Going Gluten Free

In the last week or so, I’ve had several friends talk to me about going gluten-free. About six years ago, I asked my doctor to test me for a wheat allergy after years of digestive problems. She said she really didn’t think that was the issue but went ahead and ran the blood test. Much to her surprise, it came back with an indicator that I may be wheat and/or gluten-intolerant. She recommended I visit a gastroenternologist. The did a scope of my intestines and the results were “suspicious but not conclusive). He told me to go ahead and cut gluten out of my diet and see what happen. Within two-weeks, all the stomach problems I had experienced for several years were gone. I know for others it can take longer to see results – maybe more like a month of being gluten-free.

One of the firsts books I bought was The Gluten-Free Bible by Jax Peters Lowell. It is pretty overwhelming but covers pretty much everything. I never read the whole book but used it as a reference point as I started to eat gluten-free. Basically, I just stopped eating anything with wheat. That meant no pizza, no sandwiches, no pasta, no crackers, no cereal, etc. A few things have changed since I went gluten-free. The FDA now mandates that any products containing any of the eight major food allergens (milk, eggs, fish, Crustacean shellfish, tree nuts, peanuts, wheat or soybeans) must be clearly stated on the label. This certainly helps but wheat-free does not necessarily mean gluten-free. Trader Joe’s puts a label on all gluten-free products and most major grocery stores now have a small gluten-free section (or products that have gluten-free signage throughout the store). It is a lot easier to eat a gluten-free diet now than it was several years ago. Someone said to me the other day, “You were gluten-free before it was cool.”

So, here are my top-five tips for going gluten-free simply (you can get more adventurous after you try it out for a bit):

  1. The perimeter of the grocery store is your friend. Fruit, vegetables, meat and dairy gluten-free (unless something has been added to them). Rice and potatoes are also okay in their natural state (you have to be careful with mixes though).
  2. Before eating at a restaurant (including fast-food), search online to see if they have a gluten-free/wheat-free menu or call ahead to see if they can tell you what they can provide. I always hate when they make a big deal about it at the table. Some places have even had the chef come to our table to talk to me. I HATE this. Once at Pei Wei, the server came to the table and said, “Who ordered the allergy meal?” Sounds delicious. So, I prepare ahead of time. If you have no choice about where you are eating, be prepared to eat a very plain salad (Sad but true).
  3. Don’t cheat. I’ve never really determined if I am gluten-intolerant or if I have celiac disease. The symptoms I have sound more like gluten-intolerance. If I accidentally have something (and this rarely happens), I can tell within twenty-four hours. People ask me all the time if I cheat and I always tell them if just isn’t worth it. That said, I don’t stress out about cross-contamination as much as others may. For example, I know Qdoba states that there is  possibility for cross-contamination in the preparation of their wheat-free/gluten-free products. I eat there often and have never had an issue. You have to determine how sensitive you are and if it is a risk you want to take.
  4. Eat before you go out and/or offer to bring something. I know this sounds kind of annoying but you never know what you might be able to eat when going to a shower, party or other social event at someone’s home. If we are eating a the house of someone who does not know us well, I always tell them ahead of time that I am gluten-free. I offer to bring something, especially if they seem overwhelmed with the idea of cooking within these restrictions.
  5. Find a gluten-free bakery near you. I am at Sugar Kisses at least once a week. I seem to hear about a new one every month and if you want bread but don’t want to make it yourself, this is probably your best bet. There are a few brands sold in grocery stores with decent options. I like Udi’s products and Whole Food’s (both are usually in the freezer section).
I hope that helps. For kids going gluten-free, I saw this book over the weekend. Since gluten-intolerance/celiac  disease are hereditary, I’m almost counting on Baby Girl to have the same issues as me (because I’m an optimist like that).

Hungry Lady

I had a pretty minimal appetite in my first trimester and a normal one in my second. I was hoping that would stay the same but in the last week I have found myself really hungry. I was priding myself a bit on not being the “eating-all-the-time-pregnant-lady” so I’ve been humbled. It goes back to that not wanting to be a cliché thing. It is stupid, I know.

This recipe is known as “Cheryl’s Muffins” among my friends but Cheryl says the original recipe is from Breaking the Vicious Cycle: Intestinal Health Through Diet. Sometimes for those of us who are “intestinal-ly challenged”, it can be hard to find tasty recipes but I love these. Even though I’ve had the muffins a few times, this is the first time I made them. I was looking for a high-fiber, high-protein, gluten-free option to curb my appetitie.

Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Nut Muffins

  • 5 cups ground almonds
  • 1/2 cup melted butter
  • 1 cup honey
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 5 eggs
  • *1/2 cup natural peanut butter
  • *1 tsp. cinnamon
  • *1/2 bag mini-chocolate chips
  • *1/4 cup ground flax seed

*these are Cheryl’s additions to the original recipe

Bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes (they brown quickly so keep an eye on them…they may need less time).

I bought the almond meal at Trader Joe’s ($3.99 per bag, there are about 4 cups per bag). Others have bought bulk almonds at Costco and ground them up into meal in their food processor but my mini-prep won’t do that and I’m too lazy to add the extra step anyway.  I also used flax seed that also included ground blueberries since it was all Trader Joe’s had when I was buying the ingredients (you can’t taste the blueberries at all). I am planning to add some pureed carrots and/or spinach next time.

I think they are delicious and they make a very filling breakfast.  D liked them (he added a little butter and drank them with a glass of milk). They are not low in calories but they are full of stuff that is good for you.

Twelve more weeks to go!

From the Blog World

I love the internet. I could be embarrassed about the number of blogs I read but I’m not.  Here is what has jumped out to me through my blog reader and/or social networking in the past week.

Kristen talked about the relationships formed through the blogging and social networking world. It is 2011, people, this happens. In fact, it was the catalyst for us becoming foster parents. Which leads me to my next link.

An exciting post from my newest online friend…

Did you know you could miss someone you’ve never met? I long for them to fill this lovely room with their energy and joy. I, just like my Father, look forward to revealing this beautiful room to my future children. I long to see the delight on their faces when they discover what has already been created specifically for them, a place that no one can take from them, a place that’s safe and bright, a mix of past and present, a place to grow.

Jodi shares about the joys and struggles of being married to someone in ministry…

Every pastor’s wife I’ve ever met (and I’ve met a lot) has struggled with the dual nature of the pastor’s wife role. It’s simultaneously exciting and fulfilling and really, really hard.

Yesterday, I lost my patience with my kids more time than I really want to admit. Sometimes, I think, “Where is that nurturing gene I was so sure I had before kids?” I apologized to both of them before bed time and we prayed and asked God to help each of us be kinder and more patient with each other. I appreciated these simple tips from Elizabeth Esther on being a nurturing mother.

One that I would add to her list that I find is an issue for me is making sure to eat well. It is easy for me to feed my kids and make sure they get protein,  fruits and veggies (specifically, using this method). However, I notice that I rarely feed myself as well as I feed them. There are too many days when noon rolls around and all I’ve had is several cups of coffee. Hunger gives me a headache and also makes me way less patient than I’m capable of being.  I’ll feed them lunch, get them to rest/nap time and then eat something that is quick and easy and probably without any protein or good nutritional value. Even five years into being gluten-free, I’m still figuring out what is quick and easy and healthy. What I really  need to do is plan ahead to make sure I have options in the house for me. Anyone else have this problem or something similar?

Foodie Friday

I guess I have a commitment problem since I can’t decide on one “theme” for Fridays. But the nice thing about having a blog is that you make the rules. And, today, it is Foodie Friday.

I am often asked by people for gluten-free recommendations. Gluten-free is a necessary diet for people who have celiac disease or who are gluten-intolerant. To be honest, I’m not really sure which category I fall into but the treatment is the same. It is not a trend (like “low-carb” eating) or a choice (such as being a vegetarian/vegan).

When people ask me what they should make for their gluten-free guest, I often tell them to keep it simple. Meat, fish, veggies, fruits, potatoes and rice are all gluten-free by nature. It is what gets added to these items that makes the off-limits sometimes. People always feel bad for me when they find out I can’t eat bread or accidentally forget and offer me a bagel. Don’t feel bad. I feel so much better than I did in my “gluten-eating” days. Plus, there are lots of options now for people like me.

I have two places that I like to shop for gluten-free items: Trader Joe’s & Sugar Kisses.

Trader Joe’s is kind enough to put this symbol on their gluten-free items. You can access a whole list of items on their website. I am rarely disappointed in the items I buy at Trader Joe’s and they have great prices. Staples that I tend to buy there are hummus, cheese, yogurt, sweet potato chips (yum), frozen veggies and potatoes, and meat (they have a few pre-marinated items that are great). Their gluten-free pasta is by far my favorite of all that I have tried. Overall, it is just nice that they make it so easy.

Sugar Kisses is owned by Brian & Lisa. Yes, I know their first names. And they probably know me as the “scone & coffee lady” because that is what I get there twice a week. Usually, I get a blueberry scone but lately they have had my favorite option, cherry & almond, available. Other favorites include pecan bars, double chocolate chunk cookies, cupcakes, and the focaccia bread. The majority of the items are gluten-free. They try to use local ingredients when available and they also have vegan, nut-free and dairy-free items. They are walking distance from my office so I walk there, you know, to burn off the calories from the scone.

I also like Whole Food’s Frozen Gluten-Free Pizza Crust (although, I kind of hate shopping there) and Mary’s Gone Crackers (however, Trader Joe’s is not offering a comparable cracker).

Eating out is a bit tricky but there are a few restaurants with gluten-free menus:

  • Outback Steakhouse
  • Pei Wei & PF Changs
  • Noodles & Company
  • Buddy’s Pizza
  • Maggiano’s

Gluten-Free Girl (well-known in the foodie-blogosphere) has a great page on her site of her recommendations.

I love food and my diet does not interfere too much with missing out on great flavors. It has also made me more aware when cooking for people (or taking meal to those who are sick or just had a baby) in making sure to ask if they have an allergy or dietary need. I always hate telling people, “Sorry, I can’t eat that” so it is really fantastic when there is an option for me.

Chickpeas and Spinach

I have totally fallen in love with this recipe. I sort of adapted it from two versions that I saw online (this one and this one). And, best of all, it is pretty healthy!

Olive oil (or whatever oil you want to use)
Red pepper flakes
Fresh garlic
Chickpeas/garbanzo beans
Fresh spinach
Lemon juice


1. In a pan, sauté over medium heat 1-2 cloves of garlic with ½ – 1 teaspoon cumin and ¼ – ½ teaspoon red pepper flakes. This should only take a couple of minutes. Make sure they do not burn.

2. Turn heat up slightly and add in a can of chickpeas/garbanzo beans and heat them through. Add salt and pepper to taste. Lower heat and add a generous amount of fresh spinach (like a whole bag). You can probably turn the heat off after a minute or two and the spinach should wilt down. Squeeze the juice of one small lemon over top.

3. Serve with fried egg on top.

This meal certainly has a kick to it so if you do not like spice I would go easy on the red pepper flakes. I am pretty sure you could sub black beans if you are not a fan of chickpeas. I actually really do not like cold, whole chickpeas so I was a little skeptical but they are delicious warm.

A Couple Simple Recipes

We had some friends over this weekend and I made a recipe that a coworker had given to me. It is pretty similar to the cookies I make but these bars have a really great texture. Here is the recipe:

Peanut Butter Oatmeal Bars

1 cup peanut butter
1 cup sugar
1 cup brown sugar
1 cup butter
2 eggs
2 tsp. vanilla
1 3/4 tsp. baking soda
3/4 tsp. salt
4 cups oats

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
2. Mix together peanut butter, sugar, brown sugar and butter.
3. Beat in eggs and vanilla.
4. Stir in baking soda and salt.
5. Add oatmeal.
6. Bake in greased 9 X 12 pan for 30-35 minutes.

Since I am a chocolate lover, I had to adapt this recipe a bit. Here is how I do it: spread about 75% of the batter in the greased 9 X 12 pan. It is a little difficult so you may have to put wax paper over it and push it into place. Once the batter is flattened, sprinkle semi-sweet chocolate chips/chunks over and then top with remaining batter. Again, you will have to flatten it out with wax paper.

D is gone a lot during dinner time. Although I miss him and would rather have him home, it provides the perfect opportunity for me to make food that may not be something he would eat.

Sweet Potato Fries have become are regular creation. After my friend Heather made them once, I decided I needed to figure them out for myself. Here is my recipe for Sweet Potato Fries:

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
2. Clean sweet potatoes with vegetable brush but leave on the skin.
3. Cut potatoes into “fry size” slices (like the size & thickness of a carrot stick).
4. Toss potatoes in olive oil, coarse salt, and pepper.
5. Bake for 10-15 minutes. When done baking, turn on broiler for 2-3 minutes. Turn the fries over and broil for another 2-3 minutes. Be careful – make sure they do not burn.
6. Serve hot with Cajun Ranch (Cajun season + ranch dressing) or Honey & Cinnamon.

She Made Barack Trendy, Can She Do the Same for Being Gluten-Free?

First of all, let me say…I’m not an Oprah fan. I think she has done some great things with her money but overall, I find her pretty arrogant. She interrupts everyone she interviews and puts herself on the cover of her magazine every month. Even Martha Stewart doesn’t do that. She carries so much influence, it scares me.

However, one of the headlines on People.com today was: Oprah Winfrey’s 21-Day Detox Diet. The diet includes eliminating all animal products, sugar, caffeine and GLUTEN. Sounds awful. I am gluten-free and there are days when that alone makes me want to cry (this usually happens when I drive by a Hungry Howies). What would I do if I had to give up cheese, coffee and chocolate? I would be very cranky and Dan would probably ask me to move out.

Everything she promotes seems to catch on so I am hoping her 21-Day Detox will do something in the restaurant industry and make it a little bit easier for those of us who do not eat gluten to enjoy a night out. A few more gluten-free products at Meijer wouldn’t be terrible either.