Shared article-how to improve the quality of the gluten free dining experience


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I’m always happy to see articles and websites that address the concerns of those who live with gluten and dairy intolerance or celiac disease.  I have practically given up dining out due to the sheer exhaustion finding allergen-free meals causes me, and the danger of getting glutened.

Karen Broussard, the founder of Glutenfreetravelsite.com,  has written a great article outlining ways that restaurants can serve those suffering from gluten intolerance or celiac disease better tasting and safer meals.

Dining out can be a real challenge, especially when you are faced with either bland food or worse, contaminated food due to just plain ignorance on the part of staff.  This doesn’t have to be the case.

You can read her informative article here.

What do you think about dining out with gluten or dairy intolerance?  Please share your experience!

Surprising gluten free foods


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We all miss our favorite foods since going gluten and dairy free.  But did you know that some of those foods that you thought you might never eat again are available in gluten and dairy free versions?

Since the explosion of the gluten free craze partnered with the internet, you can get just about anything in a gluten and/or dairy-free version.

This list is not going to include the usual products.  Listed below are gluten free foods that really surprised me with their availability.  I have not tried all of these products.  I have tried those with an asterisk.  I also have to admit that I placed an order while writing this post……

Gluten free Pennsylvania dutch pretzels*

If you are missing out on the office pretzel day, you need not miss out any longer.  These were pretty good.  You can microwave them which means you can bring them to work with you.

Gluten free puff pastry

These do contain dairy, but it’s pretty great that you can get these.

Gluten and dairy free ice cream cones

These would be great with dairy free ice cream

Gluten and dairy free frozen apple pie

This would be a great time saver on Thanksgiving.  There is a pumpkin version too.

Whoopie pies

Who would have thought?

Chinese dumplings*

Ordering from the link above there is no minimum.  If you order from feel good foods, there is a 6 box minimum.  Believe me, these are worth every penny.  See my review here.

Gluten free french fried onions*

It took a lot of searching to find these.  They are exactly like Durkee french fried onions.

There you have it.  Have you found surprising gluten free foods?  Please share!

 

Take my advice…or don’t


 

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I often get emails from people all over the world asking for my advice.  This is one of the great things about writing a blog about gluten free living.  I feel confident that I have been gluten and dairy free long enough to help others overcome their struggle.  But there is one aspect of this give and take that puzzles me.

People often tell me they have signs of celiac disease.  Yet when I tell them is they need to get tested, they brush me off.  Celiac disease is an immune disease.  It’s not just gluten intolerance.  It can destroy your intestines if not treated.   I tell people not to do an elimination diet before getting tested, or it will skew the results.  Yet I go ignored.

I have been at this for a long time.  I do my research and my due diligence.  When I try to advise people to do the same, they want a quick fix.  Just give me the recipes.  Just tell me what to eat and what not to eat.  It just boggles my mind.

There is a local group that goes to “gluten-free” restaurants in Nashville.  I thought about joining them.  Wouldn’t it be great to go out to dinner with people in a similar situation? Then I thought about it.  How careful are they really?  Are they taking the restaurant’s word for it?  Do they know enough how to read menus and what to look for?  I highly doubt it.  Knowing it would just frustrate me, I gave up on the idea.

I was once a member of a couple of Facebook groups on being gluten free.  One lady kept posting that she was having shortness of breath and chest pain.  Everyone put their two cents in, saying that she had “gluten intolerance” or “gluten allergies”.  I said she might be having a heart attack.  Turns out I was right.  Luckily she survived.  People can’t see the forest for the trees.  I no longer belong to any of those groups.

Everyone is an expert.  Everyone thinks they know better.  But they often don’t.  And it can end badly.

Don’t get me wrong; I am happy to help in any way I can.  But why ask me if you are just going to do what you want anyway?

I have some tips for those who have gluten intolerance symptoms and need help:

  • Consider your source
  • Do your homework
  • learn how to read labels
  • Don’t rely on just one opinion
  • Work with a nutritionist or your doctor
  • get tested for celiac disease
  • No one is right all of the time
  • You don’t know better than the person you are asking for advice

I will continue to help those who ask me.  But I hope that they will go beyond asking for recipes and perhaps take the advice that is given to them into consideration.  It comes from the heart.

Sorry for the theme confusion!


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You might have noticed that I have been changing my theme quite a bit the last week or so.  I wanted to explain why and apologize for any confusion.

This all started with a notion to move my blog to the self-hosted wordpress.org site.  This is the second time I chickened out before the move was completed. Not only would it entail more work and more self-maintenance, it would cost a whole lot more.  I made the mistake of misreading an error message I received that my theme couldn’t be moved and I had to change it.  Unfortunately, I am unable to get my theme back to the way it was before I blundered, thus the theme confusion.

My apologies if my craziness is catching; I just can’t seem to settle on a theme at the moment.  The aborted move, along with a free email course on branding has led me down the path of self-doubt.  I suppose I should let the numbers speak for themselves.

In the future, if I want to move my blog, I will slap my own hand.  I will also try to leave well enough alone for a while by sticking to the current theme.

Thank you all for your loyalty and for sticking around through my growing pains!

 

 

Is it safe? Review of Smashburger, Murfreesboro


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The other day, my husband and I took a drive to Murfreesboro.  Anytime we take a day trip, it becomes a challenge to find a place to stop for lunch that won’t make me deathly sick.

Smashburger is one of the places that is utilizing online allergen menus that you can customize depending on what foods, spices, seeds, fruits, vegetables and additives you want to avoid.  It then gives options based on these choices.

I think this is wonderful, however, how does it translate to reality?  Anytime you choose to dine out with a food allergy or intolerance, it can become a literal crap shoot.  This is the main reason I have mostly stopped dining out.  It simply is not worth the hassle to me to have to be a detective to find a safe meal, and to be chained to my bathroom for several days.  If we are doing an activity after that meal, it becomes an embarrassment when I have to use a public bathroom, especially when it is in a location that is anywhere near a crowd of people.

That said, I have to say that the staff at Smashburger seems to follow that allergen menu pretty carefully.  They have everything in their register so that it can be put right on the order.  But then there is the ‘cover our ass” disclaimer:

In preparing results displayed by our Interactive Allergen Menu and other nutritional disclosures, we have relied on information provided to us by third party food suppliers.

Accordingly, we can make no guarantees regarding the allergen content of these items.

All Smashburger menu items are prepared on shared equipment and cross-contact with any allergens you wish avoid may occur during preparation.

The allergen and nutritional information on this website applies with respect to the United States only.

After carefully selecting gluten, wheat, dairy, nuts and tree nuts products to avoid, I was given several options.  I decided on the classic smashburger and the sweet potato fries. They have just rolled out gluten-free buns as well.   I read the ingredients and there were none of the allergens I had selected.  Yet, I still got sick.

There could be several culprits:

  • The burger was really greasy.  Having IBS and no gall bladder, this could have done it due to the high amount of fat.
  • I had a large glass of Dr. Pepper.  High fructose corn syrup is another irritant
  • The fries were cross contaminated.  They do not have a dedicated fryer.  Although this is not usually a problem for me.  But the fries should not be labeled gluten free
  • The bun was buttered.  This is usually done automatically without a thought from the kitchen staff, although I was assured there was no dairy on my order

These are all things that could be avoided.  I am willing to give them another chance because the food was really, really good.  Next time I will skip the fries, and drink water.

Anytime we choose to dine out, it is a game of Russian roulette.  Is it worth it?  That depends on you and how adventurous you are.  You can peruse menus til you turn blue, but I am convinced there is no such thing as a safe meal out, unless the restaurant is dedicated to serving only allergen free food.  And that is a rare thing these days.

So to Smashburger I say,  you are on the right track, and thank you for the effort.  It is much appreciated.  But please know that if foods are prepared on shared equipment, they are NOT allergen free and should not be labeled as such.

Order at your own risk!

 

Common ingredients and their substitutions


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If you cook or bake regularly like I do, you find a lot of common ingredients that you will need to substitute for gluten or dairy free ingredients.

Here are substitutions that I use almost on a daily basis, and some I have never tried out, but others have.  I do not have any endorsement deals with these products.  I just love the results they provide.

Wheat flour

In baking, I use King Arthur Measure for Measure flour almost exclusively.  I have never had an issue using this flour, in fact, I am amazed at its versatility and resemblance to wheat flour.

Substituting wheat flour can be tricky, since every recipe calls for a different blend. My advice is to stay away from recipes that use multiple flours as you cannot possibly have space for all of them, plus the recipe will have to be tweaked as far as liquids.   Find recipes that use wheat flour and use a measure for measure or cup for cup flour instead.  You will need no other recipe changes.

Baking mixes

I used Gluten free Bisquick almost exclusively.  But if a recipe calls for a specific baking mix, I generally use it because ratios of leavening can vary.  But in a pinch, I have used another brand and the recipe was fine.

Butter

I use Smart Balance spread in pretty much every recipe that calls for butter, including baking.  You can also substitute grapeseed oil in baking with good results.  You could also use coconut oil.

Buttermilk

Add 1 tablespoon of vinegar or lemon juice to dairy free milk and let stand at least five minutes.

Cheddar Cheese

Since I started getting away from soy, I use Daiya cheese cheddar block and slices.
I do not care for their shreds, so I buy the block and shred my own.

Parmesan Cheese

I use Go Veggie Parmesan substitute.  It does contain soy, but I don’t use it that often.  Tastes like the real thing.

Heavy cream

I have been advised by several bakers that they use coconut cream, shaken and stirred together, not chilled, with good results. I use plain coconut milk and have had no problems.

Thickening Sauces/Gravies

I make a roux of 1 tablespoon rice flour with one tablespoon fat for each cup of liquid.  You do have to whisk it thoroughly, but it comes together nicely with no grit.

These are just some of the common ingredients that often need substituting.  Please share your tips on what ingredients you use.

Review of 88 Acres Gluten free Bars


 

It makes me really happy when I find something that is not only gluten and allergen free, but tastes really good.  These things don’t always go together, and that really bums me out.  These bars are free of peanuts, tree nuts, gluten, dairy, eggs and soy.  This is hard to come by.

The folks at 88 acres were nice enough to send me a 3 pack sample of their gluten and allergen free seed bars.  When I opened the box, I was greeted with a really nice note, thanking me for my interest and hoping that I liked them.

Yesterday, I tried the Chocolate and Sea salt. I was skeptical at first, but after my first bite, I was sold.  Chewy but soft, with a good mix of seeds and dairy free chocolate chips, this really hit the spot.  I will be ordering more of these!

The Apple Ginger bar has a nice appley, gingery flavor.  I don’t like this one as much, but that’s just my taste.  It wasn’t as sweet, and I don’t care for the ginger.

The Triple Berry is very good, with a nice hint of fruit.  I enjoyed these as well.

My favorite, hands down, is the Chocolate and Sea salt-no surprise there!

Aside from the bars, they offer seed butter and gift packs.  I will be ordering samples of their seed butter to try out.

If you are looking for an allergen-free snack bar, look no further!  I would definitely recommend these.