Celiac Awareness Events – May and June

gfstff05027v5_150x150_Front_Color-BlackWhiteMay is celiac awareness month. At one time, there was a debate about October being the month to promote celiac awareness but it seems that May won out in the end. I actually feel like every day offers us a chance to promote celiac awareness. You can do this by dining out gluten-free or even by asking a store employee for help locating a gluten-free product. While we can’t imagine that every person in America hasn’t heard the words gluten-free and celiac, I continue to meet people that have no idea what either term means – if they have even heard them.

The news about gluten-free Bisquick and Hamburger Helper being served up at the Celiac Disease Foundation Conference on May 15th is pretty exciting! I’m planning to go through my husband’s family cookbook and look up recipes that call for Bisquick. There are many fun things for attendees to experience at the annual CDF Conference and Food Faire so be sure and check it out if you’re in the Los Angeles area. Today is the last day to receive the early registration discount.

Folks in the Chicago area might want to attend the fancy Spring Flours event hosted by the University of Chicago Celiac Disease Center on May 14th. When I received my gluten-free food basket from that organization, I felt like I might be able to handle this weird gluten-free life. People with a biopsy proven celiac diagnosis qualify to get the fabulous gluten-free box of goodies. The special night will surely offer a spectacular meal and the proceeds help fund the gift basket program. It’s a win-win for all!

The Gluten Intolerance Group of North America (aka GIG) 2010 Annual Education Conference is really a wonderful weekend long event. It happens in June actually. This year’s event is June 3-5 in Minneapolis, MN. There is a lot going on that weekend, including a gluten-free pajama party! Attendees are sure to learn a lot while having tons of fun. You can find out more information about this conference here. The name of the event this year says it all “Savor the Flavor of a Healthy Gluten-free Life”. That’s something I try to do every day – literally.

If you can’t get to one of these conferences, there is another fun way to promote celiac awareness. Café Press has many “gluten-free shops”. They’re not selling food but shirts, hats, mugs, buttons, tote bags and even a doggie shirt with gluten-free and celiac slogans. I love wearing my ladies baseball jersey (shown in photo) from my own shop, Make Mine Gluten Free. When I first got the shirt, people almost always asked me what the slogan meant. These days, it’s more likely to strike up a conversation with a stranger about how someone they know has celiac, is being tested for it or can’t eat gluten for one reason or another.

Celiac Chicks have a darling Cafe Press shop and many other gluten-free bloggers do as well. Just search the term “gluten-free” or “celiac” in the search box on Café Press and you’ll have countless merchandise options to consider. The website owners – not the shop owners – are making most of the money from the sales, but it’s a fun and easy way for anyone interested in promoting awareness with their own slogans and/or artwork.

One of the reasons that celiac awareness barely existed twenty years ago is that there was no internet to connect us all. Also, some people were embarrassed to talk about their symptoms – even to their own doctors. Thankfully, that’s changed for the most part and our community is one of the most well connected around. Sometimes when I tell glutenoid friends some exciting (to me) gluten-free news, they say “you people are taking over the world”. And even though that’s not really true, we are a definitely a force to be reckoned with these days!

*Don’t forget our own celiac awareness campaign runs through May 31st! Add the Triumph Dining badge to your own website today!

Gluten-free Bisquick and Hamburger Helper

May is Celiac awareness month and there are several big events going on in both May and early June. We’ll go over those on Friday, but one of the events brings overly exciting news that just can’t wait! General Mills will test drive their new gluten-free Bisquick at the Celiac Disease Foundation Annual Education Conference. Yes, gluten-free Bisquick and Hamburger Helper is on the horizon. It will be several months before the items roll out nationwide, but they are on the way!

Here is some info from the CDF website –

Join us at the Celiac Disease Foundation Annual Education Conference & Food Faire for a hot breakfast first thing Saturday morning, May 15, 8:00 a.m.- 9:00 a.m. and be among the first to try the new Gluten-Free Bisquick pancakes with gluten-free syrup. Since it was first introduced in 1931, Bisquick pancake and baking mix has been known for making tender, delicious pancakes. Now, they are introducing a new gluten-free Bisquick that will once again bring smiles to everyone's face at the breakfast table whether you are gluten-free or not. New Gluten-Free Bisquick mix will be in stores
late this summer.

Also debuting will be the new gluten-free Hamburger Helper. Be among the first to try new gluten-free Hamburger Helper varieties at the brand's booth at the CDF Conference. This great dinner solution will be available this summer in three gluten-free flavors: Chicken Fried Rice, Cheesy Hashbrowns and Beef Fried Rice. Remember to always check labels for gluten-free wording.

hamburgerhelper2People drive to Atlanta from AL, SC and even TN to shop for gluten-free food. Now, everyone should be able to  pop into their local grocery store and buy gluten-free Bisquick and Hamburger Helper. With the new gluten-free Bisquick, it will finally be possible for people in more rural areas to make gluten-free pancakes without having to drive twenty miles (or more) or order a mix online. I am very appreciative when any of the Big 5 food companies cater to our market. My guess is that both items will be a big hit and I for one and really excited to see General Mills continuing to expand our options. What’s next – Pillsbury pop and bake cinnamon rolls?

General Mills has expressed that they care about what items we are looking for. If you want your voice to count – leave a comment below and let them know what they should be working on next!

*Per the request of my General Mills contact, the company wants to remind everyone that these new items are NOT available yet. Therefore, please make sure and read the labels of any products from the company to make sure they are gluten-free versions. The roll out of the Hamburger Helper is slated for early June and the Bisquick hits later this summer. While you’re waiting for the Hamburger Helper, the Grocery Guide has nearly thirty brands who sell ready-made meals and meal starters.

New Flavors of Bhuja Gluten-free Snacks!

packs_usaOne day while browsing my local health food store, I came across a new snack labeled gluten-free made by Bhuja. However, the ingredients included soy sauce and unlike other gluten-free items, it did not state the  soy sauce was gluten-free. I was going to put the bag back on the shelf until I saw that is was made in Australia – a country known to be way ahead of the U.S. regarding celiac disease and gluten intolerance. I bought the bag and contacted the company via their website to verify the soy sauce in the product was gluten-free. It took them a day to reply but the product was confirmed to be gluten-free. So I’ve been addicted to the delicious Indian inspired snack mix since then!

Back then, there were four flavors of the snack mix, but I really only love the Cracker Mix. The other three flavors are the Nut Mix, Friut Mix and Orignial Mix. All the products in the line are gluten-free, made from 100% all natural ingredients and have a good amount of protein in them. They are also made in a gluten-free facility, testing at 15 ppm or less. As snacks go, they are fairly healthy and quite addictive. Even so, eating just a small amount of the snack will fill you up faster than you’d imagine. The snack is quite unlike corn or potato chips in that way. A little really goes a long way, which is nice since the price is on the high side. They are being shipped in from Australia, after all.

Excerpt from the Bhuja website:

Spice up your life with Majans Bhuja – the tasty, wholesome snack that’s great for a nibble anytime. An Indian family favorite, the origin of Bhuja mixes and spices dates back many, many years and each household has its own recipe – including Majans. In Australia, Majans was the first company to manufacture Bhuja commercially and make it available nationwide.

BJA_200g_Peas_r1_v1 (2)There are now four new flavors of snacks from Bhuja. The full page ad on the back of the current Delight gluten-free magazine shows the four new flavors. They include Seasoned Peanuts, Seasoned Almonds, Seasoned Cashews and Crunchy Seasoned Peas. The latter is the one I really want to try if I can find it. There are crunchy peas in the Cracker Mix and they are my favorite part! The items are sold at Whole Foods and many health food stores. To find out if they are available in your area, check the website “where to buy” link.  They can also be purchased online from various websites, including Amazon.com. I ususally stock up on these when they are on sale for $3 at Whole Foods. The normal price here is $3.99 so at least I save 25% by doing that.

One thing I love using the Bhuja snacks for is when I go out to eat out somewhere that might not offer any gluten-free appetizers. I take a small baggie of the mix in my purse and then ask for a small bowl to put it in if I have to wait for others to eat appetizers I can’t have. I find that by doing this, I don’t feel like eating the tablecloth before my meal finally arrives. There is something about watching other people eat that makes me feel hungrier than I really am. With handy Bhuja snack mixes available, I can curb my hunger by eating just a little of this tasty crunchy treat!

Review: Multi Grain Gluten-free Pasta

multigrain_penne_rigateSeveral years ago I discovered gluten-free products from the Italian company Schär. Their gluten-free pasta is excellent and they make a decent buttery cracker among other things. Their tagliatelle pasta is probably my favorite item from the line. The wide noodle is similar to what you’d find in a high end restaurant that offers fresh pasta. We use it in place of fettucinni because we’ve not found a gluten-free fettucinni we like. We’ve tried all the major brands, but only really liked the version from Celiac Specialties, which has since been discontinued.

Recently, I found a new (to me) gluten-free pasta from Schär. It’s called Multi-Grain Penne Rigate and it’s made from corn, rice and buckwheat flours. I was glad to see a pasta made with a healthy grain like buckwheat. I don’t like the taste of plain buckwheat noodles at all, but I could tell by the color of the Schär pasta it was not going to taste like buckwheat pasta. It is the last ingredient in the multi-grain pasta, after all. The pasta was rather yellow in color – not bright yellow like pure corn pasta. It’s not gray like pure buckwheat pasta, but there are actually tiny specks of gray in the pasta.

We had some ricotta cheese in the fridge that needed to be used up so I decided to whip together a quick version of baked ziti – or rather baked penne. I used Shelton’s ground turkey for the meat, Ragu for the sauce (doctored up with Italian Spice from Alchemy Spice), ricotta cheese and low fat shredded mozzarella cheese. I didn’t follow a recipe but just eyed everything. I had a pound of meat and maybe three cups of the meat/sauce mixture. I had about a cup and a half of the ricotta cheese and three cups of the mozzarella.

After cooking and draining the entire box of pasta, I added the meat/sauce mixture and all of the ricotta and half the mozzarella cheese to the pan. Using the pan I cooked the pasta in kept me from having to clean a mixing bowl. I mixed everything together and poured it into a lightly greased 9″ x 13″ casserole dish. I then  sprinkled the rest of the mozzarella cheese on top. I baked it in a 350 degree oven for about 30 minutes. You could use spinach instead of meat or just add it to make the dish more healthy. You could use shredded chicken or ground beef, of course. The possibilities are endless really. Here are many baked ziti recipes from Recipe Zaar. Just remember to use all gluten-free ingredients. In this previous post, we rounded up a few pasta recipes from the gluten-free blogosphere.

The result of my quick baked penne experimient was a great tasting – though quite heavy – pasta entree. The pasta was excellent, with a perfect texture. I’d love to find more Schär pastas made with this combination of grains. It tastes even better than the tagliatelle and has more of both fiber and protein. Italians know how to do pasta right and with this item, Schär really hit a home run!

Excerpt from the Schär website:

Schär products and a lecture by Anne Lee were featured as part of a gluten-free meal served at the American Culinary Federation of Chef’s meeting in Milwaukee, March 22, 2010. In addition to the delicious gluten- free meal, New Grist’s gluten-free beer was served along with a wonderful pairing of wines and desserts.

Now that is impressive! Maybe it’s the start of more chefs becoming aware that we expect to be served delicious gluten-free food. And if something is good enough to serve us, it can be served to glutenoids as well. Just don’t tell them it’s gluten-free. At least, not until after they rave about how wonderful it is!

Gluten-free Labeled Soda and Juice

Maine Root Sodas

Even though many drinks are gluten-free, it’s not that commmon to find the term gluten-free on them. Most sodas sold in the U.S. are gluten-free, but to date, I’ve never seen a Coke bottle labeled gluten-free. When Pizza Fusion opened in Atlanta last year, we tried Boylan’s sodas for the first time. According to the company, all their natural sodas are gluten-free. The first sip of the Root Beer from the line took me back in time. It tasted like the Root Beer from my youth and nothing like most other root beers that contain corn syrup. It is simply a delicious drink and as soda’s go, it’s pretty healthy.

Just over a year ago, we went to a private concert that offered a light buffet afterwards. Since the people hosting the event were all gluten-free, most of the catered food served was gluten-free – and quite delicious as well. There was a ginger-lime flavored punch served that was made with Ginger Beer soda. I’m not sure what brand it was, but it was gluten-free. It’s also a non alcoholic beverage, despite the name. I later found the brand Maine Root at my local health food store and picked up the Ginger Beer. If you like very strong ginger flavor, you might enjoy this drink. I use it as a mixer because it’s too strong for me to drink plain.

lemonlime_lgRecently, some friends brought over the Blue Berry soda made by Maine Root. It’s a bit sweet for me but my husband quite enjoys it.  The Lemon Lime and Root Beer flavors are more up my alley. The entire Maine Root product line is gluten-free and the packages are marked as such currently. The website is being updated and will soon state that the products are gluten-free. For reasons that have nothing to do with ingredients, the package label is changing and gluten-free will no longer be listed on the carton. However, the founders of the company have people with celiac in their family. So needless to say, they are quite concerned with making safe products for people who can’t tolerate gluten to consume.

There is a new bottled drink that is labeled gluten-free, but it’s a juice – of sorts – instead of a soda.  The Organic Source drinks are interesting and quite different than other drinks I’ve tried. There are three flavors and by far, the Pomegranate Acia is my favorite. The products are also organic and Kosher. The drinks contain sparkling (carbonated) water and real fruit juice and don’t contain added sugar.

For kids, the Juicy Juice sparkling juice drinks offer a nice alternative from corn syrup laden sodas. Nestle makes the sparkling juice beverages which are gluten-free.  On the FAQ page on the Juicy Juice website, question # 11 answers the question about gluten. “Gluten-free” is on the cans as well. The ingredients are all natural and no sugars, sweeteners or preservatives have been added to the juice. The natural fructose in the juice concentrate is what makes the drinks very sweet. The apple flavor tastes a bit like sour apple jolly rancher candy. In my opinion, the orange flavor is the least sweet tasting of the three flavors.

We are big water drinkers at our house and have been for many years. However, sometimes you want something sweet and fizzy to drink. It’s nice that more companies are making products for people who like soda, but aren’t crazy about drinking products full of high fructose corn syrup. The products listed above are sold at some health food stores and at some locations of Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s. Boylan’s sodas can be purchased online through Amazon.com and Maine Root products will be available there soon as well.