Monday, June 21, 2010

Some Side Effects of Being on a Gluten-Free Diet

For people with celiac diease -- even those with no obvious symptoms -- being on a gluten-free diet can prevent serious, life-threatening complications. But just avoiding gluten doesn't guarantee that your diet is completely healthy. Here are some things to keep in mind when you shop and plan your meals.

You Will Probably Gain Weight:
Many of us were gaunt and sickly before we were diagnosed. Damage to the villi that line the small intestine -- a hallmark of celiac disease -- meant that food (and calories) couldn't be absorbed. After some time on the gluten-free diet, when the intestines start to heal, the nutrients (and the calories) in foods will be absorbed. Even though we may not be consuming any more calories now than we did when we were eating gluten, it's likely that we're going to gain weight. In fact, hard as it may be to imagine for people who were too thin before their diagnosis, studies show an increased risk for obesity on the gluten-free diet. It's really important to start counting calories.

You're At Risk for Poor Vitamin Status:
Patients with newly diagnosed celiac disease are usually vitamin deficient. To complicate that problem, gluten-free products are usually low in B vitamins, calcium, vitamin D, iron, zinc, magnesium, and fiber. Few if any gluten-free products are enriched or fortified with these nutrients. When researchers studied adult celiac patients who had been gluten-free for 10 years, half of the patients had vitamin deficiencies, including low levels of vitamin B-6 or folate, or both, and high levels of homocysteine (a risk factor for heart attacks, vascular disease, and strokes). Before the study, all the patients had biopsies to prove their intestines were healed and healthy, so these vitamin deficiencies could not be explained by malabsorption. Other researchers have found similar deficiencies in gluten-free adolescents. When it's time for an annual check-up, celiac patients should ask their doctor whether their vitamin status needs to be measured, and whether they should be taking folic acid and vitamin supplements.

Your Cholesterol Levels Will Probably Rise:
While I was still eating gluten, my cholesterol levels were always low. I now know why -- my intestines weren't absorbing any of the cholesterol in the foods I was eating. Not any more. Now I have to watch my cholesterol levels along with everyone else. When I check food labels for the presence of gluten, I also check the fat and cholesterol content. It's really important to choose low-fat, low-cholesterol foods. Packaged gluten-free products are usually higher in fat than their gluten-containing counterparts. This is especially true of packaged gluten-free cookies, crackers, and cakes. The American Heart Association says that foods that are high in fiber have been shown to help lower cholesterol -- so look for beans, peas, rice bran, citrus fruits, strawberries, apple pulp, and gluten-free oats.

You Might Experience Constipation or Diarrhea:
If you've replaced the bread and pasta in your diet with only white rice, the low-fiber diet may lead to constipation. If fiber-rich grains and beans are added to your diet in large amounts too quickly, you might develop gassiness and diarrhea.

Some People Actually Lose Weight:
Changes to your diet to eliminate gluten can also lead to a decrease in caloric intake and weight loss.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Pasta with Turkey Sausage and Grape Tomatoes

For me suppertime is usually whatever I have on hand.  Today I had a package of sweet Italian turkey sausage and a package of grape tomatoes.    I started by heating a pan up and then coating the bottom with Smart Balance oil.  I added a package of 5 pieces of turkey sausage and cooked the sausage until almost done.  I removed the sausage from the pan onto a plate to cool and added about ¾ of a cup of white wine (I had a Chardonnay in the fridge).  Scrape the bottom of the pan to get all those delicious bits off & into the wine (deglazing) so you get all the flavor into the dish.  Add 2 – 3 cloves of garlic chopped fine and about ½ cup of chopped onions.  Cook until the onions are tender.  Slice about 2 cups of grape tomatoes in half and throw in.  Add about ¼ - ½ cup of chopped dried tomatoes.  Both of these tomatoes add a sweetness you can’t get any other way.  If you buy grape tomatoes & you find that they are a bit sour just roast them or throw them into whatever you are cooking.  This brings out the sweetness.  Cook a few more minutes.  In the meantime, or whenever you find the time, cut the sausage into bite size pieces and add to the pan.  Cook a few more minutes.  Add to this about 2 cups of chicken broth.  Let the dish bubble for about 5 more minutes so all the flavors blend together.  Add salt & freshly ground pepper to taste.  Reduce the heat to as low as it goes and add about ½ cup of mascarpone cheese.  I use this a lot, I know it is expensive but I can’t help myself.  You can easily substitute cream cheese for the mascarpone. Stir the cheese in until it is completely dissolved.  At this point turn off the burner and add about ¼ cup of grated Parmesan cheese, ¼ cup chopped Italian parsley and a few tablespoons of chopped basil.  Pour a couple tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil in & stir to combine.  Wallah !!  Done.  Oh, don’t forget to cook up some pasta.  GF for you and whatever the family likes for them will do.  Any type of pasta will go well with this.  Serve this up with a salad on the side and you have a quick and healthy meal for those who are gluten free and non-gluten free.  I have included a picture as well as a real recipe below.  Be sure to try this, your family will appreciate it!

The Recipe:

Cooked pasta
2 – 3 Tablespoons oil
1 package turkey sausage (quantity depends on how much you prefer to use)
¾ white wine
2 – 3 garlic cloves, chopped or minced
½ cup chopped onions
2 cups grape tomatoes
2 cups chicken broth
salt & pepper to taste
½ cup mascarpone cheese (substitute cream cheese or ricotta cheese)
¼ cup grated Parmesan cheese
¼ cup chopped Italian parsley
2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Another Really Good Pasta Dish

The May issue of bon appetit magazine has a lovely picture of a pasta dish that I just knew I could recreate and make gluten free.  I did & it was awesome!  Here is the recipe taken right from the magazine.  The only change I made was to use GF pasta for my serving.  This has several ingredients but trust me, it is easy and oh, so good.  FYI, it is even better the next day.  Enjoy!


12 oz. Fettuccine or penne
3 oz pancetta or bacon, chopped
1 ¼ lb asparagus, trimmed, cut on diagonal into 1 inch pieces
2 cups shelled fresh peas, blanched 1 minute in boiling water drained, or frozen peas (do not thaw)
1 bunch green onions, thinly sliced, white and pale green parts separated from dark green parts
2 garlic cloves pressed or chopped
½ cup finely grated Parmesan cheese plus more for serving
1/3 cup heavy whipping cream
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon finely grated lemon peel
¼ cup chopped fresh Italian parsley, divided
¼ cup thinly sliced fresh basil, divided

Cook pasta in a pot of boiling salted water until just tender but still firm to bite.  Drain, reserving ½ cup pasta cooking liquid.  Return pasta to pot.

    Meanwhile, cook pancetta in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat until crisp.  Transfer pancetta to paper towels to drain.  Pour off all but 1 teaspoon drippings from skillet.  Add asparagus to drippings in skillet and sauté 3 minutes.  Add peas, white and pale green parts of green onions, and garlic and sauté until vegetables are just tender, about 2 minutes more.  Remove from heat.

    Add vegetable mixture, ¼ cup pasta cooking liquid, dark green parts of green onions, ½ cup Parmesan cheese, olive oil, lemon juice, lemon peel, half of parsley and half of basil to pasta.  Toss, adding more cooking liquid by tablespoons if needed.  Season with salt and freshly ground pepper.  Transfer to large bowl.  Sprinkle pancetta, remaining parley and basil over.  Serve, passing more Parmesan cheese

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Celiac Disease Facts

Here are some facts about celiac disease and being gluten free. If you have been diagnosed or think you may be experiencing symptoms it is important to do the research.  Be informed.  Take control and your overall health will improve dramatically.

Celiac disease is an autoimmune digestive disease that damages the villi of the small intestine and interferes with absorption of nutrients from food.

  • One in 133 Americans has Celiac Disease.
  • Three million Americans of all races, ages and genders suffer from Celiac.
  • 95% of Celiacs are undiagnosed or misdiagnosed with other conditions.
  • 10 years is the average time a person waits to be correctly diagnosed.
  • 17% of Celiac patients have an immediate family member who also has Celiac.
  • Celiac Disease can lead to a number of other disorders including infertility, reduced bone density, neurological disorders, some cancers, and other autoimmune diseases.
  • $5,000 - $12,000 is the average cost of misdiagnosis per person/per year of Celiac, not including lost work time.
  • There is NO pharmaceutical cures for Celiac Disease.
  • A 100% gluten-free diet is the only existing treatment for Celiac today.
  • A positive attitude, 100% of the time, helps Celiacs create a gluten-free lifestyle for themselves and their affected family members.
  • 500,000 new Celiac diagnoses are expected to occur in the next 5 years thanks to efforts to raise public awareness of Celiac Disease.
  • The gluten-free marketplace is expected to reach $1.7 billion by 2010 thanks to new vendors manufacturing better tasting and more affordable products.
This information was taken from The National Foundation for Celiac Awareness.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Try some Whole Foods

While away on vacation recently I was lucky enough to be in a city that had a Whole Foods Store. I purchased some of my favorite foods only available at Whole Foods. Unfortunately Whole Foods Gluten Free foods can only be purchased in the store, they do not provide an online service for mail order. My favorite Whole Foods item is their Orange Cranberry Scones. They come frozen and can be easily served by defrosting for 15 – 30 seconds in the microwave. Served with a little butter and these are a bit of heaven in a plastic container. I also love their soft Gingersnap cookies. These also come frozen and come to life if left to sit on the counter to defrost by themselves, or can be softened in the microwave as well. You really can’t beat the flavor and texture of these cookies. I found some new brands of pasta I had never seen before and while taking in the smells of their bakery I noticed something behind the glass called Yucca rolls. They are dinner rolls that look exactly like a dinner roll you would normally be used to. When I inquired about them I was told that they sell them either already baked or they could be purchased frozen, unbaked in a package of 6. I went for the frozen and baked them myself. They were really good. They have a spongy texture and paired well with my meal. This is a good choice if you are looking for something a little different.

Home from vacation and back to work. With not much time for supper here is a quick pasta dish that I threw together. Start with a package of chicken tenders. Cut them into chunks and toss into a screaming hot skillet with a little oil, vegetable or olive. Cook until not quite done. Take out of pan and set aside to add later. Remove most of the leftover oil in the skillet leaving just a few tablespoons. Add onion and sauté until tender. Throw in some wine. I used a chardonnay, about ¼ to a ½ cup. Let this cook down for several minutes. Add chicken broth and cook a few minutes more. At this point add a can of stewed tomatoes and a can of whole tomatoes. Break up the tomatoes with a potato smasher. Add a few tablespoons of tomato paste, salt, pepper and sugar. Let bubble for about 10 minutes more to let the flavors come together. Add the chicken back in & let simmer. If you have it, add fresh parsley and basil. Before serving add something creamy such as mascarpone cheese, creamy ricotta or cream cheese. This can be left out but it adds a creaminess that makes this dish special. At some point throw on a pot of water and get the pasta going. After sauce is ready add pasta and there it is. I’m giving you the recipe and a picture. This is quick and really easy. Hope you enjoy it!

Chicken breast tenders
½ of a medium onion
¼ to ½ cup wine
½ cup chicken broth
1 14 ½ oz. Can stewed tomatoes
1 28 oz can whole tomatoes
3 tablespoons tomato paste
salt & pepper to taste
3 tablespoons sugar
chopped parsley
chopped basil
¼ - ½ cup mascarpone cheese, ricotta or cream cheese

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Gluten, an Explanation….

To help you better understand what’s happening, here is some information I have learned through my years of research. I am not a doctor and have no training whatsoever in this field. This is only information I found helpful and maybe you will also.

Gluten is a sticky protein found in wheat, rye and barley. It is also in most oats. Not because of the oat itself but because of the way it is processed. It is what makes pizza dough stretchy, it makes bread rise and it makes pasta hold together. Gluten is also the substance that can make you sick if your system can’t tolerate it.

People who can not tolerate gluten can suffer from many health problems, including seizures, bloating, intestinal problems, immune system issues, depression, anxiety, ADHA, autism, adrenal exhaustion, thyroid problems. This is only a short list.

Unfortunately there is no CURE for gluten intolerance or Celiac Disease. The only thing you can do is stay away from gluten. Just don’t eat it! Most people will start to feel better within days of removing gluten from their diets if they can’t tolerate it, others will take longer. Eliminating gluten sounds simple enough. No bread, pizza, pasta. This is easy! If only it were that simple.

Gluten is hiding in places you wouldn’t even consider to look. Some examples are jelly beans, popsicles, processed meats, canned tomato soup, soy sauce. Most processed food contains gluten. Lipsticks, soaps, shampoos, toothpaste, vitamins, nutritional supplements and medicine are on the list of gluten filled items. I once was enjoying a cup of hot tea. It was flavored and tasted delicious. I picked up the box and read the ingredients. The second ingredient on the list was wheat flour!! Shocking.

Some unsafe items to look for on food labels:
modified food starch
textured vegetable protein
caramel color

You will need to think about everything you put in your body. You must read all labels and understand what the words mean. For a list of all safe and unsafe items click here.
Try not to think of this as a negative thing. In fact, it will change your life in the best possible way. It is going to make you healthy. Keep in mind that most foods in their natural state are gluten free, such as fruits, vegetables, meats that are not processed, hard cheeses, fish and seafood.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

With Overripe Bananas You Get Banana Bread

In my house the last 2 or 3 bananas get tucked away. When they are dark brown and squishy they get smushed into banana bread. Either a loaf of gluten free banana bread or a loaf of gluten filled banana bread. Today’s bananas will pair nicely with walnuts and chocolate chips and will end up gluten free. I am using a recipe taken from a cookbook called Gluten-Free Baking by Rebecca Reilly. This recipe is simple, basic and quick and has always turned out well. The recipe does not call for chocolate chips, I call for chocolate chips. The recipe follows verbatim. At the end I will tell you how I changed it up slightly.

Eleanor’s Banana Bread
Makes 1 (9 x 5 inch) loaf

2 cups Basic Gluten-Free Mix (recipe for this follows)
1 Teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon xanthan gum
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 stick unsalted butter
1 cup sugar
2 eggs
3 ripe bananas, peeled and mashed
½ cup lightly toasted walnuts

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease a 9 x 5 inch loaf pan and dust with rice flour and line with parchment paper.

Mix together the gluten-free mix, baking soda, xanthan gum and salt.

Cream the butter until white. Add the sugar and beat until fluffy, about 5 minutes. Add the eggs, one at a time. Stir in the mashed bananas. Add the dry ingredients and stir until blended. Fold in the nuts & chocolate chips. Spoon the batter into the pan. Bake for 1 hour or until done.

Basic Gluten-Free Mix: Mix 2 cups brown rice flour or chickpea flour, 2/3 cup potato starch and 1/3 cup tapioca flour. Or mix 1 cup chickpea or Garfava flour, 1 cup brown rice flour, 2/3 cup potato starch and 1/3 cup tapioca starch. Store in airtight container in the refrigerator.

I used Bob’s Red Mill All Purpose Gluten Free Flour for this recipe. I substituted Smart Balance Buttery Spread for the unsalted butter and I cut the sugar down to ¾ of a cup. I added approximately ½ cup of chocolate chips (or to taste), just because chocolate must be used wherever possible and whenever you can get away with it. I use a Kitchen Aid stand mixer as it does a wonderful job for any mixing that requires more than a few minutes.

Now get baking!