Monthly Archives: December 2009

PLEASE Comment – Let's Make Sure General Mills Stays on the Right Track!

General Mills now has a over 200 gluten-free products, and more importantly, they’re actually labeling them “Gluten Free.” Let’s make sure that this isn’t just a market test. Leave your comment on our blog and let General Mills know that we appreciate what they’re doing. The more vocal we are, the more likely it is that they will keep — and even expand — their gluten-free labeling.

General Mills brands that are being labeled gluten-free include Fruit Roll-Ups, Betty Crocker, Yoplait, Progresso Soups, Larabar and Chex. Our eagle-eyed editors actually noticed that Yoplait has been labeling gluten-free versions of its yogurts as such for over a year now. But this is the first time that we know of that Yoplait has also published its gluten-free list. Click here for the full list of General Mills’ gluten-free products. Don’t forget to also check the ingredient label for the “Gluten Free” phrase before buying.

We hope other large food companies will follow suite soon. We’ve seen Kool-Aid packets, a Kraft brand, that are labeled gluten-free,  does that mean a Kraft gluten-free list is soon to follow? We can only hope!

On a personal note, this is such big news because it’s the first time a large “mainstream” company is giving a straight answer on which for their products are gluten-free. By now, we’re all used to the big-company-run-around answer to “is it gluten-free?” The phone rep reads from their script: “As the FDA has not yet issued a ruling defining the term gluten-free, we cannot confirm that a product is gluten-free. We advise you to carefully read labels each time that you buy our product. We also recommend that you consult your physician if … [insert eye roll here - I mean, really, who consults their physician on their choice of cereal!].” General Mills is not only publishing their gluten-free list online, but also labeling their products gluten-free! How refreshing.

As the publishers of The Essential Gluten-Free Grocery Guide, we understand the importance of reading labels. But we would love to see easy-to-read labels like this. Our guide takes 3 full-time people over a thousand hours to research and edit. Gluten-free should not be that hard. Let’s thank General Mills for going this extra mile, and actually making it easy for us to make shopping choices.

Leave a comment below, and we’ll forward them on to General Mills’ marketing department. We hope that the other big food companies will do the same, and soon!

Dr. Oz Show Features Celiac Disease This Week!

Last week the gluten-free blogosphere was abuzz with the news about Dr. Oz doing a show about celiac disease this week (Dec. 10th). Check your local listings for air times in your area. Though it’s exciting that celiac is getting some much needed publicity in the mainstream media, one can only hope that accurate information will be shared in the program. According to Nancy Lapid at About.com, the guests include Dr. Peter Green and Elisabeth Hasselbeck. Unfortunately, many times when gluten-free news hits the airwaves, misinformation is spread along with some correct information. Since Dr. Green is a world renowned celiac expert, the medical part of the program should be entirely accurate.

It would be nice if Shelley Case was going to be on Dr. Oz’s show this week but if she is, she’s keeping it quiet. Thanks to Erin over at Gluten-Free Fun for posting the news about the show. Dr. Green is a wonderful celiac expert, which is why I recommend everyone get his book about the condition. However, the perfect show about celiac for me would include Danna Korn, Shelley Case, Dr. Alessio Fasano and Dr. Cynthia Rudert.

Dr. Fasano (from the Center for Celiac Research) who got the celiac disease ball rolling when he arrived in this country (from Italy) and discovered that the U.S. doctors didn’t think many people here had celiac. Since our country has what is called a high gluten containing diet, Dr. Fesano knew there was a problem. The amazing work he has done is something we all owe him a debt of gratitude for, no doubt!

Dr. Rudert can explain that many doctors in the U.S. still know very little about celiac disease and gluten intolerance. If she ever wants to quit medicine and work as a stand up comediane she could totally do it! She’s quite funny when explaining how many of her patients finally arrive in her office. The stories of so many doctors missing their celiac symptoms might not seem like they could be funny but Dr. Rudert’s delivery makes it so – trust me!

Shelley Case, author of The Gluten-Free Diet: A Comprehensive Resource Guide, can speak to the factual information regarding the gluten-free diet. Among other things, she can cover alcohol and maybe kill that celiac myth that we have to drink potato vodka. Danna can add some anecotal stories about how to be careful when traveling with baggies of gluten-free pancake mix. In some countries the white powery substance can keep you in security longer than you want to be there. Danna’s books will have anyone who reads them understanding that a fun gluten-free life is absolutely possible!

We’ll all have to tune in and see the Dr. Oz show but any publicity is likely good for us at this point. As usual, if any incorrect info is shared (say, about the gluten-free lifestyle) it will be corrected in the gluten-free blogsphere the minute the show is over – or even before the final credits run. Speaking of blogs, it’s fabulous that Shauna Ahern James (aka Gluten Free Girl) is featured on Oprah.com but I’d really love to see her and Danny on Oprah’s show!

If you’re able to catch the Dr. Oz show this Thursday, consider posting your comments about it below – thanks!

National Gluten-free Food Assistance Program Kicks Off in Colorado!

HPIM0899Many foods banks in the U.S. are seeing a 40% increase in the needs of their communities. With the current economy, times are tough for many people and food is something they can’t go without. If you’re familiar with food banks, you know that they often offer bread, soup and pasta, in addition to other things. More often times than not, the soups are from Campbell’s, none of which are gluten-free (according to the company), and of course the bread and pasta contain gluten.

Every time the nightly news covers a story about how food banks are barely able to help all those coming in for food, one can’t help but wonder how many people in need might not be able to eat gluten. Some food banks offer only shelf stable foods which means much of what they are giving people contains gluten. Just because someone is hungry doesn’t mean they can literally make themselves sick by purposefully eating gluten.

There is one similar program in South FL which is excellent for people in that area that can’t gluten. However, there is a need for similar programs all over the country and that’s where Gluten Free Dee steps in. For those of you who are not familiar with Dee Valdez, let’s just say she’s an amazing gluten-free advocate, to say the least!

One of my favorite things about Dee is that she is not willing to pay for bad gluten-free food she finds inedible. She implores us all to return bad gluten-free food and get our money back, period. If you know anything about the average food buyer for grocery stores, you know most of them don’t know good gluten-free food from bad. Therefore, you’ll often find less than stellar tasting foods at regional and national chain food stores. Dee’s theory is that if gluten-free consumers return bad tasting food, grocers will get the point and stop buying products with high return rates – brilliant!

Now Dee has turned her attention to the gluten-free consumer that needs a helping hand in these trying times. Announced last week, the first nationwide gluten-free food bank program has begun. Read how this organization came to be in Dee’s touching post. Hopefully, the idea will catch on and grow into a program we can all be proud of. If you want to learn more about the program, join the first meeting tomorrow in the Loveland, CO area at the House of Neighborly Service. Visit Dee’s website and see what you can do to contribute to this amazing cause. The first meeting and ribbon cutting ceremony is Tuesday, Dec. 8th from 4-6 pm at the House of Neighborly Service. For people outside that area, you can get involved as well.

Excerpt from press release -

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Loveland’s House of Neighborly Service will be the test site for the new program Valdez is designing to be implemented in communities across the country.  There are scattered efforts to gather gluten free food for the holidays or offer a monthly gift card to help offset the extra expense of a gluten free diet.  “What I see that is missing is a systematic approach to feeding gluten free families in need,” say Valdez.  “If someone has Celiac Disease or a gluten intolerance, they can become very ill in the short and long term if they eat gluten containing food because that is all they have.” Bread is plentiful in food banks across the country.  Gluten free bread is not.  Valdez, or Gluten Free Dee, as she is called, intends to change that.

This is the season for giving and what better way to do that, than to help people who must eat gluten-free but can’t afford it in your own community? Special thanks to Gluten Free Dee for fighting the good fight for all of us every day. You are a true hero among us!

Gluten-free Menu at Over 90 Bertucci's Locations!

BertuccisRecently, the Gluten Intolerance Group of North America (GIG) announced a new member of their GFRAP training program. The Gluten-Free Restaurant Awareness Program does a great job certifying restaurants that are interested in safely serving gluten-free patrons. At many of the large chains, and some smaller ones and independent places, you’re likely to see a note about GIG their gluten-free menu.

The latest inductee to GIG’s restaurant program, Bertucci’s, is an Italian cuisine chain with over 90 locations. They now all have a gluten-free menu! In addition to many locations in Connecticut where the company is based, there are locations in D.C., Delaware, Massachusetts, Maryland, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island and Virginia. Unfortunately, Bertucci’s does not have any locations in GA, but maybe they’ll continue their expansion and arrive in Atlanta one day!

bertuccis9079_sThe Bertucci’s gluten-free menu offers selections in the following categories – appetizers, salads, soups, entrees, side dishes and desserts. There are very few places in our area that serve gluten-free soups. It’s something I really miss being able to order when dining out. It’s really not difficult for places to modify their soup recipes to be gluten-free, without going to much trouble or expense. However, very few of the places I’ve worked with or asked to do this are interested in the idea. Bertucci’s has a gluten-free sausage and rice soup – just in time for winter!

Excerpt from the Bertucci’s website:

Like the original pizzerias and trattorias of Italy, Bertucci’s started as a place for friends, family and neighbors to gather. That was in 1981 in Somerville, Massachusetts. And now friends, family and neighbors gather in more than 90 restaurants in ten states and the District of Columbia. And that’s because since 1981 we have held true to Bertucci’s origins. Honesty and passion are still at the heart of every Bertucci’s meal. A passion for flavors, a passion for creativity and a passion for tradition.

Presently there are no gluten-free pasta dishes offered at Bertucci’s but there are plenty of amazing choices to be had none the less. In Italy, pasta is not typically served as an entree, but as a side dish or second course, before your main entree is served. If gluten-free diners order soup (or an appetizer or salad), an entree and dessert, they’ll never miss the pasta!

Of particular interest for sweet lovers is the Bombe dessert at Bertucci’s. Bombe is vanilla and chocolate gelato wrapped in chocolate with almonds and a red heart of maraschino cherry. At Bertucci’s it’s served open with a dollop of whipped cream and chocolate sauce. There is an Italian/Greek place here, Sugo, that serves Bombe here and it’s one the best things I’ve ever tasted! The glutenoids that dine at Sugo rave about the Bombe and most of them have no idea it’s gluten-free, or what gluten is for that matter. It’s likely that the dessert at Bertucci’s is as spectacular as the treat served here. If you get the chance to try Bombe anywhere – and it’s confirmed gluten-free – do check it out for yourself!

If you live in one of the states that Bertucci’s is in, click on ‘locations’ on their website to see if there is a location near you. If so, follow the restaurant on Facebook for all the latest news from Bertucci’s! We look forward to adding Bertucci’s to the next Triumph Dining Gluten-Free Restaurant Guide. Special thanks to GIG for their hard work to expand the gluten-free dining scene for all of us!

Amazing Gluten-free Fettuccine from Italy!

LV109SGluten-free pasta options are seemingly endless these days, but all brands are definitely not created equal. My favorite pasta is a quinoa and rice blend by Andean Dream. Quinoa is a super food so I like to include it in my diet whenever possible. However, Andean Dream does not make fettuccine and our favorite one from Celiac Specialties seems to have been discontinued. The pasta has been listed as ‘unavailable’ for well over a year on the bakery’s website and then one day it was replaced with another brand. So, my search for a new delicious gluten-free fettuccine has been ongoing for a while now.

My husband used to be a chef and one of his specialties was fettuccine alfredo. He made it for me when we were dating and all through our marriage. Then when we had to use gluten-free pasta and it just wasn’t the same. We tried around ten different brands and didn’t like any of the fettuccine pastas until we found the one from Celiac Specialties (when it was in stock). After going without a terrific fettuccine for the last year or so, and also going without our house specialty of fettuccine alfredo, we finally found a new delicious gluten-free fettuccine pasta.

The strangest thing about this new find is that the pasta is made from corn. I tried three 100% corn pasta brands that I didn’t like at all. So when a friend reviewed the Italian pasta brand, Le Veneziane, and I read that it was made from corn, I immediately wrote it off as not worth trying. Then I noticed several other online rave reviews for this same pasta and decided to risk trying it. If the money spent wasn’t worth it, it would be the first time in a long time I’d wasted money on bad tasting food.

The Gluten-Free Trading Company carries the pasta by Le Veneziane so I ordered the fettuccine along with my stock of LaTortilla Factory gluten-free tortillas. The pasta arrived oddly packaged. There were six little bird’s nests of pasta which means you have to cook each nest in full or break the pasta up to cook it. We guessed that three ‘nests’ was the right amount for us for dinner and that ended up being dead on. I cooked the pasta and then handed it over to my husband to make his special dish for the first time in a very long time. The pasta took on the alfredo sauce very well. We have found that sauces don’t always stick well to gluten-free pastas. The better the pasta quality, the better merging of pasta and sauce. Even so, there was a slight yellow color to the pasta, leaving me still skeptical about how it would taste.

There was no need for worry because the fettuccine alfredo made with La Veneziane pasta was the best we’ve had in almost four years! The pasta did not taste anything like the corn pasta we’d had before – or corn for that matter. Is the difference the corn? I always thought corn was corn but this pasta is made with corn that is grown not far from Venice. The soil is said to be exceptional there. Still, it’s shocking that the corn they use to make this pasta makes a product that tastes ten times better than all the other corn pastas we’vehad. I guess it doesn’t really matter why the pastas are so different. The pasta from Italy is truly exceptional and I’d proudly serve it to glutenoids any day. I’ll stick with the healthy Andean Dream for Macaroni but for my husband’s house specialty – and any other pasta dishes that call for fettuccine, it’s Le Veneziane for us from now on!

  • Le  Venziene pasta is also free of milk/casein, cholesterol, peanut, soy, tree nuts, and peanuts. It is also vegan and low fat.

Special thanks to Anne Steib for letting me know that this pasta was definitely worth trying. You were right on the money!