September 26, 2014
The book was a well-timed gift from my parents. I read the book, as I lay on the lounge chair so sick with gluten that I was incapable of even talking. Honestly, this gluten attack was so bad that I was certain I had cancer and my life was ending. As bad as if felt, I found a lot of comfort in reading Jennifer’s book.
Jennifer’s book is a memoir of what it is like to have Celiac disease from pre-diagnosis, through the infuriating diagnosis process, and then to live with it everyday. (It also includes some helpful tips on starting the GF diet, but there are other books on this topic that are better).
What I liked about the book is the painfully honest account of the struggles Jennifer faced. Jennifer doesn’t have “Yes” tattooed on her hand, but her account of the physical and emotional struggles with this disease is one of the worst I have read.
While my symptoms never got as bad as hers, I keep finding common struggles that happened in both of our lives. Did you know that undiagnosed celiac disease could give you symptoms like anxiety? My doctors did the same thing Jennifer’s did – put me on Lexapro! I also was really sick for the first week or two after I went gluten free and subsequently found out that my poor body could no longer tolerate dairy as well.
If you have read my blog for a while, then you know that despite how hard it can be at times, I try really hard to keep things positive. I have two teenage girls that seem to search for drama in their lives. Both girls have to eat gluten free. If I go negative about our diet, it will be so easy for them to go negative as well. So I try to stay positive.
But after being gluten free for almost nine years now, I felt like Jennifer’s Way gave me permission to finally say - Celiac Disease Sucks! It is hard to have this condition that permeates every aspect of my life from my first sip of coffee in the morning until my bedtime snack at night.
Celiac disease is a hard disease to have and a hard disease to live with and it is okay to acknowledge that fact.
After I finished reading the book, my 18-year-old daughter came out on the deck to check on me. For one of the first times ever, I said, “Alex, being celiac really sucks.” And she said, “Yeah Mom it does.” And while I will still be an advocate of being positive for your kids, it felt great to share in the mutual feeling that yeah it really can stink and we both hate it at times and that is okay!
So if you feel alone or sad or just want to know that someone else has experienced what you are experiencing, then this book is a great read. So many times I feel like people just don’t get what it is like to live with celiac disease every single day of your life for the rest of your life. If you feel this way too, then read this book and you won’t feel so alone.
Some of my Other Favorite Books about the Gluten Free Life
by Alessio Fasano
Everything you need to know about the Gluten Free Life and Diet in one book written by the leader in this field.
by Shelley Case
by Jules Shepard
by Danna Korn
by Elizabeth Hasselbeck
by Peter Green. I read the first version of this book when we were first diagnosed. Glad to see it has been updated. It is a very thorough explanation of Celiac Disease. While I was reading it, I keep thinking, "wow, I have that. Wow, I have that too." It ultimately led to me realizing that I am also a Celiac.
August 29, 2014
Al fresco Chicken Sausage
Al fresco is America’s #1 chicken sausage brand. They offer over 20 flavorful, gourmet varieties of chicken products, each with 70% less fat than pork sausage and free of nitrates, preservatives and artificial ingredients.
Even better, all of al fresco’s natural products are wheat free and gluten free.
Al Fresco’s Gluten Free Statement:
Al fresco makes every effort to maintain a gluten free environment through a number of processes. First, none of the products produced on the production line have any gluten in them so the line itself is gluten free. Next, the traceability system ensures that ingredients do not get into products they are not intended for – they have checks and controls in place at every step of the process that monitor and document that the correct ingredients and only the correct ingredients go into each blend of al fresco sausage. Additionally, they do a full wash-down of the equipment every day and monitor that with ATP tests that detect trace levels of gluten and if the test fails we re-wash the line. Although they exceed what the government requires, they have the USDA in the plant every day, monitoring processes, including label accuracy. I hope that is the information you were looking for.
Columbia Crest Winery
Living in Washington State, how could I turn this offer down? Nestled alongside the Columbia River in eastern Washington, Columbia Crest winery opened its doors in the heart of the acclaimed Horse Heaven Hills in 1983. Year after year, the winery maintains its commitment to quality, heritage and innovation in grape growing and winemaking to craft exceptional wines.
What could be a better use of these two products than Risotto? And it is the perfect heading-into-fall recipe. Plus anyone who is a gluten free cook should be taking advantage of naturally gluten free risotto. It is a great worry-free carbohydrate that provides a meal in one skillet.
Here is the recipe! Hope you enjoy it!
Lemon Chicken Sausage Risotto
SERVES: 4 - 6
TIME: 40 minutes
▪ 2 Tablespoons butter
▪ 1 12-ounce package Gluten Free chicken sausage – I used al fresco roasted garlic chicken sausage.
▪ 5 cups gluten free vegetable broth
▪ 1/2 onion, finely sliced
▪ 2 cloves garlic, minced
▪ 2 cups Arborio Rice
▪ 1 cup dry white wine – I used Columbia Crest Grand Estates Unoaked Chardonnay.
▪ 1/2 teaspoon salt
▪ 1 teaspoon black pepper
▪ 1 lemon, juiced and zested
▪ 3 Tablespoons sour cream
▪ 6 basil leaves, chopped
▪ 1/4 cup Grated Parmesan cheese
- Heat the butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Slice the sausage into bite-sized pieces and add to the skillet. Cook until brown. Remove the cooked sausage and set aside for later.
- Warm the vegetable stock in a medium saucepan on low heat.
- Return the skillet to medium-high heat and add the onion and garlic. Stir and cook for 2 to 3 minutes, or until onion starts to turn translucent. Reduce heat to medium-low.
- Add the rice and stir to coat, cooking for 2 minutes.
- Add the wine and cook for 2 minutes, allowing the rice to absorb the wine.
- Add ½ cup of vegetable broth to the rice, ½ teaspoon salt and 1-teaspoon pepper. Stir and simmer until the broth is absorbed.
- Continue to add the broth, ½ cup at a time, stirring every few minutes. When the broth is just about evaporated, add more.
- Continue until the rice is cooked through, but still al dente. Start checking it after 20 minutes but it usually takes around 30 minutes total.
- Remove from the heat. Add the lemon zest and juice. Stir in the sour cream and basil.
- Garnish with grated Parmesan cheese.
August 25, 2014
I had never been to Portland before but had heard from several people that it is a great and easy place for celiacs to eat. Hannah and I have known each other for about 14 years and at times she has basically become gluten free while with me, so she was more than willing to explore multiple gluten free restaurants and bakeries with me. Here are a few of our favorite spots.
Our first stop was lunch at Pizzicato. We were looking for a place to stop in and grab a quick lunch before exploring the city and Pizzicato was the perfect place. I ordered a slice of gluten free cheese pizza and told the cashier to be extra careful because I have celiac disease. He immediately said he was so glad I told him because they are more careful with celiacs versus people following “the fad.”
For dinner that night we continued our Italian theme and ate at Pastini Pastaria. All of their pasta dishes could be made gluten free and I had a very filling dinner of Fettuccini Alfredo. The food was delicious however I am not sure how safe it is for celiacs. I told the waiter that I have celiac disease and he said they would be careful however I was slightly nauseous afterwards so I cannot highly recommend this restaurant for celiacs.
My Best Friend Hannah
Our second day in Portland was our bakery day. We started at one of the best gluten free bakeries I have been to: Petunia’s Pies and Pastries. This bakery is completely gluten free and vegan and you would never be able to tell. I ordered corn bread and a cupcake and was stunned by how delicious they were. Not only is the bakery adorable, it is delicious. If you are looking for a healthy bakery I would not recommend this place but if you are looking for some sugary treats I would highly suggest it. I couldn’t help myself from going back the next day to stalk up on treats for the drive home.
Later on that same day (we’re teenagers all we eat is sugar and carbs), we stopped by Kyra’s Bake Shop. We came late in the day so the selection was not huge but the cupcakes were to die for. The bakery is located in a suburb of Portland called Lake Oswego but even if you are staying in the city, Kyra’s cupcakes are a must and definitely worth the short drive.
For our last dinner in Portland we decided to try Deschutes Brewery in the Pearl District. We were skeptical because what’s the point of eating at a brewery if you can’t drink beer, but the food was delicious. They have a gluten free menu and are very honest about what is safe for celiacs and what is not. One thing I found odd was they claim to have a dedicated gluten free fryer but when it gets busy they cook gluten foods in it. So always make sure and ask what is safe or not when you are there.
All in all Portland was a success and I will definitely be going back soon!
August 25, 2014
But, as I shared last week, my oldest daughter is headed off to college this fall. Everyone keeps asking me if I feel sad. I have not felt sad, as much as I have felt reflective. Our playroom has a wall of some of our favorite family photos. Last night I was sitting in the playroom and running my eyes over the years. I couldn’t help but sigh as I reflected on how my kids have grown up. Maybe it is because it was so busy, but sometimes I can hardly remember those younger years. What did it feel like to kiss those chubby checks? To brush that long hair? To be hugged by those little arms?
And now here we are and my oldest is about to move out.
At least I can say that I have no regrets. Before we had our first daughter, I was an employment discrimination lawyer at a huge law firm in Chicago. I stopped working when my daughter was born. I was not sure how long I would take off from work, but then we moved to Seattle and then we had another kid, and then my daughter was diagnosed with Celiac Disease, and then I just never went back to work.
Someone was asking me recently if I was going to go back to work now that my kids are getting older. They were surprised when I adamantly said no. Hello – if you haven’t noticed I already have a really busy job! And for me, I had to be a stay at home mom so that I could reach this point and have no regrets.
This is our favorite new salad recipe of the summer. My oldest daughter found a version of it on Pinterest. We love corn on the cob, but with a house full of metal-mouths (aka braces) corn on the cob is challenging to eat. So this is our Corn-off-the-Cob Salad. Hope you enjoy it too.
Recipe for Summer Corn Salad
- 6 ears of corn, husk and silk removed
- 2 Tablespoons melted butter (use Earth Balance for Dairy Free)
- 2 Tablespoons lime juice
- 1/2 teaspoon chili powder
- 1/4 teaspoon cumin
- 1 Tablespoon chopped cilantro
- 1/4 cup red onion, finely chopped
- 1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- Bring water to boil in a large pot. Add the corn and boil for 3 minutes. Remove and allow the corn to cool slightly.
- Cut the kernels off the cob and set aside.
- In a small bowl, whisk together the melted butter, lime juice, chili powder, cumin, and chopped cilantro.
- Pour over the corn and gently mix to coat.
- Stir in the red onion and top with crumbled feta.
- Season with salt to taste.
- Serve chilled or at room temperature. Refrigerate leftovers.
Enjoy these last few days of summer!
August 21, 2014
This all came to a head for me yesterday. We were meeting with the Chefs in the dining hall where she will be living in a triple dorm next year. I was sitting there in this huge institutional cafeteria with three Chefs sitting across from me, when it dawned on me that she would eat almost all her meals next year in this place, prepared by these people. Sadly, I left more than a little concerned about it. In fact, I had a hard time sleeping last night.
Don’t get me wrong, they were very nice and very understanding and very willing to work with us, but it is not going to be easy.
They assured us salads would probably be safe but because it is a self-serve salad bar with gluten items on it, she is going to have to get someone’s attention, explain to them that she has celiac, and ask them to get clean product out the back. This someone will be one of the 80 to 90 college students who work in the cafeteria, many of whom they explained are exchange students who don’t speak English very well. They even admitted the first couple of weeks would be tough.
Ok, so you need to be assertive to get a clean salad. But she can’t eat salad every day of the week. Sometimes she will need a hot meal. That gets even more complicated. They occasionally have meals marked GF on their menus, but because of cross-contamination, they are not sure those meals would be safe enough for my daughter who has celiac. The whole gluten free double standard again.
On the days when she thinks she wants a meal, she is supposed to text the head chef and let her know she is coming and they will make sure they have “something” safe for her.
May sound easy enough, but they seemed a little surprised by the expectation that she may actually want “real” food on occasion.
And the “real” food that they would have ready for her was yet to determined.
And the burden is totally on her to ask for a safe meal.
I know that sounds like a nice solution but I left with the feeling that this was their answer for now and not sure they would really execute on it. And that she is going to have to be very forceful to get a safe meal.
They also wanted to know what meals she could prepare for herself in her triple dorm! Where she can’t even have a toaster.
I know you are thinking they can’t do that especially in light of the new FDA ruling and the lawsuit against the college last year. And you are right and if they don’t provide safe meals, we can sue them but my daughter will be long out of the dorms by the time that happens.
Thankfully, her college is only a short drive away and I can prepare meals for her, and deliver them, and she can just warm them up. But she doesn’t want that! She is 18 and moving out for the first time and she just wants some independence. She is honestly pretty bummed out about it too. I can’t blame her for feeling sad – she just wants to go to college and live in a dorm like everyone else and go to the dining hall like everyone else and to not get sick.
I think this may be one of the biggest hurdles we have faced yet in living gluten free – to totally surrender to an institution the feeding of my very sensitive gluten free child.
So, as I said early, I couldn’t sleep last night. Think I will send another email now to the Chefs. Here we go again. Will have to let you know how this one goes.
August 14, 2014
Here are some suggestions to hopefully help with the transition to school.
Notifying School Authorities
The first step is to notify the school about your child’s diet. At the beginning of each school year, send out a letter to the school nurse, the receptionist in the front office, the Head of the School and the teachers. Also request a copy be placed in the substitute teacher file. It is often the other parents who bring in snacks so email a copy to all of the parents in your child's class.
I first wrote this back to school letter for my daughter when she was in fourth grade. Back then; no one knew what “gluten” was. Here I am eight years later revising it for her college dorm chef. Feel free to copy the letter, post it in a word document and revise as needed for your situation. I hope it helps!
Follow this link to a sample SAMPLE LETTER TO TEACHER AND PARENTS.
In addition to notifying everyone, be sure to:
Provide a Classroom Stash of GF Snacks.
Provide the teacher with an assortment of gluten free snacks for those unexpected situations that will come up. I have found it easiest to put everything in a gallon zip lock bag that is clearly labeled with your child’s name and “Gluten Free Snacks.” Provide snacks that are durable to withstand whatever may come their way in the classroom. You also want to provide some healthy snacks that can be eaten in case of an emergency.
Provide a container of kitchen wipes.
I also provide a container of kitchen wipes so that desks can be wiped down after other students eat gluten treats.
Gluten Free School Lunches.
If you are lucky, your school may provide some gluten free options for your child. If your kids go to public school, look into filing for a 504 plan. My kids went to private school and, in all honesty, the school has been terrible about providing any kind of special food for my kids. So they take their lunch everyday.
When planning for school lunches.
Buy a Fun and Different Lunchbox. Buy your child a fun lunchbox that is not like everyone else’s and clearly label it with your child’s name. One year we had the standard issue Target lunchbox that several students had. One day I had to bring an emergency lunch to school because someone else had grabbed her lunchbox by mistake.
Pack More Food than your Child Needs. Even though most schools do not permit it, all kids trade food. Additionally, you never know when a situation could arise where your GF child needs extra food. A spontaneous invite after school for a play date is okay because she will have extra food left over from lunch for snack. Lastly, it is good to have extra food in the event of an emergency. I feel better knowing my daughter has a little extra food.
Keep Lunches Fresh. Our lunch ingredients are broken down into six main categories: main entrée, fruit, vegetable, something cold, snack item, and dessert. Sticking to these makes it easier for me (I don't have to think too much before my coffee kicks in) and for my daughter to make her lunch in the morning. She can put in whatever she wants, as long as there is one thing from each category.
Here are some ideas for Gluten Free Lunches!
Finally, if you want an extra-special treat for after school or for in the lunch box, try these Chex Chocolate Bites! My kids love them.
How do you manage school gluten free?
July 17, 2014
We liked S'MAC so much that we ate here twice. Actually my girls would have been happy eating her every day. I am fairly certain we will be “regulars” if they ever decide to expand to Seattle.
Gluten Free Macaroni and Cheese anyway you like it! What more can I say? It was simply delicious.
I was a little leery because I am also dairy-challenged so macaroni and cheese is not a normal part of my diet. I tried the dairy free macaroni and loved it! It was pretty tasty for a vegan mac.
The macaroni comes in several sizes - we had the nosh, which is the smallest size, and we were more than full. You can have it straight up with cheese, which is what my girls had. Or you can get creative and add an assortment of other toppings from rosemary to hamburger. All of the breadcrumbs are made from gluten free cornflakes so don’t forget to add those.
We were there on a Saturday night on our way to a show and the place was packed with a long line waiting for seating. If you go down two doors, you can get the carryout and take it to a park to eat. Or you can carry it over to Tu-Lu’s, only a few blocks away, and then get some Tu-Lu’s for dessert.
Bistango is gluten free heaven. Located in midtown, it offers an intimate and charming classic Italian atmosphere.
More than the atmosphere, the food blew us away. First the gluten free bread is perfect – crunchy crust with a moist inside. No one would have known it was gluten free.
The bread is good but the pasta is exceptional.
My gluten free teen almost cried when they served the homemade gluten free tortellini with roasted butternut squash, sweet potato, and sage cream with brown butter. She must have asked me three times if it was really gluten free. I even double-checked with the server. She swooned over the pasta and was mumbling how she has not had tortellini in eight years.
My other daughter had the GF spinach ravioli and declared it the best ever.
Since I also cannot have dairy, I assumed the ravioli would be out of the question for me. I was surprised to find out they have a gluten and dairy free ravioli made with eggplant. Oh my goodness! For once I felt like I was not sacrificing because of my dietary restrictions. I can’t even express the happiness this meal brought to us.
I was way too full by the time they presented the dessert menu with a wide selection of homemade gluten free desserts. The girls split a cheesecake with an almond crust.
If you visit New York, it would be a shame to miss this truly excellent restaurant. I really can’t wait to return myself.
All of the GF Places we did not Get to Try - the list of places we did not get to try is much longer than the list of places we did! Click on the pages and leave comments if you have visited any of them.
Don’t worry New York, we will be back soon!
Of the three bakeries we sampled, the girls voted Crumbs Gluten Free Bakery as the best Gluten Free Cupcake in NYC,
Even though Crumbs offered brownies, loaf bread and a few other treats, it is predominately a gluten free cupcake bakery.
I don’t think I have ever seen so many gluten free cupcakes in one place.
The cupcakes stand so tall that you actually can’t open your mouth wide enough to get it all in!
While the girls voted Crumbs No. 1 in NYC, I had the dairy free brownie cupcake, and the cupcake part of mine was a little “crumbly” and dry. I also thought it had a little too much frosting. It is about half cupcake and half frosting.
This is the bakery that I was most excited to visit on our trip to New York. It was founded by Jennifer Esposito and she has done a great job of promoting awareness of Celiac Disease and taking something in her life that was hard and turning it into a positive.
Sadly, this bakery disappointed me. While it is a good start for Jennifer, I am hesitant to send tourists here who are looking for a place to rest a bit and enjoy their gluten free treats.
We visited Jennifer’s Way Bakery in the mid-morning. From the photos online, I thought it would be a large enough space for us to get a cup of coffee and enjoy a breakfast pastry.
Jennifer is doing a great job with the recipes and the baking, as everything we sampled was moist and flavorful.
Unfortunately, the selection of baked goods was pretty limited.
While the bakery has great character, I was actually surprised by how tiny the bakery is. They do have a small table, but this is more of a walk-up and carryout bakery than a sit down bakery.
The bagels were some of the best I have tried to date, but we were disappointed when they told us they could not toast them.
Even more surprising, the bakery is lacking in a few essentials, such as water. They did not have anything to drink. No coffee or tea, which I tried to understand. Although how hard is it to heat some water and have a few tea bags? So we asked for cups of water to drink and they did not even have enough paper cups for water! We had to share a glass.
We actually ate more than just cupcakes and donuts on this trip. Check back next week as we dig into some of our favorite places to eat dinner in NYC.
April 29, 2014
I have made lasagna using my non-dairy cheese spread. It makes a delicious lasagna, but adding another step onto an already time consuming recipe can be daunting.
I have also tried using a little mayonnaise with some Daiya Shreds and that actually does not make a bad lasagna. It can be a little flat and doesn’t have the creaminess of traditional lasagna, but works in a pinch.
When I received a sample of Mori-Nu Silken Tofu, I knew it would be the perfect ingredient in non-dairy lasagna. By the way, I call this lasagna non-dairy because it has GF sausage in it. You can easily make this recipe vegetarian by leaving out the meat.
Mori-Nu Silken tofu is processed in a dedicated gluten-free facility, and is certified gluten free by the Gluten Free Certification Organization. The new logo with this certification will be on the packages soon.
In addition to being dairy free, tofu is a low-fat, zero-cholesterol source of protein. I received a sample of Mori-Nu tofu but all opinions in this post, and the recipe, are mine.
Non-Dairy Gluten Free Lasagna
- 1 box Tinkyada gluten free lasagna noodles
- 2 Tablespoons olive oil
- 1 cup yellow onion, chopped
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 1/2 pound GF sausage
- 2 cups kale, de-stemmed and chopped (optional)
- 1 28 ounce can crushed tomatoes in tomato puree
- 1 6 ounce can tomato paste
- 1 Tablespoon dried parsley
- 1 Tablespoon basil leaves
- 2 teaspoons salt
- ¾ teaspoon pepper
- 24 ounces Morinaga Silken Tofu - Firm, crumbled
- 3 1/2 cups Daiya Mozzarella Style Shreds*
- 1 egg, lightly beaten
- 1 Tablespoon dried oregano
- 2 Tablespoons GF nutritional yeast (optional)
1. Fill a large bowl with the hottest tap water. Add the noodles and allow them to sit in the water for 20 minutes. Drain. Rinse with cold water and sprinkle with some olive oil to keep them from sticking. Set aside.
2. While the noodles are soaking, heat the olive oil in a large skillet. Add the onion and cook for 5 minutes over medium-low heat. Add the garlic and cook for 1 more minute.
3. Add the sausage and cook until it is no longer pink (8 to 10 minutes). If you are going to use the Kale, add it about 5 minutes into cooking the sausage.
4. Add the tomatoes, tomato paste, parsley, basil, 1 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper. Simmer uncovered over medium low heat for 15 to 20 minutes.
5. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.
6. Drain tofu and crumble with a fork. In a medium bowl, combine the tofu, 3 cups Daiya Mozzarella Style Shreds, egg, 1 Tablespoon dried oregano, 2 Tablespoons GF nutritional yeast (optional), 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper.
*You can use more or less Daiya Shreds depending on how much you like it. I am not that crazy about it, so I actually go a little lighter and only use 2 cups in my lasagna. But if you like the taste and texture of the Daiya Shreds, you will get more “cheesy” traditional lasagna if you use 3 cups. The nutritional yeast is also optional. It will give you a cheesier flavor but if you don’t want to buy a lot of special ingredients, it is okay to skip it.
7. Ladle 1/3 of the tomato sauce into a 9 x 12 inch rectangular baking dish, spreading the sauce over the bottom of the dish.
8. Next add the layers as follows:
- Half the pasta (if it is sticking add some olive oil to loosen)
- Half the tofu mixture,
- One third the sauce,
- Rest of the pasta,
- Rest of the tofu mixture,
- Rest of the sauce.
9. Sprinkle with ½ cup Daiya Mozzarella Style Shreds.
10. Bake for 45 minutes at 375 degrees F, until the sauce is bubbling.
In 1985, Morinaga Nutritional Foods Inc. began marketing aseptically packaged tofu in the United States under the Mori-Nu brand name. Morinaga helped to develop a revolutionary new packaging process that seals in all the wholesome nutrition of tofu in an airtight, shelf-stable package. This aseptic packaging protects the contents from the harmful effects of light, air, and microorganisms without preservatives or irradiation. The Institute of Food Technologists voted Morinaga’s packaging "the #1 food science innovation of the last 50 years" because it increases nutrient retention and flavor while ensuring food safety.
April 25, 2014
Located in East Village, there is not one particular treat that we like the most. Tu-Lu’s is just an overall good gluten free bakery and we loved everything that we sampled.
While Babycakes has the donut market and the “healthier” cupcake market, I personally think Tu-Lu’s cupcakes are better. They also carry dairy free and vegan cupcakes on Fridays and Saturdays.
The Snickerdoodle cookie was so soft and sugary; The perfect blend of gluten free ingredients..
Looking for a savory meal, Tu-Lu’s also serves Panini’s.
The wait staff was pretty indifferent about serving us, but the bakery does have a small area for sitting and enjoying your snack.
If you have visited Tu-Lu’s Gluten Free Bakery, let us know what you think!