My Gluten Free Life…7 Year Update

Update on being gluten free: I went GF seven years ago this past February. My diagnosis was on the last day of January but it took two weeks for me to gradually transition off gluten. I remember the first day I was supposed to be fully gluten free and in the faculty room I absentmindedly popped a chocolate cookie into my mouth and chewed. I was aghast and just felt I couldn’t spit it out in front of everyone. So, the next day was my first fully gf day. It is seven years later and most days I am fine. But once in a while I really morn the loss of the normalness of being able to buy a donut or bagel at a convenience store for a treat. I mourn the inability to be flexible and easy when my family or friends want to eat out. I watch my loved ones eat things I cannot eat anymore. I often can’t eat at church events; nothing safe for me. I feel sad over that. I won’t lie or sugar coat the situation: it still can be difficult and my food choices do leave me feeling left out at times. It is not easy long term, especially when I am eating outside my house and kitchen. There is temptation, there are no options for me most of the time and it just wrenches me to be forbidden many foods I used to enjoy.

On the flip side, I feel much better; the pain in my gut left not that long after going gf. I actually had the start of ulcers in my stomach due to the Helicobacter pylori bacteria. I underwent a two week treatment of two heavy duty antibiotics to get that crap out of my stomach! They found it during my endoscopy to confirm my diagnosis of celiac disease. But once I was gf two weeks and the antibiotics were done I was hugely better. It was a great feeling. I highly recommend being fully gluten free if you have the diagnosis of celiac disease. Just don’t eat gf until you have completed your testing; being gf can reduce your symptoms and give a false negative result to testing.

So, how do you do this gf thing every day? One day at a time. With the support of your loved ones. With the knowledge that if you continue to eat gluten you will get sicker and sicker. I knew gluten was at the root of my gut pain and discovered a host of issues that I had been suffering from that are directly linked to my auto immune disorder. I hate how I feel if I do eat gluten and that knowledge is a major factor holding me back from cheating. I am not willing to deal with the pain and the side effects from cheating.

I used to know someone who said she had no symptoms of her disease. I imagine that would be much harder to stay gf without the drum beat of painful hours post gluten feasting! I hope she is sticking to gf. For her health and for her family.

I see folks in social media talking/bragging about their recent cheating and wonder how they do it? How they make that bad choice. I am guessing it is for the taste of regular food, for the freedom to eat something at 711 or Dunkin or a family gathering and a beloved holiday food that is hard to resist. I see their posts, half bragging and half whining about how sick they got. I know we all have moments of weakness. Seeing what they say and have done I feel sure I am on the right path; the choice of eating safely, totally gluten free.

It is just not worth it to me to cheat. To risk damage to my small intestine for that treat, that glass of beer or that plate of regular pasta. I am also afraid that once I start cheating it will become normalized and I will slide downward into daily consumption of a substance I know to be deadly to me. I hold on tight to the knowledge that I am doing what is best for my family and the uprising subsides in my brain. Life goes on.


I eat well. I enjoy many tasty homemade meals and treats. I made focaccia this week for first time in years. Great with soup. I have a lot of awesome go to recipes for things like Italian bread, muffins, cookies, pie, angel food cake and cobbler. People clamor to eat those foods and none of them have to be gluten free. It is totally possible to eat well with a bit of planning, basic willpower and a little effort. So, life is good; even gluten free. Hang tough; you can do it! Thousands of us do it. Have an awesome gluten free day!

Holiday Cooking for GF Friends and Family

Holidays are a joyous time but they are also a stressful one for those of us with celiac or gluten allergies. We have a difficult road dealing with holiday work parties, festive outings, dinners with family and or friends. Some people make it easy for us to participate and some try but make errors that cause upset digestive systems. I myself am rather leery of all those situations except my family gatherings. My sisters and brothers understand my dietary restrictions really well and never cook stuff on the table that I cannot eat.  They try had to find safe places to eat out, which isn’t easy in my geographic area. They don’t want to go far and close by my home there are extremely limited choices. All that said, if you need to cook for someone who is gluten free there are a number of great choices of what to serve and there are some simple protocols to follow. cherry sunrise pie

Cherry Sunrise Pie; can  use a premade gf crust. No baking then!

apple pie done

Gluten is in all wheat-based ingredients; from all purpose flour, to rye flour, whole wheat, spelt, farro and barley grains/flours. So, I have to avoid them completely. Even a quarter teaspoon in your dessert or sauce is enough to cause major digestive pain.

One easy way to go is to make a meal that is all naturally gluten free; baked potatoes, steak, roasted or grilled chicken, fish without breading, pork chops, fried or mashed potatoes, rice: all safe. Beware of breading on proteins unless you are creating it with gf flour or gf breadcrumbs.  Veggies are safe unless they come with a crumb topping or other fancy stuff; read the label! Be careful with spice mixes; sometimes they have flour in to facilitate flow; stick to McCormick; their single spice containers are generally very safe.

You might want to focus on a gluten free dessert like a cake,pie or cookies for your company. I have some advice below for you for each of these categories and there are many options for gf desserts on my blog; just type in what you want like cake or pie or cookies and see what comes up!

chicken with broc

Stir fry; I used cornstarch in a slurry to thicken the sauce.

First some entree and sauce advice: no regular flour can be in that gravy or sauce. No way! An easy substitution is either white or brown rice flour in the same proportions as regular flour stirred into the gravy or sauce. I have gone with each of them several times. I slightly prefer the brown rice in gravy. Other gravy thickener choices are cornstarch, sweet rice flour, potato flour or arrowroot. It should function pretty much identically to the all purpose flour in your recipe for these items of gravy or sauce.

Most proteins are naturally gluten free but be careful of injected broth or marinades; often have some small amounts of flour which renders them uneatable for folks with celiac or a wheat allergy. This happens in turkeys and often hams. Read the labels! I look for a GF stamp/sign.  FYI: Fake crab is the one seafood I cannot eat; it is wheat based. Eat the real deal!

Be careful making soups or stews; many canned broths have a small amount of gluten/wheat in them. Read that label. Aldi’s has some great gf broths at excellent prices.

choco tart in pan

Chocolate silk tart ready for embellishment and devouring!

Now desserts: If you are making a dessert it is a different ball game going gf. A mix that you add eggs, butter and milk to is a great starting place. If you buy a gf mix for a cake I suggest you also buy some throw away aluminum pans to use; your pans may have tiny amounts of food particles from past baking. Better safe than sorry as even that tiny amount would be problematic. If the dessert requires a graham cracker crust just buy a readymade one in the gf section; the ones I make with gf crackers cost just about as much as a readymade one and it is a real time and labor saver.

choc pavlova minus choco

Chocolate pavlova: if you can make meringue in your mixer you can make this awesome company dessert.

If you want to make cookies; there are gf mixes out there. You might even find readymade gf dough. Just be sure to lay down some aluminum foil on the baking sheet to keep any stray tiny crumbs of old cookies at bay. May I recommend Russian teacakes; easy to make the dough; then form balls and bake; lots of powdered sugar on top after they are cooling. Delicate and delicious; my family says they are even better gf than when they were wheat based. The recipe is on my blog. I have a gf holiday baking cookbook as well as a Christmas gf cookie cookbook and some in my favorite Annalise Roberts cookbook.

My stollen recipe is off the King Arthur website; they have a great selection of gf baked goods including cookies and pastries. And there is always pinterest; I have found great things there.

stollen baked

Christmas stolen breads; super yummy; look on King Arthur’s website. Pretty easy too!

In summary; read labels, try to cook naturally gf and don’t try to make too many gf items your first time or two; think one new recipe at a time!  You will be rewarded with gratitude from the person who has to be gluten free and you will feel great for your efforts. I will be posting and reposting holiday baking recipes in the next 2-3 weeks so you may find some awesome gf holiday treats. There are even more in my large catalog of blog posts so use the search feature to see what I have available to shine for your holiday gathering.  Best of luck to you in your holiday gluten free adventure!

Great Hamburger Buns

I recently shopped at a Trader Joe’s in Massachusetts. Bought some interesting stuff. One item I was really pleased with was a pack of gluten free hamburger bun. They even had sesame seeds all over the top! The flavor and texture was very close to what I remember of gluten based burger buns. Firm enough to hold a burger and fine for a sandwich. The bonus for me was that each bun was full sized; my beloved ciabatta buns by Schar are a tad small when it comes to holding a typical burger. Great price point too. Win Win!

gluten-free-hamburger-buns

Longing for Trader Joe’s to take the plunge and put a store in the Lehigh Valley; third biggest metro center in Pennsylvania. Soon!

Finger Lakes Trip

Six days ago, I fell in my yard and fractured my right wrist. Casted the next day. Cannot garden cannot lift much of anything. Typing one handed for next 6 weeks. There won’t be any long posts….

Last week we were up in the Finger Lakes. I cooked a lot, full kitchen in our bungalow. I made blueberry pancakes and cinnamon waffles. Suppers included crab cakes, grilled lamb chops and grilled Delmonico steaks.

I made a blueberry rhubarb crisp which I loved. Joe was hoping for a cobbler though…  And the smoked trout appetizer was delish: gf crackers, homemade cream cheese, capers and fresh dill. Mmmm.  smoked troutWe ate great meals for 3.5 days for under $100. Luxury proteins and fresh veggies including homegrown peas, romaine and broccoli. Delish! I will post my crab cake recipe another day. Need to rest now.

Update 2019….GF Keeps Getting Better

It’s been 6 years and a month. I find it fairly easy to be gluten free at home. It’s when I go anywhere that it becomes fairly difficult. I bake a lot of treats rather than buying them as I find the readi-made stuff to be drab and of poor quality. I sure don’t want to eat it if I can bake something easy and tasty. My family is quite understanding and accommodates my gluten free lifestyle. We get together at frequent intervals, my sisters and I and they always make sure we are eating safely for me. And yummy food too! They love my gf french bread, my lemon birthday cake was a huge hit and the recently enjoyed banana cake has been requested for this Saturday night supper with family.

banana cake

A big hunk of banana cake.

I cut back on breads although I had a rare grilled cheese sandwich today. Needed a quick meal. T hat I could take somewhere. My seven year old grandson is living with me and he is not gf. He eats gf for most part but I don’t want to make him eat gf store bought snacks and I just don’t have time to bake them for him. So there is a bit of effort needed for me to remain safely gf. I did find some Everything bagels at Aldi’s last week and that made me so happy; great flavor and texture. Their bagels are the best. Honestly, I shop more and more there; great dairy, super chocolate, love their salsa and chips and I’ve never had bad meat from there yet.bratwurst package

My Instant Pot is a great resource for making quick gf meals. I use it most weeks at least once. Plus it is perfect for making yogurt in it; I use organic milk from Aldi’s; makes great cheap yogurt. I also love making rice in my IP; perfect.  I do a lot of chicken thighs in it in a wide array of recipes from Indian to Thai and Italian. It is portable and can be used anywhere you have an outlet. instant pot 2

I still am experimenting with flours although I truly am happy with the King Arthur All Purpose flour blend. I do like gf bisquick and Better Batter. I have experimented with cassava flour for tortillas and I have a new blend I want to try soon that uses meringue powder to lift the dough. I enjoy that sort of baking. My dad was a chemical engineer and I am clearly his daughter! lemon birthday cake slice

We went out to dinner at Jennys Kuali in South Bethlehem recently. Their egg rolls are absolutely the bomb and we adored the ginger garlic sauce. We both enjoyed the chicken on a stick; kinda a curry flavor there.Jenny eggrolls

My fish special; a whole fish in very spicy sauce was enjoyable if a tad overcooked and Joe’s chicken with mango was rather bland but he dressed it up with hot sauce and that ginger delish sauce and happily devoured it. The staff there is very pleasant and they go out of their way to make it easy to eat GF; only dumplings and egg noodle dishes are off my menu. We agreed that we want to go back there soon and try some other dishes.  And eat more eggrolls! I haven’t had one since I went gf. We had a great table and I had a glass of bubble tea; a novelty in Bethlehem. Joe loved the Thai black iced tea. We tried some desserts and left stuffed and happy.

Eating at church functions is tough; sometimes I bring my own food. Sometimes there is fresh fruit I can enjoy at gatherings. Not complaining. Just observing.

Life is good, I try to avoid even minor gluten incidents so I don’t eat at events most of the time nor do we eat out as often as years ago. I eat so much healthier than I did six years ago. I feel better for it and am so glad I need no medicine for my celiac disease. Many thanks to all my family and friends who accommodate my strange diet. I’m doing great!

GF Flour Choices and a Few Personal Words….

Wanna know what flour blends I favor? It took me a few months or maybe years to figure this out for my cooking style. First, I bought a zillion weird and a few typical gf flours. Tried to bake with each and every one of them. Found out a few kinda suck and stopped using them. Others are used infrequently but have real value for a few recipes that they match to. If you are new to gluten free or just trying to get into baking gf this post is for you.

My favorite blend is King Arthur’s Gluten Free All-Purpose blend; made of three flours; brown rice, potato starch and tapioca flour. It is versatile. It makes great pie crust that my family really loves. I use it in most of my muffin recipes. I use it for gf pasta making and for cookies that wow.  Get some and give it a try. I actually make my own blend (same exact blend as KA’s basic all-purpose flour) as it is cheaper but you can buy it at your local grocery store in a  box.

 

king arthur flour

Another blend I like very much is Better Batter, the copycat version you can find on glutenfreeonashoestring. I make a batch and keep it in the freezer so it stays fresh. Great for quick breads, desserts and pastries.

If you want a cup for cup replacement flour there are some good options; Cup 4 Cup or King Arthur’s Measure for Measure flour.  They can be used in your favorite recipes for the most part.

king arthur flour

white rice flour

White rice flour or cornstarch work well for breading things and thickening. I always keep both on hand. Ditto for tapioca flour which I use in my blends and some other recipes. Gotta have it available. I also keep sweet rice flour to use in my main blend and in a few recipes. It adds flakiness in my pie crust. Potato starch is great in my basic blend and a few other blends/recipes. Another must have.

I use sorgum flour in a number of recipes including my delish buttermilk pancakes. It has a nice flavor compared to things like quinoa flour or bean flours. Uggh on them! I still have some in my freezer but I NEVER willingly use them. I do have some chickpea flour but rarely have a need for it.

Occasionally I use teff flour; in small amounts. It makes breads darken and seem like rye or pumpernickel breads.   But, it can give a muddy flavor if you use too much. Coconut flour is another flour I keep in the freezer but only use occasionally.  It can dry out a recipe if you use too much so  use sparingly.

I just got some cassava flour to use to make flour tortillas.  I hear it is fantastic.  I’ll let you know how that goes…

My suggestion is that you start with one or two blends and a couple single flours that can be used in combination. I rarely ever use just one flour except for breading or thickening. A great blend is critical.

Don’t let all the flour choices discourage you.  Try a few and find out what works for you. Some need to be frozen or refrigerated especially if you don’t use them up rapidly; check for that storage information so your flour blend that costs a lot doesn’t get rancid on you.  Have fun!

A personal note. I am sorry I haven’t blogged much lately. Been struggling somewhat. I was diagnosed with breast cancer in July and had a partial mastectomy in early August. On the first of October I started radiation therapy and it has sucked my energy and focus away from most of my enjoyable hobbies including this blog. I hope to feel better soon; 3.5 more weeks to go! At least I won’t lose my hair, LOL! I have done a bit of baking and cooking but due to my low energy I seldom can find it in me to write. This will change in November I hope.  Peace and happy gf cooking!

Perils of Lunching out in NY State

Just back from the Finger Lakes up in New York State. Gorgeous. Didn’t eat out much. Did a lot of grilling at our rental cabin. Yummy results. But I will share on the three places we did have lunch at. The first was at Three Brothers Wineries up near Geneva New York, up towards the eastern top portion of Lake Seneca. The large parking lot was packed, buses, limos, vans, zillions of cars.  We finally stowed the pick up in a wider space and strolled in the central area. Many buildings, including a micro brewery, stores and dozens of folks trotting this way and that, groups in matching shirts, twenty somethings swizzling wine slushies as well as hordes of people drinking, eating, enjoying life loudly. We went to the take out area in the Cold Brew Coffee eatery.  I ordered a chicken sandwich on gf bread and an ice tea.  I left Joe to get the sandwiches and walked out to secure some where to eat. I got a nice table but had to wait nearly 20 minutes for him to show up.  He had a bratwurst sandwich which shouldn’t have taken so long.  Guess it was my choice…. My requested gf bread was somehow changed to what looked like an over-sized multigrain taco shell. I went in to ask if it was gf. The young fellow acting as the expediter said yes it was and as he spoke he tapped his gloved finger on my taco shell! I told him that he had just contaminated my food with his hand as most of the food there was on bread, rolls, pizza dough or pretzel dough. Ridiculously unprofessional and totally uncalled for behavior. I walked back as I was not willing, at 2 pm, to wait another 20-25 minutes for a sandwich when I was sick with hunger. I tore off the top half of the taco shell, tossed it and ate the rest. It was actually pretty good. But I will never go back there; too noisy, too crowded, incredibly slow service and Joe felt I was crazy lucky to not get glutened.

apple and chicken salad

Next place was at Wagner Vineyards near Lodi where we had our cabin. I ordered a composed salad with apple slices and grilled chicken. It arrived with a big wheat bun resting on the salad. I told the waitress that the salad was unacceptable, she said does it have to be remade. I said yes. They did in short order and it was okay if a bit boring. We wee on the outside deck and it was breezy; at one point I had to put my hands over my salad as chunks of the lettuce were blowing away in the gusty wind! Acceptable but nothing I would order again; the wine based vinaigrette was watery and bland.

Lastly, we ate at the Carriage House Café in Ithica on our way out of town. I had the grilled chicken, brie, artichoke and caramelized onions on gf bread. The sandwich was awkward as it was not sliced in half and the bread was grilled or griddled making it kinda hard to bite off a chunk. I managed and the flavors were awesome together. I think I got the end of a loaf; a bit tough. I had the same sandwich last summer and it was stunning in every way. This was still great; just not quite as perfect as the previous sandwich.

carriage house

Moral of story: check harder before choosing places; it I had researched the Three Brothers I would have seen all that pizza and pretzel dough and how big/commercial the place was…best avoided. Otherwise it is often the luck of the day as to the bread quality and the wind that might blow away your salad!