker, South American  is a cuisine I rarely encounter. I did have the opportunity, however, to live across the hall from two Brazilian exchange students during my sophomore year at Rice. Upon telling them about my dietary restrictions, one friend informed me of all the gluten-free delicacies from Brazil, including cheese bread!  But what’s cheese bread?

 Cheese bread is a small roll, native to Brazil. Because it’s usually made of tapioca or corn flour, and is chewy and soft in taste, it makes an excellent snack for celiacs who seek a bread that for once, isn’t dry or bland.

You can imagine my excitement, then, when a company called Brazi Bites sent me some samples of their cheese bread snacks, in both the original and jalapeno varieties. Brazi Bites was started by Junea and her husband Cameron, who wanted to recreate the delicious foods from her home country of Brazil. Since 2011, the company has grown, and the company’s cheese breads can be found in numerous supermarkets in about fourteen states.

Photo from Brazibites.com

Photo from Brazibites.com

As soon as the Brazi Bites arrived, I rushed to my dorm’s kitchen, and prepared the rolls for baking! The instructions on the back of the package were easy to follow, and pretty soon, the entire kitchen smelled like a bakery!

My first impressions of Brazi Bites were all positive!  I really appreciated the flavors, and especially the texture of the small rolls. They were soft and chewy, and the cheese flavor wasn’t too overpowering. I especially liked the ‘kick’ of the jalapeno flavor.  The jalapeno flavor wasn’t too spicy; instead, you could  enjoy the pepper’s flavors without constantly reaching for a glass of water.  Brazi Bites make an excellent snack, especially for college students, because they’re both filling and simple to make.  There was no hassle that often occurs with preparing rolls from scratch, and because they are completely natural, Brazi Bites are a healthy snack as well.  If you’re in the middle of finals week, I suggest you take a study break and bake some of them-they’ll definitely get you through the hours of studying!

If you’re celebrating the holidays this season, definitely pick up some Brazi Bites as well; they’re a perfect gluten-free substitute for rolls!!!  Check out this great holiday recipe utilizing Brazi Bites!

Let me know if you loved Brazi Bites as much as I did by commenting below!

P.F. Chang’s Review

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image (4)Eating out is one of the most difficult tasks for anyone with a gluten intolerance.  We experience a loss of control, as we can no longer verify that utensils are clean and that our meals are kept free from cross-contamination.  Many celiacs would agree that Asian is one of the most difficult cuisines to accomodate when eating out.  Most brands of soy sauce, especially those that are more cost-effective, usually use wheat, making us celiac weary of the Asian restaurants we visit (and as a result, force us to order the bland steamed vegetables and white rice combo).

When I was given the opportunity to visit P.F. Chang’s a few weeks ago, I took full advantage of the chance to sample some  Chinese dishes that were not only delicious, but safe and free from gluten as well.   My friend Estevan and I visited the Highland Village location on Westheimer Road, in Houston, Texas, and prepared to feast.

We began our meal with the restaurant’s signature appetizer, Chicken Lettuce Wraps; the appetizer was light, and I really enjoyed the crispiness of the lettuce wraps.

Chicken Lettuce Wraps

From the website: Wok-seared chicken, mushrooms, green onions and water chestnuts served over crispy rice sticks with cool, crisp lettuce cups

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We ordered the following main dishes and set them out on the table pot luck style;

Crab Fried Rice and Quinoa Fried Rice

Wok-fried rice with lump crab meat, shiitake mushrooms, asparagus, egg, smoky bacon, zesty lemon and Sriracha

Wok-fried rice with lump crab meat, shiitake mushrooms, asparagus, egg, smoky bacon, zesty lemon and Sriracha

The Crab Fried Rice is one of my favorite dishes at P.F. Chang’s.  I think the dish combined the various flavors of crab, bacon, lemon and Sriracha and created a subtle, but delicious overall flavor.

We also sampled the Quinoa Fried Rice, a seasonal dish that the restaurant served.  I was impressed by the texture of the red quinoa, and thought that this texture, though different from that of rice, made the dish stand out.  The sunny-side egg on top was not only picturesque, but mixed well with the fried rice dish overall.

Beef with Broccoli

From website: Sliced flank steak seared with fresh ginger, green onions and garlic

From website: Sliced flank steak seared with fresh ginger, green onions and garlic

Beef and broccoli is one of the most typical Chinese dishes, but P.F. Chang’s manages to do it best!  I really enjoyed the tenderness of both the broccoli and the beef, and loved the flavors of the sauce.

We rounded off the meal with a Flourless Chocolate Dome Cake, which was one of the richest desserts I’ve ever tasted.  The dark flavor of the chocolate was complemented perfectly by the richness of the berry sauce that was drizzled on the plate.  If you go with this dish, definitely share it with your friend or date!

Gluten-Free Chocolate Dome

Gluten-Free Chocolate Dome

There was so much food, and thankfully, so many leftovers!!  P.F. Chang’s is probably one of the best restaurants to offer gluten-free options that are not only incredibly delicious, but safe as well.  The waitstaff was incredibly caring and compassionate, and eager to make sure that there was no cross-contamination.  Celiacs don’t usually encounter waiters and waitresses who are so knowledgable; I was pleased to see P.F. Chang’s go above and beyond.  The restaurant wasn’t simply providing a good gluten-free meal.  Instead, they were fostering a comfortable and thrilling dining experience.   I’m excited to revisit this restaurant soon and try some more of their menu items!  Check it out and comment below if you’ve experienced the delicious gluten-free options at P.F. Chang’s.

Holiday Gift Ideas for Celiacs: Living Without Magazine!

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With the holidays approaching, it can be difficult to find a meaningful gift for family and friends with celiac disease! The typical holiday cookie or dessert box is usually gluten-filled, and it becomes difficult to find a gluten free bakery or even pick out a relevant and good quality cookbook for celiacs! One of my favorite holiday gifts is Living Without magazine; it’s a fantastic resource that encompasses health articles, personal stories, and delicious gluten-free recipes!
I have a large stack of these magazines piling up on my bookshelf at school, and especially enjoyed the recent holiday issue with cute gluten-free Halloween-themed dishes and desserts! Definitely consider purchasing a subscription for yourself or a newly diagnosed friend (and save up to 40% off the newsstand price!)

You can order Living Without here: tracking.livingwithout.com/aff_c?offer_id=2&aff_id=1034
Do you have a subscription to living without magazine?! If so, what’s your favorite aspect of it?! What are your favorite gluten-free friendly holiday gifts?! Comment below and let me know!

All Things Pumpkin, All Things Fall!

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I love fall. As a native New Yorker, fall was always an exciting time. The leaves embody a beautiful color scheme of reds, yellows, and oranges, and the weather turns crisp, cool, and all around, perfect.  Houston is slightly different; while there is no color change, the weather has gotten less humid (meaning I can finally wear my hair straight and flat-ironed), and it’s starting to feel somewhat like fall.   Nonetheless, the cooler weather is a welcome change, and the perfect excuse to keep warm in the gluten-free kitchen baking!
And with fall, of course, comes the perfect excuse to incorporate pumpkin spice into LITERALLY everything. Since I’m flying home tomorrow for Fall Break, I’ve decided to dedicate this post to a collection of my favorite pumpkin spice-flavored, gluten-free foods and drinks!  I’ve searched the web, nonstop, and compiled a list of gluten-free drinks, recipes, and desserts full of pumpkin spice! Enjoy!

1. Pumpkin Lattes: My favorite fall drinks are Pumpkin Spice lattes!  However, coffee companies like Starbucks are hesitant to declare a drink at their stores officially ‘gluten-free’ due to cross-contamination issue.  Though  drinks such as a Pumpkin Spice Latte may have no gluten-containing ingredients, it may have been prepared in a container that once had gluten ingredients.  This is usually done as a preventative legal measure for Starbucks, and I’ve definitely had coffee from there and had no reaction, but sometimes, it’s much better to be safe than sorry.

If you’re looking for a certified gluten-free pumpkin spice latte, I recommend making your own in your kitchen!  Check out this recipe from LunchBoxBunch.com, which uses ACTUAL PUMPKIN to flavor this delicious drink!

2. Pumpkin Spice Rice Krispie Treats: Make sure to use a certified gluten-free rice cereal (Brown Rice Krispies are gluten-free), and you’re good to go!  I love a take on this classic recipe from thrKitchn, and think they do an excellent job of capturing the ‘taste of fall’

3. Pumpkin Spice Cupcakes Inject with Cream Cheese Frosting: The Glutenista has nailed this recipe!  Cream cheese and pumpkin are two things that complement each other perfectly.  Don’t forget to stay warm by the oven as they’re baking!

 

What are your favorite pumpkin spice gluten-free treats?  Comment below and let me know!

When life hands you lemons, make gluten-free lemonade- Outer Aisle Gourmet!

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The power of innovation is a concept familiar to celiacs; the adjustment to the gluten-free diet is not easy, and I remember numerous times when I had to get creative in the kitchen (especially back in the mid-2000′s). What resulted from a lack of good gf products in my health food store was continual experimentation and the creation of my local gluten-free bread company, My Kidz Gluten-Free Products.
I was quite elated when I received an email about Outer Aisle Gourmet products, a new and upcoming company founded by Jeanne David and her husband. Though not a diagnosed celiac, Jeanne sought low-carb options for flours and crusts; she could not find, however, anything suitable for her and her husband’s athletic lifestyle.

Jeanne took advantage of her creativity and developed a line of gluten-free, low-carb, vegetable based pizza crusts, pasta, rice and bread that are also low in carbs, calories and fat.  I could definitely see myself replacing many of the dense gluten-free products I eat with these ‘veggie’ baked goods.
Unable to secure a loan from the bank, Jeanne sought out Kickstarter, a crowdfunding company, and began to seek the necessary funds to reach their goal of $30,000!  Currently at $3,000, you can help contribute to the cause and bring Outer Aisle Gourmet Products to fruition.  Donations, or pledges will allow you to sample some of the products.

This veggie-bread looks delicious and perfect for sandwiches!

This veggie-bread looks delicious and perfect for sandwiches!

I’m so inspired by Jeanne and think this is a cause worth supporting!  You can read more about the company and donate here!  Within the last year, Rice University has emphasized the importance of  start-ups and the power that these ideas can have.  As a gluten-free community, we should be eager to support ideas like these and increase the number of gluten-free options we have.

Let’s help this awesome company reach their necessary funds goal!

Restaurant Review- Ruggles Green!

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Check out the link to an article I wrote for Rice University’s newspaper, the Thresher!  It’s a review for Ruggles Green, an amazing restaurant in Houston, off of West Alabama, with an incredible gluten-free menu!

The Consequences of the Rising Costs of Gluten-Free Food

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A gluten-free lifestyle is quite expensive; any celiac, new or old, is well aware of this fact.  We’re used to supermarket trips in which we spend much more than we know we should, and justify the prices by admitting that it is harder to make gluten-free foods that taste good.  It’s commonplace to go to a restaurant with a certified gluten-free menu, and find ourselves paying more for a meal that’s neither as large or as delicious as those meals of our non-celiac friends.  However, because we are limited in our selection of foods, celiacs do little more than complain about high prices.  In a sense, we accept that we pay more; I know that I’d rather pay a lot for something I can eat rather than not eat at all.

But even though we can afford gluten-free items at high cost, we often overlook the percent of the population that’s living in poverty.  Statistically, the poverty rate in America is about 16% (data from 2012); this means that 50 million people in the United States are living in poverty.  Now add in celiac disease statistics; it is believed that one percent of the population has celiac disease.  That’s over 3 million people in the United States.  Now image the number of celiac disease patients living in poverty.

The reality is clear; celiacs in poverty cannot afford gluten-free food products.  There is no way a person living in poverty can afford to pay his or her bills, take care of his or her children, and eat completely gluten-free.  The cost of bread in the United States is $2.20.  Compare this to gluten-free bread, which often costs between $6.00-8.00.   The mark-up on many of these products is astronomical; profit margins for companies are often incredibly high.  Last week, the price of wheat in the U.S. per bushel was a little over six dollars, whereas the price of corn per bushel was $4.77. Corn is often a major ingredient in many gluten-free products- why then, are loaves of gluten-free bread sold for more than triple the cost of wheat bread, if corn costs less?

What angers me most is that a significant part of the celiac population cannot access foods they need to maintain their health.  Children and bills take precedent over gluten-free foods.  As a result, celiacs in poverty are forced to hurt their bodies. It isn’t a choice; they’re effectively forced to eat foods that only put them at risk for more serious diseases and disorders. 

It’s a vicious cycle; as a celiac eats gluten, he or she becomes sicker.  Worsened illness causes a patient to attend numerous hospitals and doctors, creating even more bills, and  further preventing him or her from affording the foods they need.  Without a gluten-free diet, death becomes eminent.  Families are ruined, and more people are put at risk for developing complications from celiac disease.

What we need is legislation concerning the cost of gluten-free foods.  We need reduced prices, especially for those who are living in poverty.  America is preventing a significant part of the population from achieving good health, and this is a serious issue which needs to be addressed.  Furthermore, celiac complications put extra costs on the U.S. government in the form of increased healthcare fees.  Think about the issues and costs that could be avoided were many manufacturers to lower their prices, such as decreasing the cost of a loaf of bread from $8.00 to $4.00.

My goal within the next few weeks is to open dialogue and generate conversation about this pressing issue.  The potential for equality regarding our gluten-free food options will only be achieved when all people with celiac disease can unite and fight for a basic right many are denied-the right to our health.  Comment below regarding your thoughts and opinion on this matter, and please do not hesitate to contact me at collegestudentwithceliac@yahoo.com if you would like to help me talk to government officials about this.

Book Giveaway! Gluten-Free Made Easy as 1,2,3

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I am a huge proponent of celiac disease awareness and education, and finding helpful books related to gluten-free living and celiac disease often make me excited and eager to read! I was fortunate enough to have the opportunity to run a giveaway for TWO copies of Angela McKeller’s best selling book, Gluten-Free Made Easy as 1,2,3: Essentials for Living a Gluten-Free Life.

Enter the giveaway for your chance to win a copy of  Gluten Free Made Easy as 1, 2, 3!!  If the blog post gets 50 LIKES OR RETWEETS, you can enter for the chance to win one of two copies of the book.  I will randomly select two winners out of everyone who likes and/or retweets the post, so be sure to do so!!

Here’s a bit about the book from the author herself:

“I am Chef Angela McKeller, an award winning recipe writer, freelance recipe developer/tester, cookbook author, Frenchie enthusiast, adrenaline junkie, and avid foodie! I began as a recipe developer 6 years ago, and and went on to be invited to appear on The Food Network, Georgia Public Broadcasting, ABC’s Carolina Cooks, and in many print publications like Points North Magazine, Good Housekeeping, The Daily Meal, CBS’ Man Cave Daily and much more. In the midst of all the media frenzy, I went on to write cookbooks, one being a best seller on Amazon, “Gluten-Free Made Easy as 1,2,3: Essentials for Living a Gluten-Free Life”.

Growing up, I always knew that I wanted to be a chef, but being invited to appear on the The Food Network with Paula Deen, ABC’s “Carolina Kitchen”, Georgia Public Broadcasting’s “Georgia Cooks” with Chef Marvin Woods – well, it was more than I ever dreamed possible. I published my first cookbook several years ago, “Passion on a Plate”, to honor my best friend, mentor, and great-grandmother, my constant source of unconditional love. She taught me the love of cooking and developed my passion for it.

Later, after bombing an interview with Southern Living, I realized I suffered with gluten sensitivity. When I mastered it (and it was a fluke that I figured it out), I decided that the millions of others suffering with it had to know that living GF is not only easy, but delicious! From my heart, soul, and kitchen to yours – I bring you books that I hope enrich your life, and put food on the table that nourishes you and your family, and makes you feel like a rock star! Let me know what else you need, and I’d LOVE to help you with it!”

Make sure to tweet about the book, and like this post! 

The giveaway close September 7th at 12:00 a.m., so make sure to enter soon!

Blogging for the GFAF Expo!

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GFAF Expo Blogger Badge (2)

My world revolves primarily around two things: people and food.  Combine the two,  throw the concept of ‘gluten-free’ into the mix, and you have one incredibly happy blogger.  You can imagine my excitement, then, when I was selected to be on the blogging team for the Gluten & Allergen Free Expo, which is sponsored by Glutino and Udi’s (and many more), and takes place in Dallas from October 26th-27th.  I’m elated to have the opportunity to try some delicious gluten-free foods, interact with others who have celiac disease and food intolerances and finally reveal who ‘the college student with celiac’ is as a real person.  The event has over 150 vendors, many of which are some of my favorite gluten-free brands.  I’m excited to sample products by Bob’s Red Mill, Udi’s, Bakery on Main, Glutenfreeda (that oatmeal….), and numerous others.  Holy Crap breakfast cereal is sponsoring the bloggers for the expo, and I’m excited to try this line of gluten-free breakfast options (I’ve recently been reading about the benefits of chia seeds, which are present in many of their products)!

What really sets this expo apart is its size; the GFAF is the largest of its kind and offers so much more than just gluten-free food.  There will be speakers at the Dallas Expo, like Peter Osborne, a doctor of chiropractic medicine and clinical nutritionists who focuses on the holistic treatments of his patients with chronic diseases (and a speciality in celiac and allergies-plus, he’s from Sugar Land!) and Jen Cafferty, founder and CEO of the GFAF expos (more presenters can be found here).  As a celiac, it’s important to stay up-to-date with news from the experts, as the realm of allergies and intolerances is so dynamic, and there is always something new to learn.

The most important aspect of this expo is, however, the community.  It is an event we can go to and not feel isolated and alienated.  For two days, the Plano Convention Center will be a place of understanding; it will foster conversation, friendships, tears and joy.  I’m looking forward to continuing my journey to find and provide real life support to others with celiac.  If you live near Dallas or in Texas, I ask you to join me at this expo! Here’s the link to purchase tickets!  Make sure to follow the GFAF Expo on Twitter and Facebook so you can stay up-to-date!

If you’ll be at the expo, send me a tweet or email-I would love to meet up and talk!  Comment below if you will be attending a GFAF expo anytime soon, or already have and want to share your experience! What are you most excited for?  Let me know!

Cross-Reactivity- When Gluten-Free is not Enough

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I know I’m a pretty healthy individual; I make sure to eat a balanced diet, exercise regularly, and, most importantly, maintain a strict gluten-free diet.  Some days however, I’ll eat something totally gluten-free, and still have a reaction similar to one initiated by gluten.  In fact, I experienced this last night, after eating oatmeal for breakfast and a delicious slice of lasagna for dinner.

As I’ve described before, my reaction to gluten was, at the time of diagnosis, pretty atypical (now it’s accepted that there are a range of symptoms for the disease).  I would swell, bloat, and, as my mother says, ‘retain water’.  Most notably, I’d bloat in the stomach, and strangely enough, in the hips as well.  This happened last night, and as my mother and I discussed the issue, I was reminded of a video I had stumbled upon earlier regarding the concept of cross-reactivity between gluten and coffee, titled ‘The Danger of Coffee & Gluten Sensitivity’.  You can watch it here; I was quite surprised by the video. The video in some ways, made a lot of sense.  I often felt bloated and swollen after drinking instant coffee. As a devoted coffee lover, I was faced with a major decision; should I give up coffee to see if it would improve my health?  I began a 30-day coffee cleanse, and so far, have gone eleven days without drinking it!  Personally, I’ve seen results, and have noticed that my stomach rarely bloats when I replace coffee with tea!  I was doing well up until the other day, and had noticed a decrease in my weight (loss of water weight, of course), until last night, when I re-bloated.

I was reminded of this concept of cross-reactivity, and went straight to the internet to do some research.  Keep in mind that I’m not a medical professional (YET-I still have two years until medical school), and the conclusions I have reached are based on my own observations and research.

So, What Is Cross-Reactivity?

Cross-reactivity, as described by Dr. Vikki Peterson, Doctor of Chiropractic and Certified Clinical Nutritionist, and founder of the HealthNOW Medical Center, occurs when the antibodies our body possesses due to celiac disease recognize other types of proteins as gluten.  As a result, the antibodies initiate an immune reaction that mirrors one in which gluten is consumed.  Our bodies then, don’t get the chance to fully heal. Here is a pretty simple and easy to read article written by Dr. Peterson about cross-reactivity.

Keep in mind that this concept does not have too much scientific backing, and could not be verified by any celiac disease research centers.  However, I think that it’s an idea that should not be ignored simply because it has not been proven (I mean, gravity is still just a theory, right?).

After reading as much as possible, I decided to write down everything I had eaten yesterday, noting that I had added oatmeal to my diet for the first time in a few weeks.  I thought back to the month of May, when I was eating oatmeal every day for breakfast, working out at a high intensity (45 minutes at least, 6 days a week), and still bloating.  By the end of May, I was up seven pounds; trust me, you can’t put on muscle that quickly.  I’ve read that oatmeal can cross-react with the antibodies, along with dairy (this is a big one), rice, corn, potato, coffee, and a few other foods.  Does this mean all celiacs should stay away from these foods?  Probably not.  But if you do see that your condition is not improving (and can be sure your diet is 100% gluten-free), then it might be a good idea to start eliminating some of these foods from your diet for a month, once you’ve talked with your gastroenterologist.  There is a Gluten-Associated Cross-Reactive Foods and Foods Sensitivity test by Cyrex Laboratories, but honestly, I’m not an expert on this issue (any insight to this test would be welcome in the comments section)!

Personally, I think oatmeal or corn might be the cause of my symptoms.  This month, I’m going to remove these foods from my diet, and look to implement a ‘naked food’ lifestyle, consisting of lots of meats, fish, nuts, vegetables and fruits.  After thirty days, I’m going to try to reintroduce these foods, one at a time, and see if the symptoms associated with celiac disease return. It will be a challenge, since I eat a lot of corn products (pastas, cookies, corn tortillas), but it’s a sacrifice I am willing to make for my health.  For the next thirty days, I plan on eating as much non-processed food as I can, and will be staying away from most grains and eliminating almost all dairy.  Wish me luck!

What do you think of the concept of cross-reactivity?  Do you experience this with any foods?  Comment below and let me know!

The Best Things in Life are….Macaroons?

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There is one word that nearly all celiacs have come to fear when outside of the home: bakery. A bakery is a dangerous land, where the air is thick with wheat flour, and the threat of gluten contamination imminent.
You can imagine, then, my excitement when Tim Hortons Cafe and Bake Shop sent me a sample of their certified gluten-free Coconut Macaroons! The company is committed to providing a gluten-free, no stress snack, and even partnered with the Gluten-Free Certification Organization (part of the Gluten Intolerance Group of North America). I cannot stress enough the importance of this GFCO backing; Tim Hortons has gone above and beyond to ensure that this Macaroon is safe for us celiacs to eat. It’s a relief to be able to go to their restaurants and know that there’s a quick option to grab as a snack if necessary.  I can definitely think of times when I forgot to bring a gluten-free snack on a road trip or long drive with some of my friends from Rice, and having Tim Hortons as another establishment with gluten-free choices makes life a bit simpler for a person with celiac disease.

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Certified Gluten-free!

Certified Gluten-free!

In terms of consistency and taste, I was more than impressed by the macaroon!  Honestly, I was expecting the macaroon to fall apart upon the first bite; I’m used to having to catch the crumbs and cookie pieces while eating.  This macaroon, however, stayed completely intact.  In terms of taste, this was one of the best macaroons I’ve had.  I’m used to a drier, flakier, and overall blander taste from store-bought gluten-free macaroons; Tim Hortons perfected the moist and sweet taste that makes their macaroons a pleasure to eat!


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Have you tried Tim Hortons macaroons yet? If not, what macaroons do you eat? Comment below and let me know!

Exciting News for Houston Celiacs!

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I’m excited to announce that I will be working with the newly formed Gluten Intolerance Group of Greater Houston this year!  The group launched in January 2013, and will be having it’s first meeting this Sunday, August 11th.  I met with the group’s founder, Ashley Smith recently, and see the group as the ideal way to increase collaboration and community among celiacs throughout all of Houston.  I really encourage those with celiac to attend the meeting next week-I’m a huge proponent of finding support, and believe that interactions with those who understand and can relate to our disorders help keep us focused on maintaining a strict gluten-free diet!

I especially encourage college celiacs in the Houston area to attend as well!  Unfortunately,  I won’t be at this meeting (I’m back home in New York for the week), but will be helping out with group and will definitely be at the next meeting.  It’s not only a great opportunity to make some gluten intolerant friends within our demographic, but will also be a chance to eat some delicious gluten-free pizza.  Russo’s New York Pizzeria, located on Westheimer Road, will be hosting a GF Pizza Party.  Check out my Russo’s review here (summary: it’s an incredible restaurant with delicious gluten-free options) and go check it out next week!

Check out the event info and be sure to like the GIG of Greater Houston’s Facebook page to stay up-to-date!

What gluten-free support groups are you a member of?  What do you look for in a celiac support group?  Comment below and let me know!

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Guest Post: Faye Elahi of Gluten Free-Nutrition for Life

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Faye Elahi is a gluten sensitive nutritionist with 22 years of experience in special needs nutrition. She has served over 1200 families with food allergies, intolerances, gastrointestinal and neurological disorders associated to Celiac disease, Attention Deficit Disorder, Hyperactivity disorder, and Autism Spectrum Disorders.  She’s also been an advocate for gluten-free college students, helping over 250 college celiacs and gluten sensitive students, for over twenty-five years.  Check out her twitter and website, Gluten-Free Nutrition for Life, and don’t hesitate to reach out to Faye with any questions! I’m always glad to see another person advocating for college celiacs, as our demographic is sometimes pushed aside or forgotten about! I hope you find the post helpful, as it deals with strategies that should be implemented in order to accommodate those with celiac disease and gluten intolerances. Enjoy!

Strategies to Implement a Gluten-Free Menu in College Cafeterias:
by Faye Elahi, M.S. Gluten Sensitive Nutritionist

The following are strategies that must be implemented in cafeterias and kitchens where gluten-free foods are offered safely:

1. The chef and kitchen staff , as well as  food service directors must  be trained and knowledgeable in storing, preparing and cooking gluten-containing food separate and away from gluten free foods.  The digestive tract of celiacs and gluten intolerant students is very sensitive;  amounts as small as 1/5 of teaspoon of gluten or contaminated hands touching gluten before handling gluten free foods are enough to cause damage!
2. The cook and staff should prepare gluten-free dishes such as hamburgers or battered chicken or pizza or pasta upon request so they are prompted to use a designated gluten-free prep and cooking area as well as  fresh gloves.
3. In the interest of time, and depending on the number of celiacs enrolled at the school,  separate pots of boiling water must be ready at all times during service hours to cook gluten-free pasta upon request.
4. To reduce miscommunication, there should be at least 2 trained kitchen staff members; one in the front and one in the back, known to all Celiac students so that they are able to place their gluten-free orders.
5. There should be designated skillets in the back to toast buttered gluten free breads for grilled burgers, grilled cheese, etc… upon request.
6. Gluten free chips and cookies or other packaged foods should be stored in a separate cabinet/ area the back leaving no room for cross contamination.
7. For breakfast, plain bacon or ham or meats (free of malted barley, wheat starch, wheat bran, or any other wheat, barley, or rye, or spelt ingredients), fresh potatoes, and eggs are safe. Gluten free cereals like Rice Chex by Rice Crispies or gluten free Corn Flakes are safe.
Also gluten free Bisquick pancake batter or equivalent must be used to prepare gluten free pancakes.
8. To keep gluten-free dishes fresh, they should not be prepared unless asked. Fresh is Best!
9. At least one hot food line gluten-free entrée should be labeled as such so the students are aware.
10. Traveling athletes on a gluten-free diet should notify the food service director ahead of time how many boxed meals they need so “traveling lunch boxes” are made.
These meals would just be deducted from their meal plan.

The following are gluten-free foods with some brands that are safe:

Fresh fruits, vegetables, potato, corn, rice, quinoa, beans (if canned without spice mixture) are safe.
Udi’s or Rudi’s or Canyon Bakehouse sandwich breads are fine for grilled cheese sandwiches or just toast.
Tinkyada or plain rice or Mrs. Leepers corn pastas are safe.
Udi’s frozen pizza crusts are available for toppings to be placed on top and baked in 10 minutes. Otherwise, the chef could make several gluten free pizza crusts at a time with a gluten free all purpose mix that can be frozen for later use.
Warning:
Potato chips with added flavoring like Tostitos are NOT GLUTEN FREE ! Just plain 100% corn or potato chips are.
Salad dressing usually are NOT GLUTEN FREE due to spice and herb mixtures containing regular wheat flour in them to prevent caking!
Providing simple oil and vinegar is the best dressing!
The average barbecue sauces or marinades are NOT GLUTEN FREE!
Best spices are individual ones that are mixed by the chef on premises.
Hunts Ketchup is gluten free.
Faye Elahi’s book Ready, Set, Eat is used at many college cafeterias as a recipe book and reference book with a complete shopping guide. This book could be ordered on amazon.com

Restaurant Review: Russo’s New York Pizzeria

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As a native New Yorker, and previous fan of authentic Bronx pizza (before I was diagnosed with celiac disease, of course), I’ve come to realize that it’s incredibly difficult to master the art of gluten-free pizza making. Thin crust pizza is especially challenging, and I don’t think that I have ever seen a slice of gluten-free pizza with that air bubble characteristic of a ‘glutened’ slice. And, while I am not only plagued by the endless search to find a delicious gluten-free thin crust pizza, I also spend eleven months out of the year in Houston, Texas, quite a distance away from New York.
Russo’s New York Pizzeria, however, helped bring a slice of gluten-free, New York-style pizza to Houston! I had heard of Russo’s gluten-free options during the Celiac Expo I attended in June, and decided that a Friday evening would be the perfect time to try some of their dishes. My friend and I decided to reward ourselves for surviving the hectic workweek, and visited Russo’s Galleria Area location, located on Westheimer Road.
We sampled a pasta dish and specialty pizza! Both were gluten-free of course! Here is my review of both dishes:
Pizza: New York Village
Pizza Russo's

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The New York Village Pizza was topped with pepperoni, sausage, mushrooms, olives, peppers, Canadian bacon, hamburger meat, and mozzarella cheese! I particularly enjoyed the taste and texture of the crust; it was the perfect combination of thin and crispy. The toppings were yummy as well. So far, this is probably the best gluten-free pizza I have tasted in restaurants!

Pasta: Baked Ziti
I thought Russo’s did a fantastic job with their pasta dish! The gluten-free pasta maintained its structure, did not break, and had a flavor that matched well with the cheese and sauce. Next time I venture to Russo’s I’ll definitely be more adventurous and try a “less traditional” pasta dish; however, this gave me a great opportunity to evaluate the mechanics of this gluten-free dish.
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Overall, Russo’s did a fantastic job with their gluten-free options! Personally, I think that gluten-free appetizer options would add to the overall dining experience. Something like gluten-free mozzarella sticks, or soft breadsticks would complement the rest of the meal perfectly.
Have you been to Russo’s? If so, what have you tried? If not, where do you get your gluten-free pizza? Comment below and let me know!

The Importance and Effect of the Internet and Social Media on Celiac Disease Patients

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I hope that June has been treating you well, and that you have been using the summer months to grill up some delicious gluten-free dinners and test our some new recipes! Before I dive into the main content of my post, I wanted to tell you about the opportunity I recently had to be interviewed for an article featured in Simply Gluten Free Magazine! The July/August issue, which is out on newsstands now, includes an article written by Karen Broussard (who I will talk about later in this post as well), titled “Best Four Years of Their Lives? For Gluten-Free Students, College Choice Largely Impacts Quality of Life.” I was able to share my experiences at Rice as a gluten-free college student, and am excited to purchase as many copies as possible! I highly recommend subscribing to this magazine here, as it is incredibly informative and keeps us up-to-date on new gluten-free recipes, studies and experiences.

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And now, to the main component of my post. As my blog has gained more followers and support, I have begun to consider the effects that the internet and social medica have had on celiac disease awareness. We live in an age in which the internet grants us to access an unlimited amount of information. And with this power, of course, comes great responsibility. When used properly, the internet is a tremendous resource as we attempt to maintain our health and find support. I’ve picked out a few implications of the internet and social media which I feel have really helped improve the lives of celiacs throughout the world.

1. Ability to maintain our health and stay up-to-date with research and new products:
-The internet gives celiacs access to virtually any piece of knowledge about celiac disease that we could possibly think of. Possession of research articles and studies are no longer restricted to doctors; medical databases like PubMed allow many to gain access and stay current with research being done in any medical field. With regards to celiac disease, I know I have used medical articles to learn more about my disease, and examine precisely how the disease affects my body.
We can also use the internet to read product and restaurant reviews; this saves us time, money, and may even protect our bodies (as honest and accurate restaurant reviews may keep us from being ‘glutened’)! This is where Karen Broussard’s website, GlutenFreeTravelSite comes in handy. Her website has user submitted restaurant reviews (including college dining hall reviews, similar to the review I did for Rice a few weeks ago). Within minutes you can explore reviews with real-life experiences of restaurants and dining halls, which helps you make educated choices in deciding where to eat or, on a greater scale, where to attend school. Speaking of which, if you have a particularly awesome gluten-free review of YOUR COLLEGE’s dining services, and if you’re one of the first 10 to do so, you’ll win some delicious, gluten-free KIND snack bars (the perfect, filling and yummy workout snack)! These are particularly refined flavors- Maple Glazed Pecan and Sea Salt, and Dark Chocolate Chili Almond. Click here to submit a review, help other college students, and win some delicious snack bars.

2. Increased awareness of celiac disease:
-From personal experience, I can say that I have educated hundreds of my peers at Rice simply by posting the links to my blog posts on my Facebook wall. Humans are naturally curious, and any mention of the word ‘food’ in regards to a post will almost certainly propel a college student to click the link and begin to explore the world of celiac disease. Today I had a friend tell me that she never knew anything about celiac disease until she read my blog. Suddenly, our friends and relatives begin pointing out that those boxes of Rice Chex (which I am munching on right now, coincidentally) are clearly labeled gluten-free. In teaching others about our disease, we create an atmosphere of progress, comfort, and compassion, as others are able to learn how the disease affects us, and understand our habits or actions more clearly. Who knows-perhaps your Facebook posts and tweets will help an undiagnosed celiac seek testing and begin the gluten-free diet.

3. Community support:
-It is incredibly difficult for someone who is not gluten-free to empathize with us celiacs. No one can really understand what it’s like to be ‘glutened’ unless they have gone through the experience. Guilt, sadness and confusion are common feelings we experience when we accidentally eat gluten. It’s also incredibly difficult to be the only celiac in a group of friends; a lot of energy can be spent explaining the disease, and it can be especially frustrating if friends don’t realize how important the disease is to your life. The internet provides this crucial community support. It is a place for people with celiac disease to come together, find support, share experiences, and provide comfort to one another. The online community, whether it be twitter, online forum, or blogs, allows us to both give and receive the necessary support we seek. It is a place to go and ask questions, and not feel judged, alienated, or our of place.

4. The ability to educate doctors, other medical professionals, and politicians:
By reading information online, celiacs can approach their doctors more informed. This is crucial, as it holds medical professionals accountable and encourages them to stay up-to-date in fields like celiac disease. In the field of politics, the internet also proves incredibly useful. Recently, the celiac community was able force Disney Channel to take down an episode of one television program that made fun of a child who was gluten intolerant (they actually had other children throw bread at the gluten intolerant child-not funny at all). The petition gained thousands of signatures, and Disney received a lot of bad press because of it. This probably would not have occurred had there not been an online petition; children with celiac disease would have been hurt and upset by the episode.

I’m incredibly thankful for the celiac disease community online, and the chance to help provide support to those across the country.
How do you use the internet and social media to connect with other celiacs? Comment below and let me know!

Celiac Awareness Tour Review!

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This weekend, I was lucky enough to travel to the Woodlands, Texas, and attend the Celiac Awareness Tour. The event was presented by Kroger, one of Texas’ most popular supermarkets, and was sponsored by two AMAZING gluten-free companies, Enjoy Life Foods and Rudi’s Bakery. Besides sampling some delicious gluten-free baked goods, I was also able to listen to a talk given by Dr. Lambert Collins, a Texan chiropractor who not only talked about celiac disease, but also emphasized the importance of a holistic diet in order to maintain one’s health.

I found this information in Dr. Collins' presentation to be particularly interesting!

I found this information in Dr. Collins’ presentation to be particularly interesting!

I also was able to talk to and sample some products from local gluten-free bakeries. Gluten-Free Nation, located in Spring Branch, Texas, had some incredibly yummy biscotti! I’m already a fan of their gluten-free bread and blueberry muffins (there’s a pack in my freezer which I’ve been rationing out). I only wish they were a bit closer to my school’s campus!
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I was also able to sample some products from Mary’s Gluten-Free, also located in the Houston area. We even drove past the bakery on the way home.
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And, of course, Udi’s was there with their numerous gluten-free products.
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Overall, it was a great weekend, and I look forward to trying more products from these local gluten-free bakeries.
Have you been to any gluten-free vendor fairs or expos lately? Share your experience below!

Happy Birthday Dinner-Portobello Mushroom Tacos!

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One of my close friends, Estevan, turned 22 today, and the two of us celebrated with a pre-birthday dinner last night.  We prepared portobello mushroom tacos, which are not only incredibly delicious, but simple to make as well.  Estevan’s shared his mother’s taco recipe with me, and we prepared a slew of sides to go along with our meal as well.  I’ve included the recipe below, as well as pictures of what else we prepared with our tacos!  Enjoy!0610131837aEstevan’s Birthday Dinner Portobello Mushroom Tacos (serves 2)

Ingredients:

3 large portobello mushrooms, washed, and with gills removed (this is the inside of the mushroom, dark in color).

2 tablespoons Spice Rub (we used a steak rub, but any one of your favorites will do)

5-6 Corn Tortillas (we used 6″ Mission tortillas)

3 tablespoons olive oil

4 tablespoons Pico de gallo

4 tablespoons Guacamole

Hot sauce, to taste

Directions:

1. After your mushrooms have been washed, and the gills have been removed, add about half a tablespoon of oil and spice rub to the mushroom.

2. Using an electric grill, or skillet, cook the mushrooms until they hot and soft

3. In another skillet, warm the corn tortillas.  Make sure to flip the tortillas after about 3-5 minutes

4. Once mushrooms are finished, slice them into strips to fill the tacos.

5. Fill the tortillas with the mushrooms, and top with pico de gallo, a dab of guacamole,and your favorite hot sauce!

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What I loved about this recipe is that it was incredibly easy and quick to make.  We prepared a side of flavored rice (Zatarain’s now labels many of their products gluten-free!), and topped our rice with black beans.  As always, double check the labels on your sides to make sure that they are, in fact, gluten-free.  Don’t forget a healthy side salad, and if you haven’t tried any of Ken’s gluten-free salad dressings, make sure you do soon!

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Dinner and a Recipe Post: Prosciutto-Wrapped Scallops!

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If there is one thing that pushes my family through the hectic and stressful week, it’s Sunday afternoon dinners.  Somehow we manage to cook copious amounts of food (probably enough to feed a small army), and then proceed to consume ALL of it in a matter of  minutes.  This past Sunday, we were feeling a bit ambitious, which resulted in a delicious dinner comprised of a cheese, avocado and soppressata appetizer,  and prosciutto-wrapped scallops. P1070978As always, check to make sure that your cheese and sausage products are 100% gluten-free.  We always use Boar’s Head deli meats and cheeses, as they are not only good quality, but are labeled gluten-free as well.

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Since the scallop recipe is very simple to make, I wanted to share the recipe.  It’s perfect for a dinner party, romantic dinner for two, or a classy dinner with the family!  Enjoy!

Prosciutto-Wrapped Scallops

Serves 4

Ingredients:

1.25 pounds large scallops

.5 pound Boar’s Head Prosciutto, sliced thin

Pepper and garlic powder, to taste

Directions:

1. Sprinkle scallops with pepper and garlic powder (I recommend forgoing the salt, as the prosciutto is quite salty and provides this flavor).

2. Wrap each scallop in a thin layer of prosciutto, and place on a baking sheet.

3. Bake for about 30 minutes at 350 degrees

4. In a frying pan, sear the cooked scallops for approximately two minutes!

Expert tip: Definitely don’t skip the searing step of the recipe- it adds so much more flavor and texture to the scallops, and really completes the dish.

5. Enjoy!

P1070981What’s your favorite gluten-free scallop or seafood recipe?!  Comment below and let me know!

Surviving Memorial Day Gluten-Free!

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Happy Memorial Day Weekend Everyone!

As National Celiac Awareness Month draws to a close, Memorial Day is the perfect time to share your experiences and knowledge of celiac disease at a barbecue.  There are certain things you need to be aware of if you plan on attending a party where GLUTEN will be served.  Whether or not your host has decided to cook gluten-free, or you’re bringing your own food, here are some tricks and tips to help you survive Memorial Day gluten-free!

1. Be prepared- I can not stress the importance of this tip!  A lack of preparation is usually the driving force behind gluten consumption (whether it be accidental or on purpose!)  If you are going to a party at someone’s house, call ahead and let them know you are gluten-free.  It helps to ask what foods will be served, as this will allow you to make the decision of whether or not you should bring your own cooked (and 100% gluten-free) Memorial Day foods.  Judge the host’s knowledge of celiac and cross-contamination fairly- don’t just decide to eat food that may be cross contaminated because you did not feel like cooking your own food.  Offer to bring a dish or dessert to share!  It will make you feel less alienated if you can eat the same foods as others!

2. Watch yo grill and marinades- Always double check the labels on your favorite marinades!  Common marinades often include soy sauce and teriyaki sauce, which are almost ALWAYS hidden sources of gluten.  Be careful of marinades and sauces with modified food starch as well-ALWAYS call the company to confirm a sauce is gluten-free.

If you plan on bringing meat to cook at your host’s house, BEWARE  grill cross-contamination.  Marinades (containing gluten) may have dripped onto the cooking grid, and may come in contact with your gluten-free meat.  It may help to designate a part of the grill as ‘gluten-free’ or precook your meat at home so you can eat a safe dinner.

3. Gluten free desserts- Ice cream is my go-to gluten-free dessert during barbecues and partys, but make sure that YOU take the first scoop, especially if a scooper/spoon is being used for multiple flavors, or the ice cream is layered over a gluten dessert.  The goal is to prevent cross contamination, so ask if you can sneak in and take a few scoops before everyone else, or designate a gluten-free spoon.  Finally, if your host volunteers to bake a gluten-free dessert, double check that the baking sprays used do not contain gluten!  Oftentimes, low-calorie, nonstick sprays, will contain wheat flour, especially the ones used for baking.  Quick fix-PAM cooking spray with olive oil; it does the trick of keeping your dessert from sticking, AND is gluten-free (it doesn’t affect the taste of the cake at all).

I hope these tips are able to help you out today!  Share your gluten-free Memorial Day experiences below!

New Product Review: Tasty Bite Natural Indian Cuisine!

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One of the worst feelings for any college student is an unsatisfied food craving.  For college students with celiac, it’s even worse, as our restricted diet puts even more limitations on the foods we can eat.  Every so often, I’ll develop a craving for some exotic cuisine or food, oftentimes Indian or sushi.  In a residential college with only a small kitchen, you can imagine that cooking an Indian dinner is difficult.

You can imagine my excitement, then, when Tasty Bite sent me some product samples of their Indian Food!  The company prides itself in producing all natural, ready to eat, flavorful entrees and side dishes.

P1070971They come in a microwaveable pouch, and can be made in ninety seconds.  I liked that each pouch had two servings-it’s the perfect amount for a college student!

I think its’s important that the products were all natural-often, our busy schedules prevent us from making the best choices, food-wise.   Tasty Bite allows for convenience, as well as health.

For dinner last night, we chose the vegetable korma and ginger lentil rice.  P1070970Oh my goodness-these dishes were DELICIOUS!  I was surprised by how authentic the dishes tasted!  You could really appreciate the flavors embedded in each dish because of the all natural ingredients used.

P1070974I really liked the vegetable korma, and felt the sauce was the perfect thickness.  I layered mine over a bed of broccoli, but this can definitely be put over rice!

P1070975My only concern, however, had to do with the packaging.  I know for certain that the products were gluten-free, as per the ingredients, but the rice we tried was not labeled ‘gluten-free’, whereas the vegetable korma was.  I don’t know if this was a packaging mistake, but make sure you call and confirm with the company if you buy something and it’s not labeled gluten-free (always good to double check)!

I look forward to trying the other Tasty Bite entrees sitting in my pantry!  Let me know if you’ve enjoyed Tasty Bite by commenting below!!

That One Time I was GLUTENED! -A Novel by Chynna Foucek

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Yes, folks, even sometimes I make mistakes.  As hard as I try to stay completely gluten-free, there was a time I was accidentally ‘glutened’ (is there a proper word for it?), and yes, I did know it.  And now, as I sit in this lovely cafe, I, the dark, brooding blogger wearing red lipstick, will finally chronicle the story of ‘how I was glutened’.

It was Spring Break of my sophomore year in college (but a few months ago), I took a trip with my club tennis team to Austin, for the yearly sectionals tournament.  It was lunch time, and I went with my friend to get some food for our team.  We pulled into a shopping plaza, and stepped inside a sandwich shop (I know, mistake number one-BUT I had just planned on getting chips and fruit).  Upon glancing at the menu, I saw that they had the option of a LETTUCE WRAP instead of a gluten slice of bread or wrap.

Perhaps it was because I was hungry, or perhaps it was because I figured ‘hey, I’ve never really been glutened before, it won’t happen now’ that I ordered a lettuce wrap sandwich.

But, it was that act that sealed my destiny.  Looking back, I can’t believe I was that stupid.

The typical Chynna reaction when, pre-diagnosis, gluten was consumed, had NOTHING to do with digestive problems.  My symptoms involved swelling, weight gain, growth arrest, and brain damage; that was why it took so long to find a diagnosis (they thought it was M.S. or cancer).

And so I ate my turkey and cheese wrapped in lettuce and continued playing tennis…….until about 3 hours later.  I was watching one of my teammates play, when all of a sudden, (STOP READING IF YOU GET GROSSED OUT EASILY), I felt as though I needed to vomit.  I rushed to the bathroom, and, yes, proceeded to vomit.  I know it’s not the prettiest picture, but it has to be told….. I went back out onto the courts, before my friend let me take a nap in her car for a few hours.

However, because I hadn’t had this reaction to gluten prior to my diagnosis, I thought I had come down with a sickness.  It wasn’t until I had woken up from my nap, feeling a million times better, that I realized if I had a stomach bug, it probably wouldn’t have gone away so quickly.  I was fine for the rest of the trip.  Has anyone else experienced a change in symptoms after being diagnosed with the disease and being gluten-free for a while? It’s a question I’ve been pondering for a while, and would love a medical explanation if anyone has one!

Me playing the NEXT DAY, after getting GLUTENED!  Look at that form-we won our doubles match too!!!

Me playing the NEXT DAY, after getting GLUTENED! Look at that form-we won our doubles match too!!!

Getting glutened is a terrible thing.  However, I’m kind of thankful I had a reaction like this, as it reinforced the importance of making sure the foods I eat are NOT cross-contaminated. I’ve been really really careful since this day to make sure I’m eating food that is 100% gluten-free.  From now on, I’m going to pack more gluten-free snacks so that I don’t have to resort to doing something like this, and damage my intestine.  I’ll also be able to know when something has been cross-contaminated and a restaurant hasn’t been truthful, instead of being asymptomatic.  Statistically, we can’t be 100% gluten-free for our entire lives, but we can use our negative experiences to learn, grow, and keep ourselves from making the same mistakes in the future.

Have you ever been accidentally glutened?!  Share your experience and what you learned by commenting below!!!!

Product Review: Glutenfreeda Oatmeal!

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As a person who has had celiac disease since I was about 13, the topic of oats has been a controversial one.  At the time of diagnosis, there were numerous questions surrounding this superfood.  Was this grain actually gluten-free, or was it the cross-contamination in factories that actually made oats unsafe for celiacs?  Since then, it has been determined that oats are, in fact, gluten-free;  however, many oat suppliers rotate this grop with gluten-containing grains like wheat.  Cross contamination is a result of common equipment, harvesting and the sharing of fields.  Thus, unsure and overprotective, my mother made sure that I avoided oats like the plague.

Flash forward to this past Sunday, when I stumbled upon this gluten-free oatmeal from GlutenFreeda products; the box said that it was made with certified gluten-free oats.  And because the FDA prevents companies from lying to their consumers, my mother agreed that I should give oatmeal a try.  I selected a delicious flavor (Maple Raisin with Flax), and proceeded to make it the next morning for breakfast.

P1070964I’ve read countless things about oatmeal online.  It’s been known to stop cravings, is full of fiber, helps combat diabetes and lowers bad cholesterol in the body.  It was easy enough to make; simply add half a cup of boiling water to the packet of oatmeal, stir and let sit for two minutes.  I added some strawberries and blueberries, and dug in!

I cannot say enough about this oatmeal; I actually stopped and wondered why it had taken me twenty years to try this!!  The maple raisin flavor perfectly complemented the texture of the oats.  For college students, it’s the perfect grab and go breakfast, as it can also be made in the microwave and consumed quickly.

I know it's not the prettiest looking meal, but incredibly delicious!

I know it’s not the prettiest looking meal, but incredibly delicious!

I have officially found my daily breakfast, and am excited to try more flavors.  I visited the brand’s website, and was surprised to find a range of products, such as gluten-free cheesecake, pizza wraps and ICE CREAM SANDWICHES!  Can someone please tell me where I can get these products, as the supermarkets and health food stores nearby do not carry them (do you ship to Texas?)

Let me know about your oatmeal adventures by commenting below; how do you prepare it?  Any oatmeal recipes you would like to share? :)

Recipe: Gnocchi in a Poppy Seed & Butter Sauce

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I know that three posts in three days is, in fact, very overwhelming, but I couldn’t resist posting my homemade gluten-free gnocchi recipe on this very chilly Monday.  If you’re still in class, or studying for finals, this will be a perfect treat to end the semester.  I made these for Mother’s Day yesterday, as tribute to an amazing mother who has cooked numerous gluten-free meals since my diagnosis (what’s 365 days x 7 years?)  This is a homemade pasta recipe, so I’ve made it as simple and easy to follow as possible.  Enjoy!

Homemade Gluten-Free Gnocchi in a Poppy Seed & Butter Sauce

Ingredients:

2.5 pounds Idaho Potatoes

2 cups Bob’s Red Mill Gluten-Free Potato Flour (divide into 1 & 1/4 cup and 1/2 cup)

2 eggs

1 Tbsp Xanthan gum

2 Tbsp salt

For the Sauce:

6 Tbsp butter

1/8 cup poppy seeds

Directions:

1. Peel potatoes and boil in a large pot of water until fully cooked.  Let cool until touchable.

2.  Once touchable, use a potato ricer to mash the potatoes into a mixing bowl.

P10709463.  Add to the mashed potatoes 1 and 1/4 cup of potato flour, your tablespoon of xanthan gum, tablespoon of salt, and two eggs

P10709494. Mix at low to medium speed for about ten minutes, or until a ball of dough has formed.  You want the dough to be thick and stuck together, but not too sticky.

5. Place the dough ball on a large cutting board or bread board.  Add the remainder of the flour (1/2 cup) and knead until the dough is consistent, and easy to cut and work with.

P10709526. Cut off a section of the dough ball that is manageable, and roll out until you have a string of dough with a circumference of about half an inch.

7. Slice the string of dough into pieces about the size of your thumb.

8. Roll the individual gnocchi pieces over a fork.  This will leave imprints in the dough, and allow it to better soak up the sauce.

P1070958P10709599. Place gnocchi in the refrigerator for about half an hour, or until the pieces are firm.

10. In a large pot, boil  water with another tablespoon of salt.  Place the gnocchi pieces in the boiling water.  You will know the gnocchi are cooked when they float to the top of the pot.

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11.  While the gnocchi are boiling, melt your butter in a large frying pan.

12. Use a small pasta strainer to drain the gnocchi, and place in the frying pan with melted butter.  Add the poppy seeds and sauté the gnocchi until they are evenly coated with sauce.

P107096113. EAT AND ENJOY!

Have you made homemade gluten-free gnocchi or pasta before?  If so, comment below and  share your recipe or experience!

Well Done, Black Walnut- A Restaurant Review

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A few weeks ago, I travelled to Rice Village (a lovely shopping area behind Rice University), in the pouring rain, by bike, in order to get my hair cut.  After my appointment, I lacked a desire to return to campus, and instead decided to stop for dinner at the Black Walnut Cafe.  I walked into the restaurant, and was immediately greeted by a “gluten-free bread available”.  Still skeptical (maybe they considered this gluten-free thing a fad diet, and were not well-versed in the art of celiac disease), I went up to order.  As soon as I ordered the Rustic Grilled Cheese with gluten-free, I was asked if I had an allergy or intolerance to gluten.  I immediately felt comfortable and awaited my order.

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check out that porous gluten-free bread. made for a delicious grilled cheese!

I did not get a chance to find out the brand of gluten-free bread I used, but it was quite a delicious sandwich!! The cheese melted fantastically onto the bread, and the bread was grilled to perfection!  It was definitely an unhealthy gluten-free meal worth enjoying, and was the perfect rainy day treat.  I highly recommend trying out Black Walnut Cafe if you’re ever in Houston, especially for brunch, as their omelets are fantastic as well (you can substitute toast with corn tortillas, in true TexMex fashion).

On a side note, I’ve decided to start carrying around a normal camera with me, as the quality on a small LG phone camera just doesn’t do my meals justice.  I’m thinking a Gluten-Free Instagram account is needed ASAP.

Have you tried Black Walnut?  Any other restaurants in Houston with gluten-free menus you’ve especially enjoyed?!  Comment below!

Back for the Summer and Gillian’s Apple Crisp Review

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I’m back!  After a stressful and busy college semester, summer has finally arrived, and though it will still be busy (MCAT studying, furthering my efforts in research, work), the days will be longer, and I will be able to devote much more time to baking, sampling products, and stay up-to-date with the latest celiac research (future gastroenterologist in the works)!  I wanted to feature a product review as my first post-hiatus blog post, as I have a feeling that many more are soon to come (one of the perks of being home for May-so many gluten-free products to try).

Shop Rite is an amazing place to try in the Northeast if you are looking for some new gluten-free finds.  It’s well stocked, and since May is National Celiac Awareness Month (and my birthday), announcements were made in the store promoting celiac disease and the gluten-free section.  We went to check it out, and I stumbled upon Gillian’s Wheat & Gluten-Free line of pies.    We picked up a gluten-free apple crisp and excitedly brought it home to try.  I checked out the website for the company, and found a plethora of gluten-free products; so far, the crisp is the only product I’ve tried, but am interested in sampling more of their products, as the pictures of their rolls looked quite delicious.

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We baked the pie for about 1 hour, 20 minutes at 350 degrees, and let it cool for about 20.

I was blown away by this apple crisp! The crust was well made, and the flavor of the filling complemented the crust perfectly.  It really didn’t taste gluten-free.  It reminded me of the pies we used to bake before I was diagnosed with celiac disease, using apples from our backyard.  The filling and crumble on top of the crisp perfectly balanced the tart and sweet flavors, and is a dessert well complemented with a scoop of ice cream on top!

Expert tip: make sure to follow the directions and let the crisp cool in order to neatly cut the ideal slice (we may have rushed this step in anticipation of eating it)!

P1070917Have you tried any of Gillian’s products?  Enjoyed one of the company’s pies?  Let me know below!

Making the Best of Celiac Disease-Humor is Always Good!

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Celiac disease is something that I’ve never been upset about.  Granted, we’ve all been in situations where someone has offered us a pretzel, or cake, and then remembers that we have a gluten intolerance and can’t eat it.  Our response, however, always differs; some celiacs laugh it off, some celiacs actually get upset, and, if you’re as funny as I am, some will make a joke and pretend like we’re actually upset.  I’ve never been sad or depressed about having celiac, and I don’t get offended when others offer something and then remember my disease-instead, I’m flattered that they do remember!!

If we can’t make the best of our disease, then our lives are spent pretty much pitying ourselves and hoping for a magic pill that would allow us to eat whatever we wanted (fun fact-it’s currently being synthesized!).

Last semester, while studying for my orgo exam/browsing the internet (I’m a good pre-med, don’t worry!), I stumbled upon this awesome website made by someone who knows how to have a good time with his gluten intolerance.  Check out this comic strip

http://www.howardtheceleriac.com/comics/353

Howard the Celeriac is an amazing comic website about a stick of celery with celiac disease!!  I honestly have spent hours and hours browsing through the comics, laughing to myself, and secretly calling all my friends gluters!  Granted, the comics are a bit over-exaggerated (it’s not that bad as a celiac, I swear), but so funny!! Here are a few of my favorites!

This is the worst feeling ever!

Thankfully, I didn’t have to go through this!

I always do this during dinner-people ask questions!! My response is always lengthy too!

I remember the days when restaurants used to be like this!

Gluters…….

How do you make the best of your disease?  Comment below!

Bakery Review: Crave Cupcakes!

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The semester’s getting busy, and stressful, but thankfully I have a great support system at Rice! My friend Andy dropped off this awesome gluten-free cupcake from Crave Cupcakes yesterday as a ‘de-stress’ gift!!

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Crave Cupcakes is a local Houston bakery that bakes fresh cupcakes daily!  They offer both chocolate and vanilla gluten-free cupcakes on their daily menu!

My favorite part of the cupcake is the chocolate “Crave gluten-free” symbol placed on top; sometimes we don’t realize it, but having a product clearly labeled as gluten-free often gives us celiacs a sense of calm.

The chocolate cupcake was delicious; the cake part of the dessert held together nicely and didn’t crumble.  I was impressed by the smoothness of the cupcake on a whole, and loved the taste of the icing (I’m a huge icing fanatic-it’s definitely my favorite part of a cupcake!)

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If you’re in Houston and a celiac, check out Crave!  Where do you get your gluten-free baked goodies?! Share below!

Experimenting in the Kitchen-Gluten Free Nutella Cookies

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I am finally home for Spring Break, and since arriving back in New York on Friday, have basically been inhaling gluten-free carbohydrates non-stop.  I’m secretly hoping that because I don’t eat too many carbs at school (I’m all about balance), this carbo-loading consisting of gluten-free lasagna, brownies, and homemade garlic bread, will give me the ability to work out nonstop this week and drop a few pounds.  But, I digress…..instead I will share a recipe and tell the story of a cookie recipe I created last night.  Struck with post-dinner dessert cravings, yet a kitchen without any sweets, I swooped in to rescue my family from our unfortunate situation.  The result; cocoa powder cookies with a Nutella frosting.  They were consumed very quickly by my family-thus I took this as a sign that they were even non-celiac approved!

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Nutella Topped Cocoa Powder Cookies (makes about 15-18 cookies)

Ingredients:

2 and 1/4 cups gluten-free all purpose flour

1 cup sugar (I used sugar in the raw)

1 stick of butter, softened

2 tablespoons cocoa powder

2 eggs

1 teaspoon Xanthan gum

3 tablespoons Nutella

Directions

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F

2. In a bowl, combine flour, butter, and eggs and mix until throughly combined.  Mixture should be consistent.

3. Add cocoa powder and Xanthan gum, and continue to combine.  Mixture should be sticky, but solid.

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4. Spoon out about 1 tablespoon of dough, and place on a well greased cookie sheet

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5. Bake for 13-16 minutes

6. In a microwave safe container, melt Nutella for about 20 seconds in a microwave.

7. Once cookies have cooled, spread melted Nutella on top of each!

8. Enjoy!

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It’s Been A While-But Exploring GF Options in Other Countries

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I know, I know- I’ve been terrible with posts for the past two months  Sometimes life gets in the way, and suddenly you have cell biology and organic chem tests within 3 days of each other, or you find yourself planning the largest alumni and undergraduate event on campus and spend about 12 hours in lab researching innate immunity in fruit flies.  But fear not-I am officially back, and don’t plan on going anywhere anytime soon.  I’m going to set small goals for now, and aim for one post per week.  Apparently, you have still been viewing my blog (thank you!), and it’s time to reward your loyalty with a new post!

But first……..

A quick shout-out to Seibel servery, one of our dining halls at Rice University for featuring homemade GLUTEN-FREE Macaroons today.  It has made this long Monday significantly better, especially because I have been craving a dessert besides fruit for a while! And now onto the main content of my post; exploring gluten-free options in other countries.

My mother emailed me pictures of gluten-free products from Italy a few weeks ago. Even though gluten-free products have drastically improved in the United States within the past few years, it was evident that we are still not on par with other countries, especially those in Europe.  Italy, a country that celiacs should fear, makes products that taste significantly better than gluten-free products in the United States.  My personal favorite pasta brand, Le Veneziane, not only tastes like glutened pasta, but comes in a variety of shapes and textures, that for once, don’t make celiacs feel alienated and different from others.  We’ve ordered pasta that comes in shapes such as Fettucce, Annelini and Farfalle.

European countries are much more accommodating to those with celiac disease.  They recognize the disorder as being more than a ‘diet-fad’, and even stock pharmacies with gluten-free products because it is a medical condition.

Something I find incredibly progressive is the fact that all Italian children are screened for celiac disease at age five.  It is a routine test, and I’ve often wondered why it has not been made mandatory here in the United States.  My goal is to one day fight for legislation that will make celiac disease screening mandatory; it is clear that a disease that affects every 1 in 100 people should be tested for, just as we’re tested for diabetes and lyme disease.

Finally, I am going to mention monetary accommodations that are made for those with celiac disease who live in other countries.  Italy provides a stipend of up to $200 a month for those with celiac disease.  Gluten-free foods are often prescribed and covered by plans like Drug Payment Schemes (like in Ireland and the U.K.).  Canada also provides tax deductions for those with celiac disease.

Does this make sense?  I find these actions to be completely valid; celiac disease is a medical condition, and is not one a person can bring upon himself or herself by eating unhealthy or failing to exercise.  It’s a disease embedded within our genetic code and completely out of our control.  With rising food prices, and gluten-free foods already priced much higher than products that contain gluten, it’s becoming harder and harder for us to afford them.  This results in alienation, and can even propel those to return to eating gluten if they are in a bad financial situation.  It is clear that action needs to be taken by politicians, and I hope we can use other countries as an inspiration of a progressive attitude that is taken towards celiac disease.

Staying Healthy While In College & Living with Celiac Disease

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Every college student struggles with the concept of stay healthy, especially during freshmen year.  Thankfully, as a student with celiac disease, a lot of unhealthy options, such as fried foods, pizzas, and decadent desserts are off-limits.  However, with a dining hall that offers unlimited foods, it’s still easy to lose track of what you’re eating.  If you’re like me and have a sucky metabolism (that darn celiac disease made me gain weight instead of lose it), it’s important to keep some track of what you’re eating. Many websites offer programs in which you can track your food and exercise and maintain a healthy college lifestyle.  However, what about us celiacs?  Many of these websites don’t have gluten-free products to track.  A gluten-free cookie has nutrient information that differs greatly from a glutinous cookie.

So naturally, when a website called SlimKicker asked if I wanted to check out their website and nutrient tracker, I was a little skeptical.  I know how hard to it to cater a website to a specific part of the population, especially the gluten-free community.  However, I made an account, and attempted to record my food intake for the day.

You can imagine my surprise then, when I found that SlimKicker does have an incredible amount of gluten-free products to log!!  I was able to correctly put in my food intake and exercise for the day.  As we adjust to the gluten-free diet, it’s important to take note of what we are eating, especially because many gluten-free foods are higher in fat and calories than the glutinous versions.

SlimKicker will definitely be integrated into my college life next semester, and serves as a reminder that we should be thankful enough to be diagnosed with a disease that can be managed simply through a change in diet and healthier lifestyle!

New Year’s Day Dinner and Product Review: Conte’s Gnocchi

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Happy New Year!  I’m preparing to return to Rice this weekend, and have made sure to take advantage of the gluten-free goodies in my kitchen!  I’m not a fan of New Year’s Resolutions, but I did write up a bucket list for my next semester at Rice.  Besides activities like rock climbing and hiking, I also want to increase my role as an advocate for celiac disease!  I’m still brainstorming ways to do so, but something I would love to do is travel to other colleges and celiac disease events and speak about my experiences with the disease.

I also wanted to share my New Year’s Day dinner menu with you.  For our dinner, we prepared a ham (per my sister’s request), as well as gluten-free gnocchi to celebrate my half-Italian heritage.  We purchased Conte’s Pasta Gluten-free Gnocchi, which came frozen.  All we had to do was boil them for a few minutes and then toss with tomato sauce.  The gnocchi had a very smooth texture and did not fall apart while cooking.  They tasted fantastic as well!  I am a huge fan of Conte’s gluten-free pasta products, as they produce many shapes and varieties that are usually difficult to find gluten-free (such as gnocchi, ravioli and pierogies).  The brand is also very accessible, as we can usually find it in our nearby Italian grocery store.

P1070693We cooked a Boar’s Head Ham as well.  Boar’s Head labels their products if they are gluten-free; this is something of great importance because often times, deli meats can have hidden sources of gluten.  I was also happy to find out that most of their products are gluten-free; a visit to their websites can confirm this.  It was a fairly large ham, and I am pretty sure it is all I have been eating since Tuesday (every meal has had some ham component, including breakfast).  I think we may finally finish it up tomorrow…..

P1070691I also wanted to share with you my dessert ‘masterpiece’; I took a scoop of ice cream and topped it with whipped cream, strawberries and a Rollo.  I’ve named it ‘Strawberry Mountain!’  It was the perfect way to start off the New Year!  Did you do anything special for New Year’s Eve or Day that was gluten-free?!  Let me know by commenting!

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My Christmas Has Put Me In A Gluten-Free Food Coma

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Hope that your holiday season has been full of gluten-free deliciousness!  Our family celebrated Christmas, and I’m pretty sure that my family and I ate for about 36 consecutive hours.  Our Christmas Eve dinner consisted of lobster, but it was our meal on Christmas Day that stole the show.  Check out some pictures below! Keep in mind that there were only four of us!!

full table foodOur menu consisted of the following:

ravioliWe started off the night with  Conte’s Ravioli.  You can find these in many health food stores and in many regular supermarkets today.  We cooked them and then sauteed them in a butter and poppy seed sauce. These ravioli were delicious, and were stuffed with a really good ricotta cheese.  These complemented our second pasta dish, lasagna, perfectly.

lasagnaWe made a meatless lasagna using Tinkyada lasagna noodles.  These are made from rice and thankfully, don’t break easily, making them very easy to work with.  Check out my lasagna recipe here!

turkey

gravyWe continued with a SIXTEEN-POUND turkey stuffed with gluten-free stuffing.  Here’s a link to my super-simple stuffing recipe!  My dad whipped up some gluten-free gravy; he uses corn starch instead of wheat flour to thicken it up.  It works really well!

potatoesMy sister also made some delicious mashed potatoes.  Note the salad hiding in the corner, as we attempted to add some green veggies to our meal!

For dessert I prepared a white cake with chocolate frosting using Duncan Hines Chocolate Frosting (labeled gluten-free) and Namaste Foods White Cake Mix.  I’ll post a product review of the cake mix soon!

cakeWhat gluten-free treats did you prepare for the holiday season?!  Let me know by commenting below!

Recipe Post: Homemade Single Serving Nachos!

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One of my sister’s favorite meals to make at home is nachos!  As the 14 year-old sibling of a college student with celiac, she’s always eager to make sure the meals we eat at home are both delicious and gluten-free.  However, if you’re hiding away in your small college apartment or dormitory, this meal is still super easy to make, and can be carefully portioned out for a single meal!

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Ingredients:

3 tablespoons salsa

1 serving of gluten-free tortilla/corn chips

1 ounce of grated or shredded cheddar cheese (make sure the cheese is gluten-free; I used Cracker Barrel sharp cheddar)

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Directions:

1) Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F

2) Cover a baking sheet with aluminum foil and lay out your tortilla chips.  You can choose to spread the chips out, or pile them onto of one another.

3) Spread your salsa over the tortilla chips

4) Sprinkle your grated cheese over the tortilla chips

5) Bake for approximately 7 minutes, or until the cheese is melted.

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I’ve found this recipe to be perfect for cold weather!  The melted cheese stays gooey and warm, and it’s the perfect “finger-food” dish to use as a gluten-free appetizer at a holiday party (especially if you don’t want to let anyone know that your meal is gluten-free)!

What do you add to your nachos to make them unique and gluten-free? Comment below and let me know!

Recipe Post: I Get By With A Little Help From My Friends- Praline Recipe

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One of the ultimate study breaks during finals week comes in the form of baking.  My friend Carissa is an amazing (gluten-filled & gluten-free) baker, and shared with me a holiday recipe commonplace in her household; pralines.  Pralines are naturally gluten-free (something I did not know), and are made from buttermilk, sugar, vanilla and, of course, pecans.  Carissa took control of this recipe, and I served as the official stirrer and taste tester.  The recipe is easy to follow, and not too difficult to make if everything is timed correctly.  The pecans must be stirred into the sugar and buttermilk mixture, and poured onto wax paper before it is able to solidify.  Make sure that when you drop the mixture onto the wax paper, you make sure each piece receives an even combination of pecans and sugar!

Here’s the link to the recipe we used!

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The pralines were not only delicious, but quick and easy to make.  They’ll serve as yummy gluten-free gifts during the holidays, especially if you are short on time!

A Quick Product Review: Immaculate Baking Co. Gluten-Free Cookie Dough

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photo (15)My friend Carissa bought me this cookie dough to try after her visit to Target last week.  I had neither heard of Immaculate Baking Co., nor knew that they had a line of gluten-free products.  I was further surprised by the fact that she picked this up from the freezer section of our nearby Houston Target.  This continues to prove my point that shopping for gluten-free products is becoming much simpler as awareness is spread about the disease. We immediately decided to sample the cookie dough, and headed to our dorm’s kitchen.

The Fudge Brownie Cookie Dough was neatly shaped into twelve breakable squares; this kept us from baking and eating all the cookies at the same time.  The cookie dough required a bake time of about 15-17 minutes because it had been frozen; the package stated this as well.  If the dough is not frozen, they only have to bake about twelve minutes.

The cookies tasted delicious!  The dough was not only super easy to bake with (essential if you’re pressed for time during finals week) but super-moist and yummy as well.  I really appreciated the fact that I could portion them out and save them for random times during the week.

Looking forward to some more posts; currently, I’m in the middle of final week and find my days full of organic chem.  Unfortunately, I’ve had little time to post, but will be home in about a week!  Expect some more posts soon-I’ll have time to play around in my own kitchen and experiment as well!

What products have you tried from Immaculate Baking Co.?  How do you handle finals week as a gluten-free college student?!  Comment below and let me know!

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Product Review- feel good foods Vegetable Egg Rolls

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Though I’ve returned to Rice University, I am still recovering from the obnoxiously large amount of gluten-free food I consumed over Thanksgiving break.  While my family and I prepared a lot of homemade gluten-free recipes, the break also presented the perfect opportunity to sample some gluten-free prepared foods from our local DiCicco’s Food Market, located in Brewster, New York.  DiCicco’s has a marvelous gluten-free selection, often featuring new brands of gluten-free foods.  My mother and I discovered feel good foods Vegetable Egg Rolls during our last trip, and I was eager to try them before I left for Rice

At first, I was a bit skeptical about these egg rolls; I was worried that because the dough did not contain gluten, it would break open easily, and quickly pictured the filling leaking out as it baked.  Much to my surprise, however, the dough remained, for the most part, in tact.

Our gluten-free chef enjoyed them too!

The egg rolls were incredible; they definitely didn’t taste gluten-free.  I’m still amazed by the consistency of the dough-it’s obvious that feel good foods had definitely put a lot of thought into making sure these gluten-free egg rolls tasted like they had just arrived from a local Chinese restaurant.

As celiacs, we obviously are aware of the dangers of eating at Chinese restaurants.  We’re severely restricted not only by issues of cross contamination in restaurants, but by hidden sources of gluten as well.  Most generic brands of soy sauce contain wheat; thus, our options are often limited to plain, steamed white rice.  I was overjoyed that I could enjoy some Chinese favorites at home, gluten-free!  

Unfortunately, there’s still an unopened box of feel good foods gluten-free dumplings in my freezer back home (though I wouldn’t be surprised if my family has tried them!)  I’m looking forward to trying some more of their products over winter break!

Let me know of your gluten-free Asian finds!

Product Review- Kinnikinnick White Cake Mix

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Given the opportunity to bake in my own kitchen this week, I jumped at the chance to prepare a gluten-free dessert for Thanksgiving.  I decided to take a chance and try a new cake mix (I usually stick with Bob’s Red Mill or Betty Crocker GF mixes, both of which are fantastic), choosing to try Kinnikinnick White Cake Mix instead.   The mix required 4 eggs, 3/4 of a cup of water, and 3/4 of a cup of vegetable oil.  In true Italian fashion, I substituted vegetable oil with olive oil (trust me, it worked!), and began to prepare the cake.

The box said to keep the mix a little lumpy, and at first, I was surprised by the fluidity of the batter; it seemed a little too oily. However, I placed my faith in Kinnikinnick, and poured the batter into the cake pan.

The box said to cook the cake for twenty minutes (at 350 degrees); the cake was cooked when you could press down on the cake and it would “spring back up” into place.

I ended up cooking my cake for approximately 30-35 minutes; prior to that, the batter was not cooked and seemed oily.  This may be due to our old oven; however, make sure to keep an eye on the cake as it is baking in order to prevent it from being overcooked or undercooked.

Once done, I let the cake cool, and marveled at the texture and feel of the cake.  The cake slid easily out of the pan, and didn’t break in typical “gluten-free style”.  It looked and felt like a real cake.

Once cooled, I began frosting the cake.  I chose a Duncan Hines Buttercream Frosting, which are now also labeled gluten-free!!! This was quite the surprise, because only Betty Crocker frosting tubs had been labeled gluten-free before I left for school this past August.

I dyed the frosting blue (Rice’s colors!) and added a Rice Owl and Rice “R” to show my school pride. Check out the finished results!  The cake was delicious, and is one of our favorite gluten-free white cake mixes by far.  My mother commented that she hadn’t tasted gluten-free cake this good in a while. Definitely give some of Kinnikinnick’s mixes a try-they are easy to bake with and taste great!

What gluten-free desserts have you made recently?  What are some of your favorite brands of gluten-free dessert mixes?!

A Very Happy Gluten-Free Thanksgiving

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Hope your gluten-free thanksgiving was a lovely one!  I returned to upstate New York on Wednesday, and while attempting to adjust to the cold weather, have been practically feasting on gluten-free foods since then.  We visited with family friends for thanksgiving, who, unfortunately, did not prepare a gluten-free meal.  My mother, however, cooked up a gluten-free thanksgiving that I brought along yesterday in a cute little aluminum foil pan; it reminded me of a homemade gluten-free TV dinner (the best part is that we’re having a second thanksgiving dinner tonight, since my mother cooked up a huge turkey for me yesterday). We used our homemade gluten-free bread for stuffing (check out my previous stuffing recipe post here), and my sister made some delicious mashed potatoes.  I’ll post a gravy recipe soon; that’s one of the hardest gluten-free thanksgiving foods to prepare.

Tip for Celiacs on Thanksgiving:

1. Make sure to verify that your turkey is gluten-free!  In the past, many companies have used gluten as an ingredient in “basted turkeys”, which often contain “glutenized” broths.  There are many brands of turkeys today that are labeled gluten-free, just make sure to double check the ingredients are call the company a few days in advance in order to ensure that you have a safe thanksgiving.  Furthermore…..

2. Do not stuff your gluten-free turkey with stuffing made from wheat bread!  This will contaminate the whole turkey.  Prepare a gluten-free stuffing instead!  Chances are, your guests won’t know that the meal is gluten-free; it’s your choice if you want to tell them their meal was gluten-free (something I like to do as they comment how delicious the food is!)

3. Don’t forget to bring a gluten-free dessert if you travel, so that you don’t feel left out.  I went with a white cake, and decorated it with the Rice Owl and Rice “R” (I’ll post a Kinnikinnick Product Review soon).

How was your gluten-free thanksgiving?  Let me know what you did.  Also, share your favorite post-Thanksgiving gluten-free recipes!

 

A Gluten-Free Baking Endeavor and Product Review

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Presented with little to do this last Thursday night, my friend Carissa and I decided to put our gluten-free baking skills to the test and bake up a pan of brownie-layered cookies.  We decided to used the gluten-free cookie and brownie mixes manufactured by King Arthur Flour, and, armed with the proper ingredients, got to work.

The baking process was very simple; the cookie mix blended easily and, once well-mixed, wasn’t too crumbly or too wet.  It was easy to handle, and we mixed in gluten-free fall M&Ms to anticipate (it’s still warm in Houston) the incoming cold weather.

We spread the cookie dough mix into the pan, and prepared the King Arthur Brownie mix to pour on top.  The brownie mix was also very easy to work with, and we proceeded to pour it on top of the cookie dough!

Our masterpiece complete, Carissa and I placed our brownie-cookie pan into the oven and let it bake for about 45 minutes.

I highly recommend either of these gluten-free King Arthur mixes!  The mixes were not only easy to work with and crumble-free (we celiacs know the stresses of an over-crumbly brownie or cookie), but tasted fantastic as well!  Living in a dorm only verifies this statement; after giving samples to my non-celiac friends, I was told that the baked goods had a better consistency than those made with gluten.  Both the cookie and brownie parts were soft and moist.  I’m beyond impressed with the quality of gluten-free mixes in stores currently; we’re at the point where even those WITHOUT celiac disease can enjoy gluten-free desserts as much as they do those that contain gluten.

Check out some more photos and tell me what your favorite gluten-free treats are!

Restaurant Review: Sweet Paris Creperie & Cafe

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It isn’t too often that a person with celiac disease encounters the opportunity to eat a gluten-free crepe outside of the home.  There are countless online recipes for homemade crepes, but as a college student, locating a kitchen, securing proper utensils and cookware (safe from gluten contamination) and finding time in our busy schedules, often keeps us from experimenting in the kitchen when we aren’t at home.  Thus, you can imagine my excitement when I found Sweet Paris Creperie & Cafe in Houston, about a 4 minute drive from my dormitory.  Located on Rice Boulevard in Rice Village (right behind Rice University), Sweet Paris offers an array of sweet and savory gluten-free crepes.  It is a fairly new restaurant, and I took advantage of the opportunity to try it last Saturday for dinner.  I was immediately drawn to the savory Nordic Crepe, stuffed with smoked salmon, sour cream, dill and scallions, and ordered it right away.

The crepe was delicious!  The gluten-free crepe batter was much darker than the gluten version; next time I go back, I plan on asking what types of flours they use in the gluten-free batter.  I was surprised and overjoyed to find that the crepe was not flaky and didn’t break when I cut into it; instead, it was quite fluffy and soft.  I highly recommend trying Sweet Paris soon; it’s a great restaurant and I’m glad to see that more Houston restaurants are beginning to offer numerous gluten-free options.

I’m tempted to go back and try a sweet crepe soon!

Doesn’t look gluten-free!

Celiac Disease In the News-Discrimination Based on our Diet

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I recently came across an article regarding the feud that occurred between actress (and member of the celiac disease community) Jennifer Esposito and CBS.  The Blue Bloods star collapsed on set because of the disease, and as a result, CBS has written her character out of the tv show because she was “unable to perform the demands of her role”, based on the fact that her doctor had set limits on the number of hours she is available to work.  The actress claimed that CBS has implied that she is not truly ill, though she has been medically diagnosed with celiac disease.

Though we cannot be sure we know the entire truth behind the story, the incident does shed light on an important issue; where else do celiacs face discrimination?

I first encountered discrimination as a celiac the year following my diagnosis, at age 13 (note: I am not claiming that this was discrimination in a hateful way, but based on ignorance and apathy towards my situation).  I was prevented from attending my middle school’s 8th grade, multiple-day trip to Washington D.C. because the administration and organizers of the trip refused to accomodate my gluten-free diet.  I remember being extremely hurt by the situation; I missed out on a memorable trip because of both a disease I could not control, and a group of people that felt it was not necessary to provide accommodations.

This propelled my family and me to look into legal protections under the American Disability Act, which is a “federal civil rights law that gives protections to individuals with disabilities similar to those provided to individuals on the basis of race, color, sex, national origin, age, and religion. It guarantees equal opportunity for individuals with disabilities in public accommodations, employment, transportation, State and local government services, and telecommunications.” taken from (glutenfreern.com).  Probably to your surprise, celiac disease is classified as a disability under this act.  The disease impares a person’s ability to perform many normal, everyday functions to the fullest extent; it was even modified in 2011 to specifically state that diseases related to the immune system were also included.  Think about it; celiac disease is a chronic illness that affects all aspects of the body.  Why should celiacs be deprived of accommodations if it is our own disability?

That spring, my family and I sought to have me classified under the American Disability Act.  It was a difficult task, as we had to go through my school district’s administration (and they were far from eager to spend extra money to accomodate my needs).  Thankfully, the administration cooperated, and I am protected under this act, and thus, must legally be accommodated in any situation.

There is a purpose to this post; as a college student, I HIGHLY recommend that you seek protection under the ADA.  A lot of college students worry about their university’s ability to accomodate the diet.  Many times, students feel as though their school cannot, and as a result, continue to eat gluten and destroy their bodies.  When you’re classified under this act, your university is LEGALLY REQUIRED to provide gluten-free accommodations in the best way possible.  It’s a way to protect your health, minimize your suffering, and make your college experience as positive as possible.  There are numerous online resources that can help you achieve this goal.

How has celiac disease been handled at your school or workplace?  Have you looked at the American Disability Act yourself?