Monday, March 31, 2008

Gluten-Free and Fat?

I have been gluten-free, or at least to my knowledge gluten-free, for almost two years. I’m 49 years old. I have been very thin all my life regardless of what I have eaten. In grammar school my nickname was ‘Oliveoil’ and I was teased because of my skinny legs which were out of proportion with my knobby knees and over-sized feet. Even during my pregnancy, I gained only the baby’s weight and the weight necessary to develop the baby. When I was eight months pregnant, a stranger once remarked that I looked like a rope with a knot tied in it. In my early and mid-forties I still maintained my maximum weight of 116 pounds with little effort. I am 5’5". I’ve always had a healthy appetite and enjoyed being able to eat all the typically fattening treats that my friends could not without gaining weight. I was immune to weight gain and enjoyed every minute of it, even flaunted my super-human ability to look cheesecake in the face, gobble it up and retain my thin figure. Over-weight women hated me, I was lucky, or so I thought. Of course, I had no idea that my gift of being naturally thin was the gift of Celiac Disease. I was unable to absorb food or its nutrients. My symptoms manifested themselves with acute anemia. So although I was thin, I periodically became exhausted, and not knowing the real cause, I attributed this to over-exercising or over-working. So that’s the past. Here’s the present:

I am not anemic anymore, I have more energy and am not concerned that I will have a heart attach because my heart is over-working with even minor activity, that’s the good news. The bad news is I am gaining weight. In the past, if I gained 2 or 3 pounds, I would eat a salad for lunch for a couple of days and I would be right back on track. I have always exercised, but was able to skip the gym for a couple of months with no negative affects. Not anymore. Now I have to work at it, just like everyone else. I have to be aware of my calorie and fat intake and make sure I get regular exercise. I have found that it now takes commitment and effort to maintain my weight. It’s not impossible, just more work. So, I consider my options:

Option 1: Eat the way I used to and let the rolls fall where they may.
Option 2: Omit all fats and sugars from my diet, or
Option 3: Eat sensibly and stick to a regular exercise program.

Reject Option 1 because I can’t afford a whole new wardrobe and my husband really hates this option. Reject Option 2 because I have already given up so many ‘forbidden’ foods on a gluten-free diet that I refuse to give up fat, which makes everything taste better and sugar which is good for my psyche. So, Option 3 it is. I acknowledge that I have become a mere mortal in the war against fat and cellulite. I must face my vulnerability and get on that treadmill and try to out-run gravity and the enemy, fat. To those of you who share this phat phenomenon, don’t despair. The key lies in what we’ve always known and have always been told. The best formula for a healthy body is to eat right and get regular exercise. I believe that no fad diet, or new magic formula will produce better results than that piece of advice. As we have all learned, living on a gluten-free diet requires adjustments in how we’ve always done things, adding regular exercise to that list of adjustments is the healthiest way to control your weight and enjoy gluten-free cooking.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Spring Chickens

With spring just around the corner we felt it was appropriate to celebrate a family favorite - Chicken! Until about a year ago, I don't think I fully appreciated good chicken. I learned from a chef that the only chicken worth eating was a free range chicken. These are chickens that are raised unconfined (by current definition, a minimum pen size of 3 feet x 3 feet). Typically they are also not injected with preservatives to increase the shelf life (although that doesn't define a "free range chicken"). Who would think that would have a significant difference in taste and texture? Trust me it does. Now every time I cook any other type of chicken my husband comments on how it tastes as if it has been injected with bleach. Free range chickens are available at some major grocery stores and at most butchers. So, the next time you are looking at having chicken for dinner, give a free range bird a try - you will never go back.

As we all know chicken is a very versatile meat, both in preparation and cooking technique. This month we focused on a variety of different chicken dishes - most are quick and easy meals to prepare. For an Italian flavor try Chicken with Peppers & Raisins or Peppered Chicken Piccata. If you are looking for a quick meal to throw together after work try these Asian dishes - Sichuan Chicken with Peanuts, Ginger Peanut Chicken Salad, Curried Chicken and Rice or Chicken Broccoli & Cashew Stir Fry.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Irish Treasures

In the spirit of St. Patrick's Day, we wanted to take our users on an adventure to the beautiful country of Ireland. Interestingly enough, Ireland happens to have a very high rate of Celiacs (1 in 300 people). So amongst the beautiful, historical castles, the lush green pastures, crystal clear streams and breathtaking mountain slopes, lies a country rich in food and folk lore - both of which we all can enjoy!

Ireland is rich in agriculture - in particular, turnips, potatoes, sugar beets, beef and diary products, not to mention wheat and barley. Although you may immediately think of a corned beef and hash followed by a thick stout beer - there are actually many Irish feasts that the gluten-intolerant can enjoy. Take a look at this months Sheppards Pie - traditionally made with lamb, we modified the recipe using beef. This is perfect for those "meat and potato" kind of people. On the lighter side, we turned to the sea -
Poached Salmon with Vegetables. This one dish meal is very easy to prepare and low fat and quite delicious. For those looking to warm up on those cool spring evenings, try the comforting Zucchini and Potato Chowder. And finally, saving the best for last...try the Irish Beef Filet with Spring Vegetables. This is by far one of our favorite meals...a tender filet mignon, served on top of mashed potatoes with green onions, surrounded by roasted vegetables and topped with a delicious, savory sauce. Definitely suitable for company or a special dinner to celebrate.

This March enjoy some wonderful Irish dishes and perhaps learn a little about a beautiful country rich in history and folk lore. If you would like to learn more about Ireland visit

Monday, March 10, 2008

Ten Tips On Eating at a Friend's House

As difficult as the prospect of eating out at a friend’s house my seem with all the restrictions you face everyday, there are ways to enjoy your meal away from home without feeling uncomfortable or paranoid about everything that is put in front of you. Here are 10 helpful tips that will make your dining out experience a safe and enjoyable one.

  1. Offer To Help Plan The Menu
  2. A friend who invites you to dinner will probably already know about your gluten-intolerance, so offering to help plan the menu will most likely be a welcomed gesture. Ask your host or hostess what he/she is planning to serve and offer suggestions to items that you know contain gluten. Discuss the ingredients in every recipe. Offer to bring gluten-free substitutions for all ingredients that include gluten. It is not necessary to be familiar with all the menu items planned, but you must check all ingredients in every recipe.

    In the event that your host is not aware of your gluten-intolerance, make sure you discuss the restrictions in detail before accepting the invitation. It is unfair to show up to a dinner engagement and state your intolerance for the first time. You will probably not be able to eat anything with confidence that it is safe and your host will be disappointed that you cannot eat the meal he/she has prepared for you.

  3. Be A Good Sport
  4. You can be a good sport without jeopardizing you health. Don’t reject your host’s menu selections because you believe they contain gluten, offer non- gluten substitutions. Most ingredients can be substituted without compromising taste, except for pasta and bread. Even pasta, if made from scratch, can be duplicated to taste exactly like the regular gluten variety, (see our 2/2001 issue; Cooking Class: Making Perfect Pasta), however, your host may not care to undertake this endeavor. So, for all other ingredients, respond enthusiastically and offer to bring a gluten-free substitution.

  5. Offer To Help Cook
  6. Your offer to help cook the meal will likely be met with enthusiasm. You and your host can have a wonderful time socializing in the kitchen while you prepare the meal. Getting involved in the preparation will enable you to see for yourself what ingredients are being used. Let your host take the lead and help by doing the prep, or help with the clean up as you go. All cooks love an assistant.

  7. Bring Your Own Gluten-Free Ingredients
  8. Once you have a complete ingredient list from your host, gather all the gluten-free substitutions you will need. This could include items such as mayonnaise, mustard, catsup, soy sauce, flour, etc. If something will need to be prepared in advance, make arrangements to deliver your gluten-free ingredients ahead of time.

  9. Bring Your Own Plastic Cutting Mats
  10. Bring and use your own plastic cutting mats for chopping food. These will protect you from counter surfaces that may be contaminated with gluten. Plastic cutting mats are sold in most kitchen stores or you can buy them through They are inexpensive, usually two for under $10. These plastic cutting mats are also great for cutting or preparing poultry, fish or meat, as they can be cleaned in the dishwasher, eliminating bacteria. Plastic cutting mats are sold in most kitchen stores.

  11. Bring A Dish From Home
  12. Offer to bring a dish from home, already prepared. An appetizer or dessert are great choices both because they are likely candidates to otherwise include gluten and they are easy dishes to bring. You can help your host out by contributing part of the meal and help yourself by knowing for sure what is in the dish.

  13. Don’t Be Shy
  14. Don’t be afraid to speak up if you see that your host is about to add a gluten ingredient. Assuming these are your friends, they will want to avoid putting gluten in your meal, but will probably not be aware of all that is gluten. If you see that something with gluten has been added, don’t eat that dish. Explain why and enjoy the rest of the meal. Don’t be coerced into eating ‘just a bite’ or fall for ‘there’s hardly any in there’….Just Say No. Remember, these are your friends, you can be truthful with them and they will understand.

  15. Don’t Be Obsessed
  16. Don’t be obsessed with everything having to be gluten-free. It is perfectly all right if some of the items on your host’s menu are not gluten-free. If your host serves a wonderful loaf of crusty bread, graciously pass it on. If your host is willing to their best to accommodate your needs, do your best to pass the bread with a smile on your face.

  17. Don’t Assume Your Host Knows About Hidden Gluten
  18. Eating at a friend’s house can be more difficult just because they are your friends. Your friends may go to a lot of effort preparing something that they believe is gluten-free, ‘just for you’, when in fact the dish may include a hidden gluten that they are not aware of. It is very difficult to have to refuse to eat something that your friend has made special for you. Difficult but necessary. Even if they are disappointed that you can’t eat their food, they’re you friends; they’ll forgive you.

  19. Bring The Wine!

    Bring the wine, enjoy a gluten-free meal away from home and a special night with friends!

Monday, March 3, 2008

The Power of Soup

We’d like to share two savory soup recipes; one that will save you time: Cream of Mushroom Soup, and one that will soothe your soul: Chicken Soup with Orzo.

Cream of Mushroom Soup

Of all the things we mourn the loss of, Cream of Mushroom Soup sits near the top of the list. That convenient little can of magic was famous for transforming chicken or ground round into a tasty meal at the last minute. We decided to stop mourning and come up with a recipe that one could freeze and thaw at a later date in the microwave to be used for those ‘no time to cook’ occasions. The following recipe is easy, quick and delicious! To freeze, make the soup per directions, omitting the cream or milk. When thawed and ready to use, add cream or milk.

Make up a batch of this and freeze it in an airtight container. Use it for sauces, or an easy, quick gravy for meat dishes. For a thinner and lower fat version, substitute the cream with milk.

• 1 cup mushrooms, sliced
2 Tablespoons onion, chopped
2 Tablespoons unsalted butter
2 Tablespoons gf flour
2 cups gf beef stock
Salt and freshly ground pepper

To eat as a soup:

1/2 cup cream
Few grates of freshly ground nutmeg

Melt butter over medium heat in a medium saucepan. Add mushrooms onions; cook for about 5 minutes, or until tender. Blend in flour; add broth. Cook and stir until slightly thickened, about 3 minutes. Salt and pepper to taste.

To store for later use: Remove from heat and allow to cool. Store in airtight containers and freeze.

For soup:
Cool base soup and add cream. Adjust seasonings to taste with salt, pepper and freshly grated nutmeg.

Chicken Soup with Orzo

(The Uncommon Cure for the Common Cold)

I made this recipe in an effort to comfort a good friend with a bad cold. She was miraculously cured after one serving and swears by the medicinal powers of this harmonious soup. (It also helps to have a positive attitude) She is also responsible for the second title, which I adore.

10 cups gf chicken broth
2 chicken hind quarters
2 carrots, diced
1/2 onion, diced
1 celery stalk, diced
1 Tablespoon fresh thyme, chopped
1 Tablespoon fresh sage, chopped
1/2 teaspoon garlic salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 cup dried gf orzo

Bring chicken stock to a boil in a large saucepan. Reduce heat to a simmer and add chicken quarters. Simmer for 30 minutes. Remove chicken quarters from pan and cool. Add carrots, onions and celery to broth and continue to simmer. Remove chicken meat from bones and add to broth mixture. Add herbs, garlic salt and pepper. Add orzo and cook until orzo is tender. Adjust seasonings to taste. Serve.