Will Sourdough Save Us? Some food for thought

By Rachel Sircy

Some food for thought: An ongoing study is looking into whether or not the fermentation that happens when wheat flour bread dough becomes “sourdough” is enough to break down the gluten proteins in the wheat and make the bread safe to eat for celiacs. According to an article in Gluten Free Living, researchers in Europe have been studying the breakdown of gluten in sourdough bread. Celiac test subjects have eaten sourdough wheat bread on several occasions with no tell-tale auto-immune response, which could mean that a sourdough wheat bread might be created which would be safe for celiacs to eat. Right now, it’s not an option, though, so don’t go out and buy yourself a sourdough loaf if you’re gluten sensitive.

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The other interesting part of this study has to do with the bacteria used to ferment sourdough, Lactobacillus. Apparently, it is a powerful way to start breaking down the proteins in wheat that are commonly known as gluten. (For anyone not yet aware “gluten” is not really a single substance, but a group of amino acids that are commonly found together and which are lumped under the name “gluten.”) Some researchers believe that they may be able to find a way to create a medication made of lactobacillus, or of something similar, which could actually break down the proteins in gluten in food being consumed by a celiac patient. This would mean that celiacs may someday be able to consume wheat bread and take a capsule to stave off any reaction to it. I wouldn’t start looking for such a product just yet, but perhaps there is a light at the end of our gluten-free tunnel!

(FYI: There are many products on the market today which claim to be able to break down gluten. I actually discussed some of these products in an earlier blog post, but let me repeat what I said before:  None of these products are actually safe for celiac patients. Gluten-Ease and other such products are merely for people who believe that they may be sensitive, or who have a mild-sensitivity. They are NOT safe for anyone who has an auto-immune reaction to gluten. They may give some peace of mind to a celiac who thinks that she may have accidentally consumed some gluten, but they do not actually work to stop an immune response from happening.)

 

 

Eating Around the Flu

By Rachel Sircy

First, before I dive into my main subject, let me clarify a statement from my last blog post. I am kind of a skeptic when it comes to certain alternative medicines and home remedies. However, I am a believer in many herbal remedies and I definitely believe that a person can eat (and exercise) their way to better health. Benjamin Franklin said that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. I believe this is true and this describes my outlook on homeopathic remedies. They are the ounce of prevention that is worth the pound of cure. I believe that you should try to prevent illness with diet, exercise and herbal remedies and reserve trips to the doctor for when you are sick and the herbal stuff isn’t doing the trick. I don’t believe in any fad diets and I especially don’t believe in any concoction that is supposed to cure anything that ails me. If a person claims to have answers for everything from warts to stage 4 cancer, they are just trying to sell something. Or, that’s my feeling on the subject anyway. And that goes for conventional medicine as well as homeopathic remedies.

So, I said all of that to say, I don’t think that essential oils are ineffective or useless. Melaluca oil killed my pet beta fish almost instantly (I was trying to cure a vicious fungal infection that he had), so I know that the power of essential oils isn’t just hype. They definitely have their uses. Not for poor, sick beta fish, but certainly for other things.

…anyway, on to this week’s post.

The post last week was all about how I was on a horseradish kick. I’m still on a bit of a kick and I’ve found that a bit of the fresh ground horseradish with some Duke’s mayonnaise is awesome on an egg sandwich. Beware, though, of eating it first thing in the morning. It could tear your stomach up and, actually, while I’m thinking about it, horseradish isn’t recommended for people with ulcers. I am the kind of person who eats egg sandwiches for lunch and dinner, so that would be when I would recommend eating it. It’s also really good on a grilled ham and Swiss cheese sandwich.

This week’s post is about some other foods that you can eat to help prevent sickness this cold and flu season. Here are some of the things I’ve been eating lately:

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Of course, there’s the horseradish and I’m also a big believer in Echinacea, especially in tea form. Echinacea is the one and only herbal remedy that I’ve ever heard praised in a biology class. I was in college and our professor told us that it works better than vitamin C to prevent and shorten colds and flus. It’s a great immune system booster.

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This huge pile of minced garlic went into a chicken dish that I made. I’ve been cooking with as much garlic as possible, not just to prevent respiratory infections, but also because garlic contains compounds that aid in heart health. Garlic is also supposed to be an immune system booster, but remember, you need to buy cloves of garlic and chop it yourself. To get the most out of your chopped garlic, let it sit for at least 5 minutes before cooking with it. Apparently when garlic is chopped and left to sit, a compound called allicin forms. Allicin is the compound that boosts your immune system and can help prevent a cold. You’ll notice, when you let your garlic sit that it’s scent changes. It gets stronger the longer that you let it sit. My Reader’s Digest Complete Illustrated Book of Herbs recommends that you consume 3-4 cloves per week for prevention of sickness and 1-2 cloves per day if you are already sick. Yeah, you’re going to smell funky if you eat 1-2 cloves per day, but I bet you’ll feel better.

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This is a delicious bowl of cabbage soup was made by my mother-in-law. Now, I don’t advocate the Cabbage Soup Diet. Almost every reputable source of medical information that I’ve found on the internet (including the Mayo Clinic, which is the source that I trust the most) says that the Cabbage Soup Diet is a really, really bad idea. However, if you don’t go crazy and eat nothing but cabbage soup for months on end, then a bowl of cabbage soup is actually pretty good for you. Cabbage, after all, is a member of the cruciferous family of vegetables. Cruciferous vegetables also include broccoli and cauliflower and are related to – guess what? Horseradish! Cruciferous vegetables, like horseradish contain glucosinolates, which is a compound that may aid in the prevention of cancer. Not to mention that cabbage contains a lot of vitamin C, as do the tomatoes in the soup. So, it’s kind of a win-win food for your health. As long as you don’t eat it and nothing else. Really, don’t do the Cabbage Soup Diet. Losing weight isn’t that serious!

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This is the chicken dish that I made with all that garlic. The herbs on the chicken are oregano and thyme. Thyme is supposed to have anti-microbial properties and so it is recommended for respiratory infections and for the prevention of colds. I’ve also had thyme tea, which you can make by simply putting some dried thyme in hot water and steeping for 10 minutes or so. It’s not your usual tasting tea, but it’s really not that bad. I don’t know if I’d go for the tea unless I was already sick. But the great thing about trying to eat for your health, is that when you cook a dish that consists of a lot of garlic, thyme and lemon (these basic ingredients make up the marinade for this chicken) it’s not only healthy, but it tastes great, too.

There are a ton of other remedies out there. You can also use supplements to help you in this season of nastiness. I take one Zinc tablet every day and my husband takes capsules containing dried Echinacea since he doesn’t care for the tea. Elderberry can be used either in powdered form in a capsule or as a syrup, or you can sometimes find it as an extra ingredient in Echinacea tea. I really like the combination of Echinacea and Elderberry tea, but each person’s tastes are different. If you’re a tea fanatic like me, Traditional Medicinals and Yogi teas are a great place to start if you’re looking for herbal remedies. There’s basically a tea for every ailment that you can think of (but no one tea is a cure-all).

What I’ve shared here is, of course, just the tip of the iceberg. So if anyone else has an good remedies or recipes, please share them with us!

Healthy Horseradish

By Rachel Sircy

So, I’ve been on a weird kick lately. I’ve suddenly become obsessed with horseradish. My affinity for the stuff actually began a couple of years ago when someone from work introduced me to Wasabi coated dried peas. You can occasionally find these treats made by a company called Fusia at Aldi and I know that Whole Foods also carries Wasabi chickpeas from a company called Saffron Road. I highly recommend both products. Actually, I might recommend eating your own hand if you cover it in Wasabi.

Anyway, Wasabi is a cousin to the European horseradish root that is commonly grown in the US, and my point in that seemingly pointless story above is that I didn’t eat horseradish as a kid. My grandfather did sometimes on roast beef or something like that, but Grandpa also ate squirrel meat and headcheese and he didn’t manage to convince me that any of those things were good either. I think I remember smelling horseradish sauce as a kid and thinking that it smelled like an over-chlorinated pool, so I wouldn’t eat it for a long time. The introduction to Wasabi was the thing that got me thinking that horseradish might not be so bad after all. My first taste of horseradish sauce was last Easter at my in-laws’ house. They don’t eat the stuff themselves, but for some reason they always keep some of the Inglehoffer horseradish sauce in the refrigerator for guests and they just happened to put some on the table to go with the Easter ham. I figured if it was related to Wasabi, it couldn’t be that bad and that was the moment I fell in love with the stuff.

Now, since then I’ve used horseradish sauce sparingly – putting it on the occasional piece of ham or roast beef or even steak as a nice break from the usual A-1. But in the past couple of weeks I’ve started using gobs of it (that is dangerous, by the way, if you’re not used to it) on everything from ham sandwiches to boiled eggs and not just because I enjoy the taste. You see, for some reason my immune system decided to go on strike this cold and flu season and since about September, I’ve had a pretty continuous string of sinus infections and respiratory illnesses. What does horseradish have to do with sinus infections, you may ask? Well, try a half of a teaspoon of horseradish the next time that you have sinus congestion. It’s like an atomic bomb going off in your nose – my face actually turned red when I took a big bite of it – but I promise you that you will be able to breathe easier afterward.

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Here’s the German-style horseradish sauce. It’s milder and goes well with pretty much anything

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I found this stuff at Publix. It doesn’t even have a brand name, that’s how serious this stuff is. It’s just the grated horseradish root with some vinegar and salt mixed it.

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For anyone who’s not familiar with it, this is what the grated root looks like. I’m pretty sure it could peel paint off the walls. Just opening the jar makes our whole apartment smell like it. Tastes pretty good though.

Apparently, the thing that my grandfather didn’t tell me when he was eating horseradish sauce (the stuff he had was always homemade from someone or other’s garden) is that horseradish has been used for years to cure sinus congestion and even sinus infections. I didn’t know that horseradish had such powerful medicinal benefits until I was trying to find an alternative cure for my own never-ending sinus infection this year. In the back of an herbal encyclopedia that my mother gave me, I saw horseradish listed among the curative herbs used for hay fever and sinusitis. According to this herbal encyclopedia, horseradish is high in Vitamin C and contains compounds called glucosinolates that work to thin mucus. A buildup of mucus in the sinus cavity can become a veritable playground for the kind of bacteria that will blossom in to sinusitis. Eating horseradish regularly as a condiment can keep mucus from building up in your nose and causing sickness. Horseradish also has antimicrobial properties that can apparently work like a mild antibiotic once it’s eaten. The glucosinolate compounds in horseradish are also credited with being able to help your body detoxify carcinogens and thereby ward off cancer.

Now, I’m a bit of a skeptic sometimes when it comes to herbal remedies and I never believe anyone who tells me that a particular product or plant or whatever will cure anything that ails me. Once, someone was trying to convince me of the health benefits of essential oils, but they lost me almost immediately when they tried to explain to me that I had to keep the lid tightly screwed on the bottle of the oil because the compounds in the oil are actually alive and that the “living oil” might try to escape – kind of like a genie in a bottle. Yeah. I haven’t purchased any essential oils to date. However, having said that, I do believe that God put natural medicines on earth and that getting as close to what He created to heal us is probably the best thing that we can do for our bodies. I don’t know much about horseradish, but what I do know is this: during my last bout with a sinus infection, I suddenly started craving horseradish like crazy. I was so sick at the time that I really hadn’t eaten anything except tomato soup and I didn’t feel like having ham or roast beef, but I couldn’t shake the craving for the horseradish. Once I started to feel well enough to eat regular foods again, I started putting horseradish on everything and since then I haven’t had any more issues with my sinuses. (I’m knocking on wood right now) So, I thought I’d share what I’ve been learning and maybe help some others through this awful cold and flu season. Also, horseradish and Wasabi just taste good, so why not eat some?

If you want to do some research on your own, there are a lot (I mean a LOT) of natural remedies websites out there that have a deep love for all things horseradish. I mostly got my information from The Reader’s Digest Complete Illustrated Book of Herbs (This book is not as hokey as it sounds. I usually don’t do my research with books by Reader’s Digest but this book seems pretty solid in it’s information) and from a blog post or two that I found on Rodale’s Organic Life’s website.

“Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food.” – Until next time, let this quote from Hippocrates to start off all your healthy resolutions. Happy New Year!

Three Easy and Giftable (and Gluten Free) Treats

By Rachel Sircy

For all you last minute people out there (like myself), I have three ridiculously easy recipes to share: Chocolate Fondue, Flourless Peanut Butter Cookies and two types of chocolate bark (so I guess I really have four recipes.) Provided you make sure that the ingredients that you’re using are gluten free, these treats are simple gluten free gifts or desserts that you can give go celiacs and non-celiacs alike. I promise that no one will know that these things are gluten free. I’ll give you hints in each of the recipes as to which ingredients you need to be careful with.

  1. Chocolate Fondue: One year for our anniversary, my sister-in-law brought my husband and I a plate of fresh strawberries and two small bowls of chocolate fondue. It was a simple, elegant gift and the best part was that it didn’t clutter up our house afterward. Rather than giving ornaments or little trinkets, try food. It’s great while it last and the best part is, it doesn’t last forever.

 

Ingredients:                1 Cup Heavy Cream

                                      12 oz semi or bittersweet chocolate (I prefer Ghiradelli chocolate baking bars or chocolate chips. They aren’t super expensive and the quality of chocolate is just better than most other common brands in my opinion. Plus, Ghiradelli dark and semisweet chocolate are made without gluten and in a clean factory. NOTE: the same is NOT TRUE about Ghiradelli white chocolate bars or baking chips. They are not celiac safe per the Ghiradelli website.)

                                      1 tsp. Vanilla

Method:       Heat Cream in pan (careful not to boil) until very hot. Add chocolate and vanilla and stir until melted.

For Dipping choices, you can use fresh fruit – strawberries and bananas work well. You could also use cookies (store bought or homemade, just as long as their gluten free) and marshmallows. Actually, you can pretty much dip anything in chocolate. I would eat my own hand if it were covered in a good chocolate.

  1. Peanut Butter Blossoms: Probably everyone has this recipe because these are the easiest cookies ever to make. But, I thought I’d share because sometimes I find that those really simple things that everyone knows how to do are the things that nobody writes down the recipe for and then people like me – who don’t know how to do them – get stuck. Everything in this recipe should be gluten free as long as you stick with pretty simple peanut butter (don’t go for the weird flavored stuff they have out now, though some might be GF) and DON’T let anyone use your PB! I always take a permanent marker and write GF all over my peanut butter jars when I get them home from the grocery store.

 Ingredients:               1 Cup Peanut Butter

                                      1 Cup Granulated Sugar

                                      1 Tsp Baking Powder

                                      1 Egg

Method:       Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cream Peanut Butter and Sugar together in a bowl. Beat in Baking Powder. Add egg and mix until well combined. Roll into balls (smaller is better) and roll in white sugar. Place on baking sheet and press with fork. Bake 10 minutes. Let rest 5 minutes on baking sheet, then cool if you want plain cookies. If you want to make the PB Blossoms, however, transfer the cookies directly to a plate after they’ve rested on the baking sheet for 5 minutes. This will ensure that they cool more slowly, but won’t make them soggy or anything. Use your favorite type of Hershey’s kiss (read the label to make sure it’s GF, but I think most kinds of Hershey’s Kisses are) and press them into the still warm cookies. The Kisses will melt, but then they will re-solidify when cooled. Letting them melt initially, however, makes them softer and makes them stick better in the PB cookies.

 

  1. Peppermint Bark: This has been a staple for me for years. No matter how much you make it, people will never turn it down. And you can do slightly different things with it. Sometimes I make it with just white chocolate. Sometimes I drizzle dark chocolate over the white chocolate for some contrast and once I even made it with just dark chocolate, and it wasn’t half bad. I know that lots of people make Peppermint Bark, but like I said, people will never turn it down. And, in chocolate barks like this, the quality of ingredients can make all the difference. I’ve had really fantastic Peppermint Barks and some that were not so great. I ate them all, of course, but you remember the really, really good ones.

 Ingredients:                12 oz white chocolate (Alas, Ghiradelli is my favorite, but it’s not celiac-safe. According to what I’ve looked up on their website, Nestle Toll House white chocolate chips claim to be gluten free and that is generally what I use. It’s a slight sacrifice in quality, but it’s better to be safe than sorry)

                                      5 Candy Canes, Crushed (Bob’s candy canes are gluten free and their peppermint candy canes are pretty delicious)

                                      ½ Tsp Peppermint Extract (I used Pure Peppermint oil that I bought at Earthfare. It was kind of expensive, but it will last for a long time and it has a great, strong flavor.)

                                      4 oz Semi-Sweet or Bittersweet Chocolate  (Optional)

Method: Melt white chocolate in a large double boiler, when it is melted, add peppermint extract. Spread chocolate out over a cookie sheet covered in wax paper and sprinkle candy cane bits onto the chocolate. Let cool in refrigerator or freezer. When white chocolate is cooled, melt dark chocolate in a double boiler and spread over the cooled white chocolate, if desired. Cool and then break apart the bark into bite-sized pieces.

  1. Cookies ‘n Cream Bark: This is one that I kind of came up with myself because my favorite candy bar used to be Hershey’s Cookies and Cream candy bar. This was something that I had to give up when I found out I had celiac disease. Necessity (or junk food cravings) is the mother of invention. So, I just put the two ingredients that I really loved together and it worked out wonderfully. Here’s a picture of the bark and the big chunks of cookie in the strata:

Ingredients:                 12 oz. White Chocolate Chips

                                      1 package Gluten Free Chocolate Sandwich Cookies (I always use Glutino Brand, but you could also use Kinninnick and I think Schar Brand and Walmart both have their own GF chocolate sandwich cookies)           

 Method: Crush cookies in a bag. Melt chocolate in double boiler, add the crushed cookie bits and spread out onto a cookie sheet line with wax paper. Chill in the fridge or the freezer.

 

Hopefully, these help with any last-minute GF guests that show up at your house or with anyone you need a small, last minute gift for. Merry Christmas!

 

 

Experimenting with Tradition, Part 2

By Rachel Sircy

Last time I wrote about how my mother found a gluten-free all-purpose flour blend to make our beloved egg noodles for the traditional Midwestern chicken and noodles dish (creatively titled, eh?). Well, here is a picture of it cooking on the back burner:

Noodles cooking on the stove

Noodles cooking on the stove

 

It doesn’t exactly look tasty, but it worked for us. I was so worn out from cooking by the time we sat down to eat that I didn’t even bother taking a picture of the noodles on my plate. But the noodles were actually not half bad, they just weren’t that pretty while cooking. The pot below is the pot of regular chicken and noodles. It looks a bit more appetizing.

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Ready to eat!

It’s difficult to try to recreate certain ingrained traditions, but I think that Mom came pretty close to doing it this year. The noodles were of a pretty good consistency that first day, though gluten-free concoctions don’t keep well and by the next day, they had fairly well dissolved in the liquid. I didn’t take a picture of that either. I think you would all thank me for that.

Another food tradition that I especially wanted to recreate today were the frosted Christmas cookies that were always on my grandmother’s table this time of year. I wanted to have them while we put up our Christmas tree, which is always something of a special family party at our house. We turn on the Peanuts Christmas soundtrack and Bing Crosby and take it easy. Our Christmas tree is pretty plain as far as Christmas trees go. My husband and I are extremely sentimental and so we don’t have that sort of catalog-ready tree with all the matching ornaments and gorgeous bows. We don’t even put garland around our tree. Honestly, we wouldn’t have room for garland. We have the multi-colored lights that we loved when we were kids and at least one ornament to commemorate every year that we’ve been together. Many of the ornaments on our tree were handmade by my husband’s late grandmother – like this one below:

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Since Grandma Sircy has passed away, I have started trying to carry on the tradition of making a holiday ornament for everyone in the family. Here is a shoebox full of my efforts for this year:

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Knitting some memories

Really, I had no idea how seriously people can take the whole decorating thing – I mean, changing out themes and color schemes every year. During the holidays, my husband and I like to be kids again. We surround ourselves with things that we enjoy and things that we remember. Picture 5So, we have Grandma Sircy’s lovely handmade ornaments, we have ornaments from my husband’s alma mater, Centre College, we have an ornament for every Christmas we’ve ever spent together and a whole lot of Spiderman ornaments for some reason (though my husband made the sacrifice to leave them off the tree this year to make way for a growing number of princess-themed ornaments). Now that we have an almost-three-year-old girl – whose birthday happens to be just three days before Christmas – we have a lot more pink on our tree. And, plain as it is, I think our tree is a pretty wonderful sight.

 

Anyway, all this is to say, that around our house, tradition is pretty important and this includes food as well as decorations. For as long as I can remember, my grandmother has made shortbread cookies from scratch for just about every holiday on the yearly American calendar. These cookies are the best I have ever tasted. Seriously, I know that there are a lot of people that would say that their grandma cooks best, well, I have to say that I’m pretty sure that I can provide quantifiable evidence that my grandma can bake better than yours. Taste one of her frosted shortbread cookies and see if I’m kidding. Or her homemade butterscotch pie – a recipe that originally came from a cookbook printed in 1959, the days when nobody felt guilty about eating butter, and that she improved upon. That pie is so good it’ll make you want to slap anybody’s momma – it doesn’t even have to be your own. Well, I was homesick for some of those cookies. Unfortunately, I am no baking prodigy. My shortbread (even before I started baking gluten free) was always either greasy or dry to the point of tasting like vanilla ashes. And so, I have found that sometimes we must sort of set aside tradition and do what we can do.

That is where this wonderful book comes in:

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I know that a whole lot of people are familiar with the Cake Mix Doctor, Anne Byrn, but for all you gluten-free people out there in Columbia tonight, she has a gluten-free book. Actually, I think she has a few gluten-free books out now. I have the first one that she came out with and I have to say that almost every cake that I’ve made out of this book has been awesome. I say almost because I wasn’t crazy about the coconut pound cake or the sweet potato pound cake, but other than that, this book is the bomb. I think the deal is that I really just don’t like pound cake. Anyway, she had a recipe for slice and bake sugar cookies that you can make from a yellow cake mix and *Hallelujah* here they are:

They are really, really good. Of course, they’re not Grandma’s shortbread cookies, but they’re what I could do. My mom worked on Thanksgiving to pull together egg noodles to bring back a dish that we thought we’d lost. They weren’t like the noodles that I remember her making when I was younger, but they were a pretty good substitute. And that’s what I have done here. I’ve made a pretty good substitute, not quite the real thing, but then I could never make my grandma’s cookies anyway – only she can do that. My friend’s daughter used to tell us, whenever she’d helped make something we were eating – “you know, I put a lot of love in that.” Really, that’s what makes my grandmother’s cookies and Grandma Sircy’s ornaments so amazing. You can’t duplicate a grandmother’s love, and so you can’t duplicate anything that she does for you. And, I’d like to think that since I made these cookies for my husband and my daughter, that even though they came from a box (and the frosting came from a can) that there’s a lot of love in them too and that that love overrides the fact that I kind of cheated making them. Maybe I’m kidding myself about that last part, but maybe not. Don’t tell me if I am kidding myself. I like the illusion.

Suggested Christmastime Reading: Isaiah 9:6 and A Christmas Carol

 

 

 

Experimenting with Tradition

By Rachel Sircy

I spent the better part of Monday driving to Ohio to spend Thanksgiving with my family. My mother is, like me, a celiac. Each holiday ends up being an adventure in trying to figure out how to enjoy all the traditional foods that we miss. One that we have been working on for a number of years is a sort of Midwestern favorite, chicken and thick egg noodles. This dish is similar to chicken and dumplings, except that instead of dumplings, the dish contains homemade egg noodles which are wide and thick and puffy like dumplings. The first Thanksgiving after I was diagnosed as a celiac, my mother attempted to make these noodles for me, but because we didn’t know much about how to work with gluten free flours (and because at that time there weren’t very many all-purpose gluten free flour blends available) the noodles didn’t stick together well once they were in the liquid. They disintegrated into mush and I was left holding a bowl of chicken flavored goo. It was so gross and so disappointing that I cried.

My mother has always been famous for her version of these noodles. The week of Thanksgiving always found my family having to eat dinner in the living room because our kitchen table was covered with stretched out egg dough and then by cut and drying noodles. A few years after I was diagnosed, my mother found out that she also has celiac disease. She continued to make regular egg noodles for everyone else while she and I sat back and had to watch everyone else eat what we wanted so badly.

This year, my mother made her classic noodles for everyone else, but she also made a small batch of gluten free noodles from an all-purpose gluten free flour for us. The brand of flour that she used was actually the Walmart Great Value brand. I had no idea until this year that Walmart made its own brand of gluten free flour.

Walmart Great Value brand gluten-free Flour

Below are the resulting noodles which have been dried and which my mother has frozen. We are hoping that the drying and the freezing will help the noodles to withstand being in the chicken soup base. Even some of the best gluten free noodles will disintegrate if left in liquid for too long. Whenever I make chicken noodle soup, for example, I always try to buy Tinkyada pasta (available at Walmart and other grocery stores) which have a great ability to stay solid even when surrounded by liquid. However, even when I undercook these noodles, they eventually become pretty mushy after a day or so.

Dried and frozen noodles, ready for cooking!

Our other plan for these noodles is to add them to the chicken soup base shortly before they’re served. My mother (who is notorious for cooking too much food) also refrained from making a ton of noodles and just made what she thought that she and I could eat on Thanksgiving day. Unfortunately, a lot of gluten free foods at this point aren’t good when leftover. They just don’t last well. So, we’re trying to make sure that don’t leave them in the soup long and that we eat the entire batch quickly.

I would love to share the recipe but, to my surprise, my mother doesn’t use one. I am ashamed to say I have never actually helped her or watched her make these noodles before. My great aunt taught my mother to make these noodles when she was a young woman and the recipe is simply this: think about how many people you want to serve and crack one egg per person into a mixing bowl. Add a little bit of salt (Salt to your taste since there is no measuring in this recipe) and add flour and mix until the dough feels ready to roll out for cutting. The dough should feel dry (doesn’t stick to your hands) and slightly stiff when it is ready to roll out. Roll the dough out on whatever surface is large enough to contain it. For the whole Thanksgiving crowd, my mother has to use the entire kitchen table. Let the dough sit for 15-20 minutes and then use a pizza cutter to cut into strips for noodles. At this point you can cook the noodles right away or you can dry them over night and store them in the fridge for a few days if you want to make them ahead of time.

So, in my next post. I will update you to let you know how this year’s experiment went. Here’s to experimentation and innovation!!

Gluten-Free Traveling

By: Rachel Sircy                 

My last post was about some ways that you can stay gluten-free in an emergency. This post is going to be about a few things that I tend to do when I am traveling to help make sure that I don’t get contaminated.

Be Prepared: This is something that people will always tell you when you’re traveling anywhere whether you’re gluten-free or not. The thing is, when you have a severe allergy or intolerance, you really do have to be prepared to feed yourself. Never trust that you’ll be able to just find something to eat. Believe me, when I was first diagnosed I made the mistake of thinking that I could just “find something,” on a road trip. Those road trips were horrible and ended in tears. I’m not a person who does well when she’s hungry.

What do I mean by prepared, you might ask. Well…this is a picture of my toaster. It’s not fancy and it cost approximately $7 at Walmart.

This toaster goes where I go. It fits pretty well into the Aldi grocery bag that I use to carry my food for the trip in. If I am staying at a hotel where they serve continental breakfast, I will     sometimes check to see if they have any brands of yogurt that I know are gluten-free and I will perhaps take a banana, but mostly I bring my own bread and peanut butter (or Glutino toaster pastries if I don’t feel like being health conscious) and make my own breakfast in my room.

It’s also a good idea if you’re traveling to an unfamiliar destination to pack easy to eat non-perishable snacks for the trip like food bars (Larabar, Clif Organic Trail Mix Bar, etc) and high    protein snacks like gluten-free nuts and jerky (most flavors of Krave, Oberto All Natural and Epic jerky are gluten-free, but always read the labels because things that contain Teriyaki are usually NOT gluten-free). I’ve also heard of people who travel with cans of tuna and a small can opener and some crackers so that if they find that they have nothing else for dinner, they won’t go hungry. I personally don’t like fish so that doesn’t work for me. The tuna thing probably wouldn’t work on an airplane, but there are travel containers of both peanut butter and hummus. Some bananas, crackers, and vegetables could turn a container of either peanut butter or hummus into a small meal. Remember that it is never a good idea to just wing it when your health is at stake. Don’t allow yourself to get hungry out there on the road or you will be tempted to eat things that will make you sick!

2) Call Ahead: Anytime you’re staying with friends or relatives have a good conversation about what you can and can’t eat and also how your food must be prepared. Lots of well-meaning people don’t know what is or is not contaminated by gluten, so help them out. Make sure Aunt Susie knows that she can’t just pick the croutons out of your salad before she serves it to you and that the kitchen must be thoroughly cleaned after she rolls out pie dough on the counter before she cooks anything for you for dinner.

Once, my husband and I stayed in a bed and breakfast in Charleston and my husband had the foresight to call the owner when we made our reservations and tell him that I had dietary restrictions. He gave us leave to use the kitchen to cook food for ourselves and we also got to talk to the cook about what I could eat for breakfast. During that stay, we met a woman who also had to be gluten-free, but who hadn’t called ahead to let the owner know about it and, unfortunately, she had quite a time trying to eat around all the contaminated food on her plate. So, don’t be afraid to tell people up front about your needs and just let them know (gently) that if they are unable to meet those needs, you won’t be able to stay with them.

3) Try a Gluten-Free Destination: That may sound a bit out there at first, but there are two celiac friendly travel destinations in either direction of Columbia. Charleston is a pretty food-forward city and while the cost of its trendy restaurants may mean that you can’t eat there all the time, many of those restaurants offer gluten-free meals (it is still quite the fad in dieting to be gluten-free). If you travel in the other direction, Asheville, NC has been featured in Delight magazine and, most recently, in Gluten-Free Living as a gluten-free travel destination. I have mentioned before (and I will keep mentioning it) that there is a restaurant in Asheville called Posana that serves exclusively gluten-free food. Not only is their food (and I do mean ALL of their food) gluten-free, but it is also delicious. Seriously, I dream about their fried green tomatoes with pimento cheese sauce and also their lemon blueberry cheesecake sometimes. It is a bit pricey as well, but it is a great place for a special occasion or a treat. These cities are great if you’re looking for a day trip or a weekend getaway.

These are just a few of the things that I have learned from trying to travel and stay safe. Life’s a journey. Travel with a dependable toaster.