Holiday Reminders for Gluten Free Eaters

By Rachel Sircy

Lunch table / salad‘Tis the season for eating other people’s cooking. Unfortunately, eating with family and friends poses special challenges for those with dietary restrictions. There are a few tricks, however, that can make the holiday get-togethers more manageable.

First, talk to the host of the party beforehand!

It’s important to make your needs known well ahead of time so your host can coordinate with everyone who may be bringing a dish. It also helps to be as specific as possible. It’s tempting to want to avoid imposition, but, believe me, your fellow partygoers will feel worse if they end up making you sick.

Second, always offer to bring a dish or two of your own, so you will have something that you know is safe to eat.

I have often run into well-meaning family members who think they’re making something gluten free but end up adding gluten through an ingredient they never thought to check. There is nothing quite as frustrating as standing in front of a table stacked high with delicious food that all happens to be off limits to you. This is especially important for parents whose children have dietary restrictions. It’s difficult for adults to people eat off limits food in front of them, imagine the way a child would feel. Make sure you have safe treats for your kids!

Finally, if you absolutely can’t bring anything or speak to the host ahead of time, make sure to eat before you go.

The motto of a longtime gluten free eater is, “Never show up hungry!” Make what you’d like to eat at home and show up full, so you’re not tempted to grab anything off of the dessert table. I always think it’s a good idea to hit up the health food store for some favorite gluten free snacks and bars to keep in my car or purse. I try never to go anywhere without food, especially when I know there will be lots of delicious temptations where I’m going.

Happy holidays and safe eating everyone!

 

Wrapping Up Celiac Awareness Month

By Rachel Sircy

Well, May 2019 has come and gone. It’s no longer Celiac Awareness Month, but I would encourage each of you who either have celiac disease or know someone who has celiac to continue to spread the word. It’s a real issue and it should be taken seriously.

My post this time will be an extremely short one (for me), because my husband and I have just moved and we’ve also had family in town for the Memorial Day holiday. I managed to stay completely gluten free for the holiday, and I realized this past Memorial Day that staying gluten free is becoming very do-able. Of course, it’s still a matter of reading labels very carefully and also of cooking your own food, or eating food cooked by someone you trust – I must here give a shout out to my mother-in-law who is so careful to make sure I have plenty to eat, even when she’s cooking to feed a large gluten-eating crowd.

Let me end this month with a hopeful note: we are farther along in medical research and in the ease of a gluten free lifestyle than we’ve ever been! Just today while grocery shopping, I came across fresh gluten free linguine and fettuccine at very affordable prices at Aldi. Later, by random chance, I stopped by a Food Lion store that I don’tFood_Lion_logo.svg 2 usually shop at only to find that they had a huge gluten free section. Food Lion isn’t typically a store I shop at because many of them don’t carry a large selection of gluten free items, but at the Food Lion in the Three Fountains area of West Columbia I stumbled upon a vast array of Schar products including: baguettes, ciabatta rolls, graham crackers (the Schar graham style cracker is my absolute favorite), Gillian’s brand croutons, Amy’s microwavable macaroni and cheese cups. It was a treasure trove. I will be going out of my way to visit that Food Lion again. So many stores are stepping up to meet the needs of the gluten intolerant. We are in a good place, and I believe it’s only going to get better from here. So, head out there and look for some GF hamburger and hot dog buns and gluten-2984643_1280enjoy your summer! (Just FYI: Aldi runs GF hamburger/hot dog buns as a summer seasonal item, though they tend to run out quickly, so if you see them there, get as many packs as you can afford. Also, that Food Lion in West Columbia had Schar hot dog buns)

Gluten-Free Banoffee Pie

By Rachel Sircy 

St. Patrick’s Day will soon be upon us and to tell the truth, there has only been one time in my adult (or really, semi-adult) life that I have celebrated this holiday. I was lucky enough to spend my sophomore year of college studying abroad in Belfast, Northern Ireland. It was there that I found out that Lucky Charms is a purely American novelty (no big surprise there, but sometimes you don’t realize the obvious until you’re faced with it) as is the whole idea of Irish Cream. I tried to explain what Irish Cream flavoring was to my friend Debbie, who is a native Northern Irish woman, and she just looked puzzled and said, “I don’t get it. What makes cream Irish in the first place?” I said that I think it was supposed to taste like Bailey’s, but she said, “Why not just call it Bailey’s Cream?” Good question, Debs.

Anyway, my family isn’t Catholic, so to me St. Patrick’s Day has always been just a hokey klee-773946_1920day when people drink shamrock milkshakes from McDonald’s and dye beer green. Last year, my mother-in-law made corned beef and cabbage. It was the first time that anyone in our family circle had eaten corned beef and cabbage (which, believe it or not, is also an American novelty, not an Irish staple). Many people may enjoy this dish, but no one in our family has clamored for any since last St. Patrick’s Day.

Here’s my point in writing all of this: this St. Patrick’s Day, you could make gluten free cupcakes with gluten free buttercream frosting colored green by food coloring, and you could make corned beef and cabbage (I wouldn’t advise it, though).

Banoffeepie

However, if you choose to make those things, you probably won’t get the chance to make Banoffee pie. Banoffee pie is what I used to get as dessert whenever my friends and I went to this little pub in Belfast for Sunday lunch that year that I studied abroad. It’s a pie with a cookie crumb crust and thick caramel (or toffee) covered with sliced bananas and whipped cream. It is delicious, and it takes me back to Sunday afternoons in that little pub in Belfast. Unfortunately, after all that bad-mouthing I just did about American St. Patrick’s Day rituals, I have to admit, that the recipe that I’ll be sharing is something that I adapted from an American blog, saltandbaker.com. I seriously tried to make this as authentic as possible. I even pulled up a great gluten-free recipe for Banoffee Pie from Tesco, the grocery store chain I used to shop at when I was in Belfast. However, when I looked at the recipe, I remembered that I would have to convert all the measurements and oven temperatures from the metric system to (ironically) the English system that we use here in America. Also, I have no idea what “gluten free oat cakes” are. Anyway, here’s the recipe that I adapted from saltandbaker.com:

For the Crust:

  • 1 1/2 cups crushed GF graham cracker crumbs (Schar is my favorite brand of GF graham crackers)
  • 6 TBS unsalted butter, melted
  • 1 1/2 TBS granulated sugar
  • 1/4 tsp. ground cinnamon

For the Filling:

  • 1/2 c. butter
  • 1/2 c. dark brown sugar
  • 1 14oz can sweetened condensed milk
  • 3 bananas sliced
  • 1 1/2 c. heavy cream
  • 2 TBS powdered sugar
  • Chocolate shavings or cocoa powder for the topping
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place oven rack in middle of the oven.
  2. In a medium sized bowl combine graham cracker crumbs, melted butter, sugar and cinnamon
  3. Spread crumbs in a 9-inch pie pan or tart dish. Press the crumbs evenly up the sides of the pan and along bottom of the dish. Bake crust for 7-8 minutes.
  4. To make filling: combine butter and brown sugar in a saucepan. Stir over medium-low heat until melted. Add the sweetened condensed milk and stir continuously. Bring to a boil and boil for 3-4 minutes or until the mixture darkens in color and thickens. Remove from heat and pour over the crust.
  5. Chill the crust and toffee for 2 hours until firm.
  6. Whip the heavy cream and powdered sugar until stiff peaks form.
  7. Place the sliced bananas over the cooled toffee and spread the cream over the bananas. Top with chocolate shavings or cocoa powder.
  8. Store pie in fridge, it will keep 2-3 days.

Happy St. Patrick’s Day! Enjoy!

 

Acquired Tastes

By Rachel Sircy

Normally, I write blog posts that are meant to be instructive and helpful – hopefully someone has found them helpful. And for this post I was going to write about an article I’d read recently about things in your home that you should buy organic other than food – the list includes everything from cotton swabs to couch cushions. Apparently, we live in an incredibly toxic world. However, I decided against it, not only because that article seemed a bit far-fetched to me, but also because I’ve been thinking about something random and strange lately, and I just thought I’d share. Do you ever notice how people change over time? Like, when you go back to a high school reunion and they tell you that so-and-so just married what’s-his-face, and you stare for a second before you manage to ask, “Didn’t they hate each other in school?” People are full of surprises and the funny thing is that sometimes the people who surprise us the most by the way that they change are the ones that we know best.

Take my husband and me. Before we were married, my friends and I used to refer to my husband as the human garbage disposal. Not the nicest name, I know, but we were referring to the fact that he would eat anything that was put in front of him. My friend Shannon and I in particular loved this about him because when we were all in college together (before my husband and I were even dating), if Shannon or I ordered something at a restaurant that we didn’t like, we could always feed it to Elisha. (Elisha is my husband’s name. It’s pronounced sort of like Elijah. Don’t call him anything that sounds like Alicia. He hates that.) In those days, the only thing that Elisha positively would not eat was mayonnaise. This thing with mayonnaise began when he got a stomach bug as a child and the last thing he remembered before barfing his guts up was eating was a submarine sandwich with extra mayo on it. You know how those things go. The last thing that you eat before you get sick becomes the food you can’t stand to even talk about. Well, some people get over those aversions given time, but my husband has gone in the opposite direction. Not only will he still not eat mayonnaise, he now will not eat sour cream, ricotta cheese or pretty much any food that is both soft and white. He doesn’t even like white icing. In fact, he told me recently that his culinary tastes are narrowing. Things that he used to enjoy like curry, tea, etc., are now things that he just can’t stand to eat or drink. And he informed me just last weekend that he really isn’t up for trying anything new. I wonder if it’s my cooking…

Conversely, my culinary tastes are expanding. As a child I was an irritatingly picky eater. I remember time and time again my mother getting frustrated with my whining over having to eat this food or that. I remember my parents and grandparents bribing and begging me to eat things. I didn’t like ground beef. I didn’t like cheese. I didn’t like mushrooms. I didn’t like lima beans or Brussels sprouts After getting sick once, I wouldn’t eat cheesecake or cream cheese in any form except smeared on a plain, toasted bagel. I didn’t like any food that looked, smelled or tasted different than what I was used to eating every day. Once, my mother who was normally as honest as the day is long lied to me about the eggs I happened to be eating. We were staying at my great-grandmother’s house. Great Grandma Deaver raised ducks and chickens, but mainly got her eggs from her ducks. My mother put a plate of over-easy duck eggs and toast down in front of me. I was, of course, immediately suspicious and I began asking what was wrong with these huge eggs on my plate. My mother smiled sweetly (I’m sure she wanted to shake me) and said that Granny just happened to raise really, really big chickens. I ate the eggs and found that they tasted better than chicken eggs. But then my mother triumphantly revealed that they were actually duck eggs and I screamed and refused to ever eat eggs at Grandma Deaver’s house ever again.

Over the years, I’ve grown to love cheese, cheesecake, mushrooms, lima beans and Brussels sprouts. Of course, in the case of each food, I had to choose at a particular moment to force myself to eat them. Cheese was something I came to love somewhere between the ages of three and seven, I believe. Cheesecake, mushrooms, lima beans and Brussels sprouts were foods that I only decided to try after I had been married. brussels-sprouts-1856706_1920

Initially, I was inspired by my husband’s openness to food. I wanted to be as open minded to food as he was. Then, about 6 months into our marriage, I was diagnosed with celiac disease. I found myself cut off from easy and familiar foods like take-out pizza and doughnuts. I was forced to try new, bizarre foods like quinoa (which I pronounced quin-Noah until some nice hippies at the health food store corrected me) and cakes made from rice flour and potato starch. This re-routing of my dietary habits was the final sealing of the deal. At first, I wanted to try new foods and then I had no choice about it.

Recently, I’ve surprised even myself by my willingness to try seafood. I HATE seafood. Nothing that I have tried so far in my life has made me change my tastes on this front. In fact, the only reason I’ve been willing to try fish lately is that my cholesterol has become a problem and fatty fish are touted as the culinary cure for cholesterol issues. I think that people who love seafood (and this is most people that I come across) don’t understand what I mean when I say that I don’t like seafood. I’m going to try to explain this here because I want it to be clear what a miracle it is that I’m even willing to put the stuff in my mouth. When I say that I can’t stand seafood, I do not merely mean that I baked salmon fillet on boardprefer chicken or beef. I mean that everything about seafood – the sight, the smell, the texture – is repulsive to me. I find the smell of the ocean itself to be slightly nauseating and that smell of fish, even the stuff that people swear is “not fishy”, is a concentrated dose of that oceanic scent. When I say that I don’t like fish, I mean that often times I have to hold my breath when I take a bite of salmon or tuna (two of the only fish I have managed to choke down) and that there have been times that I’ve had to hold on, white-knuckled, to the edge of the dinner table in order to force myself to swallow the bite I’ve taken. I gag and dry-heave the whole time that I eat fish, but the point of pride for me is that I DO eat it. I don’t enjoy one second of it, to be sure, but I force myself and (occasionally) win the war against my food aversion.

I guess the thing I’m wondering – and I would love some feedback – is, does it seem worth it to choke down food that I hate in the hopes that it will one day become an acquired taste? I’ve always heard that a varied plate is a healthy plate and frankly, that is why I try new foods. I once knew a nurse who could count on one hand the foods that she would eat. They were all white, starchy foods. She believed that it would be better to die young and happy, eating the foods that give you pleasure, rather than live a long time gagging on stuff that you find disgusting. So, what is the general consensus? To eat or not to eat stuff I don’t like, that is the question. You can comment with your thoughts below. I am excited to read them!

 

Something to Chew On

By: Rachel Sircy

My last post was on the dangers of eating out at restaurants that serve gluten free food, but don’t have gluten free kitchens. I thought I would follow up on that by offering my opinion about certain gluten free products that are sort of in the same boat.

Anytime a person with an allergy or food intolerance purchases a product made by a company that makes a wide variety of products, or that attempts to appeal to a broad base of customers, the person with the allergy is taking a risk. Unfortunately for those of us with issues, there are more people out there who aren’t allergic to peanuts or who aren’t lactose intolerant or who don’t have celiac disease. These healthier customers are usually going to win out with most big companies because they are going to be making up a larger part of that company’s revenue than sickies like us.

Now, that being said, many large food corporations are realizing that the number of people with food intolerances and allergies is on the rise and that it is in their best interest to start making a niche for us or they’re going to lose a large portion of paying customers. BUT, people with serious conditions should not feel indebted to these companies for noticing us. It’s not personal, it’s business.

One thing that I’ve had to learn over the years is that as ecstatic as I am whenever I see a food product that I used to love that has suddenly “gone gluten free,” I shouldn’t feel as if the big-name company that produces that product was really interested in my well-being when they made it. I’ll admit, it does give me the warm fuzzies when I see my childhood favorite cereals like Lucky Charms and Cheerios are now gluten free. I sometimes catch myself thinking: “Wow, General Mills really cares that I’m happy. They’re giving me back a piece of my childhood.” And, of course, they are giving me back a piece of my childhood, for a price. So, write letters to the company if something makes you sick or if you are not satisfied with the way that the company is handling safety issues.

And of course, you have pay attention and learn whether a company’s safety policies are up to your standards, so read, read, read. Be picky, be demanding and don’t feel bad about it. Allergen free products are just a matter of money to most large corporations. The stakes are a bit higher for those of us with dietary issues. For us, allergen free food is about our quality of life. Don’t forget, the hardest punch you can throw is with your dollar.

I don’t mean to sound too cynical, but when you have a real issue with your health, you cannot afford to let excitement or nostalgia cloud your judgement. What I’m trying to get across here is that it is expensive – sometimes it’s really, REALLY expensive – for these companies to accommodate those of us with special dietary needs and since the regular customer base (I mean those with no dietary restrictions) don’t want the cost of the products that they’re used to buying to go up, it only makes sense that some companies might cut corners in order to still make a profit. That means that they might not test these products for allergens as rigorously as they should, or it might mean that they are producing these products in the same facilities as the gluten, dairy or nuts that you may have a problem with. Cross-contamination can happen at any stage of the process and it will still make you sick. (By the way, this includes your own home, so watch out!) I’m not saying that any of these companies definitely do cut corners, only that they might. We can’t be 100% sure. It’s always a little bit safer to go with a product that has a written guarantee on the side like this:

Labels like those generally come on specialty products that are a bit more expensive than the products that are more widely available and are marketed to a broader customer base. But, in the end, I’ve found that I’m willing to pay a bit more for certain products just to have that peace of mind about my health. Plus, I’m happy to help support smaller companies that have made efforts from the beginning to create food that is safe and healthy for all of us.

Let me finish by saying that I, too, purchase gluten free products from famous brand companies, sometimes. But, when I do, I try to make sure that I am keeping track of how I feel after I eat them. Keeping a food journal is a really good idea, especially if you have a food intolerance instead of an allergy. Food intolerances are much slower to affect the body. Sometimes you won’t feel bad until 2 or 3 days after eating something contaminated, so it’s best if you have a written record that you can look at. Record both what you ate and your symptoms even if your symptoms don’t seem related to anything you ate. Eventually you will start to see patterns in your diet and your overall health.

Hopefully this was helpful and gave you something to chew on for a while!

Yuck! Southern Foods I Just Can’t Get the Taste Of

By: Jeanne Reynolds

I love food.

I love to make it, plan it, read about it and think about it. The Food Network is practically the only TV station I watch. (Fortunately, I also love to run or I’d have a big problem … and I do mean big.)

But that doesn’t mean I love all foods. In fact, there are some I’d rather go hungry than eat. I’m not talking about the stuff hardly anybody likes. I mean, if you really like liver, that’s fine, but please just keep it to yourself. I’m talking about popular, traditional, mainstream dishes my family and friends profess to love. And they’re aghast that I don’t share their tastes.

So here, at the risk of starting a second civil war, is my list of foods I just can’t learn to love even after living more than 40 years below the Mason-Dixon Line:

  • Boiled peanuts. Mushy with little taste other than salt. Give me a paper sack of nice roasted peanuts any day. Or a jar of peanut butter (not so handy for tailgating, though).
  • Pimento cheese. What a waste of perfectly good cheddar. The only exception I’d make is DiPrato’s sharp white pimento cheese. The smoked gouda with bacon might be OK, too, but I haven’t tried it yet.
  • Pepper jelly. One word says it all: why? If you want something spicy, have a pepper. If you want something sweet, have some jelly. Don’t try to cram them together into one item. Even pouring it over cream cheese doesn’t cut it. Here again, you’ve ruined some perfectly good cheese.
  • Beets. Maybe it’s the color. Maybe it’s the texture. Maybe I’ll pass (make that definitely).
  • Rice Krispie treats. “Treat” is quite the misnomer. What’s in those things, marshmallow fluff and Karo syrup? Oh, no, I see online it’s butter instead of Karo. Still, there are tastier ways to remove your fillings.
  • Pecan pie. If you were getting all indignant that Rice Krispie treats aren’t Southern and don’t belong on this list, then this Bud’s for you. Too sticky, too sweet. Don’t bother trying to juice it up with bourbon or chocolate. Can I please just have a small dish of pecans? I’ll take the bourbon and chocolate on the side.

The list could go on, but I don’t want you to leave thinking I’m a hater. Fresh sweet corn, vine-ripened tomatoes, the occasional piece of super-crispy fried chicken, perfectly seasoned collards (on holidays), locally caught shrimp (in or out of a Beaufort stew), homemade peach ice cream … there’s lots to love in our neck of the woods. God willing, it keeps coming.

But please, God, keep the boiled peanuts.

How Much is Too Much?

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

By: Mary Pat Baldauf

It started innocently enough. Saturday afternoon, I found a carton of Edy’s Mint Cookie Crunch at Target. Ahh, Mint Cookie Crunch. Delightfully refreshing mint light ice cream with chunks of chocolate sandwiches with half the fat and one-third fewer calories than regular ice cream. It’s hard to find. So when I saw it at Target, I thought that I better get some while it’s still available. Sometimes I over eat ice cream, so I thought twice about it, but thought that I could control my portions. The next day, the half-gallon was empty, and besides the cup that my sister enjoyed, I’d eaten it all.

I wrote the ice cream down in my food journal, and with exercise, I was somehow able to keep my calories down to a reasonable number, despite the many half-cup servings I had during those two days. But what really bothered me was my lack of control and the really large amount of ice cream that I ate in less than 48 hours. I rationalized it by thinking that “everybody does that every once in a while,” but this time, that didn’t make me feel better. So I took to the Internet.

Binge eating is such a strong term for overindulging, I thought, but according to the National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders (ANAD), Binge Eating Disorder (BED) will soon join the ranks with Anorexia Nervosa and Bulimia Nervosa as an “official” eating disorder. Binge eating is characterized by insatiable cravings that can occur any time of the day or night, usually secretive, and filled with shame. Bingeing is often rooted in poor body image, use of food to deal with stress, low self-esteem and tied to dysfunctional thoughts.

Could I have binge eating disorder? Distinguishing between overeating and binge eating is sometimes difficult, even for the eating disorder professionals. Compulsive eating and emotional eating are terms that have been around for years. BED is a distinct entity and not merely the occasional craving, over-eating when you are hungry, or the overindulgence during the holidays. According to Cynthia Bulik, PhD, “Every binge is different, just as every craving is different, and every binge eater is different but the scenario is the same.”

According to ANAD, Criteria for Diagnosis of BED includes:

  • Loss of control over amount of eating
  • Marked distress over binge episode
  • Occurs at least 1x per week for 3 months

And, three or more of the following:

  • Eating more rapidly than normal (i.e. 2 hour period)
  • Eating until feeling uncomfortably full
  • Eating large amounts of food when not feeling physically hungry
  • Eating alone because of being embarrassed by how much one is eating
  • Feeling disgusted with oneself, depressed or very guilty over after overeating

So yes, I overdid it, but according to the ANAD definition, I’m not a binge eater because it doesn’t happen on a regular basis. (Saved by the “once a week for three months” clause.)

In my research, I found a great article about binge eating in Self, called “How Bad is Binge Eating. In the article, several professionals discussed binge eating, both anecdotally and clinically.

“It’s okay to binge every now and again,” says Mike Fenster, M.D., cardiologist, professional chef, and author of The Fallacy of the Calorie. “All things in moderation, including moderation. However, two important caveats do apply: intensity and frequency.”

Fenster recommends following the 80/20 rule. “Try to adhere to your usual healthful approach at least 80 percent of the time,” he says. “But there are special occasions, vacations, and life moments that call for a willingness to throw caution, and nutritional guidelines, to the wind. But a special occasion should not become standard fare. That ‘once in a while’ jumbo waffle sundae can’t morph into a nightly ménage with Ben and Jerry.”

Whew! Anyone got Edy’s?

Let’s talk. Am I the only one who occasionally binges or do you have binges, too? What do you most often binge on and what brings them on? What do you usually do after your binge?