Baker Can’t Bake??

french bread pan
So, the baker can’t bake. Well…not with wheat, not and to eat! I consider myself a baker and a decent cook. I love to make bread of various sorts. For gosh sakes, I just perfected my slow rise wheat Italian bread last year. It is so good people ask what bakery I bought it at. No more of that. Bummer. So….the quest for decent GF baked goods is on. I made some tasty cookies; oatmeal raisin. They were sweet and crunchy and everyone loved them. I created some lovely delicate coconut raspberry muffins and a loaf of cinnamon current bread which was delightful toasted with butter lightly spread on the warm slice. I tried out a multigrain bread for my first bread effort and was not that happy with it. The teff flour in it made it taste sort of muddy. It is supposed to make it look and taste like whole wheat but I did not think that to be the case. Plus it got very crumbly which made it a total disaster to eat as part of a sandwich. So I didn’t make any more of that. A couple of weeks ago I made Italian bread with fennel seeds and golden raisins. Now I have to say that it was delicious out of the oven especially with some butter. You spoon the bread dough which is sort of loose and squishy into a French bread mold; has tiny holes to let in hot air and creates a certain pattern in the surface of the dough. It was not quite as good the next day but still very edible especially toasted. I made some yummy almond biscotti this past weekend which was well received. Crunchy, slightly sandy, very almondy and great with tea.

Originally published March 2013

Let’s Get Picky

fish sticksMy diagnosis of celiac disease was the beginning of the wheat free era in my kitchen. One box of pasta at a time or so it seems…. So knowing the diagnosis and as the farewell tour ended…well it was time for a major kitchen clean-out. All things wheat must go. That meant the plain flour, bread flour, whole wheat flour, white whole wheat, rye flour, and clear flour. Also to depart are barley, spelt flour, grains of spelt and my beloved Italian farro. That also included my panko crumbs, regular Italian crumbs, plain bread crumbs too! And the pasta: all regular, all whole wheat, all homemade. All of it. So now I keep finding stuff…..keep getting rid of it. Which is hard, so hard as I swear the pasta is literally calling my name! The orchetta, the penne, the orzo is all begging me to put on the pot of water… Yet another bag of discards to be given away; third time of that 

And then as I slide into my new diet, things keep tripping me up. I made some kielbasa (GF according to its label) with boiled potatoes, cabbage and onion. And I get sick. Turns out the malt vinegar I sprinkled on my cabbage has wheat in it. And I was enjoying the dark hand dipped chocolates my boyfriend got for Valentine’s Day. Well…..I feel some weird pains and after more of that happens after the next bite of the tasty candies; I call and find to my horror that they add wheat starch to thicken their chocolate. My beloved chocolate….GONE. Now that is a nightmare in my book! I think what disaster will befall me next? I am ranting I know it….just that losing my favorite chocolates was the last straw. The best thing I loved is gone. I am desolated.

I used to think I could just cut back and that would be enough. Not so. All wheat, all gluten must go. It has turned me into a GF fanatic overnight. Not fun. I went to a soup supper at a church two weeks ago and amidst all the noodle and cream soups, I find just one soup I felt was safe to eat. To help keep me from even looking at the breads available to butter up and enjoy I had brought some crunchy GF cheddar crackers to eat with my soup. As I slurped I worried, could there be some wheat in there as a thickener? I really wish the world would wake up and see that we folk who can no longer eat gluten need. Reliable really wheat free food is what I must find. We truly wish they would provide at least one good GF choice at community or church functions. And label it so we know it is safe for us to eat. Is that too much to ask for? A lot of people who are celiacs won’t eat the food at such functions, not even at parties at their friend’s houses for fear of hidden wheat. I used to pooh-pah such until I got sick at the bit of starch in my chocolates and at the vinegar on my supper the other night. I never would have believed such was possible until it happened to me.

So on Friday I ate at a Lenten fish fry, had the “naked haddock” and it was tasty. But, I do wish the server had used a separate utensil to heft my portion onto my plate. I actually winced when he slid the same spatula under my naked haddock fillet that was just in the breaded and deep fried fish tray. Luckily I didn’t feel sick after supper so he somehow didn’t snag me a bunch of crumbs to trip up my small intestine! Maybe as word of the dire consequences for a touch of wheat get into our general understandings….then no one will look askance when I say, is there a GF soup on the menu? And they will realize that GF meals need separate serving utensils….is it that much effort to wash one more metal spatula? Oyee! I be ranting again. Lately I find myself doing that far too often. Time to scrounge around and find some chocolates without any wheat. Is that possible?? Gosh I hope so….

Originally posted March 15, 2013


Wheat Farewell Tour 2013

So as that old song goes: “You don’t know what you’ve got ‘til it’s gone…” Old school but there is some truth to it. But sometimes you realize loss in a painful way as you say goodbye. Is it more painful slowly? Or should it happen fast like tearing off a band aide? Hard to say. Depends on the sufferer and what they are saying goodbye to.

I was on my wheat farewell tour for about a month. The first week was full throttle wheat, every day, every meal, nearly every snack. Pasta: tortellini in broth, linguine with seafood, orzo with parmesan and tiny pasta balls with a creamy garlic sauce. And the Italian bread fresh from my oven, crispy and yeasty. Perfect. Don’t forget desserts. I made them, shared them, savored them. I sought out some of my favorites, blueberry pie with crumb crust, apple pie, lemon buttermilk tart and chocolate chip cookies, No matter that I felt
ill for it all, especially by the second week. I ignored the burning pain in my right
side. The spot my PCP said was where my small intestine was at… It was like a low grade fever that burned in me. I heard the siren song of my dear, dear wheat and could not stop my gluten orgy. More…bring on the scratch chicken soup with wide real egg noodles. Mix up pasta dough to make three cheese ravioli with wild mushroom sauce. At the time, the ravs seemed worth the pain in my tummy. More tasty whole wheat cereal at bed time and hot five grain cereal at breakfast. More burning feelings….Yumm

I laughed about the farewell tour with friends whenever anyone called. It was my excuse to indulge, to bake one last loaf of bread. Two of them went out with us the last weekend of my “tour” to drink craft beer before I had to give that up. I ate some flour tortillas too. My only regret was that I didn’t get the burger with the big wheat bun! I think my family thought I was in total denial every time they read a message full of what wheaty things I enjoyed eating that day. Nope. The real deal was that I knew it was closing…the door…my portal to wheat paradise. So I leaped in and rolled around like a hog in smelly black mud. Perogies fried with onions, leek soup thickened with flour, fresh hot English muffins with jam and anything else that had the gluten beast in it! Savoring all my favorites and devouring meals that were built around the wheat I adore. Loved past tense should be the word as I was now feeling pain more and more as the weeks of farewell wheat orgy draw on yet I loved my gluten buddies still. I could clearly feel the symptoms my docs were talking about. The realization came slowly but I finally faced it and knew it was time. Well, almost time….

I grieved privately for the loss of so many things I loved to eat. So I devoured them one last time. Well and maybe one more. I extended the wheat tour one more week. This was rationalized by my need to eat stuff in the pantry and freezer. Couldn’t afford to pitch it I thought. So my freezer is a lot emptier and my cravings were satisfied….sort of. Actually it was like the more I ate the more
I craved the pasta and bread of my dreams. Seemed like a cruel joke to have to stop eating all my favorites. Not funny though to think of the illnesses that I could bring upon myself if I continued my farewell tour indefinitely. After about three weeks I came to my senses. I stopped cooking wheat pasta for supper. I gave the half eaten Utz specials pretzel bag away. I packed up the bread crumbs and that bag of Italian three cheese tortellini. I gave it all away. Or so I
thought. As I sorted through my pantry and freezer the other day I found half a loaf of Italian bread in my freezer as well as some angel dinner rolls from the holidays. The cans of tomato soup (wheat in there too!) …more to give away. It is a new beginning. A new world. Scary to say the least.

But I do enjoy my new GF friends like the cookies I made the other week
and the coconut raspberry muffins. A week ago I made a GF wheat bread with fennel and golden raisins. So tasty we each ate four or five slices of it.
Thank goodness the loaves were tiny! And the other day I made a yummy cinnamon bread with currents in it. Almost as good as the real deal. So as one door closes (the golden wheat door) another opens. That of weird flours,
beaten egg whites and odd gums added to hold that fake sandwich bread loaf together. More about that next posting…. Peace and a piece of fruit for all my listeners….fruit is pretty much always GF 🙂

 Originally posted approximately February 26, 2013


Celiac…a weird vegetable…NOT!

Celiac…sounds like a weird vegetable that might taste good in a salad. Well, that is what I thought the first time I heard of it. Silly me! Unfortunately it is not a tasty treat. It is a sneaky disease that is very hard to diagnose, no fun to have and yet some consider it “trendy”. I see people writing about it on websites discussing the wheat free or gluten free diet for them and how faddish it is. And yes, some people go gluten free for perhaps the wrong reasons. And they may feel better or maybe not. For some of us it is not a simple choice but a medical necessary life style change. Since there seems to be some confusion on what celiac is as opposed to wheat allergies or simply avoiding wheat I felt I should give a brief primer on these different problems particularly as to celiac sprue disease commonly called celiac disease.

Some people have really terrible physical symptoms and tests may find out rapidly what is going on in their digestive system with regard to celiac disease. But some symptoms can mimic other digestive diseases and doctors often misdiagnose it for years and years. Some people have terrible skin rashes which are hard to see as relating to digestive problems. A true celiac diagnosis requires the biopsy of the small intestine. There are blood tests that show evidence strongly suggesting that celiac disease is present – antibodies in your blood that are there due to your body’s reactions to wheat ingested since you began to have celiac disease. Still, you should have the biopsy for confirmation. Unfortunately, sometimes the biopsy is inconclusive especially if you have decided to go wheat free before the biopsy can be done. Once you know for sure that you have celiac, you must change your diet to completely cut out all wheat products. If your disease is pretty early in its growth the total avoidance of all wheat products can reduce the presence of the damage rapidly, within even two to four weeks. Generally once you go wheat free you will start to feel better within a few weeks.  The more advanced your celiac the longer it will take for your small intestine to recover maybe up to two years.

Some people continue to be symptomatic for years which sure isn’t a good result. And there are those who have very few symptoms – known as silent celiac which is what I think was the case for me. It should be noted that celiac is often present in more than one member of a family so if you are diagnosed with it you should inform your family members so they can discuss it with their doctor.

The good news is that you don’t need any medicines. It is a diet and lifestyle change that you will have to complete and then stick with for the rest of your life. According to the Mayo Clinic approximately 1 in 133 Americans has celiac disease but up go 95 percent of those with the disease are undiagnosed or misdiagnosed.

The term celiac can be confusing as there are several types of issues people have with wheat. Some people stop eating wheat because they think it is causing problems for them including a chubby tummy, dental issues, elevated blood sugar which can lead to diabetes, allergies and so on. I have a girlfriend who feels this to be the case for her. She feels much better off wheat and has less digestive symptoms. But she has no diagnosis of any specific health issue that caused her to decide to go wheat free. She does eat other types of wheat family grains like spelt. Some people feel better when they switch to other related grains such as spelt or farro.

Then there are those who have an allergic reaction to wheat and this affects their immune system. It can cause serious breathing problems, congestion, throat swelling, diarrhea or any combination of several allergy driven symptoms. Eating wheat can make them quite ill and even require a shot of epinephrine and or a visit to the hospital.

Celiac disease is an abnormal immune system reaction to gluten that specifically affects the small intestine. Celiac causes the flattening of the intestinal villi thus resulting in poor absorption of essential nutrients within the small intestine. Celiac is the most severe of the known wheat allergies and requires those diagnosed with it to avoid all wheat products including rye, barley, spelt, farro and anything with the least bit of wheat in it. It is amazing what products can have minute amounts of wheat in them; soy sauce, malt vinegar and many salad dressings. Of course you can’t eat wheat flour, rye products, barley or any other wheat family item. Beer is forbidden which can be a real bummer for beer drinkers. I serve at Musikfest so I guess no more secret sips behind the beer truck! Well…..there will still be wine to enjoy.

Well, that sure was a lot of information but if you want to know even more on celiac you can look on a number of websites including the Mayo Clinic’s website: or on or maybe a good starting place would be

If you know someone with celiac don’t tell them they are following a fad or try to slip them a cookie, instead: be sympathetic and maybe now you understand more of what they are going through physically and emotionally in the gluten free lifestyle they have been forced to embrace. Peace and enjoy that slice of toast….

Originally published February 21, 2013


A Kick in the Tummy….my first blog post……..

ImageSometimes the irony of life can really kick us in the butt. Or maybe in the tummy. We love something, maybe too much. And then we have to give
it up, to walk away…to change everything. Or so it seems. I am writing
this because I have to. I am a writer by inclination and sometimes in the past
I wrote for work. It is what I do to explain myself. To come to grips with
situations, to communicate to those I care about on topics I can’t seem to do
verbally. So, I hope it might illuminate for a reader or two what it feels like to lose a dear friend. Silly of me but I thought I would always have this friend…. no not a lover or girlfriend but my bff….wheat!

I grew up a small spindly kid with a love of toast with strawberry jam, baloney and butter sandwiches and my mother’s delicate yet rich bread pudding. She baked big loaves of white bread twice every week, from scratch.  The whole house was scented with the intoxicating perfume of yeast and wheat. I remember the fresh butter I made with cream from the cows and my mother’s purple grape jelly on a thick cut slice of warm, tender crusted white bread. I did long for Wonder bread at school lunch times but only because all my friends ate it. I wanted to fit in and that fat baloney sandwich on Mom’s crookedly cut bread gave me away as not able to afford the sleek slices of store bread my friends were contentedly munching on.… I grew up to be a baker on weekends…to make bread when it snowed, when my family visited, to bake dozens of Christmas cookies, and to carry on the traditions of my mother who was a fabulous baker winning prizes at fairs. I thought baking was how one showed love for family and friends. I did a LOT of it. And I enjoyed eating my own baked goods and pasta. I was proficient in angel food cake from scratch, in various flavors of crisp biscotti, and my pies were flaky engineering marvels of creamy fruity goodness. All meant to be shared and devoured by anyone crossing my life’s path. Gone. In the blink of a blood test. Gone…

I digress…. My story starts with some elevated liver enzyme levels and progresses through myriad tests as though I was Alice slipping through the looking glass to a medical wonderland of CT scans, biopsies, ultrasounds and endless blood work. It ended two weeks ago with a positive finding for celiac. The unthinkable had happened. I had to face a reality without wheat. Without rye bread sprinkled with caraway seeds. Without pasta topped with any number of beloved sauces.  Without barley soup full of fresh cooked vegetables. Without farro and green bean vinaigrette salad. Without gravy and without chicken piccata. I felt like the bottom had just dropped out of my menu. A gynormous hole had opened and all the wheat fell in never to be seen again. How could I be happy? How could I eat good food without my best friend, wheat? It seemed beyond the scope of possibility to eat tasty food without a bit of wheat ever appearing on my plate!

So now I know I have celiac disease and the journey to wheat free begins. It begins as many new things do with disbelief, with some measure of denial and then acceptance and the making of plans to carry on, minus my dear friend wheat. I have some real doubts that this will be successful or enjoyable but onward the journey goes as I cannot go back to the ways of wheat on most every plate of homemade food

Republished in March 2014, originally published February 2013 on Patch.