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!

 

It’s not just wheat-how to explain multiple food intolerances and allergies


 

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Most of my family and friends understand that I have an intolerance to both gluten and dairy.  But when I try to explain my other food intolerances and allergies, I lose them quickly.  I try to explain that it’s easier for me to bring my own food than for them to worry about finding traces of the multiple foods I can’t eat.  Especially when those foods can come in many disguises.

My list goes something like this:

Wheat, rye, barley, rye, soy sauce, malt, dairy, honey, tree nuts, peanuts, honey and agave.  I have added soy recently, but not because I am allergic.  I believe it messed up my thyroid so I am limiting it for now.  

How can you ask your loved ones to shop for you when you have such a long list of foods you can’t eat?   Or how do you explain to a server or chef in a restaurant about the long list of foods that are off limits.  The easiest way is to carry a card listing those foods.

I tried to find a card that was not only free, but that was customizable.  I could not find such a card online.  There are many websites that offer free and for a fee food allergy cards, but they can’t be customized.  It’s either wheat and milk, or eggs and milk, etc.  I do not have allergies except to nuts and peanuts.  If you want a gluten intolerance card, you can’t add other food intolerances.  Hmmm, I thought, I might have to take things into my own hands and make one.

I fired up my word program and selected a business card template.  I came up with this:

allergen-card

I don’t have any blank business cards at the moment, but I printed these out and will carry them in my purse.  Next time I go out to eat I can just hand one of these to the server and ask them to give it to the chef.   I also wanted to mention that I carry an EpiPen.  My husband knows I carry it and knows how to use it.  But in case he is not with me, I am covered.

Allergen alert cards are a great idea, but I hope that in the future they will not only be free, but customizable for all food allergens and intolerances.  There is an app, but the reviews are not good.  I am hoping that one that actually works will be developed.

Having one of these will give peace of mind and the ability to have a safe dining experience.

 

Over the river and through the woods….


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Christmas is the time of year when we visit family to share the joy of the season and being together with loved ones.  But road trips present special problems for those of us with gluten and dairy intolerance.

There are certain things you can do to ease your way through a long car trip.  Planning in advance here is essential.  One essential piece of equipment that will make it easier to take your own food on the road is an electric cooler.  Another essential is to book a hotel room that has a kitchenette, both coming and going.  Cooking may be a drag, but eating fast food and getting sick is so much worse.

There are some tips and tricks that will make that road trip bearable:

  • bring food that is easy to cook on the road, such as boneless chicken breasts or thighs.  Or you can bring pasta, sauce and ground beef, sausage or chicken and make an easy pasta dinner.  Eat the leftovers on the way back.
  • Bring fixings for sandwiches such as ham, turkey or chicken, gluten free bread, and a small jar of mayonnaise.
  • bring sodas or juice or water so you don’t have to pay high prices for drinks on the road
  • bring snacks such as chips, such as Beanfields or Plentils. (I’m in the process of reviewing Beanfields chips and will have it ready soon)
  • bring cookies, such as Enjoy life, for dessert

Bring your own food for that holiday dinner, so you don’t have to worry about what is in it, and you don’t stress yourself, or the cook that is trying to accommodate you.   Find out what your host is serving, and try to copy it in a gluten and dairy free version.  Here are some suggestions:

  • Here is a list of hams that are gluten free.
  • Make your own mashed potatoes with dairy free milk and butter
  • make a gluten and dairy free green bean casserole with gluten and dairy free mushroom soup and Cronions gluten free topping
  • don’t forget dessert!

You can have a happy and safe holiday by planning ahead and bringing your own food.  Please share any comments, or please let me know of any questions I can help with.

 

 

Nima-Is it a double edged sword?


I would like to wish all of you a Happy and safe Thanksgiving!

 

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I wrote about Nima, a new device that will test for gluten in foods, a few months ago.  I thought it was a great idea.  Finally, a way to test foods in a restaurant setting.  Finally, a way to be safe.  Or so we think.

The folks at Beyond Celiac just put up an article on how they put Nima through its paces.  It turns out that Nima is a double edged sword.   You can read the entire article here.

Their experience with Nima was not what they expected.  They started by testing takeout from a favorite Thai place that they frequently ordered from.  Their Pad Thai and their curry came up with gluten.  They were somewhat surprised at this.

The next encounter and test occurred at a local pizza restaurant.  Brussel sprouts were ordered, and you guessed it, they came back as having gluten.  The chef was angry at this accusation and adamant that this was impossible.  He finally admitted that the Brussel sprouts were roasted in the pizza oven.  Ummm, duh, gluten, dude!!!

This brings me to something I have said many times in my posts.  If you are dining out, especially if you are celiac, you must be prepared to be glutened.  There is no “safe” restaurant.  No matter what the chef or staff tell you, no matter what the menu says and no matter how careful they are, there is always a chance that something minuscule might be missed.   Unless a restaurant is advertised as completely gluten free-that no wheat products are used-expect cross contamination.

I have severely curbed my dining out because of this very reason.  I have complete control when I make food in my own kitchen.  It terrifies me not only to go to a restaurant but also to join friends and family for a meal.  Being sick in someone else’s bathroom is embarrassing, to say the least.  I try to bring my own food whenever possible to eliminate this possibility.  Even though well intended, people that do not have celiac or gluten intolerance really have no idea what ingredients to avoid.  Besides that, it is too much to ask for someone to change their way of preparation and cooking just for you.  Ingredients and cooking methods must sometimes be completely overhauled from what they are used to.  It is much easier just to bring your own food, but you can’t do that in a restaurant.

After reading about the Brussel sprout incident, I am even more convinced that dining out is really not as safe as we think it is.  In the article, the author states that upon further reading up on Nima’s instructions, Nima can give false positive readings.  In other words, Nima can detect gluten in samples with trace amounts of gluten; less than 20 parts per million-the legal threshold for labeling a food gluten free.  So the foods they tested could have been over, or under that amount.  In my opinion, using Nima could make you much more paranoid than you would have been without it.

Where do we draw the line?  Do we just go out, have a good time, and hope for the best?  Or do we test every morsel before we put in our mouth?   You have to find your own level of comfort.  If you have celiac disease,  even a grain of gluten could be devastating to your health.

Nima is not a perfect science.  It is a good idea but needs fine-tuning.  It can be a tool, but don’t let it run your life.  Or ruin it.

Turkey Day tips


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Thanksgiving is just a few days away.  It can be a very stressful time but it doesn’t have to be.  I would like to share some tips from thekitchn.com on how to deal when the day throws you a curveball.

Here are some of their really helpful tips.

How much turkey should I buy?

The rule of thumb is 1 pound per person, more if you want leftovers.  Remember, the bird is about 60% bone, so consider this when you consider what size turkey to buy.  In other words, a 12 pound turkey will yield about 5  pounds of meat.  If you have a smaller crowd, consider a turkey breast, or tenderloins.  You can also make turkey thighs or drumsticks for the dark meat.

How long do I need to thaw a frozen turkey?

You’ll need about 24 hours for every 5 pounds of turkey. But allow plenty of time; it never hurts to take it out of the freezer with an extra day to spare.

If you’re running short on time, you can speed up the thawing process by submerging the frozen turkey, still in its packaging, in cold tap water. Change out the water every 30 minutes, and estimate roughly 30 minutes for every pound of turkey.

If your guests are due to arrive in a few hours and your turkey is still frozen solid, don’t try to rush things by thawing your turkey in warm water, leaving it on the counter, blowing it with a hair dryer, or any other shortcuts. All of these methods put the turkey within the “danger zone” of 40°F to 140°F for longer than is safe, and your risk of food poisoning increases drastically.

Don’t panic! It’s actually completely safe to cook a frozen, or partially frozen turkey. Roast it at 325°F and increase the cooking time by about 50 percent if totally frozen, or about 25 percent if partially frozen. This works because the heat of the oven keeps the turkey out of the danger zone; as the turkey thaws, it also starts to cook. Remove the giblets as soon as they are thawed enough to do so, and season the turkey with salt, pepper, and other spices halfway through cooking. The turkey is done when it registers at least 165°F in all areas.

How do I know when the turkey is done?

The turkey is done when an instant read thermometer registers 165 degrees when inserted into the thigh and breast meat.

When the turkey reaches the correct temperature, take it out of the oven, tent it loosely in foil, and let it rest so the juices have a chance to redistribute. If you leave the thermometer in the thigh, you’ll notice the temperature rising a bit before the turkey starts to cool again.

Another test to see if the turkey is done cooking is if the juices run clear. Cut a small slit in the meat at various places around the turkey and press just above the cut with the flat of your knife. If the juices that run out are clear, the turkey is done. If you see any red tinge of blood, keep cooking for a little longer.

Just making a turkey breast?

Cook at 350 degrees for about an hour, then check for doneness.  The breast is done when an instant read thermometer registers 165 degrees.  If not done in one hour, check the temperature every ten minutes until done.  Let it rest for about 20-30 minutes.

Hosting Thanksgiving for the first time?  Don’t sweat it!

  • Never turn down help.  Don’t be a martyr-ask away. Delegate, delegate, delegate! Have a potluck and you supply the turkey and gravy.  Everyone brings a dish.
  • Make as much ahead as possible, then refrigerate or freeze.   Reheat on the day.
  • Don’t experiment with new recipes.  I will be making new recipes this year but it is just my husband and I.  If you are having company, don’t do it!
  • Start early on non-food prep.  Iron tablecloths, clean china etc.  ahead of time.
  • Consider making the turkey the day before.  In fact,  I am making turkey drumsticks the day before in the crockpot.  I am also making turkey tenderloins but will make those the day of.  They cook very quickly.
  • Set the table the night before.  Cover with a sheet if you are concerned about dust, or cats, etc.
  • Have cocktails or wine ready to go.  Diners won’t be upset if dinner is delayed if they have a drink in their hand!
  • Forego appetizers.  Leave room for the main meal.
  • Rely on prebaked pies and premade items.  You don’t have to make everything from scratch.  This also goes for gluten and dairy free items.
  • Make a timeline and master list for everything that has to happen.  This includes dishes to be served (I always forget to serve the cranberry sauce), cooking times and temperatures, etc.
  • Don’t forget to shower!  Leave time for yourself to clean up and relax a bit.
  • Enjoy the day, and the company.  Pat yourself on the back for a job well done.

Have a wonderful, stress-free, gluten free Thanksgiving!

 

When pre-ordering doesn’t work-what you can do


 

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example of finding a restaurant on Google

 

 

Last week, I wrote a post about pre-ordering when dining out, and how that can help you to have a more pleasant dining experience.  But what can you do when that is not an option?  Say you want to go to a local mom and pop, or fast food restaurant.  Pre-ordering at those would not be an option.

The first thing you should do is try to find the restaurant’s menu on Google.  Try searching for the name of the restaurant+gluten free.  Not all restaurants have gluten free menus.  It is getting more mainstream, but smaller places won’t have this option.  They might not even have an online presence.  If this is the case, look for reviews on Tripadvisor or Yelp.  Enter the name of the restaurant again, +gluten free.  Narrowing down by locality on one of these sites might help you find a review from someone who has eaten there and ordered a gluten free dish.  You can also go to app store and download Find Me Gluten Free, or Gluten free registry.  If you can’t locate a menu or phone number, skip to a restaurant that at least has some kind of menu posted.  You need a point of reference.  Don’t just wing it.

If you are going to a restaurant that does not have gluten free or dairy free food, ask if you can bring your own food such as bread, dairy free butter or gluten-free salad dressing.   Sometimes staff will not know if the food is gluten or dairy free, so don’t take the chance that it is or isn’t.  In the case of the Lahaina Chicken Company I ate at, the girl at the counter did not even know that butter had dairy in it.  This is more likely to happen the smaller the restaurant is.  Don’t count on ignorant staff.

If you are traveling, try to rent a condo or room with a full kitchen. Not only will this save you money, but it will save you a good bit of anxiety trying to find gluten or dairy free options for three meals a day.  That could quickly ruin a vacation.  Also, if you can, bring a cooler with foods you can eat on the road.  Eating at fast food places is a Russian roulette at best.  No one wants to be sick on a long car ride.

You would be wise to avoid Italian and Chinese restaurants.  There is a good chance that neither will have gluten free options.  Depending on staff, they might not understand what gluten is.  Most Japanese restaurants now have gluten-free soy sauce, but don’t assume.  Sushi is a safe bet but be careful to avoid California rolls as they often contain fake seafood that is made with wheat.  Also avoid the Miso soup and seaweed salad.

These are just some tips that can help you have a pleasant dinner out or a pleasant vacation.  If you have some tips of your own you would like to share, please comment.

 

 

 

 

Is pre-ordering from a restaurant a good idea?


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While I was on my cruise to Hawaii, I learned a very valuable lesson.  The smoothest way to ensure that my food was prepared correctly and allergen free was to pre-order the next days’ meals in advance.  Yes, it sort of put me on the spot,  but it worked to my advantage.  Kitchen and wait staff were extra careful and gave my meals the attention they deserved.  It made me wonder if the same could be done at home.

I have written in the past about calling the restaurant in advance and speaking with the manager, but I never actually put it into practice.  It also worked well at the Hilo Bay Cafe, where I had my chirashizushi.  I emailed ahead and asked if this could be made gluten free.  They were able to accommodate me, and had it ready and waiting for me when I arrived.  What a pleasure!  Not to have to pore over a menu for ages just to find something “safe” or to not have to wait an eternity for my food.

This might not work with a small, local restaurant but it would probably work with a large chain.  Also, pick your dish wisely;  as I learned, a caesar salad isn’t a caesar salad when it has no croutons or parmesan and has balsamic dressing.  Choose dishes that can be easily converted.  There are a few tips that will help you achieve this:

  • Pick a simple dish to be converted, like the sushi dish I described.  If you have dairy allergies, avoid converting dishes made with complex ingredients.
  • Ask if there is a dedicated fryer
  • Ask if they have gluten free soy sauce (Asian)
  • work with the chef-they might have great ideas, or you might.  Know your ingredients if possible (some website menus show all ingredients in a dish) to see what might be swapped out.
  • Expect to forego dessert
  • If it’s a holiday, give plenty of notice, but the busiest time might not be the best time.
  • don’t expect miracles-sometimes swapping or leaving out ingredients will ruin a dish.  Have a backup plan.
  • Ask to speak to the restaurant manager.  Or better yet, send an email.  Emails will allow you to explain in more detail what you are looking for.
  • Make sure the manager speaks to the chef.
  • Ask if gluten free pasta is available.
  • Olive oil can be subbed for butter in quite a few dishes-even hollandaise!
  • Non-dairy milk can be subbed for dairy milk in most cases.
  • Bring your own butter substitute and/or salad dressing with you.
  • If you can, book a reservation through Open Table-this will allow you to include details on your allergies and give the staff more time to accommodate you.
  • Give ample time to the staff to find ways to help you.  Don’t call an hour in advance. and expect them to be able to whip something up on the spot.
  • Ask if there is gluten free bread-and ask for olive oil for dipping.

These are just some of the ways you can pre-order a meal at your favorite restaurant.  I would love to hear your stories about how you planned ahead,  and also about your disasters!  Please comment and share your experience!