Sunday, October 25, 2009

Making From Scratch What Others Buy At The Store

I grew up in a family that made things from scratch. No frozen pie crusts for us. If it was worth making, it was worth making the long way. Mom still bakes the majority of her bread (except Dad's sandwich bread) and Grandma make homemade noodles that put to shame anything you can buy. So with my gluten free diagnosis, it didn't seem like such a big deal that I should have to make pretty much all of my baked goods from scratch, especially if I didn't want to shell out the equivalent of a dinner out for a small cheesecake from Whole Foods. Besides, the majority of the pre-made gluten free fare isn't that great. Not when you're used to things made from scratch.
Most of this has been fun. I've been challenged to make things that I normally would have bought at a store or relied on someone else to make for me. Case in point, cheesecake. It took two tries, but I now have a fantastic and relatively simple recipe for gluten free cheesecake that even the gluten-eaters enjoy.
Last winter I did a stint at an Italian restaurant as a second job. While there and while in denial of my diagnosis, I fell in love. With gnocchi. Sauteed gnocchi with garlic and olive oil and sausage and onions finished with a wedge of grilled lemon. Yum... Oh gnocchi, how I missed you... Until tonight. Tonight I decided to make my own gluten free gnocchi as part of a lovely dinner for my husband.
Have you ever watched "them" make gnocchi on TV? They make it look so fun and easy! They even get the kids to help with cutting the long ropes of dough and marking them with a fork. It's a wonderful family activity. Right... it's wonderful... if you have help. The reason that it is a family activity is because it is too damn tedious to do by yourself. Having never made any kind of gnocchi before, it is also a bit nerve racking because they look like doughy lumps of par-boiled dough and taste like nothing or worse until you cover them with sauce. Fortunately, about 1/3 of the way through my cutting, forking, boiling, and freaking out about whether they were coming out like they were supposed to, my husband came to the rescue. He took over the cutting and forking while I concentrated on the boiling and the sauce.
The result: delicious. The process: long. The plan: next time I need to convince an ambitious 8 year old that this is "fun."

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Gluten: It's not sugar

A rant and rave about restaurants

The rant

As a former waitress, I have nothing but love for my comrades in the restaurant industry. However, sometimes, people are really frustrating. Twice now, I've gone to a restaurant, explained to the server that I needed to maintain a gluten free diet. I have asked questions about specific menu items. I have said the magic words "wheat, barley, and rye" and yet, when I finish my schpeal, the servers have looked straight at me and said, "So, no sugar, right?"


I get that my order might sound a lot like that of a person on a low-carb diet, but come on! An Atkins dieter would not ask about the ingredients list or brand names for your salad dressing. An Atkin's dieter will not get very very sick if you drop a crouton in her salad.

The rave

Anyone who is or has eaten with a Celiac knows that going to restaurants can be a challenge. This weekend, I met some friends for dinner at a newer Mediterranean restaurant in town. That type of food is usually pretty safe and Aladdin’s even has a GF menu printed, so I went in with more confidence than usual. I still prepared myself for a dinner of lettuce drizzled in olive oil and vinegar (my fall back when nothing else appears safe), but was cautiously optimistic. I would feel better if the person I ordered from knew what gluten is… So, I spoke with the person behind the counter who immediately went to a cook and asked about a gluten free menu. It was apparent that this was not the first time they’d been asked and that they did have some sort of plan for feeding people who can’t have gluten.

The cook came over and discussed my options with me, which were far more than I had anticipated! In the end, I got a Greek salad with lamb. Wonderful, gyro style seasoned lamb. DELISH!

So, if you are Celiac, or a friend of a Celiac and want to choose a fantastic dinner place where everyone will be happy and where you will spend far less that you’d expect, go to Lavash in Clintonville. You won’t be sorry.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Sometimes it's not so bad

The salon where my hair stylist works just got a line of gluten free hair products (AND all their shampoo and conditioner is GF). Hurray!

Then I went to Robeks and they were super nice about helping me find a smoothie combo that would be gluten free. Word to the wise, the fiber-bek powder has barley malt in it.

At home I had a delicious Italian sub (bread thanks to Holiday Baking Company).

And today, gluten free doesn't seem like a difficult way to live at all.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Got zucchini?

I had a lot of zucchini. Since my zucchini bread failed, and i wasn't motivated to do more baking, I needed a new plan.

Most of my cooking involves looking through the kitchen and coming up with a "concoction" that will be gluten free and won't involve a trip to the store. Sometimes it's barely edible, other times it works out well enough for me to write it down. And so I give you:

Creamy Zucchini Casserole
equal parts shredded zucchini and cooked brown rice (enough to fill your casserole dish)
ground pepper and chives to taste
1/2 onion chopped small
1/2 c kielbasa sausage diced into small pieces
sour cream (use enough to coat everything, but not so much that it's all you can taste)
shredded cheddar cheese to cover the top of the casserole

Mix everything except the cheese together in your casserole dish and smooth out the top. Cover the top with the shredded cheddar cheese.

Bake at 350 degrees for 30-60 minutes until everything is hot, the zucchini is tender, and the cheese is beginning to brown. Baking time mostly varies based on the size of your casserole dish.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

A Fall Favorite

Here is one of the first recipes that I made after going gluten free. I like to stick to foods that are naturally gluten free and that are easily reheatable. Many of my gluten-y friends have asked for this recipe. It's just good. It makes a great one-bowl dinner.

Stuffed Squash Casserole
1 acorn squash peeled and cut into 1 inch pieces
1 pound ground meat
1 onion diced
1 cup uncooked wild rice blend
1 medium carrot
1 cup chopped mushrooms
1 tablespoon dried sage
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
2 teaspoons dried rosemary
1 handful raisins (or dried cranberries)

Cook the rice and set aside.
Place the squash in the bottom of a buttered baking dish.
Sautee the veggies in butter and add the meat and spices. Once the meat is browned, add the rice.
Remove from heat and mix in the raisins.
Put the meat/rice mix over the squash and bake at 350 degrees for 50 minutes or until the squash is tender.

Friday, October 2, 2009

My Diagnosis

It’s been over a year since I heard the term “Celiac.” A coworker was diagnosed with gluten intolerance and suggested that I see her doctor. I hoped that he would be able to help my myriad of symptoms, but knew that if he said “Celiac” that my life would be over.

As with most Celiacs, the road to diagnosis is never straightforward. On my first visit he said “no gluten.” And drew some blood to test for the “Celiac gene.” This gene does not mean that you have Celiac, but 95 percent of Celiacs have the gene, so it’s a pretty good indicator. I stopped eating gluten. Started feeling better. Blood test came back negative for the gene. Now, I’ve played over what exactly the doctor told me at that point. I’m not sure what he said, but I'm sure it wasn't what I heard (and did) which was this: Don’t eat gluten…most of the time. In a couple months when Thanksgiving and Christmas comes, a little gluten won’t hurt you.

So, by the time the fourth family Christmas (yep. My first Christmas as a married lady involved 4 family Christmases) rolled around, I had thrown caution to the wind and was eating pretty much every warm, sweet, gluten-y thing I could put in my mouth.

January. Back at the doctor with stomach pain that won’t go away. He takes one look at my distended abdomen and says “what have you been eating?” Ummm… bagels every day this week? Right. I was presenting with classic celiac symptoms. Also, my blood work showed some of the malabsorption issues and the deficiencies that had begun to correct themselves were getting worse. “No gluten.” That was my answer. I was one of the 5 percent. (No, I did not have a small bowel biopsy done. It is the gold standard of Celiac disease testing, but the blood work and gluten test were enough to convince my doctor, so that’s good enough for me. I also had an antibody test, which showed gluten antibodies.)

Now, one might assume that I went home, purged my life of gluten and lived happily ever after… Well, I never claimed to be the brightest crayon in the box, so that night I went out and ate ½ a large Plank’s pizza. I was so sick for days afterward that from that day on, I have not purposely eaten gluten. Anyone who has observed a gluten free lifestyle knows, however, that purpose is only part of the battle. I’m still figuring out the gluten free life; still training my husband not to poison me with his crumbs; still explaining that no, a “little bit” will actually hurt me. That is what I want to share here.

I have learned so much from the seasoned Celiacs in the web community that I want to share my own challenges, goof ups, victories, and stories. And so I give you: A Gluten for Punishment. I hope you enjoy!