Two Gluten Free Desserts to Please Everyone

By Rachel Sircy

Last month I wrote about how I like to do gluten free meatloaf freezer meals. This time I thought that it would be good to write about a scenario that many gluten free people are familiar with: what to make for dessert when you have people coming to dinner.

So, imagine that you have invited guests for dinner and you really don’t have the time or inclination to cook a big complicated dinner. Of course, you still want to lay out a good spread, but what do you do? Remember, you have your gluten free mini-meatloaves that are in your freezer, just waiting to be defrosted and cooked. These are the mini-meatloaves that I made in that post last month and all I did to them this time was put the freezer bag that they’re in in the sink to defrost for a few hours. These meatloaves hadn’t been in the freezer a terribly long time and since they’re so small, they defrosted quickly. To cook them, just place them in a muffin pan (the muffin tins work like tiny loaf pans to insulate the meatloaf). Or, you can do like I do and arrange them like little meat cookies on a foil-lined cookie sheet. Really, I’ve tried both ways and arranging them on a sheet pan seems to leave them just as moist as the muffin pan, and it’s less mess to clean up later. I top them with a mixture of ketchup, honey and Worcestershire sauce (if you have the Simply…Gluten Free Quickmeals cookbook by Carol Kicinski. They take about 30 minutes to bake.

For sides, you can opt for a salad or green peas. The thing about frozen green peas is that they’re nutritious, delicious, and basically, I put them in a saucepan with enough water to cover and I boil them for only a minute or two until they are heated through. I then strain them and add a pinch of salt or maybe some butter or sometimes nothing at all.

The real bugbear of having a dinner party if you’re gluten free is finding a dessert that suits everyone. If you have to be gluten free, you know what an absolute bummer it is to watch everyone else at a party eating a really fabulous dessert and then being apologetically offered a consolation prize like a packet of Sixlets or something. I know that some people actually like Sixlets, but really? When other people are eating cake? Come on!

Don’t do this to yourself at your own get-together. If you’re going to spend time and energy on one thing at your own party, make it dessert. And, for those of us who really don’t like to spend a whole lot of time and energy and who just don’t have a whole lot of money to spend, here are two crowd-pleasers that are super cheap to make and not that difficult. All of the ingredients you would need to make these desserts are things that you probably already have in your pantry: peanut butter, cocoa powder, eggs, milk, cornstarch, etc. There are no fancy or expensive ingredients that you need to buy, which makes them perfect for those of us who are gluten free and on a tight budget.

  1. Flourless Peanut Butter Cookies:

Okay, so after writing that post about allergy bullying, I do want to point out that those of us with a gluten intolerance should be especially mindful of anyone with a food allergy or intolerance. I mean, we know how it feels, so we should go out of our way to make sure our guests are safe and comfortable. Don’t serve this if you’re not sure if anyone you’ve invited over has an allergy. Alternately, you could try to make this recipe with soy butter or sunflower seed butter instead of peanut butter. I have not tried either of those options, but I assume they would work as long as they’re the same consistency as the peanut butter.

All that being said, I’ve never met anyone who didn’t like these cookies.

This recipe is one I’ve shared before. I think that years ago I got it off of the Gluten Free Girl website, but my mom said that this was the first cookie she ever made in Home Ec class in seventh grade. So, you probably have this recipe somewhere in your recipe catalog at home or you’ve made it before:

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1 Cup Peanut Butter (or allergy free alternative)

1 Cup Granulated Sugar

1 tsp Baking Powder

1 Egg

Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees. Cream together the peanut butter and the sugar with an electric hand mixer. Beat in the baking powder, thoroughly. Beat in the egg. Roll the dough into balls using a teaspoon to measure (these cookies are better when they’re small). Roll in more granulated sugar (optional) and place on a cookie sheet about two inches apart. Press down on each cookie with the tines of a fork to make a crisscross pattern.

Bake for 10 minutes and remove cookie sheets from oven. Let cookies rest on baking sheets for 5 minutes, then move to a plate or cooling rack. Try not to eat every single one.

  1. Homemade (Chocolate) Pudding:

Homemade pudding is an easily adaptable recipe that you can really wow people with. I think that – at least among the people I know who are my age – homemade pudding means that you opened the box of pudding mix yourself and added the cold milk. But pudding made from scratch is one of the best things you’ll ever eat. Two summers ago, my mom took some old bananas that she thought she should use or trash and made some banana pudding that was so good we ate it all straight out of the saucepan before it even had a chance to cool.

Pudding is also a pretty allergy friendly dessert and it lends itself to the idea of a bar.  You can easily set up a pudding bar by laying out crushed gluten free cookies, whipped cream, chocolate chips, etc. And the homemade stuff tends to be so rich that a little goes a long way.

My favorite recipe for Chocolate Pudding is Tyler Florence’s. This is me making it here:

You can find the chocolate pudding recipe on the Food Network Website here: https://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/tyler-florence/chocolate-pudding-recipe-1947756

 

Gluten Free Storm Prep

By Rachel Sircy

Pic 1Well, we’re in the midst of hurricane season once again and I thought that I would use this post to recap some of the things that people who are gluten free can do to prepare themselves. Of course, most regular hurricane safety precautions apply to everyone – you of course need water, flashlights, first aid kits, etc.

 

However, people with celiac disease or gluten allergies or sensitivities have an added challenge: how to find shelf stable gluten free food that is actually edible and nutritious. Thankfully, we have a lot of options:

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The first thing that always strikes me when I’m preparing for a trip or an emergency is just how hard it is to find gluten free bread that you don’t need a toaster to make tasty. Well, I’m still looking for that bread, to be honest, but in a pinch, rice cakes can substitute. Plain rice cakes are cheap and shelf-stable. Yeah, they’re a little bit like eating cardboard, but think of it this way, you’re trying to survive, none of the fare for hurricane survival is going to be exactly sumptuous. Since rice cakes aren’t exactly filling, I would recommend topping them with something like peanut butter (if you don’t have a nut allergy and soy butter or sunflower seed butter if you do have an allergy.) Just make sure that any protein butter that you choose is shelf stable. Don’t buy natural peanut butter because most kinds of natural nut butters need to be refrigerated after opening. You want all those yummy preservatives…☹. Seriously though, regular PB that doesn’t need refrigeration is a great source of protein and it works really well on rice cakes.

Also, you can top those rice cakes with apples. Fresh apples can last quite a while without refrigeration. They’re full of fiber, too, so they’re pretty filling. Cereal is a good way to get a meal and use up that milk that’s going to go bad fast. There are so many good gluten free options. I go for plain Corn Chex (or an off-brand) because I don’t always want a super sweet cereal. Of course, protein or whole food bars like Lara Bars, Epic bars and the like are a great addition to your shelf-stable hoard of food. As are pickles. From what I’ve heard, pickles can survive without refrigeration for a while because of the brine that they’re in. Beef jerky can be a difficult one for the gluten sensitive, but more brands are coming out with gluten free jerky. I believe that Oberto makes a natural and gluten free beef jerky. Krave and Epic jerkys are gluten free as well, as are a few of types of jerky that Aldi sells. Dried and canned fruits and vegetables can make a great addition to your stash as well. You can mix the dried fruits and nuts together to make your own trail mix.

Nuts, if you’re not allergic, can be a great, healthy source of calories and good fats. And, if you can get nuts in the shell, you can store them long-term. I recently purchased peanuts in the shell. They apparently are good for several months after their sell-by date even without refrigeration. One place I read online said that you can store nuts in the shell for 2 years without refrigeration. Now, take that with a grain of salt (pun intended). Always test food that you’ve stored for a long time to make sure there’s no spoilage. Look, smell and taste a small amount to make sure it’s good. For canned goods any dents or bulges are a bad sign, I wouldn’t risk it. For home canned goods, any off color or smell is your best indicator of spoilage. Don’t take chances with botulism. It won’t be fun if you guess wrong.

A recent life-saver that I’ve run across in Aldi is this little guy:

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It’s a ready to eat quinoa salad. I’m sure that you can find similar ready to eat meals at other stores, but I prefer this one because it’s $1.99, 230 calories and 5 grams of protein. You don’t need to heat it or add water. Just open the container of pre-cooked quinoa and open and add the container of flavorings (in this case it’s basil pesto). This is a perfect grab and go for lunch or a car trip also.

Last but not least, a deep freezer and a gas or charcoal grill can be your best friends when you don’t have power, as long as you can afford them and have the space to keep them. Frozen meats and vegetables will stay frozen for at least a few days in a deep freezer and can be cooked on the grill as they thaw. Just don’t open your freezer more than absolutely necessary. Of course, I don’t have either of these things because we live in an apartment with no real outdoor space that I would use, so I can’t really elaborate on what using the grill is like, but I’m sure many of you out there already utilize this plan in power outages.

So, stay safe and well fed everyone!

Tips and Advice for Gluten Free Beginners

By Rachel Sircy           

There are so many reasons for going gluten free. Of course, I mostly mention celiac disease because that is the reason that I have to be gluten free. However, there is a whole spectrum of gluten sensitivity that individuals can fall on. I also know of people who have a medical need to reduce inflammation in their bodies and for this reason they need to go gluten free.

Because there is a spectrum, there are all kinds of levels of gluten free living. I am at the extreme end of that spectrum and need to be completely gluten free all of the time. I cannot have food that has touched food with gluten in it, but there are many others who don’t need to be as careful. My advice will, of course, tend to be toward the extreme end of gluten free living, but I think it will still be helpful no matter where you are on the spectrum, or even if you are just trying to cut back on gluten. You can always include some gluten free ideas in your regular repertoire.

When I was first diagnosed with celiac disease, I was referred to a registered dietician to work out a plan to start a gluten free diet. What she told me is that when trying something new, it’s best not to totally re-invent the wheel. This was excellent advice because just walking into the natural foods store with the intention of overhauling your whole eating routine at once can be completely overwhelming. So, the best thing you can do is to focus for a while on some naturally gluten free recipes. The great thing is that with a few modifications, either by leaving something out or my adding some ingredients that you may already have on hand, you can make almost any recipe gluten free.

Here are two examples, one is naturally gluten free and one is something that you can modify to make gluten free:

Mediterranean Tuna Salad (Naturally gluten free)

Ingredients:

2   6.5oz cans of water-packed tuna, drained

1   15oz can of white beans, rinsed and drained (cannellini beans work best)

¼ cup finely chopped green onion

1 ½ cups diced cucumber

4 cups chopped baby spinach leaves

3 TBS Extra Virgin Olive Oil

3 TBS Dijon Mustard (check the label, but most mustard should be gluten free. Grainy or smooth Dijon work equally well)

3 TBS Freshly squeezed lemon juice

1 TBS Capers (Optional)

Avocado chunks (Optional)

Combine dry ingredients in a large bowl and stir in olive oil, mustard and lemon juice. Season with pepper and add capers and avocado chunks, if desired.

 

Potato Soup (Modified to be gluten free)

Ingredients

5 cups unpeeled red potato chunks, large dice

1 cup green onions, thinly sliced

½ tsp black pepper

1 TBS salt

1 generous TBS of butter

½ cup milk

Combine potatoes chunks, onions, salt and pepper and just barely cover with water. Boil until potatoes are tender. Add the butter and cook 5 more minutes. Add milk and cook 2-3 minutes more

**This recipe for potato soup is one that I modified from a traditional potato soup recipe that used flour to thicken the broth. At first, I tried things like rice flour and cornstarch to thicken the broth, but I disliked both of those. Finally, I decided to completely leave out the thickener. The result is that you have a potato soup with large chunks of potato and a thin, flavorful broth. My husband – who doesn’t even have to be gluten free – ended up liking the thin broth version so much that I’ve never tried to use another thickener. If you have a recipe that you would like to try, but it has one or two troubling ingredients, you can always experiment with leaving that ingredient out. You may find that you actually like the recipe better without it. And, I’ve modified many recipes that call for farrow, barley or couscous with either rice or quinoa and they’ve turned out just fine.

 

So, when in doubt, try a recipe that uses naturally gluten free ingredients, like the tuna salad, or if you’re feeling adventurous, try to substitute simple ingredients or leave them out!

Be a PAL

By Rachel Sircy

With a new school year fast approaching, I thought it would be a great time to address a serious subject that both you and your kids should be up on: Food Allergy Bullying.

Let me begin with a personal story that was really the catalyst for me wanting to get involved in this anti-bullying campaign. Of course, it’s no secret that I have celiac disease, which is not a gluten allergy, but an intolerance of gluten. What this means for me is that, thankfully, gluten doesn’t cause an anaphylactic reaction. I don’t get rashes when I eat gluten and there’s no danger of my throat swelling shut. So, this personal story, which is really two stories, is about someone else that I know. The first story is one I’m going to tell on myself. I have a daughter who is a very, VERY picky eater. For the longest time one of the only foods I could get her to eat was peanut butter sandwiches. One Wednesday night my husband and I were running late to church and our daughter (we refer to her as HRH or “Her Royal Highness”) hadn’t eaten anything for dinner. She was only about 18 months old at the time and so, I felt like I couldn’t make her go for an entire church service without dinner. So, I made a peanut butter sandwich and put it in a plastic sandwich bag in her diaper bag. HRH ended up eating the sandwich in the church nursery right before church started and I thoughtlessly threw away some of the crusts (which had peanut butter smeared on them) in the trash can. A friend of mine from church who has a severe allergy to all nuts ended up having to leave church that night because she started having an allergic reaction to something in church. Now, I didn’t put two and two together at first. In fact, I didn’t even see her family get up and leave in the middle of the service. I never would have had any idea that I was the one who probably caused her reaction if the pastor had not announced that this woman and her family had had to leave due to an allergic reaction. He asked that we all be more mindful of what we ate before we came to church and he mentioned (though he didn’t ask anyone to confess) that part of a peanut butter sandwich had been found in the nursery trash can.

You can imagine how awful I felt in that moment.

Despite having an allergy to all nuts that is so severe that merely being in the presence of nuts or of nut butter could set off an allergic reaction, my friend told me that she has been unable to afford to get an EpiPen for a long time. This may not sound like a real problem in a country where most people can afford their medications and where there almost always seems to be a way to get your hands on what you need. However, there has been an incredible price spike in these life-saving syringes in recent years and even more recently, there has been a shortage of EpiPens, so that even those who can afford them cannot buy as many as they may need (most people carry two EpiPens on them at a time because one dose of epinephrine may not be enough to open a person’s airways during anaphylactic shock). What this means for a serious allergy sufferer is that they must take their allergies more seriously than they ever have before. But, what can an allergy sufferer do when the people around them refuse to take their allergy seriously? The second part of this story is one that this particular friend told me herself about 2 separate encounters that she had while flying out of state.

Her first encounter was on her way out of state. As she was boarding the airplane, she let one of the flight attendants know that she had a severe nut allergy and that simply being in the presence of any kind of nut could set off a reaction. The flight attendant stated that almonds were to be served as the in-flight snack and that there was nothing that they could do to change that. So, my friend loaded up on Benadryl and prayed. Thankfully, nothing happened.

On her flight home, she again informed a flight attendant – this one much more helpful than the first one – that she had a nut allergy. She was told by this particular flight attendant that snacks other than nuts were available and that they would serve those instead of the almonds. Unfortunately, there are no regulations as to the snacks that passengers can bring onto the airplanes for themselves, and so sometime after take off the passenger directly in front of my friend opened a bag of shelled peanuts – peanuts being the most dangerous allergen for this particular person – and started cracking them open. My friend and her sister moved quickly to get a flight attendant to change their seats and again my friend loaded up on Benadryl and her sister wrapped her face in a scarf, to keep her from breathing in any of the dust that might be floating backward to her through the stale cabin air. Seats were changed, prayers were answered and nothing bad happened. But this was a very serious close call.

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Now, you might be saying to yourself (or to me through your computer screen) that none of these incidents was actually an act of bullying. (Well, actually the incident with the first unhelpful flight attendant was really bordering on bullying.) However, these were all stories of simple acts of thoughtlessness that could have ended a person’s life. Consider that for a moment.

And now, consider that approximately 1 in 13 children in America have food allergies and that approximately one-third of those children report having been harassed solely on the basis of their allergy. You can type “food allergy bullying” into Google and read story after story of children with food allergies not only being made fun of, but actually being threatened and sometimes physically attacked with the foods that have the potential to end their lives. One New York Times article cites 6 different incidents of children who have been purposely threatened and attacked with allergens. One of the mothers of the children featured in this article stated that though children may think that they are just playing pranks on people with food allergies, they are actually threatening the allergy sufferers with deadly weapons. In one incident a 14-year-old girl who was hi-fived by a classmate who had smeared pineapple juice on her hand was hospitalized. According to this article in the Washington Post which covered the story, https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/education/wp/2018/01/26/3-teens-charged-with-knowingly-exposing-allergic-classmate-to-pineapple-she-was-hospitalized/ the girl’s allergy to pineapple was well-known to her classmates and the hi-five was intended to cause an allergic reaction. The classmate who intentionally caused the reaction has been charged with felony aggravated assault in juvenile court.

Even if the pranks don’t end in hospitalization or a severe reaction, the psychological toll that this kind of bullying has on children can be overwhelming. Another one of the heart-breaking stories from the above-mentioned Times article cites an incident where a child was taunted at lunch by his friends with a peanut butter sandwich. These so-called friends waved the sandwich and said “Let’s see if he dies.” Other children have had peanut butter or dairy products smeared on them. Many children who have food allergies dread school and some of them fake illness to avoid going to school at all. As a parent of a young child, I cried reading some of these stories. I felt immensely grateful that my daughter hasn’t shown any signs of food allergies. It also made me wonder what my family can do right now to make our community – the greater Columbia area – a more compassionate and safer place for those with severe food allergies. I didn’t have to search very long before I found the answer.

First of all, we can become more thoughtful people. Being thoughtful means we need to consider the snacks that we choose to eat and feed our children in public. There are so many alternatives to allergy-trigger foods out there. When I was diagnosed with celiac disease, the Enjoy Life brand of foods became a lifesaver to me – and it might be a lifesaver to someone with a food allergy. Enjoy Life produces cookies, crackers, chocolate bars, snack bars, etc. that are free of the all of the most common food allergies – eggs, dairy, wheat, soy, nuts, etc. Need to know what to bring to your child’s class party? How about some Enjoy Life cookies? They are delicious and safe. I’ve fed them to my picky eater ever since that peanut butter sandwich mistake in the church nursery. She absolutely loves them. I also started giving HRH some Enjoy Life Sunbutter Snack bars. They are perfect for when you’re in a hurry and you want to give your child something at least semi-healthy to eat that is also safe for everyone around her. They taste like peanut butter but are made from sunflower seed butter which is allergy friendly. Actually, I love those snack bars. Once I ate all of my kid’s snack bars and felt terrible about it, so I had to go out and buy more.

And, we can teach our kids to Be a PAL. The Be a PAL campaign (the PAL stands for Protect a Life) is part of a wider anti-bullying campaign. It aims to educate both children and parents about the dangers of food allergies and it encourages children to help protect and stand up for children that they know might be bullied because of their allergies. You can read more about the Be a PAL campaign and also find free printables and other resources here: https://www.foodallergy.org/education-awareness/be-a-pal

While the Be a PAL campaign is targeted at younger children, the No Appetite for Bullying campaign is for children 13 or older, parents and also teachers and administrators. You can learn more about this campaign here: http://www.noappetiteforbullying.com/

No Appetite for Bullying encourages you to download their badge and share it on your social media to show your support for those with food allergies. You can find it on their website or right here:

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Columbia, SC is a city known for hospitality, and I think that makes this a great place to champion this cause. So, this school year, let’s educate ourselves, our teachers, school administrators and those in our community about the seriousness of food allergies and let’s work together to make Columbia a safe and friendly place for all people. What do you say?

Product FYI

By Rachel Sircy

Well, this time around, I thought that I would blog about a new product that I’ve recently tried. By “new,” I guess I mean, new to me. I’m not actually sure how long this product has been on the market. The first time I saw and experienced Udi’s Soft White Bread was a couple of weeks ago at a baby shower.

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Since my husband and I decided to travel to Ohio this weekend, I decided to buy some. Sandwiches are the most car-friendly food that I can think of, but it’s so hard to have a good gluten free sandwich without the aid of a toaster. The idea behind this super soft bread is that you don’t necessarily need to toast it. We purchased a loaf for nearly $8.00 at Whole Foods, which is pretty steep for me. We usually purchase Aldi’s whole grain gluten free loaf for $3.99. So, the question is, is this bread worth the high price point?

The first thing that I think is worth mentioning is the size of the bread, which is much closer to a normal slice of bread. I don’t know if this picture of the bread beside my hand actually gives you an accurate idea of how big it is. For those of us who’ve been used to eating tiny sandwiches with those baby-sized pieces of gluten free bread. With this bread you can place a slice of cheese or deli meat without cutting it down to fit the tiny slices of bread.

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As far as taste goes, this bread is good. It fits the white bread ideal, which means that it doesn’t have much of a flavor of its own. It doesn’t get in the way of what is in the middle of the sandwich. I tried it with my homemade chicken salad and it tasted like a regular sandwich.

Texture, as with all  is this bread’s downfall, I think. Yes, it’s soft enough to use without toasting it. Anyone who eats gluten free bread for any reason knows that the unbending, crumbly nature of a slice of GF bread makes it inedible unless you toast it. So, the fact that this bread is soft and doesn’t require toasting is an advantage. However, the texture is NOT like regular white bread. Underdone is the word that most accurately describes how each slice of this bread feels, except for the crust, which is hard and dry, even by gluten free standards. To be fair, I really don’t know how you would make a slice of G-Free bread soft enough to eat out of the bag without feeling a bit underdone.

Here you can see where I took a bite of the bread that included the crust. I immediately concluded that the crust is inedible.

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I tried toasting the bread and it doesn’t make it feel much better. It seems to get the outside a bit crispy, but the middle of the bread is still a bit gooey. The other thing is, despite being soft and pliable, the bread still seems to fall apart somewhat. These lines, which I’m calling stress fractures, appeared in my bread once I cut the inedible crusts off of my chicken salad sandwich.

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Eating a chicken salad sandwich in the car with this bread was easier than I expected. The bread felt like it might fall apart, but it didn’t. I tore two sides of the crust off with my fingers, but I left the other two sides and ate around them. That seemed to help the structural integrity of the bread.

Overall, I think that this bread definitely has its uses. I’m glad that a company is genuinely trying to make a more palatable bread for people who have to eat gluten free. I don’t want to discourage people from purchasing it because I want to support Udi’s efforts to make a better bread. So, let me say this: If you’re taking a car trip and you want to take a sandwich with you, or if you use them (as they did at the baby shower) to make finger sandwiches for an afternoon tea, then this is the gluten free bread you want to use. To sum up, I think this is a pretty good special occasions GF bread. I think, though, that for everyday use, at least at my house, I’m going to stick with the much cheaper Aldi brand.

Back to Basics

By Rachel Sircy

I’ve written many articles about cooking at home, but I’m going to write another one. Home cooking is an important topic for anyone wanting to go organic or gluten free on a budget. Actually, it’s an especially important topic for celiacs these days. According to a recent study that was published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, Dr. Jack Syage and his research team found that adult celiacs who were following a gluten free diet and still experiencing symptoms of celiac disease, had been exposed to 150mg to 400mg of gluten per day. Only 10mg per day is safe for a person with celiac disease, but of course 0mg is preferable!
The thing is, gluten is hidden in so many things, it’s easy to forget or get sloppy with our eating habits. Unfortunately, any sloppiness in our diet means that we are doing damage to our bodies. Gluten is hidden in so many sauces, food additives (who wants food additives anyway?), and it comes with so many sneaky names : dextrin, maltodextrin, Brewer’s yeast, malt, malt flavoring, etc., that I’m sure that I accidentally get some contamination without even knowing it. The other issue is that not everything that is labeled gluten free really is gluten free. It’s not good enough for a celiac to purchase something that says, “contains no gluten” or “no gluten ingredients used.” The ingredients of a product may be gluten free, but it also matters how the product was processed, how it was shipped and how it has been handled in the store.
Most of the gluten hidden in our diet is going to come from processed foods. If you’re new to celiac disease, or if you are still experiencing symptoms, follow this advice that a registered dietician gave me years ago when I was first diagnosed: Make simple meals. What does this mean? It means if you don’t know what else to cook, make a crockpot roast with potatoes and carrots. You need a meat, a vegetable or two and some source of starch. You don’t need to worry about purchasing processed foods. Trust me, after 10 years of gluten free living, finding out which processed foods are safe to eat – even when shopping in a health food store – still makes my head spin. So, the best thing that you can do is avoid them. Buy plain raw meats and cook them yourself. Buy plain raw vegetables and cook them yourself. Potatoes, rice and beans all work well as starches and if you purchase the beans and rice plain and dried, not only are they gluten free, but they are super cheap. This simpler way of eating (meat, veg and a natural starch) will save you SO MUCH MONEY if you are a celiac. Gluten free noodles, cake mixes, cookies, etc. are insanely expensive anyway. If you’re still sick after going gluten free or if you need to be gluten free and you’re on a tight budget, simple meal planning is the way to go.
Of course, you might be saying, that cooking every single day is exhausting and too time consuming. Here’s the thing, if you want to cook like you’re going to be the next Food Network Star, then yes, it will take you quite a bit of time. I know, because I’ve made the mistake of trying to cook that way when I worked full time. Cooking was a burden to me, then, not a joy. It’s become more fun the more I’ve had to do it. But people, we live in a world full of crockpots and my co-worker has recently been raving about how much she loves her new Insta-pot. It’s so easy to throw meat and vegetables into a crockpot and let it do all the hard work for you. We also live in a world full of microwaves. If you enjoy cooking but only have time on weekends, then cook your meals and freeze them to be reheated later. This is actually a really economical way to plan meals. The freezer is your friend. This is my freezer:
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The individual containers in my fridge are full of soup that I made one day when I had the time. I let the soup cool slightly and then froze it in individual meal size containers. When I don’t know what to take to work for lunch, I’ve got these containers of soup that I can just grab and throw in my lunch bag. They reheat in about 3-6 minutes in the microwave (about the same time as a processed frozen meal). I also have freezer bags containing individual servings of cooked ground beef for tacos. My husband is the only one in our house who really likes it, so what we did on Saturday was to cook 2lbs of ground beef with a homemade taco seasoning and then he decided how much he would eat with a meal and he froze that amount (about 1 cup, I think) in each of these freezer bags.
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Actually, if you’re wondering what might be a great simple meal that isn’t roast and potatoes, tacos are great. Many brands of soft corn taco shells are gluten free. I do recommend that you choose a brand that has an ingredient list that is short and that you can completely read (try to avoid anything with huge, difficult to read words which are probably chemicals and which may contain gluten). Many hard corn shells are gluten free as well, but be careful, these are usually more processed and therefore contain the potential for contamination. Most of the other ingredients for home-made tacos are naturally gluten free: lettuce, tomatoes, onions, cheese (natural cheese, not processed! Processed cheese is likely to contain gluten), sour cream. Also, many brands of refried beans are gluten free. I go for the fat free beans, which keeps the ingredients list simple – usually just beans, water and salt. Make sure that you can read and understand all of the ingredients on the salsa that you choose, some have preservatives which may not be gluten free.
Below is the recipe for some home-made taco seasoning that is gluten free. It may seem like a long list, but it’s well worth making. I think it tastes better than a lot of packaged taco seasoning, and this recipe makes 6 tablespoons which will last a while since you only use 2 tablespoons per pound of ground beef. I also use 2TBS to season my home-made chili.
Taco Seasoning
Ingredients:
2 TBS Onion Powder
2 tsp Garlic Powder
1 TBS Salt
1 TBS Chili Powder
1 ½ tsp Crushed Dried Red Pepper Flakes
1 ½ tsp Ground Cumin
1 tsp Dried Oregano Leaves
1 ½ tsp Cornstarch
1 tsp Sugar

Method:
Place all ingredients in a tightly sealed container and shake until well mixed.
Makes 6 TBS of seasoning. Use 2 TBS per 1Lb of ground beef for tacos. Use to taste to season chili.

Happy Eating.

 

Reading for Your Life

By Rachel Sircy

Well, this post will be interesting, I hope. It’s a combination of two posts: the first part touches on the physical ailments caused by chronic stress and the second part is a summer reading list. Sounds pretty far out, eh? The part about stress was my idea and my husband (who, as I’ve mentioned before, is an English teacher) recommended that I do a post offering a summer reading list. As it turns out, reading can alleviate the physical effects of stress according to a 2009 study done by the University of Sussex, so the two subjects would seem to fit together nicely.

Firstly, stress. According to the American Institute of Stress (yes, oddly enough there is such an institution) between 75 and 90% of all visits to American healthcare providers are the results of stress related disorders. Chronic stress (that is the persistent feeling that you cannot cope with all of the demands on your time and energy) can lead to increased susceptibility to viral and bacterial infections, ulcers, heart attacks, depression, anxiety, autoimmune disorders (remember if you have celiac disease, this is an autoimmune disorder!), ulcerative colitis, etc. And stress will worsen the symptoms and damage to your body from any other illness (whether acute, like a cold or chronic like diabetes). You can read more about the effects of stress at the American Institute of Stress’s website: https://www.stress.org/stress-effects/.

So, the major point here is that we want to avoid stress as much as possible. According to Dr. Mimi Guarneri of The Scripps Center for Integrative Medicine, deep breathing is the best way to stop an acute stress response in its tracks. She recommends breathing in for a count of 5 seconds and out for a count of 5 seconds. These deep breaths will force your heartrate to slow and will cause many of the other automatic stress responses in the body to stop suddenly. Reading, too, can counteract the immediate physiological effects of stress according to that study I mentioned above conducted by the University of Sussex. According to their study, people who were exposed to rigorous physical activity to increase their muscle tension and heartrate experienced a 68% decrease in heartrate and muscle tension (these are two of the main physical effects that a person who is stressed will experience) after just 6 minutes of reading. Other relaxing activities such as taking a walk and listening to music did not produce the same kind of dramatic decrease in stress levels.

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See the article: http://www.theargus.co.uk/news/4245076.Reading_can_help_reduce_stress__according_to_University_of_Sussex_research/

Dr. Guarneri believes that spiritual health is crucial to both physical and mental health, and I completely agree with her. I can’t think of a better way to cut back on our chronic stress levels than to connect ourselves with Truth and know that all of our efforts really do count for something. I have shared my Christianity in the past and written blog posts about how both our body and soul are connected in God’s eyes. God sees us as whole people who need to care for both our spiritual and physical selves. So, my summer reading list is going to be a very short list of 3 books that I have felt both entertaining and spiritually challenging and/or uplifting. Keep in mind that these books may not be lining the bookshelves of Lifeway, but they have managed to engage me and challenge me spiritually.

  1. The Lord of the Rings Series: I think we all know that these are great fantasy adventures and that they are also inspiring stories. Despite not having any direct religious references, Tolkein’s deep Christian faith shines through every part of these novels.
  2. The Screwtape Letters: This imaginative novel written in a series of letters from an older, wiser demon to a younger, inexperienced demon on how to tempt a human soul is a great read. It is also a challenge for any Christian as C.S. Lewis picks apart “acceptable” sins that Christians sometimes wink at such as gluttony and selfishness.
  3. Girl Meets God: This memoir by Duke Divinity professor and Episcopal priest, Lauren Winner, is one of the best spiritual memoirs on the market today, in my opinion. It’s the story of Winner’s conversion from Judaism to Christianity, told with a deep love for both faiths and with a great deal of personal honesty. If you prefer non-fiction to fiction, I would recommend this book.

There are, of course, plenty of good reads out there, just waiting for you to put your hands on them. Frankly, I was pretty self-conscious about putting together a reading list. I’m not as avid a reader as I should be, and I’m definitely no critic, so I kept my book reviews to a minimum. I hope that this little list will be helpful for anyone looking to lower their stress level by escaping into the world of a good book!

Happy Reading!