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!

Friday, February 26, 2010

Blueberry Crisp!

As I was waiting in the check out line today I was doing what I usually do while waiting in check out lines, looking at the magazines. Not the tabloids or the gossip mags, but the food magazines. You know, those little booklets usually on the top of the rack, or the popular ones down below, Rachel Ray, Paula Dean, Taste of Home, etc. Since I tend to focus on anything having to do with home cooking I usually look for something with the words “comfort food” on the front. There it was, screaming out to me to buy it. A food magazine called “Best Comfort Food, Feed Your Soul!”. I had to buy it. I collect cookbooks. It’s my personal addiction. I have too many but just cannot resist.

This one was worth it. It is full of classic comfort food recipes. After fixing my evening meal I realized that I didn’t have anything for breakfast. This makes me also realize how much I focus on food. I remembered that I had seen a recipe in this magazine for Blueberry Crisp. I have a freezer full of frozen blueberries from last summer. They are delicious and just waiting to be eaten. I decided to try out this recipe converting the ingredients to gluten free. I am providing the recipe for you to try and am happy to report that this dish, whether you enjoy it as breakfast as I will, or as a dessert or snack, is wonderful. It is quick to throw together and bakes in 30 minutes. I substituted Bob’s Red Mill All Purpose flour for the flour as well as gluten free oats, which is a staple in my cupboard. I also substituted Smart Balance Spread for the butter. I love the taste of Smart Balance, it is gluten free, and cholesterol is a problem so I use this product whenever I can.

It is important to note that this dish hit the spot as we are in the midst of yet another blizzard here in PA. I can’t think of anything I would rather have on a blustery winter morning than a steamy bowl of blueberries with an oatmeal crumble topping. I added a picture, of the blueberries, not the blizzard. Happy baking!

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

That Taste’s Really Good!

If you aren’t participating in a gluten free diet on a daily basis like those of us who have had the calling, then you might think what we must eat is bland, tasteless, unappealing, unappetizing, or any other negative word you can think of. Well, for your information, my gluten filled friend (or gluten free friend), a GF diet can be just the opposite. Of course, you see, I am completely biased in my opinion, as I have no choice but to be. Those of us with Celiac Disease or gluten intolerance must live without wheat, rye and barley. It’s just a fact of our lives.

What this really means is that I’ve learned to make the best of it. Fortunately for me I love to cook and bake. It’s what I do. It’s how I de-stress. Needless to say, it was very difficult back in the day, to adapt to this diet. In the early 1990’s GF foods were almost impossible to find. They did not exist in local stores. I learned how to use the Internet and shopped there. Unfortunately I live in the east and most of what I found had to be shipped to me from the west coast. Often times I would order bread only to have it arrive about a week later. My initial excitement of finally being able to have anything made into a sandwich quickly turned into a huge disappointment. You see pre-baked products usually arrived with mold already growing. Double trouble. I am also allergic to mold. I once bought a whole case of GF crackers. Who doesn’t like or need crackers? Well, when I opened up that case fast and furious I discovered that these crackers were not crackers…they were odd shaped pieces of cardboard that no one could possibly eat. What was I thinking? Live and learn. That case sat in my basement cupboard for a really long time. I do believe the birds enjoyed it.

I bought cookbooks. I studied anything I could get my hands on to learn the art of gluten free cooking and baking. It is an art and I was determined to master it. Using gluten free ingredients cannot compare in any way to using wheat containing ingredients. GF flours do not react the same way to yeast, baking soda, baking powder, etc. But, if you are just learning, no need to panic. Really good cooks and bakers have perfected the whole process. You can find a huge variety of gluten free cookbooks on the market today. Early on for me, the only book I could find was called The Gluten Free Gourmet by Bette Hagman. For me, this was THE book. I use it today. It is my go-to cookbook. It is important to realize that for the gluten free cook, you just need to think differently. What this means is that you must pre-think each and everything you cook and bake. If you are using a GF cookbook and following the recipe (and the rules), no problem. But if you’re like me, you like to formulate your meal as you go, which can get a little tricky. You need to have GF staples on hand at all times. I am not much of a planner-ahead kind of girl. I do tend to fly by the seat of my pants at the end of the workday. I love the concept of 30-minute meals. I am one to throw pasta & veggies with broth & wine into a deep skillet and see what comes out. I always have artichokes, canned tomatoes, sun-dried tomatoes, roasted peppers in a jar and capers in the fridge. It’s all about flavor. Don’t forget spices. All kinds. And don’t be afraid to use them. Some of these ingredients might sound odd, but they will make your dish pop!

The point I am trying to make here is simply that GF cooking and baking is easy, or it can be, with a little practice and patience. You will have the occasional failed loaf of bread, cake or whatever. We all do, I still do. Just keep at it. Each try will get better.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

What's in Your Pantry?

Staples in my pantry include gluten free flour of course, usually Bob's Red Mill All Purpose. I keep rice flour, tapioca flour and potato starch as well as a backup. Xanthan gum is a must.

It is important to know that gluten is hidden in so many foods. Some of these are licorice, soy sauce, malt vinegar, some flavorings, most processed foods, self-basting turkeys, some cold cuts, and many prepared stocks and soups. Vinegars and alcohols that are properly distilled should not contain any harmful gluten. However, if additives have been added after the distillation process, they can contain gluten. Gluten is also used as a binder in some pharmaceutical products so always check your prescriptions and can be the starch in unidentified food starch, modified food starch, caramel coloring, hydrolyzed plant or vegetable protein. It's also important to avoid products where the ingredients are questionable or are listed as simply "natural flavorings, flavor extracts, or spice extracts" since gluten may be used in processing them.

Most food manufacturers have toll-free customer service numbers and will gladly check on the source of these questionable ingredients. Until you are sure a product is gluten-free, it's best not to use it. Plain rice of all types (including wild rice), tapioca, potatoes, corn, and beans are safe for a gluten-free diet. Most celiac patients can also have soy products, except soy sauce which is usually fermented with wheat.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Food for Thought on Living GF

Some tips for gluten free living taken from "Living Gluten-Free for Dummies" by Danna Korn:

Focus on what you can eat - instead of thinking about the foods you can't have...focus on the foods you can eat, and put a special emphasis on those you especially enjoy.

Expand your culinary horizons with alternative foods - like quinoa, amaranth, teff, millet, buckwheat, acai, kefir and sorghum.

Enjoy an ethnic flair - many Asian cuisines like Thai, Vietnamese, and Korean are often gluten-free, as are many Mexican and Indian dishes.

Tune into the benefits - focus on the reasons why being gluten-free is a good thing. You, unlike many people, have the key to better health - a gluten-free diet!

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

So How Are You Dealing With Your Family and Friends?

When I first began to tell people I had Celiac Disease I had some pretty odd reactions. Most people had never heard of it. If they had they didn’t know what it meant. Most don’t want to ask, after all, it does have that word “disease” in it. It’s not catchy, doesn’t spread like the common cold or the flu and you can’t get it from anyone, anywhere. Except, probably, from your long passed grandparent, aunt, uncle or some other distant, or perhaps, close relative. Celiac is usually an inherited disease, in the same family of diseases as diabetes, lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, etc. All autoimmune diseases. It just means the body turns on itself. There are little soldiers inside beating each other up. The more gluten you take in the happier they are. I generally am amused at the reaction I receive when asked how I possibly EAT! My rheumatologist, who I have seen for all these years and who diagnosed me after several years of trying to figure out why this crazy lady had so many really odd symptoms that no one else has, still asks me how do I live without pasta. He knows I come from a large Italian family & have big Sunday suppers, mostly of pasta with homemade sauce and homemade everything else. People always say they know they couldn’t do it. Oh yes you can. I just think of the alternative and now I’ll never go back to “toxic” pasta and “illegal” bread. No way. You see, bloating, cramping, nausea, diarrhea, constipation, on and on, is always in the back of my mind. I can’t tell you how many times I have attempted to order a meal at a restaurant that I could somehow manipulate to be gluten free by the time it arrived at my table. There are no restaurants where I live with the words “gluten free” on the menu so I must prod the server for information related to what might be in the food I want to order. Since most people don’t know what I mean by gluten free, I just ask if it contains wheat. If there is nothing visible on the plate that looks like wheat the answer will always be no. Don’t blame the server, they don’t know they are deceiving you. Always follow that up with something like…is there gravy?….is it breaded?….have those fries been dusted in flour?….is there croutons on the salad? The reaction I usually get when I say that I can’t have bread is this…”oh, there’s no wheat in it, it’s white bread”. I don’t laugh, that would be rude. I just follow that up with, sorry, can’t have it. We Celiac’s will never be able to educate the masses on what it really means to live without gluten. We just have to accept that this is our job, no pay of course. When someone doesn’t get it, just smile and say no thanks, and order the salad with oil and vinegar and dress it yourself.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Are you wondering if you may have Celiac Disease?

There are no signs or symptoms that are typical for all people with celiac disease. Signs and symptoms can vary greatly from person to person. People with celiac disease often have general gastric problems, such as diarrhea, abdominal pain and bloating. Some people with celiac disease may have no gastrointestinal discomfort at all. To make matters of diagnosing celiac disease even more challenging, celiac symptoms can also mimic symptoms of other conditions, such as anemia, Crohns disease, gastric ulcers, irritable bowel, parasitic infection, even skin disorders or nervous conditions. It is not uncommon for celiac disease to present itself with symptoms that are vague. These symptoms can include: dental and bone disorders (such as osteoporosis), depression, irritability, joint pain, mouth sores, muscle cramps, skin rash, stomach discomfort, and even tingling in the legs and feet. Having celiac disease results in malabsorption of nutrients. Depending on the degree of malabsorption, the signs and symptoms of celiac disease are different among people, ranging from no symptoms, few or mild signs and symptoms, to many or severe signs and symptoms.

Monday, January 25, 2010

From Then Until Now

To give you some background on why I know what I know about Celiac Disease and having to adhere to a diet without gluten, I had a simple out-patient surgical procedure. Not long after coming out of the anesthesia I realized that my feet were on fire. ON FIRE! They didn’t look any different, but from within, I was sure someone had touched a blowtorch to my feet. That was the first hint that something was about to happen. Next came a major drop in my blood pressure. So low they hauled in this huge machine with a blood pressure cuff attached. That was strapped on my arm and became my new best friend. Ultimately I was admitted for an overnight stay. All of my muscles became inflamed and extremely sore to the touch. My eyes became blood red, as in no white at all. I could hardly move. Unfortunately, at that time no one could figure out what was happening to me. Very weird. After 24 hours they sent me home. I was then introduced to a Rheumatologist. A wonderful doctor who I still see every 3 or 6 months. Six long years went by before he was able to determine what exactly was going on with me. A diagnosis of Lupus came first. Then a few years later, after a long haul of weight loss, hair loss, major iron deficiency and constant pain and nausea, a simple blood test was performed. Bingo. 100% sensitivity to gliadin, the protein that makes up gluten. At that time the gold standard for Celiac Disease was a scope down into your intestine to snip a piece of tissue for testing. Not necessary for me. I was 100%. That was so long ago that there was not much information out there. Luckily for me, I had some computer experience at my full time job. After spending some time at the local library I jumped full speed into the internet, which of course I knew nothing about. I had to know what this Celiac Disease thing was. The first thing I found was a website called Back then it was the best source of information out there and still is. It is always the first place I tell people to go who need information. If you or a loved one is newly diagnosed please go directly to this website. It can be overwhelming with information but take it slow. Probably the first thing you want to know is what you can’t eat and what you can. There is a comprehensive list of all foods legal and illegal for us GF people. This list became my bible. You get really good at reading labels as well. Grocery shopping can be painful. Reading all those labels makes you want to take a pillow & your sleeping bag with you. You feel like you’ll never get out of there, and then you don’t want to go back. To help with that, I bought a little address book. Using the A-Z tabs, I wrote in all the gluten free items that I thought I would ever buy from a grocery store. On each page I also wrote the items that were “toxic” or “illegal”, alphabetically of course. This book was about 4” x 5” in size and easily fit into my purse. For any item that I bought I refer to that book and don’t need to read the label of that product. Of course, back then I couldn’t find anything that I could eat that had a label. I also included those crazy ingredients that no one knows what they are. lists those as well so you will know what they are and if you can have them. After a while you learn which ones you can have and which ones you can’t and you won’t need to use the book. I haven’t used my book in years, but I know right where it is if I need it. That’s the best advise I can give you in the beginning. Get to know that food list really well, it will make your life so much easier. Following is my favorite recipe. This is a simple muffin recipe that comes from my favorite cookbook, The Gluten-Free Gourmet: Living Well without Wheat, Revised Edition by Bette Hagman. It has become a staple for me and takes the place of bread as I used to know it at all times. It only takes a few minutes and in no time you have warm, really good muffins. I make them plain when I am feeling hungry for bread. If you want something sweet add chocolate chips and walnuts. If you are feeling nutty add nuts and some raisins. This recipe is so versatile it will hold up to just about anything you want to throw in. Unfortunately, sometimes homemade gluten free food doesn’t keep well. I find that if I put these muffins in an airtight container, they “sweat” and become soggy. Still edible, but not as good on the second day. Also, if you leave them out uncovered they become little hockey pucks. Sounds odd, but I have found that putting them uncovered in my microwave oven to keep (be sure to remind everyone they are in there), they keep the best. They don’t usually last long anyway. Enjoy!!

Throw the sugar in the bowl with the shortening (I am using Crisco).

Cream together. This works best with a wire whip. Keep going, this will be muffins in the end, I promise.

Add 2 eggs. These are 2 beautiful brown, home grown ones from a local grower. I am lucky enough to have a father-in-law who loves to bring these home from his friends the egg people, and pass them out to those in his life. Eggs are his thing.

Beat those eggs in, builds up those arm muscles. This looks a little soupy, that's OK.

Sift the flour, salt, xanthan gum and baking powder into another bowl. Always too many utensils to clean up.

Milk, it does a body good. Anyway, now alternate adding the milk & the dry ingredients to the egg mixture. Be gentle. No overbeating here. Last, fold in the vanilla.

This is what you have, ready for the muffin pan!

Fill er up.....

So good!

....and the winner is.....homemade muffins slathered with butter and honey, a little piece of heaven.

Quick and Easy Muffins

1/4 cup sugar
2 tablespoons shortening
2 eggs
1 cup GF flour, or all rice flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon xanthan gum
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 milk or nondairy liquid
1/4 teaspoon vanilla

Preheat oven to 350 degrees, grease 8 muffin cups or use liners
In the mixing bowl, cream together sugar and shortening. Then beat in the eggs.
Sift together the flour, salt, xanthan gum and baking powder and add to the egg mixture alternately with the milk. Don't overbeat. Stir in the vanilla.
Pour into muffin cups and bake for about 20 minutes.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

I can't have Gluten, what the heck is that?

I was thinking today about how hard it was "back in the day" to find information on Celiac Disease and learning to live without wheat. That was about 15 years ago. There was not much available on the internet at that time let alone websites about having Celiac disease or being gluten free. I spent a lot of time at the library and in bookstores trying to get my hands on anything that I could that might help me learn to cook in a way that seemed completely foreign to me. The very first cookbook that I found was called The Gluten-Free Gourmet: Living Well without Wheat, Revised Edition. The inside cover says it was first published in 1990. I still use this cookbook. It is tattered and the pages are bent and soiled, much like my beloved Betty Crocker's Cookbook that came as a wedding gift. The basics of gluten free cooking and gluten free baking came to me from this book. There is nothing fancy about it. It is well written and to the point. It is as much a manual for the newly diagnosed Celiac or anyone who needs to be gluten free as it is a book full of recipes. The recipes are simple to understand and just as easy to put together. There is more information packed in this one little cookbook than most medical books I have found on the subject. If you are just entering the world of glutenless eating (not sure that's a word) you need this book. Don't be afraid, jump right in.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

I am gluten free and you are too, or you probably wouldn't be here!

I've started this blog to share my experiences with Celiac Disease. I was diagnosed 15 years ago and have been living a gluten-free lifestyle ever since. Researching and finding information then was very difficult, not like today where you are literally a click away from all the information you need to get you going. Even though the information out there today is readily available that doesn't mean that it is easy to put into practice. Cooking and baking with gluten-free ingredients is just not the same as cooking and baking with wheat flour or other ingredients containing gluten. Learning to cook gluten-free is an art and not easily mastered by everyone. You have to be persistent and dedicated. No matter how many failures you have to keep trying. Practice makes perfect in the truest sense of the word. You will find that certain ingredients work in some recipes while those same ingredients won't work in other recipes, or won't work as well. Most recipes will take several tries to end up with something edible and ultimately good. I hope to help you through that process with this blog. If some of my ideas make your day a better one than it will have been worthwhile. Happy cooking to you!