My 100th Post & Online Resources for College Students

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Today is an incredibly special day for College Student with Celiac, as I’ve reached my 100th POST!  I’d like to thank everyone who has helped me get this far in the last two years.  I’m grateful for my family, who has supported my gluten-free diet since I was first diagnosed, the dietitians and doctors who I saw and who have contributed to celiac disease research, my “non-gluten-free” boyfriend, who provides feedback about food from a non-celiac perspective and  takes great pictures, and Rice University, for cultivating an amazing and comfortable gluten-free dining experience! Most importantly, I’d like to thank y’all, my readers.  You have provided me with great insight and shown so much support.  It is my hope that my blog has helped you navigate life with celiac (especially for those in college), and helped you learn to embrace your celiac disease!

I’m also excited to announce that the National Foundation for Celiac Awareness has a section of their website devoted to college! “Going to College Gluten-Free” has a range of resources dedicated to making the transition to college easier for those with celiac disease.  I’ve compiled a summary of some key components so that you can check them out!

College Guides and Articles: Check out TONS of articles, guides and links that cover numerous topics deal with celiac disease in college!

GF In College Tip: This Facebook web campaign has short and sweet tips from real students and celiac disease experts!

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Gluten-Free College Student Toolkit: This toolkit provides numerous tips and information about handling life as a gluten-free college student!  Learn how to register with your school’s Office of Student Disabilities, handling a roommate who is not gluten-free, and stocking your dorm room with the perfect snacks!

There’s also an AWESOME Q&A-style webinar, Tuesday, August 19, at 8:30 p.m. EDT and 5:30 p.m. PDT, featuring live students and graduates who have celiac disease.  Oftentimes, we learn best from those who have experienced something before us, and can provide reflection and counsel!  It’s important to learn from those with celiac disease who have experienced the college life before!  Register here!

You can also enter to win a gluten-free care package from Blue Diamond, who sponsors the Gluten-Free in College Tip Series!  Blue Diamond Nut Thins are perfect for snacking, so enter to win here and see if you’ll be bringing any of their products with you to college this fall!

What do you think of the NFCA’s web resources for college students?  Comment below and let me know!

GLŪT: Gluten Search Website

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As someone with celiac disease, I’m often browsing the internet in an attempt to find out if a product is gluten-free. This method is often difficult; I know I’ve spent a lot of time looking through either a company’s specific website or numerous Google result pages, hoping to find an answer.  Many times, I’ve struggled to find a definite answer, or have found conflicting results.  Othertimes, I’ll have to browse through numerous celiac disease forums.  After wasting a lot of time sifting through useless, or complicated information,, I am forced to call the company and ask a representative if their product is gluten-free.

Recently, however, I discovered an online search engine called GLŪT, which caters specifically to those with celiac disease.  I reached out to Jason, the website’s creator, to find out more about the engine, as well as learn how the idea for it came about.  GLŪT was a result of Jason’s girlfriend’s frustration with American food labeling regulations.  The FDA requires companies to list the eight major allergens, but does not require companies to label a product if it contains gluten.  GLŪT was a way to help solve her frustrations!

GLŪT is essentially a database that possesses the capability to list every single ingredient in numerous types of popular groceries (based off of Jason’s programming skills).  Visit the website and type in a product (try Lucky Charms Cereal or Lay’s Potato Chips).  Hit the ‘check’ button, and a list of the product’s ingredients will show up on the screen.  What makes GLŪT so unique is the fact that the database is programmed to recognize over 150 (and counting) different kinds of ingredients in its database that contain gluten.  The ingredients that contain gluten are boldly listed in an orange-red color.  This makes the hidden sources of gluten easier to identify, and consolidates the search to find out if a product is gluten-free.  The website is super cool and fun to use as well; personally, I was incredibly happy that this website caters specifically to those with celiac disease and those who are gluten-free.

A screenshot from the website! Check out the red-orange text, indicating gluten!

A screenshot from the website! Check out the red-orange text, indicating gluten!

I can see this website being incredibly useful to people who don’t have celiac disease, but have friends or family members who do.  I know that oftentimes, if friends invite me over for dinner, they will go out of their way to research a product’s ingredients.  This search engine would definitely reduce the stress associated with gluten-free cooking (for those who don’t normally cook this way).

When I found out that Jason was ONLY 19, I was even more impressed with this database.  Jason hopes that those with celiac disease can benefit from GLŪT in multiple ways.  He hopes that celiacs will be able to find new foods to eat that they had previously assumed contained gluten, broadening, their food choices.  Jason also wants part of GLŪT’s success to come from the instantaneity of the database; he brought up that oftentimes, people who are gluten-free are forced to deny themselves a food because they are unsure if it contains gluten.  GLŪT aims to help those people say “Yes” more often by providing an easy and fast way of checking to see if a product contains gluten.

Jason is currently campaigning via KickStarter to raise funds for GLŪT that will go towards adding more products to the database and switching over to a larger server if necessary.  Companies that specialize in gluten-free products and donate over $100 to the KickStarter campaign will be showcased as a Founder of GLŪT!  So far, the campaign has raised $128 out of $5,000 dollars, but I have total confidence that this amount can be raised fairly quickly!

Check out GLŪT and let me know what you think by commenting below!  Show this new gluten-free online database some support by following them on Twitter and donating to the KickStarter if you are able to!

 

Celiac 101: “Gluten-Proofing” Your Dorm Room

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Posing for a picture in my dorm room on my first day of freshman year at Rice University!

Posing for a picture in my dorm room on my first day of freshman year at Rice University!

Eating in a dining hall on a college campus can sometimes be a risk for college students with celiac disease. For the first time, neither you nor your family is in complete control of preparing the gluten-free foods you eat.  Even if a school has incredible gluten-free accommodations, there is always the potential for accidental gluten ingestion (this can occur, for example, if you eat something that you assume to be gluten-free because you prepare it without gluten at home). While I HOPE that accidents like that are rare for most gluten-free college students, the risk is still there and, as a result, requires extra vigilance. Thankfully, for a college student with celiac disease, your dorm room is an incredibly safe space; because it’s where you live, you have complete control in ensuring that your dorm room remains ‘gluten-free’. For this post in my Celiac 101 Series, I wanted to focus on ways to ‘gluten-proof’ your dorm room, and provide a list of tips for keeping your dorm room safe. From stocking your drawers with the best gluten-free snacks, to letting your new roommate know about your dietary accommodations, I hope this post helps you create the ultimate safe space!!

1. Gadgets that will help with the Gluten-Free Diet

There a few kitchen appliances that should definitely travel with you to college this semester; certain items are crucial in your to prep your dorm room and create a gluten-free haven. I highly recommend bringing a refrigerator in order to keep extra gluten-free food.  This will be important for any cravings you have during late night studying, and is also valuable for keeping healthier options like your favorite fruits and vegetables (should they be unavailable in your dorm room). Your own refrigerator, rather than the communal fridge on your floor, keeps your food safe, and minimizes the chance that someone will take your food. Personally, I think it’s a good idea to keep the refrigerator in your room specifically gluten-free in order to prevent cross-contamination and mix-ups with other students.

If your school allows it, I also recommend a microwave and refrigerator combo! It’s always a good idea to keep a microwave in your room; in the event that there aren’t viable gluten-free options in your cafeteria one night, you can quickly microwave a frozen meal from companies such as Amy’s Kitchen , Ian’s or Glutenfreeda!  You’ll also want the ability  to microwave a gluten-free pizza if you get an occasional late-night craving for a college staple! As a student with celiac disease, its crucial to have a quick and accessible gluten-free options.  You don’t want to be stuck in a situation where you’re hungry and surrounded only by gluten-containing foods.

It’s also a good idea to bring your own sponges. If there’s a kitchen in your dorm with sponges, you DON’T want to use these; these can contaminate your utensils and dishes if they were once used to wash a plate that had gluten.

My dorm room junior year My single was 100% gluten-free!

My dorm room junior year My single was 100% gluten-free!

 2. Keeping Your Utensils Safe!

Cross-contamination can easily occur if utensils and plates are not cleaned properly, and have previously been used to serve something that contains gluten. As I mentioned before, it’s important to use your own sponge when cleaning your plates and utensils.   There are also several other steps you can take to ensure that you keep your dishware safe from gluten. Keep your utensils and plates tucked away in a drawer, or on a shelf in your own room so that no one mistakenly uses them. Label your cutlery, dishes and any containers you store these items in with the word “Gluten-Free” and your name. You can also order these amazing gluten-free stickers from Gluten Libre! If you have friends who regularly visit your room, explain that these items are for your own use, and offer to keep a set of plastic cutlery in your room for their use!

 3. Opening Gluten-Free Dialogue with Your Roommate

I think one of the most challenging things for a college student with celiac disease is approaching a roommate about his or her disease; I know I would have rather spent time talking about my hobbies rather than my necessary dietary accommodations. However, it’s much easier for a roommate to respect your gluten-free lifestyle if they understand the severity of the disease and the necessity of maintaining the gluten-free diet. When you receive the contact information, don’t feel pressured to talk about your gluten-free diet right away. Talk about interests, and hobbies, via Facebook message or email, and get to know them first. As the semester approaches, explain that you have celiac disease and are required to maintain a gluten-free diet. Explain why you require a gluten-free diet, and explain what happens to you body if you do ingest gluten. Most importantly, talk about cross-contamination, which occurs when gluten-containing food (or something that has touched gluten) comes into contact with a gluten-free food. Explain that because of cross contamination, you like to play it safe; tell them you will be bringing a fridge specifically for gluten-free food, (but don’t forget to offer to share your gluten-free goodies!) and that you need a special set of utensils and plates so that there’s no threat of cross contamination. Let your roommate know that it’s okay for them to have gluten in the dorm room, as long as it stays on their side of the room, or in their own fridge. Thank your roommate for their ability to be so accommodating, and offer to tell them more about the disease over a gluten-free meal once school starts! With increasing awareness of celiac disease throughout the country, there’s a good chance your roommate might have heard of celiac disease before!

4. The Perfect Dorm Snacks!

It’s important to keep your dorm room stocked with various gluten-free products! Several times throughout the semester, depending on your class schedule and extracurricular activities, you may find yourself lacking the time to eat in your dining hall. There’s also a chance that, occasionally, you may not be in the mood for the gluten-free food they are serving in your cafeteria. It’s best to keep a variety of options in your dorm room so you don’t get bored with the food you’re eating, and fall into a routine of eating something that you don’t find appetizing. Check out my recommendations below!

  • KIND Bars
  • Gluten-Free Microwavable Noodles (you can find a variety of brands that are MUCH healthier than your peers’ Ramen!)
  • Gluten-Free Frozen French Bread Pizza from Ian’s (As tempting as it may be, NEVER purchase the gluten-free option from Dominoes; the company states that due to cross-contamination issues, it is unsafe for those with celiac disease).
  • Single-serving Gluten-Free Oatmeal Packets from Bakery on Main
  • Granola and other Gluten-Free Cereals (like Chex)
  • Gluten-Free Bread and Deli Meats
  • Gluten-Free Condiments such as mustard and mayonnaise
    • If you plan on putting condiments on your sandwiches, I recommend purchasing your own containers and storing them in your room. Oftentimes, cross contamination can occur from a knife that has spread a condiment on a slice of wheat bread is repeatedly dipped into the condiment’s container.

How do you keep your dorm room gluten-free? Comment below and let me know!

Hanging out on the 5th Floor of my dorm-it’s also a sun deck overlooking Houston!

 

 

Celiac 101: Picking the Right School

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Welcome to Rice University, my home for the last three years!

Every high school senior, as well as every college student, is aware of the difficulty in choosing a college or university to attend.  A student must take into account factors like academic rigor, opportunities for extracurricular activities, quality of life, and, most importantly, overall ‘fit’.  For college-bound celiacs, however, there are many more factors that influence this decision.  More important questions must be answered; can the university’s dining services safely accommodate a student’s gluten free needs? Will a student be able to find support and resources on or around campus? I had many questions similar to these when I entered Rice University three years ago.  At the time, however, I did not have access to either resources or an internet community where I could consult with others who had been through similar experiences.

To help students who are getting ready for college, those who are currently college students, and the parents of college students with celiac disease, I created a monthlong series of posts titled Celiac 101: Maintaining the Gluten-Free Diet.  My first official post in the Celiac 101 series includes a list of factors that I think are important to take into consideration when choosing a university to attend.  Check this list out below, and let me know what you think!

1. An Accommodating & Accessible Dining Services

Why is this important: An accessible and accommodating dining services is crucial to a celiac’s success in maintaining the gluten-free diet throughout college.  You want to find a school who’s Dining Services leaders are accessible, easy to talk to, and well aware of the importance of maintaining a gluten-free diet.  Because dining hall chefs are usually busy, an accessible Dining Services liaison is critical in the event that a mistake is made in the kitchen, or you need some aspect of your gluten-free meal altered.  You want you school’s Dining Services to be able to handle any situation quickly and carefully.  Furthermore, you want your Dining Services to be exited to work with you! As soon as I committed to Rice University, I emailed the Executive Chef at my school, Johnny Curet, about my gluten-free situation.  His response was fantastic; right away, I was told that the chefs would be able to cater to my dietary needs, and emphasized that the chefs were always willing to talk to students with dietary restrictions.  For the last two summers, I’ve even worked as an intern for Rice Housing & Dining.

 

2. A Certified Dietitian on Staff at Your University

Why is this important: The opportunity to work with a certified dietitian on staff at your university definitely a factor that can significantly improve your gluten-free experience.  Many dietitians on campus are not only familiar with, but aware of the strict adherence necessary for a student with celiac disease. Furthermore, dietitians can help facilitate meetings with dining services.  An on-campus dietitian also introduces an element of support; it’s relieving to know that there a person to talk to if a student is struggling with the gluten-free diet. Previously, I had worked with Rice’s dietitian on several occasions. Though I had little trouble speaking with the chefs, I worked with my school’s dietitian to help increase awareness of celiac disease across campus, through helping to modify the student-held position of ‘food representative’ to include helping those with food allergies and intolerances.

 

3. Educated Chefs, Who are Aware of Cross-Contamination Issues

Why is this important: A successful gluten-free dining experience at college is very dependent on the chefs and kitchen staff at your school.  Your campus chefs should not only be well versed in the gluten-free diet, but also aware of cross-contamination issues, which occur when something that is gluten-free comes into contact with something that contain, or has previously touched gluten (for example, using the same spoon to stir both gluten-free and regular pasta).  As soon as you begin your studies at your university, take time to meet with the chefs who will be preparing your food!  If you make the effort to get to know them, as well as explain to them why you require the gluten-free diet (as well as the implications of contaminated food), there’s a good chance the chefs will be more willing to work with you and your diet!  I’m incredibly grateful for several of the chefs at Rice University; Chef Ed, Chef Telly, and Chef Roger were incredibly accommodating and worked hard to make sure that there was always a delicious gluten-free option in my dining hall (Chef Roger once made an entire gluten-free cake for me, from scratch, and Chef Telly made me delicious gluten-free M&M cookies as a surprise one day!)!

 

The chefs at Rice are always surprising me with freshly baked gluten-free cookies!

The chefs at Rice are always surprising me with freshly baked gluten-free cookies!

4. Healthy Gluten-Free Food

Why is this important: While there are delicious gluten-free options in stores and online, many of these gluten-free breads, cookies, and snacks can be high in calories and fat.  It is not uncommon for the typical freshman to experience the Freshman 15, and if a gluten-free student is limited to certain, unhealthy foods, this “Freshman 15″ can easily escalate into much more.  A school can make gluten-free accommodations, but it’s important that they choose healthy, and nutritious alternatives to keep you energized and ready for classes and extracurricular activities. A school shouldn’t prepare only gluten-free chicken tenders or pizza; instead, they should seek to incorporate grains like brown rice and quinoa, healthy sources of protein, and vegetables that are free from cross contamination!  The ability of your university to provide these foods is essential to your health.  Since celiac disease is an autoimmune disorder, there exists a propensity to develop another autoimmune disorder.  Since many autoimmune disorders can be triggered or worsened by an unhealthy diet, its important to make sure you are nourishing your body with wholesome and healthy gluten-free foods!  Don’t forget the occasional gluten-free treat though!

5. Variety of options

Why is this important: I think one of the biggest reasons why I’ve been able to maintain the gluten-free diet for so long is the variety of options available at my school.  Over the last two years, the chef in my dining hall has labeled which options on the meal line contain certain allergens (including gluten).  Since approximately 90% of food in the Rice University dining hall are prepared from scratch, the chefs have a lot of freedom in how they choose to prepare the meals.  As a result, many chefs have begun to experiment; for example, some have started using ingredients from our school’s weekly farmers market.  As a result, I have a variety of gluten-free foods to choose from each day.  I’m not restricted to eating the same, bland foods each day, which has benefitted both my health and mental state.  I don’t feel restricted, and as a result, stay healthier, happier and gluten-free.  Most recently, the chef at my dining hall has started using gluten-free soy sauce, rice noodles and rice flour; as a result, I’m able to eat the Asian meals he occasionally prepares, such as fried rice, orange chicken, and stir-fried vegetables.

Did you take any of these factors into account when selecting your college to attend? If you’re a prospective college student, will you take these into an account as you look at schools?  Let me know what YOU look for in a school by commenting below! 

Preparing for Orientation week as an advisor!  I'm always happy to meet incoming gluten-free students!

Preparing for Orientation week as an advisor! I’m always happy to meet incoming gluten-free students!

 

Celiac 101 Series: Maintaining the Gluten-Free Diet in College

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Hanging out in my dorm’s quad after classes at Rice University!

The end of July marks a serious time of transition for college students throughout the country.  As July comes to a close, college students begin to realize that the end of summer is near; within the next month, we’ll be heading back to our dorm rooms and apartments, where we’ll begin our studies and continue our extracurricular activities and responsibilities.  For college students with celiac disease, however, there is an even greater challenge.  For the first time, we’re on our own, and, if we live on campus, also lose control over what we eat and how our food is prepared.  In a college environment, the chances of accidentally ingesting gluten increase.  College students also face social isolation, as they have to explain to their friends why they cannot drink a beer, or grab a slice of late-night pizza. When I entered Rice University three years ago, I felt isolated and alone.  It took a while before I found other people at my school and in the Houston area who were gluten-free.

With the school year approaching, I wanted to announce my monthlong series of posts, titled “Celiac 101: Maintaining the Gluten-Free Diet in College.”  Throughout August, I plan on releasing one post each week that is relevant to celiac disease and the college experience.  Just like an introductory or 101 college course, Celiac 101 is going to provide you with the basics and information needed to prepare you or your child for their college experience! My goal is to make sure no student, whether a freshman or a senior, has to navigate the gluten-free diet in college alone. I want to provide support and empowerment for those who feel isolated.

What type of content do I plan on posting?  My aim is to provide a series of tips and tricks about surviving college gluten-free, with the hope that every college student can embrace celiac disease.  Each post will provide advice about a different topic, and I plan on covering a range of topics, such “gluten-proofing” your dorm room, and speaking to your school’s dining services about your dietary needs!

Let’s prep for a successful gluten-free year as a celiac in college together!  Stay tuned for more posts!  

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Cheering for the Rice Football team during sophomore year!

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Ready to go back to Rice University!

Product Review: Sammi’s Stuff Latta Java Coffee Cake

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photo 2 (6)   Throughout the last few years, an increased awareness of celiac disease has led to a tremendous increase in the number of gluten-free products at supermarkets and health food stores.  The celiac disease community has seen a rise in quality gluten-free products from national chains, some of which are solely gluten-free companies, and others that are from companies like Betty Crocker and General Mills.  With such high quality products available at almost every supermarket, it becomes easy to forget that smaller, gluten-free companies also exist!  When I was first diagnosed with celiac disease, most of the gluten-free food I bought came from these local companies; many times, the owners and chefs of these companies had children or spouses with celiac disease, and were motivated by the desire to make the lives of those with celiac disease a bit easier. You can imagine my excitement, then, when I stumbled upon a stand showcasing products by Sammi’s Stuff, while shopping at Adams Fairacre Farms in Newburgh, New York.  Sammi’s Stuff is a line of gluten-free products available in the Greater Boston area and the Hudson Valley, New York.  Faced with the choice of selecting a baked good to bring home, I grabbed their Latta Java Coffee Cake without much hesitation; as a veteran celiac, coffee cake is something that I haven’t yet seen prepared gluten-free. I headed over to Starbucks for a delicious cup of coffee to compliment the cake, and dug in. photo 1 (8) My favorite thing about the cake was its consistency!  It was moist, and unlike many gluten-free cakes, was light and didn’t break apart at the touch!  The crumbles on top were sweet, and complemented the cinnamon flavor of the cake particularly well.  I really appreciated the natural ingredients used in the coffee cake.  There were no preservatives, and this coffee cake tasted and looked like it belonged in a small, gluten-filled bakery. I’m excited to see what else this company has to offer! Check out some more pictures below! photo 3 (5)

photo 4 (4) Have you tried Sammi’s Stuff?  If not, what’s your favorite gluten-free local company?  Comment below and let me know!

Product Review: KIND Snacks Part II

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Last week I posted a review of some delicious products from KIND, the brand’s STRONG & KIND bars and Raspberry Granola Clusters.  This week, I wanted to showcase two more varieties of KIND’s bars; these are part of KIND’s Nuts & Spices line, and each had a sweet, rich flavor I really enjoyed!

KIND Nuts & Spices

Caramel Almond and Sea Salt

The flavorful combination of caramel and sea salt is unexpectedly delicious; who would think that two strongly contrasting flavors combine so well together?  I really liked the initial taste of the sweet caramel, followed by the ruggedness of the sea salt!  The drier taste of the almonds brings these flavors together photo 3 (4)

Dark Chocolate Mocha Almond

Though I LOVE chocolate, I often fear that gluten-free, chocolatey bars will be too sweet to enjoy.   However, i loved the rich taste of the dark chocolate in this bar; it was paired well with the almond, and the flavors were highlighted by the sweet honey!  The bar only has 5 grams of sugar as well, which minimizes the sweetness, but establishes a decadent flavor.  

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Have you tried either of these KIND bars?  Are you a fan? Comment below and let me know!

 

Recipe: Gluten-Free Quinoa Stuffed Tomatoes

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Summer is one of my favorite times of the year, as it means I’m able to cook some of my own meals, rather than eat at Rice’s dining halls.  I make sure to take advantage of the fresh summer produce available, and wanted to share one of my favorite summertime recipes, Gluten-Free Quinoa Stuffed Tomatoes.  Quinoa is a gluten-free superfood, and I love the cheesy consistency of the quinoa, mixed with the tenderness of the tomatoes!  Check out the recipe below!

Ingredients (Serves 4):

4 Beefsteak Tomatoes, firm

4 cups of quinoa cooked (1 cup uncooked)

4 ounces mozzarella cheese

½ cup grated parmesan cheese

¼ cup grated parmesan cheese (leave separate)

½ cup tomato sauce

Salt, to taste

Pepper, to taste

Directions:

1. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F.

2. Prepare quinoa according to directions on packaging.

3. Cut 4 ounces of mozzarella cheese into small cubes.

4. Add mozzarella, tomato sauce, ½ cup parmesan cheese, salt and pepper to the quinoa. The key to this step is to make sure that the quinoa is still hot, as this allows the cheese to begin to melt before baking.  Mix well.

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5. Cut the tops off of the beefsteak tomatoes, and gently scoop out the inside of the tomato with a spoon.  Place tomatoes in a baking dish.

6. Evenly distribute the quinoa into each of the four tomatoes.

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7. Sprinkle each beefsteak tomato with the remaining ¼ of parmesan cheese.

8. Bake for approximately 45 minutes, or until the tomatoes are tender.

9. Enjoy!

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What did you think of this recipe? Do you have any stuffed tomato recipes?  Comment below and let me know!

Product Review: KIND Snacks Part I

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The last three years of my college experience have gone by incredibly quickly, and have been filled with lots of studying and many extracurricular activities.  Throughout the year, I’m not only busy with classes, but also spend a great deal of time updating my blog, hanging out with friends, and managing Rice University’s undergraduate pub!  I’m often in meetings and at the library until midnight, and try as hard as possible to get at least eight hours of sleep each night.  As a result of my need for sleep, I’ll sometimes forgo breakfast in my dining hall, and opt for quick snacks instead.  KIND bars have been my go-to breakfast or snack over the last year, not only because they are easy to travel with, but because they’re all natural, non-GMO, and full of healthy proteins like nuts and seeds.  My personal favorite is the Dark Chocolate Cherry Cashew bar, but recently, KIND reached out to me, and asked if I’d be willing to review some of their other products!  I was traveling to Spain for my archaeological dig when they reached out, and when I returned home this week, had a ton of samples waiting to be tried!  I brought some KIND bars to Spain with me, but had run out of them early on in the trip, and was eager to try these new products!

The KIND company began in 2004, with eight types of bars available.  I was diagnosed with celiac disease in 2006, and these bars were definitely some of the first ones I ate.  Since then, KIND has expanded greatly, and they now offer 22 flavors of bars, as well as granolas and grain clusters.  Recently, KIND has been eager to reach out to college campuses as well, and I’ve seen many KIND student ambassadors handing out their bars during finals week!  KIND promotes a healthier alternative to the typical ‘college snack foods’ (many of which contain gluten), and I was happy to try out these products and bring them to Rice University with me for my senior year!

KIND Products: STRONG & KIND Bars

I was excited to try the STRONG & KIND Bars because previously, I had never sampled any of KIND’s savory products.  These bars each packed a ton of flavor, and had varying levels of spice!  Each had about 230 calories, 10 grams of protein, and would definitely make a delicious snack in-between afternoon classes!

Hickory Smoked: The Hickory Smoked bar had a bold, smoky flavor that merged well with the onion and garlic powders added to the bar!

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Roasted Jalapeño: This bar had a bold, spicy, jalapeño flavor that I loved.  If you LOVE spice, you should definitely try this bar, but it can be a bit too overwhelming if you don’t have a high spice tolerance.

Thai Sweet Chili: The Thai Sweet Chili bar is a great combination of sweet and tangy.  The sweet flavors stuck out really well in the beginning, and the spicy chili taste quickly followed.

Honey Smoked BBQ: I’ve been living in Texas for the last three years, and I’ve definitely learned to appreciate BBQ during my time here.  I really enjoyed the BBQ flavor of this bar, which was complemented by the sweet taste of honey!

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Honey Mustard: The honey mustard bar reminded me of honey-mustard pretzels and once again, had a good balance of spicy and sweet!!

I’m surprised so much flavor could be packed into protein bars, but encourage you to give these a try if you haven’t yet!

KIND Products: Healthy Grains Clusters

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Raspberry Clusters with Chia Seeds: These clusters are made from grains like gluten-free oats, quinoa, amaranth, millet, and buckwheat.  These are what many call ‘super grains’, as they provide numerous nutrients, and help foster a healthy diet!  The chia seeds provide a lot of fiber as well, and these clusters make for a filling breakfast!  KIND lists recommends three different ways to eat the clusters on the bag; you can eat them plain, put them in yogurt, or eat them with milk!  I decided to try them plain, in order to see how they tasted.  The clusters were great; they had just a slight sweet taste, and I really enjoyed the added dried raspberries.  I also enjoyed the whole grain taste of the clusters, and think they’ll go really well in yogurt!

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If you can’t tell, I’m a big fan of KIND’s products, not only due to their taste, but because they provide a nutritious alternative to the typical college staples. Have you tried any KIND products?  Which ones?  Comment below and let me know!!!

Celiac Disease & Archaeology: Merging the Biological Sciences with Anthropology

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In case you didn’t know, I’ve spent the last three weeks on the island of Menorca, in the Mediterranean, participating in an archaeological dig! I’ve just returned home and am eager to continue blogging!

As I spent hours excavating ancient Roman bones in the city’s necropoli, I began to wonder if any Ancient Romans had struggled with celiac disease.  Though the disease was not properly identified until the 1950’s, I wondered if any of these ancient peoples had suffered from similar symptoms, or tried to modify their diets in order to feel better.  When I returned home that evening, I googled ‘Celiac Disease and Ancient Rome’ out of curiosity, and was surprised by the results!  I found a research paper titled “Palaeodiet reconstruction in a woman with probable celiac disease: A stable isotope analysis of bone remains from the archaeological site of Cosa”, written by primary author Dr. Gabriele Scorrano and his team from the University of Rome Tor Vergata.  This article was recently published in the July issue of the American Journal of Physical Anthropology.  You’ll need special membership or permission to access this research paper, but you can read an article summarizing the paper on Nature.com

Personally, I’m intrigued by the intersection of the biological sciences and anthropology and archaeology, which is part of the reason I did an archaeological dig!  As a student interested in the medical field, I really enjoy the ability to think through different lenses, and truly believe that to succeed in any profession, you need to possess the ability to think in different ways.  Studying both biochemistry and osteology has opened my mind to different modes of thinking, which I think will definitely help me as a doctor! Studying osteology not only allows me to analyze the pathologies present in the bones, but also allows me to analyze the lifestyles and culture of a group of people; in the case of celiac, a person’s lifestyle and diet greatly influences the progression of the disease!

Essentially, the paper detailed the research conducted on a set of bones from a relatively wealthy Roman woman whom researchers believed had celiac disease.  Bones uncovered from the Cosa archaeological site on the Tuscan Coast of Italy were subject to isotopic analysis.  Scientists discovered that this young woman was between 18-20 years old, yet showed signs of severe malnutrition and osteoporosis.  Bones provide numerous clues about pathologies, and osteologists, besides determining the sex and age of a skeleton, can readily identify signs of malnutrition and osteoporosis based on certain features of a bone.  Typically, a person this young who suffered from malnutrition would be expected to come from a very poor family with reduced access to food; however, the tomb the young woman was buried in also had gold and bronze jewelry, indicating that she came from a wealthier class.  The woman was also incredibly small (about four feet and seven inches).  The three symptoms mentioned previously are typical of celiac disease, and researchers went farther in order to look at the surrounding cultural and economic factors.  This area of the Tuscan Coast during this time (1st-2nd centuries C.E) relied highly on the sale of grain and wheat, and most of the population had a diet based heavily on grains.  Carbon and nitrogen samples of this woman, when compared to samples of others in the population, showed she had much higher levels of these two elements in her bones.  Based on similar levels in other populations that incorporated more meats into their diets, it’s clear that this woman may have eaten more meats and fish compared to her city’s inhabitants.  DNA analysis of her bones also indicated that this woman possessed one of the gene variants for celiac disease!

What do these increased carbon and nitrogen levels mean?  Anthropologists believed that this woman may have tried to alter her diet in an attempt to eradicate the symptoms of celiac disease.  This is similar to many people today, who may be unaware that they have celiac disease, but notice that when they eliminate certain foods, they feel much healthier.  It’s almost certain that she was unaware that she had celiac disease, but reasoned that some type of food was making her sick.

I was very intrigued by this article, as both biochemical and anthropological analyses were made in order to make the claim that this young woman may have not only suffered from celiac disease, but made efforts to change her diet as well.  It took biological and cultural research to make these conclusions, and really displayed the importance of making analyzes from different contextual sources.

What did you think of these findings?  Comment below and let me know!

A picture of a femur I uncovered during my archaeological excavation

A picture of a femur I uncovered during my archaeological excavation

 

New Post on Living Without Magazine’s My Life with Food Allergies!

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If you have some time, check out this article I wrote for Living Without Magazine‘s My Life With Food Allergies website.  It’s about traveling in Spain and Europe and managing the gluten-free diet!  I’ve just returned from a three week archaeological dig in Menorca, Spain, and was eager to share my experiences, as well as tips for navigating the gluten-free diet abroad!  Enjoy!

Get to Know Alice of Gluten Free Allies!

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As I’ve mentioned before, I really enjoy interacting with others in the gluten-free community, especially those who are close to my age.  Recently, I received an email from Alice of the website Gluten Free Allies, who was diagnosed with celiac disease during her first week of college!  I love Alice’s blog because it has the perfect combination of knowledge about the disease, anecdotes and product reviews and recommendations!  Alice and I began to brainstorm about ways we could spread awareness of celiac disease together, and decided that we each would come up with some questions that we could answer and feature on our blogs!  I’m looking forward to collaborating more with Alice in the future!  Make sure to check out her blog, and enjoy the answers to her questions below!

1. Aside from gluten, how has your diet changed since you were diagnosed with celiac disease?

For around seven or eight years pre-celiac and even two years post-diagnosis, I was a staunch vegetarian and subsisted on a lot of “whole grain” gluten, fruits and vegetables and low fat dairy.  Aside from an entirely beans, rice and lentils phase in college, since going gluten free I’ve gradually been making the shift to a more “real food” diet, which I attribute to reading Nourishing Traditions over the holidays one year.  It started with eating full fat dairy, then I started eating meat regularly (I’d never purchased non pre-cooked meat for myself before January of this year!) and now I’m tinkering around with the grains that I do and don’t eat. It’s taken me a while to break free of the Standard American Diet, but I think it’s been worth it. I’m a much better and more creative cook, I enjoy knowing what goes into my body and this way of eating meshes pretty well with my moral and political beliefs.

2. Current gluten free snack of choice?

It’s summer, so I’ve been opting for frozen treats lately. This sometimes means frozen yogurt or gelato, but my real summer indulgence is frozen muffins, which I swear are just as delicious as any other frozen treat. My recent recipe of choice has been amazing gluten free (and paleo!) chocolate chip zucchini muffins. They’ve been so popular with my housemates that I got an ALL CAPS text message of praise after I’d slipped a muffin into my housemate’s lunch bag. Frozen or fresh, I’m all about muffins these days – portable, delicious, and easy to pack with goodies (I made pumpkin pecan ones that were also a big hit).

3. Who is your greatest gluten free ally / support person?

My mom has been nothing short of amazing in terms of the whole gluten and celiac thing. After being diagnosed, she didn’t miss a beat and quickly developed the best cross contamination radar of anyone I know (myself included). When I’d come home from college for the holidays, she would always have some new recipe up her sleeve and I think she’s more up on the best gluten free brands than I am. I love spending time in the kitchen with her and will get some of her excellent recipes up on the blog some time soon.

I know she thinks I’m a little bit of a nutrition radical (she calls kombucha my “hideous brew”), but she’s been nothing but supportive no matter what I’ve tried. I do think I’m winning her over though…she hasn’t been eating a lot of gluten recently.

4. What is your favorite restaurant to eat out at that not only serves gluten-free options, but makes you feel safe and secure while eating there?

I have two: a higher end entirely gluten free restaurant in Asheville, NC called Posana and the little coffee shop next to my yoga studio in West Philly called Milk and Honey Market .

Dining at Posana is a real treat. Celiacs can have anything on the menu, lots of the ingredients are local, the servers are knowledgeable and polite and I have yet to have a dish or drink that wasn’t exquisite. I’ve only been there a few times (twice for supper and once for breakfast), but I make a point to go every time I’m in the area.

Milk and Honey is a café / mini market with gourmet and local foods. The market is too expensive for the likes of me, but they have gluten free Udis bagels, which are amazing with eggs and cheese after an early morning yoga class. They know what’s up with cross contamination and the coffee is excellent there as well. It’s not the fanciest place out there, but I love that it’s nearby and reliably tasty.

5. What’s your favorite gluten-free dish or dessert to make at home?

Anything involving eggs! Quiches, frittata, egg muffins, fried rice with eggs – I eat probably a dozen eggs a week and never get sick of them. A standard breakfast for me is two over easy eggs over roasted vegetables, rice cakes or gluten free toast with a piece of fruit on the side. Even though quiche, soufflé and frittata seem like they’d be hard dishes to cook, they’re really not! I’ll be posting two egg dish recipes in the next month, both of which are incredibly easy to make but look and sound impressive.

6. What resources did you first use when you were diagnosed with celiac disease?

I sort of fended for myself in the beginning. I didn’t know anyone else who was gluten free when I was diagnosed, so I just poked around on the internet for a bit. I used to read Gluten Free Goddess in the beginning and remember eating whatever kind of gluten free products I could find (that old Schar bread was awful).  I didn’t really know what I was doing, so I messed up a lot in the beginning; I once ate spelt for an entire summer because I didn’t double check someone’s promise that it was gluten free. If I could do that part over again, I would a) not hang onto my vegetarianism so devoutly and b) buy and read more nutrition books and cook books.

7. Is there a moment or particular experience that helped you learn to embrace celiac disease?

I lived in the south of France for a few months and had a dreadful time finding enough to eat. My host parents were not good cooks (though they were lovely people) and gluten free products over there were scare, kind of icky and very expensive. Basically, I ate a lot of rice cakes. At most restaurants, salade niçoise was the only safe bet for me and I hate tuna fish, which meant I was pretty malnourished by the time I got back to the states.

It took that really awful experience for me to take my diet into my own hands. I came back with a better idea of what I needed to eat to be healthy and happy and began to try to better understand the science behind nutrition and celiac disease.  For gluten free newbies or even people who have been gluten free for a long time, I think that is such an important step. Education is really empowering.

8. In one haiku, what is the best piece of advice you would give someone who has just been diagnosed with celiac disease?

fret not. road to health

is paved with fruit & veg. bread-like

snacks shall not be missed.

Mellow Mushroom is a Gluten-Free Must!

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Today, I realized that I’ve been living with celiac disease for over eight yearsand that each year, I learn a plethora of new information about the disease and the gluten-free diet, as well as see a drastic improvement of the quality of gluten-free products and options available.  I also realized how commonplace the gluten-free diet is in my life.  I’ve integrated it so thoroughly into my life that sometimes I’ll remember that not everyone lives this way.

Among these thoughts was a less profound, but equally important one; I also realized that I only eat gluten-free pizza about once or twice a year.  I was incredibly excited, as you can imagine, when Mellow Mushroom, a pizza chain with its roots in Atlanta Georgia, asked if I wanted to sample their gluten-free options at their restaurant.  At first, I wasn’t sure if I could visit, mostly because of cross contamination issues, but a quick search on their website showed that their chefs are trained in issues of cross contamination and have a separate prep station in their kitchen.

My fears were soon quelled, and I decided to give it a try! Mellow Mushroom began serving gluten-free pizza about a year ago, and chanced to a new, unique gluten free crust about four months ago.  Excited to try it out, we traveled to Spring, Texas, with the hopes of finding a delicious gluten-free pizza.

Upon our arrival, we were immediately we were greeted by an incredibly friendly greeter at the door, and promptly seated.  Our server Anna, was incredibly knowledgeable in the restaurant’s gluten free offerings, and showed us the appetizers that could be done gluten free.  We ordered a capri salad and I asked Anna a few questions about Mellow Mushroom’s gluten-free offerings.

I was pleased that the staff was a aware and made a distinction between those who ate gluten-free because of an allergy or intolerance and those who were gluten-free as a fad diet.  The staff is trained to ask why a person is eating gluten-free.  I was happy that they make this distinction, because many times, we face cross-contamination if a server assumes we are only on a ‘diet’.  I learned that the gluten-free pizza is prepared on a separate cart (away from the gluten!) and ingredients for the gluten-free pizzas are held in black containers.  Gluten-free items are clearly marked to minimize confusion.  Once again, I really appreciated the general awareness across the board; it seemed like almost everyone who worked in the restaurant was aware of the effects of cross-contamination. Check out our meal below!

The Capri Salad was delicious!  Slices of tomato and mozzarella were drizzled with a balsamic glaze, and I think the chef prepared it so beautifully!

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We ordered the House Special gluten-free pizza, which was served on a 12-inch crust, and was topped with pepperoni, sausage, onions, green peppers, mushrooms, olives, ham, bacon and cheese! The crust is made from a sorghum, amaranth, teff, and tapioca flour blend (plus xanthan gum) from Smart Flour Foods. I was very excited when the piping hot pie arrived at our table.  Check out the awesome picture below!

IMG_4859I loved both the taste and consistency of the pizza!  The crust was incredibly sturdy and was able to hold the plethora of toppings on the pizza!  I really enjoyed the taste; it wasn’t too doughy, which is typical of many gluten-free pizzas.

Mellow Mushroom has a variety of gluten-free pizza options (check out their menu here), and I’m definitely excited to go back! They also offer gluten-free beer and drink options if you are of age! It was refreshing to find the gluten-free menu tucked away with the regular menu, and I loved the “You’re no longer a second-class citizen” tagline.

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Have you eaten at Mellow Mushroom before? If so, comment below and let me know!

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Guest Post: Allie of Adventures of a Gluten Free Bennie

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One of the biggest reasons I’ve been able to maintain the gluten-free diet throughout college has been the online gluten-free community. I’m constantly posting Tweets, sharing links on my Facebook page, and putting out new posts.  It’s the overwhelmingly supportive responses I get from the online community that inspires me to keep blogging.  I also love talking to online bloggers my own age, who are also gluten-free!  This week, I wanted to showcase Allie of Adventures of a Gluten Free Bennie.  She’s been so supportive and super sweet, and I’m glad she’s learned to embrace the gluten-free diet and share her experiences and knowledge.  Check out the post she wrote for my blog about her experience in college and how she’s raising celiac awareness! Enjoy!
 

“Hello! My name is Allie, and I am a junior in college studying Spanish and Secondary Education at the College of St. Benedict/St. John’s University in central Minnesota. I have non-celiac gluten sensitivity, and I have been gluten free for 2 years as a result of having stomach problems most of my life. I went gluten free at the end of high school after I tested negative for Celiac Disease, but I was feeling better on the gluten free diet, so I decided to stick with it, because let’s be honest, having chronic stomach problems is no fun. Transitioning to the gluten free lifestyle and college lifestyle simultaneously was quite the challenge, but two years later, I look back and am proud to say that I overcame this challenge! About one year after going gluten free, I decided to start a gluten free blog to reach out to other gluten free college students and to document my adventures abroad a gluten free Bennie (the mascot for my school). You can read a more detailed version about my journey with gluten sensitivity here.

Having gluten sensitivity in college the past 2 years has not always been easy, but the accommodations have improved significantly, making it easier to feel like a normal college student. Some of the struggles that I have encountered as a gluten free college student include but are not limited to: avoiding cross contamination in the cafeteria, going to social functions, and missing class if I get glutened. My freshman year of college, the gluten free cafeteria options were fairly limited, and cross contamination was hard to avoid because there were no allergen labels. Because of this, I steered clear from the majority of the hot food lines and basically ate a lot of salads and Udi’s PB&J sandwiches that I made from the gluten free fridge. Needless to say, this became boring very quickly, and I lost weight because I was not incorporating enough protein in my diet. Fast forward a year, and the gluten free cafeteria options have improved drastically. In addition to more having more food options in the gluten free fridge, my school now has a gluten free toaster, allergen labels, and a new list of meals that we can request to have a chef cook us in a dedicated gluten free kitchen area. I wrote a recent post about the new cafeteria changes that you can read here.

Another challenge about being gluten free in college is going to social events. Pizza and beer is generally all over the place. To be honest, I usually bring my own gluten free snack or eat ahead of time if I know that my friends will be ordering pizza. If someone does offer me pizza or beer, I politely decline, and I don’t let it discourage me from having fun. Lastly, another challenge I face occasionally is missing class from getting glutened. Although I am very careful, there still are times when I get cross-contaminated and have absolutely no idea what the culprit is. In my opinion, this is the most frustrating part of having gluten sensitivity, especially because I have a delayed reaction (about a day or two) to gluten. In this case, I do not miss class unless I am deathly sick, as in trapped in the bathroom. It is still not easy to struggle through class with a stomachache, brain fog, and a headache, but I have done it before. Thankfully, my professors have all been very accommodating about me missing class; still, I try not to miss class because I will lose participation points and miss important material if I am absent.

I have talked about the struggles I face as a gluten free college student, but there are definitely positives! I have learned so much over the past few years, which has shaped me to be the person I am today. First of all, being gluten free has allowed me to meet so many amazing bloggers in the gluten free community. This is one main reason I started my blog; I want to give back to the community and be a source of support for other gluten free college students. Also, being gluten free is a blessing because I can finally feel healthy and normal, and I don’t have to worry about having chronic stomach issues. Lastly, being gluten free has turned me into a full-fledged foodie! I love baking, cooking, trying new gluten free products, and taking food photography pictures. I have attended a few gluten free expos this past spring, which have been great opportunities for meeting other bloggers and trying delicious gluten free products!

Although life as a gluten free college student is not always easy, it has made me stronger, and I have learned a lot about gluten and how it affects my body. If I could give one piece of advice to other gluten free college students, it would be to be your own best advocate. If you are struggling to adjust to the gluten free diet at college, talk to the dietician and/or chefs and set up a plan to accommodate your dietary needs. If you are feeling lonely or confused, branch out and talk to that person who you see at the gluten free fridge everyday; chances are he/she is going through the same struggles as you. Don’t let being gluten free hold you back. Chase your dreams, have fun, laugh carelessly, and remember, you can do anything you set your mind to!”

allie

Xoco-latté Gluten-Free Bakery

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I feel like I’m constantly mentioning the Rice University Farmers Market in my posts, but my visit a few weeks ago included even more gluten-free finds. I stumbled across Texas Cookie Emporium, who had gluten-free chocolate chip cookies available from a new bakery in the Houston area, Xoco-latté. The chocolate chip cookies were incredible, and I quickly emailed Joel, the owner of Xoco-latté, and asked if I could come visit his bakery in Missouri City, Texas (about 25 minutes outside of Houston’s 610 Loop Highway). Joel was kind enough to let me visit the bakery and try some samples, and we jumped on the chance to drive over and learn about Xoco-latté.

Xoco-latté recently opened in September of 2013 as a dedicated gluten-free bakery. The owner, Joel, first started out with a baking school in Venezuela; he decided to move to gluten-free baking (an incredibly difficult endeavor), after a mother asked him for a gluten-free bread recipe on a radio show.  Though, he wasn’t initially familiar with the concept of gluten-free baking, Joel began to experiment, and Xoco-latté is the culmination of his hard work! All the baked goods are made on site by Joel, and his niece Beatriz. I really appreciated the variety of products that the bakery offers; numerous types of breads, cakes and cookies are available, as well as products like truffles and bonbons, which are usually made with gluten-containing ingredients like cake crumbs and pie crusts (I was surprised by this-I used to think truffles were just made of chocolate)! Xoco-latté can also create custom cakes, pies and other treats for special events (check out some of their custom cakes on their Facebook page). Beatriz’s decorating is fantastic!

What I appreciate about this bakery of Joel and Beatriz’s attention to issues such as cross-contamination.  Their facility is a dedicated gluten-free one, and Joel mentioned that he wants his customers to remain 100% safe while eating the bakery’s goods.  I really saw as a display of Xoco-latté’s huge dedication to the celiac community; they don’t want wheat flour particles floating in the air and possibly contaminating their gluten-free foods. The employees don’t even eat gluten in the store (talk about commitment)! They obtain their flours from trustworthy suppliers, and, as I was surprised to find out, even roast their own pumpkin (for pumpkin bread) to prevent any cross contamination that may occur in a factory that makes pumpkin puree.

Xoco-latté also utilizes local ingredients like cranberries, pecans and Texas Cookie Emporium’s Cold Brew Coffee!

Okay, by now, I’m sure you’re curious as to what products I sampled during my visit.  Check out the pictures and my descriptions below!

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Sitting in a showcase at the front of the bakery was a plate of mini pumpkin bread loaves that had risen quite nicely.  I’ve tried some gluten-free pumpkin breads before, but was delighted to find that this bread wasn’t too grainy or dense.  Instead, it was soft, moist and not at all crumbly.

We also sampled a dairy-free and gluten-free chocolate cupcake made with coconut milk!  It was soft and chewy, and, had I not known this was a gluten-free bakery, would have thought it was made from wheat!

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I quickly fell in love with Joel’s truffles and chocolates.  We sampled a pecan pie truffle, which was reminiscent of a homemade Texas pecan pie.  Joel even used gluten-free pie crumbs and local pecans; this small truffle had an incredible amount of flavor and the perfect amount of sweetness.  I also sampled a chocolate infused with tobacco and cold brew coffee!

The “not actually gluten-free” boyfriend loved everything he tried as well, meaning that Xoco-latté comes incredibly close to making sure taste isn’t sacrificed for gluten-free!

Because Joel and Beatriz are currently the only two bakers, Xoco-latté sells mainly in their own store, located at 4719 Lexington Blvd, Missouri City, TX 77459.  They are, however, looking to expand, and are in the process of starting an intern program for those diagnosed with autism (interns will learn how to prepare ingredients and be a part of the process)!

This is seriously the best bakery I have ever been to, so if you’re in the Houston area, head over to Xoco-latté ASAP and try some of their products! Trust me, you won’t regret it!

If you’ve been to Xoco-latté, comment below and tell me about your experience. If you’re not from Houston, let me know what gluten-free bakeries you’ve been to!

The bakery!

The bakery!

Product Review: Ian’s Whole Grain Chicken Nuggets and Tenders

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I was so happy to receive some samples in the mail from Ian’s Natural Foods last week to review!  If you haven’t heard of them yet, Ian’s is a company devoted to providing high quality and allergen-friendly foods.  Many of their products are not only gluten-free, but are also devoid of the seven major allergens.  I think Ian’s is a great company because of this; many people living gluten-free also have allergies or intolerance to other foods, like dairy or soy.  Ian’s also makes sure they don’t sacrifice taste or quality in order to create an ‘allergen-free’ product.  Their products are made without refined sugars, hormones, antibiotics, or bleached flours!  I’ve tried some of Ian’s products before, such as their flat bread pizza, but was eager to try out their gluten-free Southwest Tenders and Sweet BBQ Nuggets.

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Ian’s Southwest Tenders

Ian’s gluten-free Southwest Tenders are breaded in a yellow corn flour and brown rice blend.  When I laid the tenders out on a baking sheet, I noticed right away that the breading stuck to the chicken quite nicely, and continued to hold even as they baked.  Oftentimes, gluten-free breading falls off easily, so this consistency in breading was a noted plus!  I really loved the flavor of the Southwest Chicken Tenders.  The flavors and seasonings weren’t too overwhelming, and had just the right amount of ‘kick’  (from the jalapeños and other spices)!

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These tenders are also egg, milk/casein, soy and nut-free!

Ian’s Sweet BBQ Nuggets 

Because I was too excited to try these products, I made both the tenders and nuggets in one night, and had my non gluten-free boyfriend eat them as well (side note: even as a regular consumer of gluten, he really liked them).  If you prefer a sweet BBQ flavor to a Southwest tangy kick, then these nuggets are perfect for you!  I liked that the nuggets were small and bite-sized, and, similarly to the tenders, had a consistent breading that stuck to the chicken!  The nuggets had a subtle, but sweet BBQ flavor, that, once again, wasn’t too overwhelming!  I also love that both the nuggets and tenders use chicken breast meat that is juicy, flavorful and free from antibiotics or hormones.

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Check out some more photos below!

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Both the Southwest Tenders and the BBQ Nuggets are PERFECT for college students who live either in a dorm or off campus.  They can be baked or microwaved (ideal for a dorm room, or if you don’t have much time). I’m super excited to try some more of Ian’s products (they make gluten-free ONION RINGS).

Have you tried any of Ian’s gluten-free and allergy-friendly products?  If so, comment below and let me know which products are your favorites!

Houston Gluten-Free Find: Vee’s Chips!

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I’ve mentioned numerous times that Rice University has an almost unlimited array of gluten-free options in their cafeteria; what many don’t know, however is that Rice’s weekly farmers market also has some gluten-free surprises.  Upon a recent visit to the market, Susann Glenn, manager of communications for Rice’s Facilities of Engineering and Planning, quickly steered me to the Vee’s Chips booth, where bags of tortilla chips were being sold.  Excited for a new gluten-free product to try, I tasted a tortilla chip almost immediately.  I was expecting something crunchy, and salty, typical of a Texas tortilla chip.  Much to my surprise, and delight, however, I quickly realized that Vee’s Chips were more than the typical tortilla chip. The chips were tangy, and flavored using the perfect amount of spice.  Vee’s Chips are flavored with chili powder, lime, and sugar, making them unique. Personally, I thought they tasted a bit like fried wontons with a Texan kick!   I bought a bag, and am excited to experiment with the tortilla chips (I’m going to have to make some nachos this weekend!)  I’ve had so many people try these chips, and so far, everyone who has tried them has become addicted.

Make sure you check out the Rice University Farmers Market, every Tuesday afternoon, at Rice University.- there are numerous, gluten-free finds to discover!
Vee's Chips!

 

CeliAction Study for a Celiac Drug!

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With Celiac Disease Awareness Month just around the corner, I wanted to bring up recent news regarding the upcoming clinical research trials for a new ‘celiac drug’. This CeliAction study is currently looking for those with symptomatic celiac disease to participate in this medical research study. I’m constantly amazed at the advancements that have been made in this gastrointestinal field in the last few years; I keep thinking back to my own diagnosis nine years ago, as well as the lack of good products, and the dream that one day, a ‘medical pill’ would make our lives a bit easier. The fact that we’re in clinical trials already means that these scientists are pretty confident in their drug. I wanted to provide a comprehensive summary of what the drug and the study entails, and open up dialogue for your views and opinions for the drug. But before I begin, I’m sure you’re wondering, “Chynna, would you take this drug yourself?” Honestly, probably not, at least for a few years. I’ve mastered the gluten-free diet, and can find a plethora of gluten-free products and ingredients at many restaurants and almost all H.E.B. and Kroger supermarkets in Houston. I think the pill is ideal for situations dealing with accidental gluten contamination, as an added protection!

I went straight to the source; the CeliAction Study website, to see the program’s mission statement/research goals, as well as look at what types of participants the study was looking for.  Sponsored by Alvine Pharmaceuticals, Inc., the mission of the CeliAction study is to “explore whether the study medication is able to improve the damage in the lining of the intestine caused by even the smallest traces of gluten.The study will also evaluate whether the investigational medication improves any symptoms of celiac disease compared to a placebo.”  The website emphasizes that the gluten-free diet can be maintained during the study-you don’t need to eat gluten to participate!

As a biochemistry major, I was curious to analyze the drug, and see what initial research trials have accomplished.  I found that the drug, ALV003, is a mixture of two enzymes; in the lab, they were found to break down the gluten protein in polypeptides, or smaller pieces.  What this would do is render the gluten protein unable to activate the immune response, as the antibodies we celiacs have would be unable to recognize it (this broken down gluten would no longer trigger the immune response).

Earlier clinical trials have occurred, and initial results lead researchers to believe that WITH a gluten-free diet, the pill could diminish gluten-induced intestinal mucosal injury.  To me, it sounds like this pill would complement the gluten-free diet, not replace it; I think it would serve a role in accidental gluten contamination (minimizing the stress from eating out).  Doctors have noted that even small amounts of gluten (like an eighth of  tablespoon) can cause intestinal damage, and many patients are not thriving on the gluten-free diet because of this factor.  I think the fact that the pill would NOT replace the gluten-free diet is crucial, as there has been a lot of harsh criticism of a magic pill.  If you take the time to research the study, however, it becomes evident that the CeliAction study does not claim to test a pill that would replace the gluten-free diet!

What are your thoughts on this pill and upcoming CeliAction study? Are you going to participate in it yourself?  Comment below and let me know!

 

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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simply gfree

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!