Food for Thought

Disclaimer: Our bloggers are not health experts. Contact your physician if if you are thinking about starting a new dietary program.

By: Shannon Boatwright

“Food for thought” means something that warrants serious consideration. Now let me tell you something you should already know…what you eat and drink matters immensely to your overall health and quality of life. Thus, it should certainly be food for thought!

Now there are tons, upon tons, of diets and healthy eating programs out there. But what we need to focus on if we want to truly be healthy, is a change of lifestyle.

I recently completed the Whole30 Challenge. Now let me state something here – I have NEVER done any kind of diet. Ever. Was never my thing. I like food too much and I’ve always just believed that exercise was the answer for me and I could eat and drink whatever I wanted. I’m not in the overweight category, have never been a big soda drinker or sweets eater, and overall believed I was a pretty healthy individual. So this concept of focusing on changing my lifestyle for the better really attracted me.

The truth is, I shouldn’t eat whatever I want. At least not if I actually want to feel good and operate at my best! So what in the world inspired me to try this Whole30 thing? Well, amongst my busy-ness I noticed that one of my dearest friends, Tiana, had been posting things on Facebook about her healthy eating and weight loss. Though I was really happy for her, I honestly didn’t pay much attention to the details of her journey. Then my sweet Tiana came to visit me this past summer. Wowzers!! Not only did she look positively amazing – better than I’ve ever seen her look – but her health journey story with the Whole30 absolutely wowed me! Here was a woman, my age (in our very early, fabulous 40s), a kindergarten teacher assistant, with four kids and a very stressful home life. Before doing the Whole30 and changing her lifestyle, she would have anywhere from 15 to 20 migraines a month, had to get weekly allergy shots, experienced low energy and battled depression. Back in February she completed the Whole30 – a whole 30 days of eating and drinking healthy. It was her doctor that suggested the program in hopes that she would achieve positive results and ultimately all around feel better. She committed whole-heartedly, doing the program all alone in a house full of folks that did not join her in her mission to better health.  She stuck it out and has become a new and improved person, gaining much better habits and incredible awareness of what foods triggered ailments, etc. She went on to lose 40 pounds, has gained a life with zero migraines, no longer has to get weekly allergy shots and has boosted her energy levels immensely. Is that not crazy wonderful or what!??!

Needless to say, her story, her positive experience, totally captured my attention. I wanted, needed a body that functioned better! I desperately wanted to feel better while living my stressful, busy life. And though I considered myself a relatively healthy individual, I have learned so very much from my experience with the Whole30. Which by the way, is not a diet, nor a program really, it’s a lifestyle change. And the number one thing I learned is that the way you fuel and hydrate your body is absolutely critical to truly achieving good health.

Life is short, we have to take care of our vessel if we want to make the most of our lives!

Everyone’s experience with the Whole30 is different. We experience different benefits and learn different lessons. We figure out how to maneuver this healthy lifestyle change to best suit our needs and achieve health success. My biggest benefit is that since a drastic cleaning of my diet, I sleep better. Me! The chick that never sleeps well. The mom and teacher that can never turn off her brain! I can tell you right now that going 30 days without a whole lot of stuff that I really, really like, was totally worth it when I started actually falling right to sleep and finally sleeping well! I really, really hope to hold onto the key to keeping this benefit a part of my life.

Here are a few lessons I learned: 

1) I did not exercise as much as I should have while doing the thirty days, so I probably did not lose as much weight and/or inches as I could’ve. So, I learned that I really need to do better with that and move more on a consistent basis. Not necessarily for the sake of losing weight, but to benefit my body, activate and stretch my muscles, lubricate my joints, etc.

2) I actually experienced not having those afternoon slumps. You know, those moments in the afternoon when most people reach for that sugar filled, caffeinated drink to give you a boost? Yea, well I couldn’t do that while on the Whole30 and surprise, surprise, I didn’t need my sweet tea or coffee in the afternoon. I could drink some good ole water or cold green tea (nothing added) and feel good! For real.

3) I seriously love to cook. And boy did this experience ever give me a chance to get really creative with my cooking! Recipes change when you cut butter, certain oils, grains and dairy out of your diet!  And did you know that sugar is in almost everything!? Seriously, even my absolute favorite seasoning, Lawry’s, has sugar in it! This diet opened up a whole new world for me when it comes to reading ingredient labels! These products get so sneaky. Did you know that there are so many different words for sugar!? It’s crazy. So I learned and certainly experienced the reality and truth behind eating REAL foods, with REAL ingredients.

4) I learned that processed food is BAD. And now that I’ve tasted the difference, I sure do like the real stuff better. So much better! It’s amazing how it all affects your gut. Your body thanks you in so many wonderful ways, when you actually fuel it with real food and not processed, boxed and bagged foods.

The flip side – What I also learned:

1) I learned that I despise – I mean I truly cannot stand – my coffee with no sugar or cream. Yep, can’t do it. Drinking what seems and tastes like dirty water – NOT MY THING.

2) I learned that my body does need some dairy and grains. Fortunately, I do not have any sort of lactose intolerance – as long as I stick with the good stuff and not anything processed in any way. My gut operates better when I have some milk, cheese, yogurt, rice and breads – in moderation, of course.

3) I learned that any type of what I call “fake sugar” is really bad for me. I can literally take one swig of something with aspartame or sweet-n-low, etc in it and it will send me straight to the bathroom. Not good. And guess what, that’s totally fine with me because that fake sugar stuff is terrible for you anyway! When I do have any added sweetness, I’ll stick with the real deal, thank you very much.

4) I learned that I can actually survive just fine without alcohol and still be happy. Yep, I was without my wine. Did I miss it? Sure, there were definitely moments. Ironically, the 30 days that the hubby and I dedicated to the Whole30 were literally filled with special occasions and big events! Ranging from my sister’s 30th birthday to about four different other family birthdays, dessert dinner theatre and other random, special events and celebrations. Not to mention school started back up for me and goodness don’t you know a glass of vino after a long day back to the grind would’ve be so lovely. But nope, didn’t do it, and I survived just fine! My hubby is not a big drinker at all, so that certainly helped me. Instead, we focused on food. But I have to admit, because I do indeed love to cook, I really missed being able to pair the foods with a good glass of wine. On the flip side though – do you know how much money I saved by not buying that wine to go with my food? A lot.

5) I learned that though I have always been a pasta and wine lover, surprisingly it was not the pasta and wine that I missed most and not what my body craved the most during my 30-day experience. I missed my coffee! My Café Bustelo coffee with my French Vanilla creamer and sugar. And when I say I missed it – it was a tragic loss. In all seriousness, there were many days that I literally fantasized about my coffee. In dramatic fashion, with total desperation, all I wanted was my coffee, declaring, I’ll never eat pasta or drink wine again, just let me have my coffee with my cream and sugar!!! But alas, I pushed through the pain and made it out. Will I indulge in my coffee now that my 30 days is up? Absolutely. But, will I be more aware of the amount of creamer and sugar I put in my coffee? Sure thing. And will I limit all the other sugar filled beverages I have so that I can at least have my coffee the way I like it? Yes indeed!

6) The hubby and I learned that honeydew melons are the best fruit on the planet. You might say we overdosed on honey dew. They are the sweetest, yummiest fruit! OMG. In fact, we both probably gained weight and did not follow the Whole30 rules as much as we should’ve because we literally ate so much of that succulent, sweet, heavenly produce. It was how we survived our loss of sugar and now we are forever fans.

7) I learned important, yet ironic lessons about quality and quantity. I discovered that even though the foods we were cooking with were top quality, fresh, real foods, I still have a problem. Quantity!! That southern clean your plate mentality apparently applies to me always. I still tend to eat too much and not listen to my body when it’s full. So I’ve learned to be more aware of how much I put on my plate. Too much food is still too much food, even if it is great-for-your-body food. Moderation! In today’s times we eat enormous amounts of food! And it’s not necessary! We’re consistently overfilling our bodies and what our body cannot process quick enough, just flat out turns to fat and makes us feel terrible! So I’ve definitely learned that even though I’m on a mission to eat real foods, I still must be aware of the amount I’m taking in too.

So all this being said, I want to thank my precious friend Tiana for being the best cheerleader and role model ever! She has supported me every step of the way and been such an inspiration. She even repeated the Whole30 days with me! I don’t think I could’ve done it without her. I am so proud of her dedication to changing her life for the better and so very thankful for her unending love and support in helping me change mine! And to my sweet hubby, Brad, I cannot thank him enough for suffering through this experiment with me! He did not have to do it, but he made the sacrifice and knew it would be easier on me if I had a buddy. He recognized the benefits of making the commitment and I’m ever thankful that we were partners through the experience. It made it all much more meaningful being able to learn through it together. I’m very proud of him for committing to it for the sake of his own health too!

The journey to better health doesn’t have to be such a battle. It’s simply a lifestyle change and really comes down to awareness, smarts, logic and effort. What you put in your body directly affects how you will operate and feel. Period. It’s that simple.

Do you want to get out of your own vicious cycle? How do you plan to take care of this one vessel you’re given in order to live your life to the fullest?

It is definitely food for thought. 😉

Kids and Celiac Disease

 By: Rachel Sircy

Disclaimer: Our bloggers are not health experts. Contact your physician if you have questions about celiac disease or if you are thinking about starting a new dietary program.

Those affected by celiac disease may wonder what the risk is for our children. Here are a few things to consider:

1) According to the Center for Celiac Disease at the Children’s Hospital in Philadelphia, children with a first degree relative (mom, dad, sibling) who have celiac disease should be tested. They recommend that a blood test for celiac disease be done after the age of three and after the child has been exposed to gluten for at least one year. Remember that if you don’t have gluten in your system, you can’t have a reaction to it. The tests for celiac disease are trying to measure an immune response to gluten. If you’ve already put your child on a gluten-free diet, your child’s test will be negative even if they have celiac disease.

2) Even if you have celiac disease, or your child has another first degree relative with CD, it does not necessarily mean that your child will have celiac disease, though they are more at risk to have the disease.  Some people (myself included) have wondered if it’s worth it to introduce gluten into the diet of an at-risk child. It’s really your call, but consider this: your child may one day want to get off of the gluten free bandwagon. It might be good to find out sooner rather than later if that is an option for them.

Also, there are other health issues that are associated with celiac disease. If your child goes undiagnosed for CD, they may still develop some of these other issues such as diabetes, lactose intolerance, or even coronary artery disease. If you choose to put your child on a gluten free diet without having them diagnosed, just keep in mind that doctors will not be looking out for any medical problems that are related to celiac disease.

3) In young children with celiac disease, you may have to watch for contamination from gluten-containing play things like play dough or chalk, etc. Normally, celiacs don’t have to worry about anything that merely touches the skin (gluten can only affect celiacs if they eat it).  However, since young children are prone to eating things they shouldn’t (like play dough, chalk, etc.), it might be a good idea to stock GF art supplies

4) Signs and symptoms of celiac disease in children (and adults) include the following: chronic diarrhea or chronic constipation; abdominal pain; vomiting; bloating/gas; fatigue; damaged or discolored tooth enamel; blistery, itchy skin rashes; iron deficiency anemia; short stature. According to everything I’ve read, irritability is the first sign that appears in young children. Consistently cranky children are often sick children. Asymptomatic children with genetic risk factors should also be tested because many celiacs do not show any signs of the disease in its early stages.

**All of the above information info was taken from the “Kid Central” page of BeyondCeliac.org, which is a pretty good resource. Also helpful is the Mayo Clinic website.

Recipe: Easiest. Cookies. Ever. (Flourless Peanut Butter Kiss Cookies)

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup peanut butter (smooth works best, but crunchy will do)
  • 1 cup granulated white sugar
  • 1 tsp. baking powder
  • 1 egg
  • 1 bag Hershey’s Kisses (dark chocolate are our favorites on this, but milk chocolate is also good)

Directions:

  1. Unwrap Kisses and place in fridge, and preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Cream peanut butter and sugar into a bowl.
  3. Beat in baking powder.
  4. Add egg and mix until well combined.
  5. Roll into balls (smaller is better), roll balls in white sugar, and place on cookie sheets covered with parchment paper. Press/flatten balls with fork.
  6. Bake 10 minutes, let rest 5 minutes on baking sheet, then cool on a plate.
  7. While cookies are still warm, press a kiss in the middle of each cookie.
  8. Try not to eat them all in one sitting.

4 Healthy Recipes to Try This Independence Day

By: Kristen Nida, Guest Contributor

Hosting a Fourth of July celebration this year? You’ll have to try these four quick and easy recipes for your holiday festivities. Not only do they take little time to prepare, leaving you more time to enjoy with your family and friends, but they are also healthy!

Barbecue Pulled Chicken: A Fourth of July cookout isn’t complete without barbecue.
This BBQ pulled chicken recipe is a unique reinterpretation of pulled pork that slow-cooks chicken in tangy tomato sauce. Whether served over mashed potatoes or served as a sandwich, it is sure to be a hit. Click here for the recipe.

Creamy Spinach Dip: This healthy, fresh take on classic spinach dip is irresistible.
The low-fat ingredients in this tasty recipe will save you over 80 calories in each serving. This versatile dip can be served with pita chips, fresh vegetables, or even spread over a sandwich. There is an option for everyone! Click here for the recipe.

Red, White & Blue Popsicles: This easy, 3-step recipe is as quick to prepare as it is tasty to eat.
Juicy raspberries and blueberries are in season and this recipe takes full advantage of that. The natural sweetness of these fruity popsicles is unbeatable and the colors scream Independence Day, perfect for the occasion. Click here for the recipe.

S’mores Banana Ice Cream: The lightest, quickest “ice cream” you will ever prepare!
S’mores, bananas, and ice cream are each so delicious on their own. The only way to make them better is to combine them into one tasty treat! The best thing about this recipe is it takes only four minutes to create this dessert for your family and friends to enjoy. Click here for the recipe.

Three Great Gluten Free Resources

By: Rachel Sircy

In this post, I thought I would take a break from documenting my own personal gluten free and high cholesterol woes to share with those of you out there with gluten free needs some resources that have helped me through the years.

One of the first blogs that I came across when I was first diagnosed was The Gluten Free Girl blog. This blog helped me understand what it meant to be gluten free in a way that all the medical pamphlets and jargon couldn’t. It really encouraged me to read something written by someone who was a celiac and who wasn’t depressed about it. Shauna James Ahern enjoys life and her blog helped me to realize that my life wasn’t over just because I had celiac disease and could no longer eat fried chicken and doughnuts. I would particularly recommend starting out with her post entitled, “Yes.” It’s about her engagement, but it’s also about saying yes to all aspects of life no matter if they’re good or bad.

You can find her blog at: https://glutenfreegirl.com.

While I enjoy reading The Gluten Free Girl for inspiration and some tips, the truth is, a lot of her recipes have been too expensive and too complicated for me to really want to try. The first cookbook that I received after being diagnosed that had recipes that I wanted to return to again and again was Simply…Gluten Free Quick Meals, by Carol Kicinski. Her meals were, as stated, quick to prepare and pretty easy. They were also fairly easy on the budget, and the ones that were a bit too expensive could easily be prepared with cheaper substitutes and ingredients could also be left out without affecting the overall flavor too much. I love her falafel burgers, but I have never made the tahini sauce that she makes to go with them because I would never use the tahini for anything other than these burgers. The burgers still taste great!

Also, Kicinski’s cookbook had one of the first “stocking your gluten free pantry” sections I had ever seen. This was a huge help to me, and it might be to you, too. I would visit her website first to make sure that you like her cooking and her advice before you go out and buy her book. Her website is chock full of recipes and advice.

You can find her website at: https://simplygluten-free.com.

Last but not least, for those of us who suffer from the expense of a gluten free diet, there is Nicole Hunn’s blog: Gluten Free on a Shoestring. Hunn makes simple gluten free meals that are also affordable. Her recipes have been collected in at least one cookbook and they’ve also been featured in Delight gluten free magazine. She has a section on her website that deals with stocking a gluten free pantry as well. Because going gluten free can mean learning to cook all over again, I highly recommend looking at these resources to help you know what you need (and what you DON’T need) in your gluten free kitchen.

Nicole’s blog is located at: https://glutenfreeonashoestring.com.

Good luck and great reading!

Superbowl Snacks

By: Stacy Thompson

Football

At the writing of this blog, I may be really, really happy about the competitors involved in Super Bowl LI (if it’s the Packers/Patriots) or just looking forward to a good game. But for many people, the biggest game in the National Football League doesn’t signify the game between the two best teams, but something much greater, much more lasting. Not just the commercials, my friends, but the food served before, during and after the big event!

Ideal Super Bowl commercials generally include a monkey, kid or Clydesdales (Career Builder/Monkey Office, The Force/Mean Joe Green/Like a Girl, and pretty much every Budweiser commercial ever, most of all the post-911 tribute). The commercials keep us in our seats through the breaks in play and sometimes are more entertaining than the game itself. Regardless, the food can bring a good game home or take minds off of the fact that the next football competition is many, many Sundays away…

So, without further ado, here are some suggestions for your Super Bowl menu:

CRISP AND SPICY SNACK MIX

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups crisscross of corn and rice cereal (such as Crispix)
  • 1 cup tiny pretzel twists or sticks
  • 1/2 cup wheat crackers (such as Wheat Thins)
  • 1/2 cup cheddar crackers (such as Cheez-It)
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons butter, melted
  • 1 tablespoon ginger stir-fry sauce (such as Lawry’s)
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • Cooking spray

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 250º.
  2. Combine the first 4 ingredients in a bowl. Combine butter, stir-fry sauce, powder, cumin, and salt; drizzle over cereal mixture, tossing to coat. Spread mixture into a jelly roll pan coated with cooking spray. Bake at 250º for 30 minutes or until crisp, stirring twice.

HOT ARTICHOKE – CHILI DIP

Ingredients:

  • 1 (14 oz.) can artichoke hearts, drained & chopped
  • 1 c. grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 c. mayonnaise or salad dressing
  • 1 (4 oz.) can diced green chili peppers, drained
  • 1/2 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
  • Triscuit crackers or tortilla chips for dipping

Directions:

  1. In a small bowl stir together artichoke hearts, Parmesan cheese, mayonnaise and chopped chili peppers. Transfer artichoke mixture to a casserole dish.
  2. Bake, uncovered, in a 350 degree oven about 20 minutes. Top with shredded parmesan cheese and broil until browned.
  3. Serve warm with crackers or tortilla chips.

CHILI RECIPE

Ingredients:

  • 1 lb. ground beef (season with salt/pepper)
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 1/2 large green pepper diced
  • 1/2 large red pepper diced
  • 1 can rotel – Mexican flavored diced tomatoes with chilies
  • 1 can black beans
  • 1 small can tomato paste
  • 1 can dark beer
  • 4 tablespoons ground chili powder
  • 2 tablespoons cumin
  • 1/2 square Bakers unsweetend chocolate
  • Garnish—sour cream, shredded cheddar cheese, green onions
  • Serve with or without rice

Directions:

  1. Brown beef, peppers, and onion. Drain off any grease.
  2. Stir in the rest of the ingredients. Add the beans last.
  3. Bring to a boil, and reduce heat to VERY low.
  4. Cook with the lid off for an hour. Then cook 1 hour with the lid on. Can be cooked in a slow cooker on low heat for 2 hours.

Easy Vacation Dinner After a Long Day of Hiking

By: Azure Stilwell

crack-chicken-recipe

This past weekend we took full advantage of the beautiful weather and went on a family mini-vacation to Helen, Georgia. The cabin we stayed in was absolutely beautiful, with breathtaking views of a lake in a little valley. Helen itself was cool but it was the winding back roads and color changing trees that made the trip for us.

During our trip, each family took turns cooking dinner. On my parent’s night my mom made “crack” chicken. This stuff was delicious. We used Hawaiian Sweet Bread Buns, lightly buttered and toasted in the oven as our base for the filling. A nice vinegar salad or coleslaw will balance out the richness of the chicken mixture very well. Below I will post the recipe for “crack” chicken but I also wanted to let you know that I hiked up almost a mile up to Anna Ruby Falls and it was absolutely gorgeous. (Though I nearly died from an asthma attack, the view was so worth the breathlessness). The hike was a not-so-friendly reminder that I have got to get into better shape, but eating “crack” chicken is not the way to that path. Just sayin’. 🙂

Crack Chicken

Ingredients:

  • Chicken breasts (4 or 5) or you can use chicken strips (but maybe change cook time to 4 hours)
  • 16 oz cream cheese
  • 1 packet of ranch seasoning mix (2 if you really like the ranch taste). We used Hidden Valley.

Instructions:

  1. Mix ranch and cream cheese together. Place chicken in crockpot and cover with cream cheese mixture. Set crockpot to low and cook 6 hours. Once this mixture is on, go have fun. Come back and move to step 2.
  2. Fry up 1 pack of bacon and break into tiny pieces (you want it to be kind of crunchy)
  3. Lightly butter and toast your buns of choice.
  4. Shred chicken mixture with two forks, place on toasted sweet bun, top with bacon bits, and enjoy the best chicken sandwich ever.

You’re welcome.

Getting Through the Holidays Gluten Free

By: Rachel Sircy

thanksgiving

Growing up it was Thanksgiving, not Christmas, that was my favorite holiday. Thanksgiving was always a big deal in my mother’s family. All of the family gathered at my great-grandmother’s house which stood at the end of a little holler just outside of Portsmouth, Ohio. Her house was tiny and there were nearly always at least 40 people in attendance at this feast of feasts, so to say that it was crowded and chaotic would be an understatement. People ate in the kitchen, the dining room, the living room, one or two would stand up next to the washer and dryer and used them for makeshift tables, and there were always people on the porch and porch steps and scattered around the yard. It was too much for the adults to try to control the kids, so we generally ran around the house like wild hillbillies (which is in truth what we were). The food was always good and plenteous. There was enough for 40 people to eat it for at least two days (because Thanksgiving then was the entire weekend, not just one day). All that running, playing, screaming and eating were so much fun that Christmas day (which was spent at home with just my parents and sisters), even with all its toys, just couldn’t compare.

The first Thanksgiving after I was diagnosed as a celiac, I divided my time between my mother and my grandmother’s houses trying to smile while I choked down a gluten free version of my mother’s homemade chicken noodles. Chicken noodles or beef noodles is the Northern substitute for macaroni and cheese at Thanksgiving. The only version of this dish worth eating is the homemade version where someone has made the egg dough and cut and dried the noodles a day or two ahead of time. When put in with the chicken and the broth, the noodles puff up and are essentially just thinner and longer versions of dumplings. My mother’s noodles were sort of famous in our family, and they were my favorite thing to eat. No one in my family had ever heard of celiac disease or the gluten free diet before my diagnosis and our early efforts to work with gluten free flour often went awry. Case in point: in an effort to not leave me out, my mother made a small batch of gluten free egg noodles and set aside a bowl of chicken noodles just for me. They were horrible. Despite the fact that the noodles were really gritty, they were melting into the chicken broth and becoming one big pile of goo. As a celiac who has loving, helpful family members I have had a lot of practice pretending that food made specially for me – food that’s just oozing with love and is also just oozing – is delicious. You can develop the ability to smile so hard that it stifles your gag reflex. Unfortunately, I wasn’t very good at hiding my disappointment that first Thanksgiving and I think I ended up crying into my sad little bowl of egg noodle ooblec.

Well, now that I’ve gotten that depressing little story off of my chest I’m going to share some helpful hints for gluten free holiday cooking and eating:

  1. DON’T forget to remind everyone of your specific dietary restrictions. If you’re a celiac, make sure that everyone who is bringing food is well aware of what that means. There are a lot of people who are on the gluten free diet because it’s the latest fad, and this is bad news for celiacs because it makes the disease seem less serious. However, if you’re a celiac this is your life at stake. Don’t take it too lightly just because you don’t swell up and go into anaphylactic shock any time you eat something you shouldn’t.
  2. DON’T budge from your diet. Sometimes you eat things because you don’t want to hurt Aunt Martha’s feelings or because Nana makes the best banana pudding there is. Remember, your health is worth more than someone getting all huffy because you snubbed her dish and, despite what you may feel at the time, there is more to life than banana pudding.
  3. COOK your favorite dishes yourself. I bring my own dressing and pies to Thanksgiving. It’s just easier that way. I know that my kitchen is totally gluten free and safe. Your friends’ and relatives’ kitchens are not totally gluten free and therefore their dishes will never be totally safe for a celiac. (I will share some tips for gluten free stuffing/dressing. And you can make any family recipe for macaroni and cheese gluten free simply by substituting gf pasta for regular pasta). If you are able, you might offer to make all of the questionable dishes for the dinner (by questionable, I mean anything that contains bread, breadcrumbs, pasta and any pastries.)
  4. BE SURE that gluten free serving utensils are kept separate. Again, I bring my own. Mine are distinct enough from everyone else’s that they’re not easily mixed up. I hate to break it to you, but if your little sister removes the serving utensil from the regular dressing and sticks it in your gluten free dressing, you can’t eat that dressing anymore. A real gluten free diet is beyond strict, but remember, you are doing this to keep on living and being well. This isn’t a hippie health food craze. It is your life.

Most of all, remember to be grateful. That can sound totally stupid on your first or second Thanksgiving as a celiac, but, in time, when your body has healed itself, the gratitude will come more easily. You will look back on the years of sickness and understand just how blessed you are to have a disease that can be cured simply by eating differently. I always think to myself that I could be lying in a hospital receiving chemotherapy, but I’m not. I am just eating food made from funky ingredients. Those funky ingredients have made me well and whole. Thank God.

Tips for Gluten Free Dressing:

img_0283

Lately, gluten free ingredients are really holding their own against what we call “regular” or “normal” food. You can purchase gluten free flour that can be substituted cup for cup for wheat flour in any recipe. Only people who have been gluten free long enough to remember the umpteen-gazillion little bags of Bob’s Redmill flours (almond, rice, amaranth, soy, etc) and the 8oz bags of Xanthan gum that sold for 12 bucks can really appreciate how amazing that is. So, if you like to make your own pie crusts (I never did), it’s now easier than ever to do it gluten free. You can also buy pre-made pie crusts from Whole Foods that are pretty decent. (I recommend the Whole Foods brand.)

For dressing or stuffing (whatever you want to call it), gluten free bread works pretty well. I think that you could use pretty much any family recipe that you have for dressing. The only thing I would suggest is if you don’t toast the GF bread before using it, watch the liquid to bread ratio. While GF bread is so dry that it’s impossible to eat right out of the bag, it also has a tendency to fall apart and melt in too much liquid. I don’t mean get soggy, I mean it can melt in too much liquid. So, if you want to make a really moist stuffing, you might want to lightly toast the bread first, just so it holds up to the liquid a little better.

Also, I know that the holidays can be expensive no matter how you cook, but gluten free cooking is really expensive. I used to pay about $6 for a loaf of gluten free bread because I thought that the cheap stuff just wouldn’t taste as good. Cheap gf bread is about $3.50 a loaf, and keep in mind that the bread slices are about 2/3 the size of a regular slice of bread and the loaf is maybe half as many slices as a regular loaf. I was buying two loaves per week at $6 each for myself at one point – that’s a staggering $12 per week on bread for just myself. At the time I didn’t make $12 an hour at work. For those of you trying to do a gluten free diet on a shoe string budget, I feel you.

Good news, though. Aldi actually makes gluten free bread now. Their slices of gluten free bread are actually bigger than most other brands, though the loaves are still kind of small. BUT, the best part about this news is that Aldi’s gf bread is actually the best gf bread I have ever tasted. It still has to be toasted before being eaten, but after it’s toasted it’s softer than any other gf bread I’ve tried. That six-dollar-a-loaf bread was so thick and cardboard-like that after I toasted it, it would dry my mouth out and sometimes cut my gums in a way that looked like I had somehow scraped the inside of my mouth on the sidewalk. I have also made some of the best dressing with Aldi’s bread. The stuffing for the chicken pot pie casserole that I made a while back was with the Aldi’s bread and it was by far the best part of that dish.

gluten free breadcrumbs

Another cost saving measure that I started a while ago was saving the heels and crusts of my bread. I have never eaten heels of bread and gf bread crusts (even Aldi’s) can be seriously dry and unpleasant. So, after a while of getting physically ill over the money I was wasting throwing those heels and crusts away, I decided to start grinding them down to make breadcrumbs and cubes that I have used in other dishes. No more waste and no more buying packaged breadcrumbs and whole loaves of bread just to make dressing. I stock quart freezer bags in my pantry and whenever I cut crusts or grind up heels, I just toss them into one of the bags (I often measure them as I put them in the bags to make recipes more precise) and put them in the freezer. They keep really well and are such a handy cost saver!

Well, those are all my holiday food tips for this post. If you have any questions, please leave them in the comments section and I will be more than happy to answer them or find an answer for you!

Suggested Reading: “Simply…Gluten Free Quick Meals” by Carol Kicinski. It’s not literature, but it’s so amazing for any gf cook. She does a whole Thanksgiving meal in this book with really simple recipes and ingredients, plus she has a section about basic flour mixtures and how to stock a gf pantry. This is my go to recipe book.