Sunday, January 31, 2010

The Yo-yo weight game

The most frustrating part of this whole celiac thing, isn't even the food, or my favorite shampoo that I had to give is the weight fluctuations. It makes me want to scream and cry!

Before my annual physical last year, when my doctor felt she should test for celiac, because of recurring reflux and low iron, I had lost some weight, and was so happy about that. All the sudden my weight seemed to go down at a pretty fast rate and I was able to tighten my belt 2 notches! At that appointment, the doctor commented her surprise with the weight loss since the previous year, and I felt so proud.....silly me. I just assumed I had been doing well with eating less and exercising, it never occurred to me that it would mean something was not right. Other than the weight loss and pesky reflux, I felt great...same energy level, good moods, nothing seemed off.
Once, I received my celiac diagnosis, it made sense..that I lost the weight because my body was not absorbing nutrients and fats like it had before, and I had actually been eating and cooking significantly less in trying to avoid the reflux. . The irony of it all, once I started to eat properly, I gained the weight back and then some!!

I have never a big fan of bread (unless a proper fresh French baguette) and would usually end up taking the insides of my sandwiches out and tossing the bread to the side. Usually, my plate, after eating a sandwich, looked more full that it did before I started because of the bread carnage left behind. Once I knew I had to follow a gluten-free diet, I started eating bread...lots of bread!! So unlike me, but I was/am actually enjoying gluten-free bread more than I ever enjoyed regular bread. Regular sandwich bread always seemed like preserved tasteless styrofoam on a grocery store shelf, but I have come across some amazing gluten-free breads, and for the first time in my life, was starting to eat toast for breakfast.

On top of the constant bread eating, I was also baking more than my normal bake-heavy routine. I felt like it was a challenge to try and bake stuff that tasted the same and better than my previous gluten goodies. And I succeeded, and succeeded again, and again.... Baking is a total weakness of mine. A new Food & Wine comes in the mail, and I must make a dessert in there that night! My family is not starved of good food.

And now without being able to have the whole grains I was used to having, as previously, I would bake with whole wheat flour, and eat cereals or crackers with whole wheat, I am now eating more refined flours and sugars than ever. In addition to the bread, I was eating the new gluten-free Chex cereals like crazy, and testing out any and every gluten-free baked good I would come across. And this my friends, is not a good thing for the belt notches.

I went from being below my regular weight to being over it in a year. I have been worried, maybe it is my thyroid or pcos, but have repeatedly asked for tests that come out normal. I have asked for the more specific thyroid tests as well, that also come back normal. And then the doctor tells me it is how I am eating.

I have also noticed since going gluten-free, that I will get that shaky, horrible feeling when I get beyond hungry, especially if my previous meal was something like toast or some other refined carb. And being a non-meat eater, I am now trying to be extremely careful to pair protein with my meals. Currently, for breakfast I will have an apple with a cup of plain, Greek yogurt mixed with a tablespoon of peanut butter, and this will usually get me through to lunch. As long as I try to watch my protein intake, I can avoid that hungry, shaky feeling, but if I am out with nothing on me, I will go straight to a cafe/coffee shop and order a chai latte to curb that feeling. Not good for the calories. I try to keep a bag of almonds and bottled water on me at all times to avoid this scenario.

Since the holidays, I have really tried to cut down the baking, and portion sizes. When it is at least 20'F outside, I will go for a long walk along the lake, about 4-5 miles a day, as well as doing some exercises at home. I am also planning to start a Zumba class this week. I absolutely love dancing so I might as well do it to gain happy benefits.

Next month, at my annual physical, I will asked to be tested once again for thyroid issues, but in the meantime, I need to shed some of this flab. My little sister is getting married in October of this year, and I am a bridesmaid, and determined to look hot! I refuse to be the fluffy one next to a bunch of skinny-minnies.

Has anyone else experienced something similar? I sure wish I was one of the lucky ones who lost weight as soon as I went gluten-free!!

Saturday, January 30, 2010

GF mention in 'Secret Diary of a Call Girl"

As I am watching the first episode of season 3 of 'Secret Diary of a Call Girl' with Billie Piper...I notice an interesting quote from her and she is "with" one of her customers...

"They don't have time for a real relationship with their 6-figure salary and 70 hour working weeks, they don't want to come home to PMT (PMS) and a dressing gown and a gluten, I'll eat anything"

That grabbed my attention!!

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

A 3-way with vegetarian Cincinnati chili and The National

What goes better with a 3-way Cincinnati-style chili than listening to the great music of The National, originally from Cincy. I used to love Skyline chili in my meat-eating days, and would get it frozen from my local grocery store and serve it over spaghetti and top with cheese. It was quick and satisfying. Being a mostly non-meat eater these days, I still craved the flavor and texture without the animal. I searched online, experimented and combined different recipes I found in trying to duplicate the Skyline chili recipe with a vegetarian version.

I was in Cincinnati for Thanksgiving with my sister celebrating the holiday with her future-in-laws and I fell off the vegetarian wagon in a big way, and ended up partaking in a meat extravaganza which started with a loaded plate of juicy turkey to begging my sister and her fiance to take me to Skyline for a greasy plate of chili cheese fries, and it was fabulous. Being at a Skyline was very similar to being at Waffle House...another place for which I have a strong weakness. Very few chains, especially fast-food/diner type chains grab my attention, but this is one of them. Yes folks, that is my dirty little secret for 2009. I am currently back on the meatless wagon.

I think once I discovered that Skyline serves lots of foods that are gluten-free, I couldn't hold back, and just had to indulge. You can see their gluten-free menu here.

For my homemade and much healthier gluten-free version, I feel the texture and taste came out very similar, and even if it does not taste exactly like the real thing, it sure tastes good, and makes it difficult not to take seconds. I honestly could not tell the difference from the meat-based version with this smooth texture.

3 cans kidney beans, drained and rinsed
1 onion, chopped
4 cups veggie stock or broth (
I use Celifibr bouillon cubes)
16-oz can tomato sauce
2-3 T chili powder
2 T apple cider vinegar
2 t worcestershire sauce
1/2 oz. unsweetened chocolate
1 T brown sugar
2 t garlic
1 1/2 t cinnamon
1 t cumin
1 t oregano
1/2 t allspice
1/4 t cloves
1 bay leaf
shredded cheddar cheese and finely chopped onion for topping

This sounds bizarre but to get the proper texture, put the chopped onion and 2 cans of beans in the blender, and pureed until smooth, but not
liquefied. I realize a bean and onion smoothie does not sound appealing, but trust me, this works, keep reading...

Empty this mixture into a pot, and then blend the 3rd can of beans more coarsely in the blender. You may need to add some of the broth to the blender for each batch to make it easier to mix.

Add the broth to the beans and onion mixture in a large pot, bring to a boil and simmer for 10 minutes.

Add the remaining ingredients and simmer, uncovered for 2-3 hours stirring occasionally. By this time it will have thickened and taste delicious!!

Cook spaghetti just before serving and spoon the chili onto the pasta, serve topped with cheese and/or onions.

I prefer mine served 3-way on spaghetti and shredded cheddar cheese.
I think I will have my leftovers tomorrow for lunch on a baked potato.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Black bean cakes with Florence

While listening to Florence and the Machine this morning, my latest music obsession (and the name of my late grandma, without the machine part), I had a craving for one my favorite all time beans cakes with roasted tomatillo salsa, cheese grits and buttermilk biscuits. This is inspired by one of my favorite restaurants, Flying Biscuit, in Atlanta. It takes a bit of work, so I only attempt this brunch when I have some time, and am not in a rush, but is so worth it!! And the best of all, it is all gluten-free!

So let's start from the beginning, what do you need get this shebang on the road......

  • 1 cup all purpose gluten-free baking flour (I used Whole Foods 365 All-Purpose Baking Mix)
  • 1/2 cup buckwheat flour (I used Arrowhead Mills organic buckwheat flour)
  • 3 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 stick of butter at room temperature, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
  • 3/4 cup buttermilk
Black bean cakes
  • 2 cans of black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 2 tablespoons of olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped onion
  • 2 minced garlic cloves
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 1/4 cup harina de maiz (I use P.A.N.)
  • chopped feta cheese, thinly sliced red onion, freshly chopped cilantro as toppings
Roasted tomatillo salsa
  • 1 1/2 pound tomatillos, cleaned and halved
  • 1/4 cup onion, minced
  • 2 garlic cloves, peeled and halved
  • 3 tablespoon freshly chopped cilantro
Cheese grits
  • 1 cup of grits (I used Bob's Red Mill gluten-free polenta/grits)
  • 3 cups of water
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1/2 cup cheddar cheese, shredded
  • 1/4 cup parmesan cheese, shredded
  • salt and pepper to taste
Eggs, optional....I personally like over-medium with my black beans cakes.

I never said the grits and biscuits were healthy!

Ok, where to start, this is one brunch with lots of components, and you want to make sure it is all done at the same time and heated or cooled as it should be perfectly. Timing is key. So this is how I like to manage it...

I like to start with the tomatillo salsa, so let's go:

Heat the oven to 350', in the meantime place the tomatillos, onion and garlic in a roasting pan and cook for 35 minutes. Let cool slightly, put contents in the blender with the cilantro and puree. Pour into a bowl, cover and chill in the fridge until the everything else is finished.

Turn oven to 425' for the biscuits to come next...

While the tomatillos are roasting, let's get started on the biscuits....Combine the flour, sugar, baking soda, and baking powder in a large mixing bowl, work the butter into the flour mixture with your hands until the mixture is the constancy of small peas, next slowly stir in the buttermilk until mixture comes together.

Form six 3-inch wide biscuits, about 3/4-inch thick with your hands. I like to put a little buttermilk on the top of each biscuit and sprinkle with sugar. Place on a parchment-lined cookie sheet and refrigerate for about 20 minutes. When ready, bake for 18 minutes or until starting to brown.

While the biscuits are cooling and baking, prepare the *star* of the show, the black beans cakes....
Place the rinsed beans in a large mixing bowl.

In a small pan, heat 1 T of the olive oil over medium heat and add the onion, garlic and cumin until onions are translucent. When finished add to the beans and mash with a potato masher until well blended with a smooth consistency. Add the harina until the dough no longer sticks to your hands and you can form a patty. I wet my hands a bit with water. Form into 3-inch patties, will make about 8.

Now for the grits, and you don't have to be southern to love them....heat 3 cups of water in a sauce pan for the grits, while at the same time heating the remaining 1 T of olive oil on medium-high heat in a skillet. Place the black bean patties on the skillet and cook 3-5 minutes per side.

While these are cooking, add the grits to the boiling water and simmer for 5 minutes. Remove from heat and add butter and cheese and salt and pepper if desired.

At this time cook your eggs.

By now, the black beans cakes should be finished. Add the patties to a plate, and spoon the chilled tomatillo sauce on top and add red onion, feta and cilantro. Serve with the eggs, grits and biscuits. Sometimes I like to split my biscuit in half and spread with jam...fresh jam, if I have it on hand is the yummiest!

Ignore the does leave quite a bit of fallout in the kitchen, ignore the calories and enjoy!

I love using the leftover salsa (if there is any) as a dip later in the day with some corn chips (Xochitl, my fav chips ever!!), or to add to pasta with some feta cheese for lunch the next day.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Winter vegetable chili

I love when a new Food & Wine magazine arrives in my mailbox. I have been a faithful subscriber since college...thank you mom!! I feel just as excited as I was when I would receive Tiger Beat in the 80s, so you tell just how excited I am. But rather than pulling out the centerfold of Rick Springfield to put on my wall, I flip through immediately, looking for what recipes I can make right away.

The latest issue had a colorful chili dish on the cover, and luckily it was naturally gluten-free, with intriguing ingredients and vegetarian...a must! I made it that night. This recipe is inspired, with small changes, by their recipe:

1/4 cup olive oil
1 onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 red bell pepper, chopped into 1/2-inch pieces
1/2 pound parsnips, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1/2 pound carrots, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1 tablespoon chile powder
1 tablespoon cumin
14-oz can of crushed fire-roasted tomatoes
1 1/2 cup water
1 cup canned hominy, drained and rinsed
1 cup canned red kidney beans, drained and rinsed

Serve with brown rice, chopped red onion, cilantro, sour cream and corn chips

In a cast-iron dutch oven or large pot heat the oil. Add the onion and garlic and cook over high heat, stirring until slightly softened, about 3 minutes.

Add the bell pepper, parsnips and carrots and cook, stirring occasionally about 5 minutes.

Stir in the chile powder and cumin, cook for about 1 minute.

Add the tomatoes, water, hominy and beans and bring to a boil. Cover partially and simmer the chile over medium heat until the veggies are tender, about 20 minutes.

Serve with the rice, red onion, cilantro, sour cream and chips.

Also tastes great reheated the next day.

Meatless tacos and Kaiser Chiefs

Listening to some good tunes and making a late Friday night dinner.

Let me preface by saying, I am usually a firm believer in making everything from scratch, but tonight has been an exception. Tacos have to be one of my all time favorite dinners, maybe because it reminds me of being younger and my mom making them, or because I love the crunch of the taco shell with all the goodness inside. Being that we, at our house, are not meat eaters, I have make taco meat with a mixture of lentils and finely diced extra firm tofu, and it leaves me craving one more taco when I know I can't fit in anymore.

Most of the time I cook tacos that are simply grilled veggies served in soft corn tortillas sprinkled with fresh cilantro and homemade black "refried" beans, but tonight, I wanted old skool tacos with the not-so-good-for-you taco seasoning and all.

1/2 cup water
1/4 cup lentils, rinsed and drained
1/4 cup chopped onion
1 8-ounce can tomato sauce
1/2 of a 1-1/8- or 1-1/4-ounce envelope (5 teaspoons) taco seasoning mix
(I use McCormick Original since they clearly label gluten)
8 ounces firm or extra-firm tofu, drained and finely chopped
taco shells (I use organic - has no partially-hydrogenated oils, or Old El Paso)
shredded lettuce or cabbage
1 medium tomato, chopped
1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese
sour cream

1. In a medium saucepan combine water, lentils, and onion. Bring to boiling; reduce heat. Simmer, covered, for 25 to 30 minutes or until lentils are tender and liquid is absorbed.

2. Stir tomato sauce and taco seasoning mix into lentils. Bring to boiling; reduce heat. Simmer, uncovered, for 5 minutes. Stir in tofu; heat through. Spoon into taco shells. Top with lettuce, tomato, cheese and sour cream.

Chicago dinner and a gig, GF-style

Sometimes the thought of eating out and being able to actually eat something in a restaurant can become daunting, and in the end many just stay home to eat. But with the diversity of restaurants in Chicago it is more common than one might think to find a satisfying meal, and what better way than to go out for a dinner and a music show, just like all of the gluten-eaters. This has always been one of my favorite ways to spend an evening, and I am determined not to let having to eat gluten-free get in my way.

Fortunately, there are many great venues in the city to catch a good indie band and many of these venues have dining options just next door that can accommodate the gluten-free eater.

Bite Café, next-door to one of my favorite venues, the Empty Bottle, at 1035 N. Western Avenue on the edge of Wicker Park, is literally next door and owned by the venue, and has a varied selection of gluten-free items. Their dishes are unique, reasonably priced and healthy, and offer many vegetarian items as well. They also suggest that you could let hem know ahead of time and the can prepare something that isn’t normally so to be gluten-free, but it is not necessary and there will be food available to eat. Some of the upcoming shows at the Empty Bottle, include Prefuse 73 1/24, DJ Krush 1/27 and Four Tet 2/19.

The Double Door, in the heart of Wicker Park at 1572 N. Milwaukee, North and Damen has a few gluten-free choices in the immediate area. Directly next-door is Francesca’s Forno, a local chain, which actually has its own separate gluten-free menu. For something a bit quicker and more casual, you can walk a couple of blocks west on North Avenue and hit Sultan’s Market at 2057 North Avenue. They have delicious homemade falafel, veggie combos and lentil soup, as well as several meat dishes. Continue west on North Avenue and you can go to Handlebar at 2311 North Avenue. They also have several gluten-free items to choose from, such as my favorite catfish tacos, ground nut stew and unique salads among other choices. Some up and coming shows to catch at the Double Door include Chicago’s own Blah Blah Blah 1/26, Nick Oliveri 2/1, Polysics 2/10, Evan Dando 2/19, Mission of Burma 4/10 and The Wedding Present 4/16.

In Logan Square, Lula Cafe is located next-door to the Logan Square Auditorium at 2537 North Kedzie. Lula Cafe has several organic and gluten-free options such as the maki rolls and salads on their cafe menu. Their dinner menu includes specials that can be made gluten-free and their brunch includes many egg dishes that are safe as well as potatoes that are cooked in a designated area. The current manager, Sara, of Lula is the former manager of Rose’s Wheat Free Bakery and Café in Evanston and is extremely knowledgeable in cross-contamination issues as well as their kitchen staff. Upcoming shows at the Logan Square Auditorium include The Residents 2/15 and the Black Lips 4/1.

Harmony Grill is located next-door and owned by Scubas at 3159 N. Southport in Lakeview. You can actually go from one to the other without stepping foot outside. They have several gluten-free options including their chili, salads and sandwiches served without the bread, among other items. For another eating choice there is FlatTop Grill, a local chain, directly across the corner at 3200 N. Southport, that offers gluten-free sauces for their stir-fry. Their web site also thoroughly lists what choices are safe for many different allergies and intolerances. Upcoming shows at Schubas include Band of Heathens 1/27, Movits! 1/31 and Wild Beasts 2/18-19.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Interview with tour production manager, Richard 'Wez' Wearing, and gluten-free life on the road

Recently, I had the pleasure to interview award-winning production manager, Richard ‘Wez’ Wearing. Living in the UK, Wez has worked with hundreds of bands such as Mika, Take That, Scissor Sisters, Sex Pistols, PIL, Iron Maiden, Manic Street Preachers, Celtic Thunder and Sarah Brightman. He has a demanding career that takes him around the world, working non-stop on a tight schedule.

Diagnosed with celiac in 2007, this added an additional level of challenges to an already hectic lifestyle, but he doesn’t let that inhibit him in any way. (Photograph above, Richard 'Wez' Wearing, Suggs, singer of Madness and Andy Rourke, former bassist of the Smiths)

Wez was recently in Chicago this past October with Mika at the Riveria.

Q - Were you already touring when you were diagnosed? If so, how did it immediately change your outlook on touring?

A - I was already touring, it was a great relief to find out why I was so run down all the time, but it took time for it to completely sink in.

Q - How did you handle the early months after your diagnosis and handle touring with the restrictions of your new diet?

A – It’s very hard just to adapt overnight to a new change of life. I never had to watch what I ate before. At first, it was tough and I wasn’t as strict with myself as I am now, I still fell by the way side, but realized I was not doing myself any favors.

Q - Are you very sensitive if you come in contact with gluten?

A - I have to say no, I am aware that certain restaurants cannot keep cooking areas free from contamination, but a small dose does not set me off, especially when I know I have been on a strict gluten-free diet for a while.

Q - How do you handle your diet when touring in foreign countries, especially when you cannot speak the language?

A - I eat lots of salads, rice and do a lot of shopping myself.

Q - What countries, in your opinion, are the most aware of the gluten-free diet?

A - I would say the USA and the UK.

Q - Do you find when touring in Asia, it is easy to eat, or more challenging because of the soy sauce used? Can they easily understand wheat or gluten-free?

A - I find eating in Southeast Asia ok, I was there two months ago, but didn’t have time to really go to any restaurants, apart from Korea, where we went for a Korean BBQ. Sushi is always good. They use rice flour instead of wheat flour so a lot of the food is ok, but yes, I do stay away from soy sauce, and no, they don’t really understand the whole gluten thing.

Q - Do you plan your meals ahead of time with the venue/catering, or do you just "wing it" when you get there?

A - As I’m the production manager I pre-arrange my own food as I am pre-arranging the show. Also, I google ‘gluten-free’ in every city I have a day off in.

Q - Do you feel that the caterers, on tour, are well aware of a gluten-free diet, and how to avoid cross-contamination? Have you found that awareness has increased since you were first diagnosed?

A - I have been lucky to have had very good catering companies on my tours who where aware of the wheat-free diet and other diets, but being a coeliac was a new one for a few of them. I have found, on the way, that their awareness has increased as the years have passed since being diagnosed.

Q - What are some "go-to" snacks that you carry with you when on tour?

A - In the UK, the terrible ones full of sugar from the ‘Free From’ range of products, otherwise Haribo Gummi Bears, which is a weakness of mine. I do stock up on gluten-free pita breads for the hotel rooms and can always find hummus.

Q - Have you toured or worked with other gluten-free people in the business?

A - Yes, but it’s very rare. Mainly I have people tell me they know someone who is also a coeliac, makes me feel so much better.........

Q - How long have you been in the business? How did your get into the business?

A - I have been in the business 20 years now, by accidently standing in for a friend of mine as a stagehand in Birmingham.

Q – What is your favorite venue in Chicago?

A - I would normally say the Rosemont, but on my last tour to Chicago with Mika, I would have to say the Riviera, because it’s what all old theatres should be about.

Wez will be going back out with Mika for the European leg of the tour next month and is currently nominated by TPI (Total Production International) for stage manager of the year.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Introduction to me

**Please read this first**

The short....
Join me and my rambling observations and insights about food and living life gluten-free. I love everything about food...eating it, creating it, looking at it, reading about it, so when I learned I had celiac it became an even greater challenge and lots more fun. My gluten-able husband, M, and daughter, Z, live happily in our 100% gluten-free home. I also write for and I would love to hear comments and feedback, and like all of us living gluten-free, I am constantly learning everyday. I am not anywhere close to being a doctor, a paper cut makes me wince, so please don't take any of my opinions as medical fact.


The long...
I guess I should give a rundown of my celiac past. I have never had to watch what I ate before, I love exploring and trying out new things from the random little bakery around the corner or the quirky Middle Eastern deli. I bought it, I ate it, no questions asked. I never gave food intolerances or allergies much thought. There was just no reason I ever thought I would have to. Sure, I had the common seasonal allergies, but that was it. I would always joke that I had a stomach of steel, because it was rare that something disagreed with me. I had my daughter in the spring of 2005 by emergency c-section due to severe pre-eclampsia and HELLP syndrome. I recovered quickly and felt great, but I would joke that the doctors must have put my intestines back in the wrong way, because since then I would easily get really bloated. I just assumed that is what it was and went on with my day. Then the weekend of Thanksgiving 2008 I had my first case of heartburn, this was not even something I experienced when pregnant, so it was totally new and freaked me out a bit. I figured it was from all the food I had eaten that weekend and cut out all heartburn causing foods, and it helped, but it would come back occasionally, so a couple of months later, I mentioned it to my doctor at my annual physical. She also brought up that I had lost a good amount of weight (gee, isn't this a good thing?!), and have a history of low iron. She mentioned that she was going to test for gluten intolerance, and I actually laughed out loud at that telling her how I bake like crazy, and I am fine when I eat all my baked goods, so there is no way I could have a problem with wheat, let alone gluten!

I called the nurse two weeks later to get my results after not hearing from them. I figured if something was up, I would know by now. The nurse tells me everything was fine, however, I tested positive for the h.pylori bacteria and to call the pharmacy for some meds. She is about to hang up the phone when I then ask how the gluten test came back. She says, "hmmmm.....let's see.....oh yes, it says positive for celiac". I was beyond shocked, and asked her to repeat it. I was thinking, so what do I do with this piece of information now??? I asked what I should do about it, and she replies that I should avoid gluten. Oh great,thanks! When I got off the phone, I broke down crying hysterically, I couldn't believe it, I have a diease, I am going to die! My life will never be the same! How as this happening to me??!! I immediately called my husband and my mom. Being the worrier that I am and my self-inflicted censorship of medical sites, I was terrified to even look up celiac disease and see what my chances of survival would be.

I made an appointment with my doctor to discuss the whole h.pylori issue and my refusal to take all the meds she ordered for me. 4 different meds, including 2 different antibiotics to be taken 7 times a day for 2 weeks. And being allergic, already, to 3 different antibiotics, I couldn't imagine this having a good outcome. Not to mention that all of these meds would probably make me feel worse rather than better. She also confirmed I did have celiac, and I said I wanted a second opinion about both from a GI specialist. In addition, I discovered I had a B-12 deficiency and started taking injections weekly and was tested for pernicious anemia (key word here..pernicious...deadly so you can imagine my state of anxiety at this ended up being negative, I also learned pernicious anemia is fine if controlled). I went to the GI and basically he said that without doing the biopsy by endoscopy, he could not really tell me anything. Thanks Doc! I denied the procedure, basically because I already had the bloodwork saying I have it, and was terrified to have it done. We agreed, I would go gluten-free, and I would see how I feel in 3 months. My daughter's birthday was coming up, and I had already planned this amazing princess cake to for her party, and didn't have time to learn how to make a gluten-free version, so I gave myself 2 weeks until I would go completely gluten-free, the day after her party, cold turkey...just like that.

I enjoyed that cake for my daughter (Z), it was pretty amazing. A homemade pound-cake in the shape of a princess skirt with a princess barbie sticking out the top, and she loved it. It was the highlight of her day. I also indulged in some tasty pizza and then after midnight, it was over. No more gluten for me.

I decided, if I was going to do it, I was going to do it right, and the entire house was going gluten-free. I do all the cooking, and food shopping, so it seemed only fair to me, and my husband (M) was supportive. I gave away all of my fancy flours and other products I could find....herbal teas, sauces, spices, pasta, and on and on.... I also went through my lotions, shampoos, cleaning solutions and make-up. I emptied every cabinet and drawer and scrubbed them down. I gave away my favorite cutting boards, strainers, Krups Belgian waffle maker and wooden spoons to charity. I bet someone is really enjoying that waffle maker now!

It was really difficult in the beginning....learning everything that contains gluten (and still learning), and being around people who could eat everything they wanted, and watching them with envy. Being at parties and get-togethers, and not being able to enjoy what everyone else can enjoy. I felt bitter and resentful those first few months. It didn't seem fair....I was always so careful about what I ate, bought organic, didn't eat crap preservatives and junk-food, and now to add this to it. The good thing about me being so paranoid is that after reading what untreated celiac can do, I knew I would never touch it again, no matter what! I am way too careful about what I put in my body to mess with it intentionally.

People will always ask me if I noticed a difference after going gluten-free, but the truth is, I didn't really feel bad before...well until the heartburn started, so I pretty much felt the same. I have always had good energy, I didn't have the D word that is common with many celiacs, or bad skin, or many of the other common symptoms. However, the heartburn did go away and I was no longer bloated. And unfortunately for me, I started gaining back the weight I lost. I finally gave in and did the endoscopy, just to make sure there was nothing else going on, and finding out for sure if I had h.pylori. It was actually pretty easy, and was kind of like a much-needed deep nap.

The result...yes, I have celiac. No, I don't have h.pylori....I was so thankful I didn't take those meds I was ordered to take! The injections of B-12, turned into daily oral vitamins, and that went back up as well.

I decided to go to someone who was an expert in the field, and met with Dr. Kupfer at the University of Chicago Celiac Disease Center. It was so nice going to someone who really knows what they are talking about, because even your average GI doesn't know that much about celiac. I brought all my records, my biopsy slides, and again...yes, I have celiac. But this time, I had a list of questions and knew she would be the right person to ask.

This past year, I took it upon myself to research celiac and gluten-free living endlessly. My cell phone is my new best friend. And my own personal mission has been to bake and cook foods that taste better than their gluten-filled doppelganger. I have had some misses, but overall, I have been extremely excited how good everything tastes. I just need to stop eating so much of it. I feel much better about being at parties and get-togethers, it can still be a little rough, but nothing a glass of wine, or a strong mojito can't heal.

I should also mention that I am technically a pescatarian....the only meat I eat is from the sea, so when you add this to a GF diet, being at a BBQ or party can be even more daunting, but I will admit, I gave in and had a bratwurst a few months ago, and while it goes against so many of my beliefs, that bratwurst tasted so, so good! 99% of my cooking is vegetarian, and even some of it vegan, which is completely unintentional as I could never cut out the dairy....well, until I am told I have to.

My house is now 100% gluten-free, and when we have people over for dinners or parties, I ask that they bring drinks and leave the food to me. The last place I want to worry is my own house.

This past year, I have had the pleasure to write for two great web sites about living gluten-free, and I have met so many people, so far, on my journey who have been incredibly helpful and kind. It is such a comfort to know I am not alone in this and awareness is growing among the general public.

Of course there is more to life than food...but there really? I also love traveling, road tripping, snowboarding, hiking, music, gardening and European soccer....and my favorite thing of all, even above cooking, is my daughter, Z.

Please join me on my gluten-free's all good.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Eggnog pancakes

These pancakes are a great holiday twist on classic buttermilk pancakes, and best of all they are gluten-free, and no one would ever guess it!* They are great to serve to house guests over the holidays, or even as a delicious middle-of-the-week treat.

Many eggnog drinks are gluten-free, including Organic Valley and Silk Nog, which is made with soy and dairy-free. I replace 1/2 of the usual buttermilk with eggnog and add a sprinkle of nutmeg to one of my favorite pancake recipes. These pancakes serve up super fluffy and light, and are delicious with a side of fresh cranberry sauce, fresh cranberries relish or simply a side of fruit.

This recipe makes about a dozen pancakes.

1 cup gluten-free oats**
3/4 cup buttermilk
3/4 cup eggnog
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
4 tablespoons vegetable oil (I use grapeseed oil)
1 cup gluten-free flour (I used Pamela's Baking & Pancake Mix)
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
2 tablespoons raw sugar
1/4 teaspoon teaspoon nutmeg

Combine the oats with the buttermilk and eggnog and let sit for at least an hour.

After sitting, blend in the eggs, vanilla and oil.

Add the flour, baking soda, baking powder, sugar and nutmeg. Mix until combined.

Let batter sit for 15 minutes.

Heat a lightly oiled griddle or frying pan over medium high heat. Scoop the batter onto the griddle, using approximately 1/4 cup for each pancake. Lightly brown on both sides and serve warm.

* If you are not gluten-free, just use regular flour.

**If you don't want to use oats, you can use 2 cups of flour, and skip the soaking step.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Delicious sweet potato biscuits

Post-holiday time can leave a hostess with many leftovers. This holiday I was left with an abundance of sweet potatoes after baking four good size ones for two sweet potato pies. I probably had enough to make two additional pies, but I wanted to try something different. And because of the nutritional value of sweet potatoes, I didn't want it to go to waste. Of course when you combine a super food like sweet potatoes and the whole grain of buckwheat with copious amounts of butter and sugar, the nutritional value is sure to decrease, but at least we know there is some redeeming quality in the dish.

Buckwheat has the unfortunate luck of having "wheat" in its name, however it is gluten- and wheat-free. Buckwheat is not even a member of the wheat family, rather it is a pseudocereal related to rhubarb and provides the benefit of a whole grain and beneficial to the gluten-free diet.

I decided to create sweet potato biscuits with my leftovers, to accompany my heaping bowl of potato cabbage soup the following day. This was an extremely easy and tasty recipe, and one that was enjoyed by the entire family. These would also make a great treat in the morning with a warm cup of tea. I will definitely be making these again.
If you wish to omit the buckwheat, you can substitute with more all-purpose gluten-free flour.*

1 cup, all purpose gluten-free flour mix (I use Gluten Free Pantry)
1/4 cup, buckwheat flour** (I used Arrowhead Mills)
2 tablespoons, sugar
3 teaspoons, baking powder
3/4 cup, mashed sweet potatoes
1/2 stick butter, softened
1-3 tablespoons, milk (buttermilk, or milk substitute can be used)

Pre-heat the oven to 450'.

Blend the sugar with the softened butter and stir in the mashed sweet potatoes.

In a separate bowl mix the flours and baking powder, and then fold into the sweet potato mixture. Stir until combined, adding a tablespoon of milk as needed to slightly moisten, but not too sticky. Do not over-knead.

With damp hands, roll dough into balls (about 2-inch in diameter) and place onto a parchment-lined cookie sheet. Flatten slightly with your palm.

You may brush the tops with buttermilk and sugar, or leave plain.

Bake for about 15 minutes or until slightly browned.

*As always, double-check that your ingredients are gluten-free.

**With buckwheat flour, always look at the ingredients carefully. Sometimes buckwheat flour is combined with wheat flour, which is more common in buckwheat pancake mixes than single flour, but it is always a good idea to check. Arrowhead Mills states clearly on the package it is gluten-free.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Curried red lentil soup with lemon

With record cold temperatures here in the Midwest, soothing, warm comfort food is a must! This month's Vegetarian Times is chock-full of gluten-free recipes. Vegetarian Times is not a gluten-free magazine, however, over 50% of this month's recipes happen to be gluten-free, including several pizza recipes! Vegetarian Times will label recipes as vegan, gluten-free, dairy-free, low calorie and low fat. One of my favorite recipes this month is the curried lentil soup with lemon, which is vegan, dairy-free and low fat in addition to being gluten-free. It is also fantastically easy to create. I must admit, it tastes very similar to one of my favorite soups in the city, the lentil soup at Sultan's Market, and will become a regular in our house.

This soup is hearty enough for a meal, and tastes even better the next day. This nourishing soup will be easily enjoyed by vegetarians, carnivores and gluten eaters alike. I served this soup to my family with some Chébé bread rolls.

Curried red lentil soup with lemon


  • 2 cups red lentils, sorted and rinsed
  • 1 quart low sodium vegetable broth, or meat-based if being vegetarian is not an issue
  • 1 large onion, finely chopped (2 cups)
  • 4 celery stalks, finely chopped (1 1/2 cups)
  • 2 large carrots, finely chopped (1 1/2 cups)
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced (2 tsp)
  • 1/4 cup chopped cilantro
  • 1 tablespoon curry powder
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice


1. Bring the lentils, vegetable broth and 4 cups of water to a simmer in a large pot. Skim away the foam that rises to the top. Reduce heat to medium-low, cover and simmer 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.

2. Add onion, celery, carrots and garlic; simmer, uncovered for 20 minutes. Add cilantro, curry powder and cumin, and cook an additional 20 minutes or until lentils are soft. Season with salt and pepper, if desired, and stir in lemon juice. Serves six.