Staying on the Positive Side

Let’s be honest, sometimes life gets us down.  This is a story of getting down and then getting over it.

I have a pretty positive outlook on having Celiac Disease, having to eat gluten free and not getting to eat things like egg rolls and Chinese food in Chinese restaurants.  About once a year I get PF Chang’s and satisfy my Chinese craving for a bit.  It’s not as much as I used to eat it but it helps.  Eating gluten free isn’t really that bad either.  It could be worse, I could be allergic to dairy, avocados, and almonds.  Things that I eat EVERY day.  But it’s just gluten, right?

Well, last Monday was my “feeling sorry for myself” day.  I had been at JUCO (the Junior College World Series) which happens every May in Grand Junction.  It’s basically a week of sunshine, baseball and more sunshine.  I spend as much time attending games and chillin’.  Memorial Day I got to the stadium at 11 and stayed there all day.  I had brought my usual snacks to tide me over and had plans to jet at 6 to grab a bite to eat before the 7:30pm game.  Plans changed and I ended up taking photos of the team the Grand Junction Lions Club hosted (every year we host one of the teams) and not going to eat.

Mind you, this was my fault…I will admit that.

I had, earlier in the day, started wishing that I could go to the concession stand, pick whatever I wanted and just EAT.  Not have play 20 questions with the gal behind the counter and then hope that she was right.  It’s like playing Russian Roulette, really.  I was tired of being different, of not being able to grab food and go, to have to leave the stadium to get something to eat and then come back, try to find a parking spot and…it was too much.  I’m guessing the sun and heat had something to do with this breakdown as well.

But I had a pity party.  I almost started crying and had to compose myself several times.  Sometimes being gluten free really sucks.  In fact, I found this and posted it to Facebook:

Don't you ever just want to be normal?

Don’t you ever just want to be normal?

I had friends comment on the picture from “Be strong!” to “I have those days” to “I wouldn’t eat normal for the world, I know how it hurts me”.  The support was so good.

I ended up getting fries.  They told me that they were gluten free.  I hope they were right…

So, I had my moment, ate my fries, watched the game, went home, went to bed and the next day I was fine.  My outlook was better.  Sometimes you just have to have a moment and move on.  The sun always comes up tomorrow, I’ve been told…and that is a true statement.

The moral of the story is twofold:

1.  Have a pity party, get mad or sad or whatever and then MOVE ON.  It’s life and the way it is whether it’s Celiac or a dairy allergy or something else.  It could always be worse.

2.  Stay positive.  Negative energy only brings you and everyone else around you down.  The more negativity, the less people will want to be around you and, when you really need support, it won’t be there.

Gluten free isn’t always the most glamorous or the most fun but it’s the most healthy for me.  It could be gluten free or death and I choose gluten free.

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Recipe: Chocolate Chip Scones

I love baking and got this love from my mom.  She and I would spend time in the kitchen making cookies, bread, anything that could be baked.  When dad was diagnosed with Celiac, she went above and beyond to copy favorite recipes so that he would still have the foods he loved.  She also discovered new recipes that have become favorites.

This is one of those recipes:  chocolate chip scones.  If these are at a breakfast, they are sure to be gone in a second.  I love making this recipe because it’s quick and easy…perfect for a brunch!

GLUTEN-FREE CHOCOLATE CHIP SCONES

2 cups Bisquick® gluten-free mix

1 cup chocolate chips (I use mini chocolate chips for more chocolate per bite.)

1-1/3 cups whipping cream

1/2 teaspoon gluten-free almond extract

Heat oven to 400 degrees F. Line cookie sheet with cooking parchment paper or use a nonstick cookie sheet.

In large bowl, mix Bisquick mix and chocolate chips. In a measuring cup, mix whipping cream and 1/2 teaspoon of the almond extract. Stir into Bisquick mixture until soft dough forms, adding 1 to 2 tablespoons additional whipping cream if necessary.

Divide dough in half. On a surface sprinkled with Bisquick mix, pat each half into a 6-inch round. Cut each round into 6 wedges. Place wedges 2 inches apart on cookie sheet.

Bake 10 to 13 minutes or until golden brown. Cool 5 minutes; remove parchment paper with scones to cooling rack.

Optional icing:

1/4 teaspoon gluten-free almond extract

1 cup gluten-free powdered sugar

2 to 3 tablespoons milk or water

3 tablespoons sliced almonds

In small bowl, mix powdered sugar, 1/4 teaspoon almond extract and enough milk for desired drizzling consistency. Drizzle half the icing over warm scones. Sprinkle with almonds. Drizzle with remaining icing.

Each scone is approximately 250 calories each but for a special occasion or for a brunch this is a perfect treat. These scones also freeze well if you are looking to make them ahead of time.  I make them without the frosting as I feel they are sweet enough with out it.

The Bisquick baking mix can also be used for your favorites such pancakes, waffles and even pizza crust. It’s great to have on hand so you can make your breakfast favorites!

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Summer Eatin’ Tips

I wrote this article for a local newspaper a couple years ago but the tips stay true to this day.  Enjoy!

Summertime conjures up thoughts of barbeques in backyards, picnics over the 4th of July and company parties. Food items that are often served at these functions can be quite frightening for someone who is gluten free: hamburger and hot dog buns, pasta salads and many desserts are just a few to list. Here are some tips for eating gluten free yet enjoying the summertime festivities!

First, find out what will be served. If it’s pulled pork, find out if the BBQ sauce will be on it, if there was a marinade, etc. Hamburgers could have seasonings in them that have a wheat product as a filler. Hot dogs may not always be safe to eat and you may need to call the manufacturer. Finding out what will be served, and doing your homework, will make eating so much easier. It’s always a good idea to ask and plan ahead!

Second, bring your own. If buns will be part of the meal, bring gluten free buns. Udi’s makes a great gluten free hamburger and hot dog bun. If you aren’t sure about salads being served, bring a small portion for yourself.

Third, watch contamination. That knife that is in the mayo may have just been on a “normal” bun. It may be a good idea to bring some condiments that you know are safe.   Also ask that your hamburger or hot dog be cooked in a totally separate area on the grill as cross contamination can occur there as well.

Fourth, ask about any marinades or spices that might be on the food. Many marinades use wheat as a thickener and spices sometimes use wheat products as a filler. These hidden sources of wheat can be a concern. Just as to see the labels to make sure they are ok.

If your host or hostess has told you “not to worry about it”, just remember to have a back up plan. A good snack in your bag like Glutino’s pretzels or Nut Thins chips will be a great idea to keep you on track with your gluten free diet. You can also bring along something that you know will be ok for you to eat such as Mission Tortilla Chips and a jar of salsa.

Just remember: it’s ok to ask. Don’t be afraid to protect yourself this summer by asking what is in the foods you are about to put into your body. Then after you’ve asked, enjoy your summertime foods!

Living FREE

We live in a world that is gluten free, peanut free, dairy free, etc to accommodate for the differing allergies, intolerances and autoimmune diseases that we see in the world.  Gluten free has become a buzz word and everyone thinks that if it doesn’t have wheat, it’s safe for consumption.

Not the case.

Last August the FDA created a mandate that said that anything labeled gluten free must be 20ppm or less of gluten.  While I considered it a win, a step for those of us that need to be gluten free, it’s not enough.

Here is how I see it:  if something was labeled peanut free but still had 20ppm or less of peanut dust in it, it wouldn’t be labeled peanut free, right?  I mean, if someone ate something that was labeled this way and had a peanut allergy it would still cause a reaction.  Probably death.

So, why is it good enough for something that is labeled “gluten free” to have SOME gluten in it?  It’s not.

It’s time for gluten free to mean that.  FREE of gluten.  Zero, zilch, nada.  A little bit can still hurt someone who is Celiac (or has a wheat allergy or intolerance) and for a Celiac, just 1/64th of a teaspoon can cause damage.  Damage that could take months to heal.

So Celiacs, let’s stand together and show these companies, and the FDA, that gluten free must be FREE of that that makes us sick!

Rant over.

How do you do it?

This week we decided, at work, to start rotating and each Friday we take a little “brunch break” at work.  Not only does this give us a little break in the morning but each one of us gets to make something and share the recipe with the rest of the bunch.  One of my co workers was searching recipes and kept asking “can you have this?” and “can you have that?”  Of course when it comes to biscuits, pancakes and so many other breakfast foods, they are off limits for me.  The poor girl was trying so hard and I kept having to say no.

She then said “I don’t know how you do it, I would starve.”  Interestingly enough, when I asked friends what things they heard the most when you’ve explained your gluten free diet, the most common were “how do you do it?” and “you can’t eat anything.”

I will start with the question.  You do it because you have to.  Believe me, this isn’t something that I’d choose.  I do miss eating pancakes at a restaurant, biscuits and gravy on a buffet and egg rolls.  Oh, how I miss egg rolls.  But it’s something that is necessary for me to live.  To not live in pain.  To remain healthy.  You read labels, all of them, because wheat is hidden in so much.

Then to “you can’t eat anything.”  Well, if you mean you can’t get a Big Mac from McDonald’s, then yes.  Not that I’d eat that if I could…nasty.  You can eat, you just have to do research and, yes, it does take time and effort.  But I eat, I eat a lot.  You just learn what you can and can’t have.  You learn to shop around the outside of the grocery store, which is typically the healthiest choice anyway.  I eat lots of brown rice, quinoa, veggies and chicken.  I get creative.  And yet, I don’t look all skin and bones.

I feel bad for my co workers and anyone else that tries to cook for me.  Some of my friends have become experts in reading labels, in asking and, when all else fails, in sending me pictures of the labels of foods I may eat at their homes.  It isn’t the easiest thing in the world but it’s done because it’s needed.  And that’s how I do it…the short version!

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Traveling on…

I just finished up my second trip for work, destination: Minneapolis, MN. I spent one year in Minneapolis in college and was there a few times while I lived in Sioux Falls. So, it was going “back to my roots”, in a way. None of the other three gals from my office had been to Minnesota but when they found out we were near the Mall of America, they were all kinds of excited.

Eating is always a big part of a trip so once we hit the Mall of America, it was on! We did our shopping (they even had a store that was ALL running gear! Can you say heaven?) then headed to Tony Roma’s. They had a great gluten free menu and adult beverages as well.  The service was lacking, our dinner there was almost two hours and we didn’t order anything special, but when it came, it was amazing.  I had the Mojo Chicken which had great flavor and a great pineapple salsa on a bed of rice.  Lesson learned, don’t go there unless you aren’t overly hungry or are in a time crunch!

Before we left Grand Junction, my manager called ahead to the hotel, the Hilton Garden Inn in Eagan, to make sure that there would be gluten free meals for me. While they weren’t sure about the breakfasts, and only confirmed that the eggs were ok, they did amazing with the lunches. The first lunch we had was Chinese and they made me a special plate with sauteed veggies and rice as well as a side salad. The second lunch was a huge bowl of pasta and they went the extra mile by going to the nearby gluten free bakery and getting me desert! More on that in a second…

After we finished up our first day of training, I told my manager that we were going to hoof it the half a mile to the gluten free bakery, Bittersweet Bakery.  Before I left for my trip, I did some research on good gluten free places in Minneapolis and was pleased to find that there was a gluten free bakery so close! There was a kindly gentleman at the counter and he helped me make my breakfast choice for the morning: cinnamon pecan coffee cake. Since I LOVE cupcakes, I couldn’t pass up the marble cupcakes with chocolate frosting and candies on top. I also nabbed a double chocolate chip cookie because, honestly, who doesn’t like cookies. All of those items were under $10 too! I’ve never purchased that much in gluten free items and have it that cheap! I tried the cookie out on the walk back to the hotel…ok, devoured it. It was amazing! I had the coffee cake the next morning and it was equally amazing. It almost didn’t even taste gluten free. The cupcakes, even after a day, were still soft and tasty.

When I returned to the hotel from my trip to the bakery, my workmates were at the hotel bar and I just had to show them the treats I had gotten, minus the cookie:

Cinnamon Pecan Coffee Cake and Marble Cupcakes with Chocolate Frosting

Cinnamon Pecan Coffee Cake and Marble Cupcakes with Chocolate Frosting

The bartender, who I later found out was the assistant general manager, Ronnie, overheard our conversation and told me that his son had a wheat allergy and he had forgotten about the bakery.  He said that they would get me something for lunch the next day from the bakery but I didn’t think much of it.  The next day they delivered:  two double chocolate chip cookies from Bittersweet Bakery!

We decided to stay close for dinner that night and we across the street to Ansari’s Mediterranean Grill.  They had amazing food and were very attentive to my needs, even checking to make sure that the Ooso, the Greek beverage, was gluten free.  When we ordered hummus, they accommodated me and brought celery for me to have with the hummus.  Our server was amazing!  They also had karoke so it was a fun time by all!

Our last night, we decided to stay close as well and Doolittle’s Woodfire Grill was recommended by Ronnie.  I was pleased with the huge selection of gluten free options on their menu, even appetizers, which I find aren’t always on a gluten free menu.  The Balsamic Tenderloin Skewers were a great way to start the meal.  So tasty!  For an entree I had the Spit Roasted Chicken.  It was the most tender chicken I’ve had in a long time and the mashed potatoes were so good too!

It was a great trip, great training, amazing people and amazing food!  I would recommend trying the above places, they won’t disappoint!

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And on the outside…

There is a debate in the gluten free world over whether or not skincare, shampoos, etc that might have wheat, barley or rye in them can affect those with Celiac Disease or gluten intolerance by bringing out the symptoms of these two diseases.

I’ve talked with several people who have the skin rash symptom of Celiac Disease, Dermatitis Herpetitformis, have breakouts when using lotions, shampoos, conditioners and even hair coloring which asks the question:  “If Celiac Disease is an autoimmune disease and affects the gut, why do “topical” items bother us?”

I don’t have an answer to this and hope to speak to a dermatologist (I’ve found one who is well versed in this, so I hear) and find out what the story really is.  I know as a Celiac, I’ve slowly started changing from the store brand skin care items to ones that are certified gluten free, just so I know I’m on the safe side.

Thoughts out there?

It’s not as easy as it looks

People go on diets all of the time to lose weight or, as in the case of my athlete/bodybuilding friends, to do a competition of some sort.  Cutting out certain foods helps you achieve those goals and can help you get much healthier.

But there is a difference between choosing to cut out a food group or just a couple of foods and being forced to cut out foods.  When you choose to cut foods out, you have the option of bringing them back into your life when, or if, you choose to.  When you HAVE to cut a food out it’s not quite as easy.  Especially when the item you have to cut out of your life is in EVERYTHING.

Which is where the bet comes into play.  I was out with some friends a couple weeks ago watching football and enjoying an adult beverage.  When it came time to eat, my friend Kim and I discussed what we wanted (we are quite familiar with local restaurants and what we can and can’t have) and ordered.  Somehow the topic turned into an “it’s not that easy” discussion.  Now, Kim is right, eating gluten free can be challenging and frustrating.  Gluten is in all different types of foods, most you wouldn’t think.

So Kim and Craig bet.  Kim bet Craig that he couldn’t go a full week of eating gluten free and he accepted.  Then I told him where wheat was and what he couldn’t have.  First, beer.  He looked at his beer sadly but decided he could give it up for a week.  Then I moved into the liturgy of “you can’t have pasta, bread, breaded foods, certain kinds of ketchup, certain types of soy sauce, most Chinese foods, cereals…” and the list went on and on.

I think finding out that “little” things like ketchup, soy sauce and salad dressings can contain wheat is surprising but wheat is a binder, and thickener, in almost everything.  I mean, a friend of mine made chili with a seasoning packet that had, yes, wheat.

Well, the bet lasted under eight hours when Craig decided it wasn’t going to happen.  I don’t blame him, if I wasn’t Celiac, I wouldn’t be gluten free either.  I would be feasting happily on my Chinese food with soy sauce.  I won’t lie, though, I helped enjoy the spoils of Kim’s winnings and was happy about it.

Go on guys…bet again.  I’m ready for it!

Six things you shouldn’t say to someone who is gluten free

There are many misconceptions when it comes to eating gluten free and I hear things quite often that shouldn’t be said to someone who has a condition, especially a disease or an allergy.  Here are a few that I’ve heard and just shouldn’t be said.

1.  “A little bit won’t hurt you.”  If you have a peanut allergy, a little peanut will hurt, right?  So, if I have an AUTOIMMUNE disease, why wouldn’t a little bit hurt me?  I know my body and it would hurt.

2. “Gluten free is just a fad.”  Yes, to some people it is and I will admit that there is a lot of info out there that would make it seem that way.  For many of us, this is a way of life.  It’s the way it HAS to be and I don’t have a choice in it.  By the way, if you are following a gluten free diet to lose weight, it doesn’t really work that way.  I would encourage you to look into a Paleo diet.

3.  “I couldn’t give up bread and pasta.  I don’t know how you do it.”  This one cracks me up because it usually comes from someone who has never had to give anything up.  When you HAVE to do something for your health, you do it, even if you don’t want to.

4.  “I can’t believe that they haven’t come up with a pill so you can eat wheat.”  They are, honestly, working on it but I’m still not sure if I would take it.  I mean, what if it doesn’t work?  So, until it is a for sure thing, I will avoid anything with gluten.

5.  “I think this is gluten free.”  Think?  Really?  I think my brakes work on my car.  This is something I run into at restaurants a lot and a lot of this is just not educating people, which is our responsibility.  Either an item is or it isn’t gluten free, end of story.   And by the way, removing croutons from a salad, taking a bun out from under and on top of a hamburger, etc doesn’t make an item gluten free, it just makes it bread free.

6.  “If gluten is so bad, why do people still eat it?”  This is a super good question.  For most people, gluten doesn’t affect people, just like peanuts aren’t dangerous for people without a peanut allergy.  My body won’t process the gluten (the protein found in wheat, barley and rye) and actually causes my body to reject food, to cause my body to not absorb minerals, etc.  If your body can still process gluten, there is no need to cut it out although I would recommend limiting your intake.

These are just a few things that I hear and, to be honest, most just roll of my back.  The lesson here?  Just be cautious of what you say!

By the way, don’t forget to follow me on Facebook and on Twitter at @MissSillyYak!

Never take it for granted

Last night we had our monthly meeting of Gluten Free Grand Valley, the gluten free support group in Grand Junction, CO.  I am pretty proud of this group as I am one of the co-founders and we have great people that attend as well as a large group on Facebook.

Our meeting was a 2014 kickoff and we (the board) wanted to get an idea of what people are looking to get out of our meetings.  The feedback was great but the part that I think really tickled people was the food.  I had been to the Denver Gluten Free Food Fair in August, was able to get a hold of some of the vendors and they, very kindly, sent samples to me.

People that don’t have food issues may be thinking “what’s the big deal?”  It is a big deal.  You may think that if tomorrow you couldn’t have bread, you wouldn’t miss it.  That is, until you wanted to have a PB&J and you were going to have to eat it either without bread or, in the case of most gluten free breads, nearly a piece of cardboard.  One of the vendors that sent samples was Kinnickinnick.  They make many types of foods from bread/cake mixes to cookies to loaves of bread.  They sent bread.  I was skeptical since most gluten free bread is either good for only toasting, for Thanksgiving Day stuffing or great for sawdust.  Yes, it’s that good.  Not this bread.  Soft, chewy, almost REAL bread!  I may have been in heaven for a while, I’m not sure.

Seems silly, right?  Bread?  Big deal.  You’re right, it IS a big deal.  It’s a big deal because growing up I could have a grilled cheese sandwich.  I haven’t had one in almost two years.  I couldn’t just make a PB&J because cardboard bread doesn’t have the right texture or taste.  I couldn’t have bread with my soup (yes, I like to dip bread in soup, so sue me).  Anything that you can’t have because your body will hate you for it is something you crave, something you desire and something that you SHOULD be able to have.

Those of you who don’t have food issues, whose bodies will accept anything you put into it, never take it for granted.  Consider it a blessing that you don’t have to worry about getting sick from foods. Enjoy them and enjoy them often.

Also, if you want to find out more about me and want to get more posts, you can follow me on Facebook or on Twitter by following @MissSillyYak.