Monthly Archives: March 2008

Fun That's Frozen and Gluten-free

funsters.jpgThere is quite a bit of misinformation floating around about celiac living. One such piece of misinformation is that gluten-free and fun just can’t seem to get along. Fortunately, a new celiac-friendly product seeks to reverse that misconception. A recent report released by the TCL Asset Group details the rise of “Funsters”–individually quick GMO, gluten and wheat free frozen mashed potato alphabet letters. In addition to being gluten-free, “Funsters” lack preservatives, contain Omega 3 & 6 and exclude trans fats. You can grill, bake or toast them. And while you’re at it, you might also want to explore the spice spectrum and purchase these iced veggies in flavors Cheddar and BBQ Lite.

Edited to add: You can find “Funsters” at most general health and natural food stores and supermarkets. The retail price for an 18-oz. bag (about 80 letters) usually ranges anywhere from $2.99 to $3.49.

Gluten-free on Fire

A recent article featured in the Health section of the Los Angeles Times discussed this year’s Natural Products Expo West. The annual Expo, which convened March 13 through 16 at the Anaheim Convention Center, showcases the hottest trends in organic cosmetics, pet food, meats and beer. Several vendors line the Convention Center, offering new food or personal-care products for tasting, sniffing and slathering. Among 2008′s items, gluten-free products proved most popular.

Midway through the Times article, Fresh Ideas Group’s Sylvia Tawse, a marketer for natural and organic foods, exclaims, “Gluten-free is just exploding!”

This explosion currently transcends the globe and includes an uptick in vegan foods and macaroons.

Gluten Free Pancake Panacea

gluten-free-pancake-package.gifThe smell travels in a loose confederation of intervals. First, it wakes your nostrils from post-midnight, lucid dreaming. Then, it sustains your taste buds throughout early day.

Fault usually lies with a parent or a spouse. Fault lies with their hands, hands that wake you up a little too early, hands that make the steel spatula do it, that make the steel spatula commit culinary sin–producing the hideously, swell smell of pancakes on a Saturday morning.

If you’re lucky, this parent or spouse molds these cakes into fun shapes and incorporates a cup of walnuts here or a spoonful of chocolate chips there, forging a tasty truce between breakfast and dessert . If you’re a celiac, you hope the cooks in question do all of the above with the caveat that they do it gluten-free.

Whole Foods Grocery store chain makes all of the above possible with its Bob’s Red Mill Pancake Mix. Red Mill bucks the white-flour trend perfected by brand name giants like Mrs. Butterworth and Aunt Jemima. Instead, this gluten-free recipe incorporates potato starch, white sorghum flour, tapioca flour, corn flour and xanthan gum and more to generate a self-described light, fluffy taste.

I had the pleasure of sampling Bob’s Red Mill pancakes Friday morning. Upon preparing the mix, I noted a marked difference between Red Mill’s batter and that of gluten-containing pancake mixes. The gluten-free Mill version is grainier and thicker, where as the gluten-filled mix is more of a soupy or liquid consistency. As far as taste, I expected the Mill cakes to carry a bland, non-descript flavor. To my delight and astonishment, the cakes tasted as sweet as the syrup in which I coated them.

Whole Foods offers this product for $4.69.

How to Dine Gluten Free in Restaurants – Tip #3

Don’t be Afraid to Say “Allergy.”

We all know Celiac Disease isn’t an allergy, and it should never be our goal to spread misinformation. But, I’ve heard of incidents where the gluten free diet has been treated by some restaurants as a version of Atikins, or a voluntary, fad diet. These customers didn’t get the attention they need…and deserve.

I’ve also learned over the years that the word “allergy” means business in the restaurant world. Many restaurants have special procedures designed to handle food allergies. By calling attention to your special needs as an “allergy,” you signal to the staff to follow these special procedures, increasing the chances that you’ll get a safe meal.

For the archive of all tips published to date, visit our Gluten Free Dining Tips section.

How to Dine Gluten Free in Restaurants – Tip #2

Don’t Say “Gluten”…at First.

Some words are simple, and only have one meaning. Unfortunately, gluten isn’t one of them. It can mean different things to different people.

For us, “gluten” is the protein found in wheat, rye, and barley. But, for chefs, “gluten” is a much more expansive term, and can also include plant proteins found in many cereal grains, including some that are safe for the gluten free diet. Common terms like “glutenous rice” just add a further layer of confusion. Without context, a chef may interpret instructions for a “gluten free” meal to be free of flour, rice, corn, and other starches.

That’s why I recommend spelling out “no wheat, rye, barley (and oats in a restaurant setting)”, and avoiding the word “gluten” the first time you visit a new restaurant. It reduces the chances that a chef will be overly restrictive and unnecessarily limit the options he can present you.

Good strategy or bad? What do you think?

For the archive of all tips published to date, visit our Gluten Free Dining Tips section.

How to Dine Gluten Free in Restaurants – Tip #1

Talk to the Right Person.

Your instructions and explanation are only as good as the eyes or ears taking them in. Have you ever had a waiter who was too rushed to pay attention to your instructions, or just didn’t seem to “get it”? One of the easiest ways to get sick in a restaurant is to tell the wrong person about your special needs diet.

In that case, the best prepared, most carefully delivered instructions will not help you! Make sure your instructions are heard by someone who has the power, ability, and motivation to help you. That can be the manager, the maitre d’, or even the owner. We’ll cover ways to identify that person and build a quick bond with them in a future tip.
For the archive of all tips published to date, visit our Gluten Free Dining Tips section.

How to Dine Gluten Free in Restaurants – Intro

Since we launched the blog in February, I’ve received a bunch of requests to write on the subject of how to get a gluten free meal in a restaurant, something that’s very near and dear to my heart. Being eager to please, I’m going to kick off a series of 25 tips to help you get the most out of restaurant dining on the gluten free diet, starting now.

It’s my belief that everything you need to know about gluten free restaurant dining falls neatly into two buckets: (1) sharing information in a clear, efficient manner, and (2) developing rewarding short and long-term relationships with restaurant staff. Almost everything you will do in a restaurant to improve your dining experience will fall into one of these two buckets (go ahead, try to think of something that doesn’t fit in the buckets — I double dare you). The tips I share with you in the coming weeks will be designed to get you on the path to building these skills.

As we dig into the tips, my hope is that we’ll have something for everyone, from the newly diagnosed to the seasoned support group leader. Some of these tips may be familiar, some will be new twists on old favorites, and some will likely be brand new. I hope you’ll join the conversation and post comments to weigh in with your thoughts and share your experiences.

We’ll be adding a new tip every few days, starting Friday, so stay tuned.

These tips are cribbed from the introduction to The Essential Gluten Free Restaurant, 3rd Edition, published by Triumph Dining. For the archive of all tips published to date, visit our Gluten Free Dining Tips section.

Gluten Free Food Fair coming to Michigan!

The Tri-County Celiac Support Group is hosting a Gluten Free Food Fair in Farmington Hills, MI on April 12th. TCCSG is charging admission – $5 per person/$10 per family for members, and $10 per person/$15 per family for non-members – though it seems that the money saved on shipping costs by buying in person should more than offset that.

For a complete list of vendors attending the Gluten Free Food Fair, please contact the TCCSG via their website at www.tccsg.org.

If there’s a local event you’d like to publicize through the Triumph Gluten Free! blog, please fill out this form to tell us about it.

Chasing the Cookie Crush

The cookie crush afflicts us early, and gets us good until the end.

“Not before dinner,” mom told you as a youngster on the cusp of twelve. As a child, you often ignored that advice, so drawn were your eyes to sugary discs.

These discs sat perfectly in a clear jar–all gooey or crumbly; chocolate chip or nut laden, egging you on and daring you to eat.

As soon as mom left the room, you made your move.

“Just one,” you might have thought. Still, that wasn’t enough. With cookies, it hardly ever is. Just as your hand made a hasty second or third attempt to breach her trust, mom re-entered the kitchen and found you out.

As an adult, the crush remains. Only now, mom can’t tell you no.

Mr. Ritt’s Bakery (www.mrritts.com), one of, if not THE, original gluten free bakery, fulfills this ongoing crush. You can purchase sugar, chocolate chip, peanut butter, or ginger snap cookies. They even have almond macaroons.

Mr. Ritt’s cookies – along withe a full line of other baked goods – are available in their Philadelphia, PA (by appointment only) and Millville, NJ locations. Paul, from Mr. Ritt’s, is well traveled, bringing his products to support group meetings across the eastern half of the US. Look for him at a local meeting near you. But, if you can’t find him, fear not – Mr. Ritt’s also ships their products across the country,

Their cookies are available in 12 oz packages for $8. That leaves some for you and a little left over for mom too.

Familiar with Mr. Ritt’s? Post a comment and let us know what you think!

A Peek at Pecan

Warmer days will arrive soon, which means picnics will come too.

Deep down south, soul food cuisines take center stage during the spring and summer months–fried chicken, iced tea and the like line picnic tables like Memorial Day canons ready for war.

As the gooiest member of a southern-style dessert trifecta that usually includes fruit cobbler and banana pudding, pecan pie reigns as an after-dinner favorite of celiac haters and lovers alike. Honey-colored and sticky like wax concentrated at the hidden-most corner of the ear drum, this sweet treat can combine plain, crushed rice crackers, sweet rice flour, baking powder, xanthan gum, egg whites, chopped pecans, vanilla flavoring and sugar to revamp an old-time favorite. Gluten-free pecan pie betrays the white-flour carb tradition and relies on soy flour instead. The celiac-friendly pecan pie also carries a lighter taste than the gluten-filled version. It offers a hint of sweetness without being overly syrupy.

Those interested in giving this gluten-free dessert option a try, should follow these simple steps:

Filling

1. Beat 3 egg whites until light and fluffy.

2. Gradually add 1 cup of sugar.

3. Add 1 teaspoon of vanilla

4. Fold in 24 crushed plain rice crackers and 1 cup of chopped pecans.

5. Bake at 350 degrees for 20-30 mins.

Crust

1. Mix 1 cup of white rice flour or soy flour with 1/4 teaspoon of salt and 2 teaspoons of xanthan gum in a bowl.

2. Rub in 1 stick of margarine. (Mixture should resemble beans, not crumbs.)

3. In a separate bowl, whisk 1 large egg, 1 teaspoon of apple cider vinegar and 3 tablespoons of ice cold water. Stir the egg mix into the flour, until it forms a ball.

4. Knead pastry for 2-3 minutes. Then, wrap and place it in the refrigerator for at least an hour.

5. Roll out pastry on a floured surface.

6. Put it in a pie pan and add filling.

7. Cook pastry at 425 degrees for 10-12 minutes.

The result? Sticky, safe piece of pie heaven custom made for Indepedence Day fun and celiac living.

gluten free pecan pie