Adventures in Gluten (and Sugar) Freedom from a southern blogger chick!

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Vegas, Baby

Tomorrow, that's where Randy and I are headed.

Keep us in your thoughts and prayers for safe travel, but also, I have done a lot of field research so my meals will be stress free. I don't want to be glutenated again :-)

But thanks to the LV Celiac Support Group, I have picked two good restaurants with GF menus. I've packed nuts and Larabars. I'm psyched!

I doubt I'll have a way to blog til I get back, so Happy Labor Day!

Much love!

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Aack! I glutenated myself!

I am having a crappy day today. No pun intended.

Last night I glutenated myself, inadvertently. So today I am all kinds of out of sorts, plus I'm itchy and scratchy and all kinds of cartoon characters. In fact, I look kind of like this:

So here's how it happened. My friend/former student Aerial is here for training this week, and she's staying at my house. Last night I was hungry for some Chili Mac, so I boiled some GF pasta and got out what I THOUGHT was a can of GF chili. I also made some delicious GF brownies for dessert (and yes, I checked them out. They were indeed GF Pantry brand.)

But in minutes, literally, I felt a bloat coming on. I felt awful. By 9 p.m. I was sick as a dog. I checked the label and YIKES the chili had wheat in it. Tell me why chili needs wheat in it? especially no bean chili. But more importantly, HOW COULD I HAVE MADE THAT MISTAKE?

I mean, look at this label!


String of curse words out loud!

So I took some Pepto and some Reglan and went to bed with great distress. I woke at 6 with a migraine. ACK. AACK! And now I have to go teach in an hour. BLEAH. I don't think this day will ever end.

Much love from Blimp Land!

Monday, August 27, 2007

Cooking Tuna, not the canned stuff. I'm talking a fresh, thick simple stuff you pay a fortune for in a restaurant. I love seared tuna, on a salad, on a plate, you name it. But I've been intimidated by making it myself. And I note well here, this tuna is overfished and very difficult to get. It's expensive for a reason.

I was at MY Dekalb Farmer's Market yesterday and bought a lucious inch-thick tuna steak, and I decided I'd try to cook it. I knew the flavor I wanted was one similar to Tuna Tataki, which has soy and spice. And I wanted it GF, of course. Last night I decided to experiment and try to cook it.

I am proud to say I have created the simplest recipe ever for beautiful tuna steaks.

It was so simple, and I ate it so fast, I don't even have a picture for you!


A pan you can get searingly hot. I would suggest cast iron or the like.

1 fresh, chilled, Yellowtail tuna steak, patted dry, per person. Mine was about 7 ounces.

1 t. light olive oil, swirled on the bottom of the pan to only lightly coat (I actually wiped the pan with a paper towel).

1 T. wheat-free Tamari or Soy Sauce without wheat per steak.

1 T. Hot Sauce (I use Marie Sharp's from Belize). If you don't like SPICY, leave this out.

Generous sprinkle of Penzeys (or other) garlic salt and a good grind of pepper on each slice.

Heat oil in pan while you pat dry your tuna. It must be dry for this to work.
When oil is sizzling, place tuna steak in pan. Sear on one side for no more than two minutes. Put it down, leave it, then turn it over at about two minutes.
While second side is searing, season cooked side with soy, hot sauce, and garlic salt and pepper. Sear second side for two minutes as well.

Turn briefly to soften the sauce, then turn briefly again. Put on plate and pour leftover sauce on it.

This is a RARE piece of tuna. If you don't like your tuna rare, don't try this dish. Cooking tuna steaks like this well done just ruins them. You're better off with the can.

Much love and YUM!

Sunday, August 26, 2007

In praise of student success (A Sunday Blessing)

I spent the day shopping yesterday with two of my beloved former advisees, Jena and April. Both graduated in May, and I haven't seen either since. We had a great time, former teacher and students -- it felt more like Mom and daughters day (or girlfriend shopping day). I loved it and it was refreshing! What fine young woman they both are!

Jena met me at 8:30 and we ventured to the Morningside Curb Market, which is a haven for those who want fresh, local, organic food. After purchasing a bunch of spicy lemon basil, organic ground speckled grits, and three pounds of organic grain-fed beef, tasting Swiss chocolate, and sampling cheese and limonata, we did the Lenox "Mall Crawl." April joined us at Crate and Barrel, then we visited Anthropologie, Pottery Barn, Teavana, and the mothership, Williams-Sonoma. After sushi and wedge salads for lunch, we all went to the mother of all Whole Foods markets in Buckhead.

But early Saturday morning, when I was in the Swiss chocolate place at Morningside with Jena, I felt in some small way, my work is worth something. I felt redeemed. Jena is a marketing assistant at a large, powerful Atlanta law firm -- "the firm," as she calls it --and she worked like hell to get there. She held two internships there and joined them immediately -- two days even -- after her last class ended. (n.b. April, don't feel left out on this one. I am enormously proud of you! You know that!)

But while purchasing some delectable chocolate -- and it was, I'm telling you, it was -- I saw something every teacher loves: I saw my student in action.

Jena entered into a serious discussion of corporate holiday gifts with the store owner, discussing shipping, handling, turnaround time, and base cost. My memory went back to our PR class when she was admin of senior and alumni luncheon. She got a shipping list, exchanged business cards, and graciously oohed over a champagne truffle. Then she offered the owner a firm handshake, and he agreed to bring a chocolate sampling to "the firm" if she'd like.

I almost wept. Not that I was surprised, for I wasn't. Jena always showed -- shows -- great finesse in life. But I remembered the day she tried to make anagrams out of Brandenburg v. Ohio on her law test before frankly admitting she didn't know the answer, but thought I needed a laugh.

Nothing warms the heart of this college professor more than seeing a former student in action. I don't know if I taught her any of it, but I am proud to say her presence graced my classroom. I learned from her. Like others before, and others still to come, she "does me proud." So, so proud.

Much love and pride,

Friday, August 24, 2007

A weekend in Atlanta

I have been sitting here at my desk, waiting for a meeting, perusing a 16-page list from the Whole Foods in Buckhead. It's the list of Gluten Free products they sell at the store.

Guess where I'm headed tomorrow? Yep, I'm going "home for the weekend." Jeffrey is coming, too, and he's headed up for a whole week!

I haven't been to Atlanta since June, and this will be the first time I've had to stay with my Daddy and Mary (his partner) since I gave up gluten. Last time we were there, I stayed in a hotel as we were there for Mary's birthday extravaganza.

So the cooler's packed in the car, and I have my stash of GF muffins and Larabars. We've already discussed dinner tonight, and I hope they don't marinate the chicken in something I can't eat (I asked them not to do it til I could read the label of the salad dressing they use).

Tomorrow I'm meeting up with two recent alumnae, Jena and April, for some power shopping. I'm going to drag Jena around for a while, then we're meeting April at Lenox Square. Should be an adventure worth blogging about tomorrow.

Til then, much love!

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Peanut....peanut butter (jelly)!

Do you remember that song from when you were young? My Jeffrey always loved it, and we used to sing it when I'd make him a peanut butter and jelly sandwich -- to this day, STILL the only cold sandwich he will eat.

First you pick it, you pick it, you pick it pick it pick it then you crush it, you crush it...etc. Done with hip gyration and hand movement.

This is a post about peanut butter. I have an unnatural addiction to peanut butter, and I blame my mother for it.

I was raised in a house with serious food problems. My mother was bulimic, and she in turn passed that on to me. That meant one thing: When you bought a jar of peanut butter into my house, the whole jar was consumed on the spot.

We didn't make PB sandwiches. We didn't make PB cookies. We took a spoon and ate the whole jar.

When I got to be a mom, I got more comfortable with Peanut Butter and can actually keep it in my house.

But that doesn't mean my favorite way to eat it isn't still alone, with a spoon, in the dark.

Most people don't understand this. But I get what I want with no frills. No extra calories. No extra baggage. I would have never made it through the elimination portion of the GF process without PB and hummus this last summer. That is what I lived on.

I've gotten picky about my PB in the last couple years. I want lower sugar, fewer fats and sat fats, no trans fats, and now, gluten free. (Most are, but one has to be sure).

Today, I give you the peanut butter hall of fame: To make it, you must be 1) affordable 2) lower in fat than traditional Jif 3) not be oily and messy like other naturals, requiring stirring and stuff and 3) be certified Gluten Free on the Label.

1. Peanut Butter and Co. and its line of flavored, GF butters:

Shout out to Joy Peterson, the GF Detective, who found this at Wally World, and I found it yesterday and promptly ate WAY too much of it last night (with a spoon, in the dark).

THIS, my friends, is a Reese Cup in a Jar! AMAZING. I'll bet it would make great cookies....I've got a recipe I can't wait to try with it. I am sure the other five flavors are wonderful, too.

2. Smart Balance Peanut Butter

two words: Mryuuuum MMryuuuuuum (that's me trying to say YUM YUM with PB in my mouf...and that's it pictured on the far left.

Nutty. Chunky. Spreadable. Tast-eeeeeeee! I love it.

3. Home ground. You know, the kind from the health food store. I'm sorry, but I love it. I don't have a picture of it. It doesn't look that good in a picture, you know?

4. Simply JIF

A distant third....but still good in a pinch.

OK, NOW I'm hungry...

Much love and pass me that spoon!


Wednesday, August 22, 2007

The best Macaroni and Cheese ever...

Note: Not dairy free. Not egg free. By no stretch of the imagination fat free. But sooooo tasty!

I love macaroni and cheese. It is my favorite food ever. And when I went GF, I was wondering if I'd ever have it again.

Now that I've found the TInkyada brand pastas, I can have my mac and eat it too.

I have to credit where credit is due: I have adapted this recipe by the brilliant Scott Peacock of Watershed in Decatur, Georgia. It's in his cookbook, too. I found it in the newspaper about 10 years ago, and it remains my favorite. Now, with the wonderful Tinkyada elbows, it is ever better.

One tip: I find with the GF pasta (and I don't use any other brand now) that it takes a little longer to bake. Start with 30 minutes, and watch it in five minute increments. Also, for some reason, this Mac and Cheese tastes even better the next day!

This is my tried and true adaptation:

Scott Peacock's Macaroni and Cheese
10 Servings

Recipe Ingredients
1 3/4 c Small elbow macaroni (use Tinkyada for GF version)
1 1/4 c Extra-sharp cheddar cheese
(5 oz) -- cubed (I use Cabot Farms 50 percent reduced fat with great results)
2 2/3 tb Brown Rice Flour
1 1/2 ts Salt
1 1/2 ts Dijon mustard
1/4 ts Ground pepper
1/8 ts Cayenne
1/8 ts Ground nutmeg OPTIONAL: I hate nutmeg
1 1/3 c Half and half
1 1/3 c Whipping cream
2/3 c light Sour cream
2 large Eggs (or egg substitute)
3/4 ts Worcestershire sauce (I use a GF variety)
1 1/4 c Packed extra-sharp cheese (5
Oz) -- grated (again, I use Cabot Farms 50 percent

Recipe Method
Preheat oven to 350. Lightly butter 9x13x2-inch glass baking dish. Cook
macaroni in lg saucepan of boiling salted water until just tender but still
firm to bite. (If you use Tinkyada, use the energy saving method and drain at about 10 minutes.)
Drain pasta. Transfer to prepared dish. Mix in cubed cheese.

Whisk flour, salt, mustard, black pepper, cayenne pepper and nutmeg in
medium bowl until no lumps remain. Gradually whisk in half and half, then
whipping cream and sour cream. Add eggs and Worcestershire sauce; whisk to
blend. Pour over macaroni mixture; stir to blend. Sprinkle grated cheese

Bake macaroni and cheese until just set around edges but sauce is still
liquid in center, about 30 mins. Remove from oven; let stand 10 mins to
thicken slightly (sauce will be creamy).

Recipe By : Scott Peacock, formerly of Horseradish Grill, Atlanta

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

An unconventional dinner

Today my shipment of GF goodies came from Bread of Life, and I decided that I'd have a snack before supper. Then I decided to have a snack INSTEAD of supper.

One GF brownie and one GF chocolate chip cookie later, and I am still smiling over the great stuff.

Two words: Yum yum.

The products were moist and tasty, not too sweet, and delicious. I especially loved the cookie! My only concern is how to count them on my diet -- there are no nutritional details available (though ingredients are spelled out on their web site).

So to be safe -- dinner's done.

Tomorrow morning I get a carrot cake muffin...

Much love from muffin central

Monday, August 20, 2007

The one-slice wonder

They call it a one-slice wonder, and it warms the heart in the heat of summer.

There was an article on them once, in Southern Living - about the tomatoes just big enough that one slice would fill the bread for a perfect tomato sandwich. That story has stayed with me -- the one-slice wonder and the art of the tomato sandwich. I've argued with friends over a good sandwich. It's good, lively Southern banter.

No, there is not much dearer to this southern girl's heart than a good tomato sandwich; however, a GF diet without bread has kept me away from my favorite summer food this year. With the introduction of my bread machine this weekend, and the addition of fresh white bread to my pantry, though, I had my wish. Sunday was TOMATO SANDWICH DAY!

I've always been very picky about them. There are four simple rules for a perfect tomato sandwich.

1. Tomato must be garden grown, not greenhouse grown, and room temperature. No refrigerating til after it's cut! Thanks, Amy Mimes!
2. White bread only, the softer the better.
3. Duke's mayo, slathered on the bread generously. I'm sorry, but there is no substitute for me -- and God help you if you want Miracle Whip. Not on my watch...
4. Salt No pepper. Fresh Penzeys Grey Salt if you can get it, with Fleur de Sel as a second. Sea Salt -- third. Little girl with an umbrella -- in a pinch (no pun intended).

There's an option of course -- a good thick slice of cheap bologna, but sadly, no more for me.....This is how my Daddy likes them.

Directions: Cut a thick slice or two of tomato, slather the bread with Duke's, and layer. Salt. Wait five minutes for the salt to sink in. Eat the rest of the tomato with salt, out of hand while you wait.

So simply perfect, a one-slice wonder on fresh bread for lunch. Best eaten over a plate or better yet, the sink, to catch the juice.

Ah yes! The above tomato became the below sandwich. I was truly a happy girl Summer, for me, is complete. My soul is restored. Life is good.

Much love, and pass the tomato!

Sunday, August 19, 2007

My blogging circle (or Sunday blessings)

I digress:

If you read the comments on this blog, you see that I have a blogging circle of wonderful former students. Julie, Joy, and Jenn are all dear friends of mine and of each other, all former Colonnade folks. Julie and Jenn were editors; Joy married a former editor and was one of the best section editors ever. (The Colonnade is the student newspaper at GCSU, and I advised it from 1996 to 2003.)

I made a comment a couple of days ago about how I saw some "fave alums" Friday, Mallery and Tyler. This started a competitive ribbing of "who is your favest fave" alum. It has kept me laughing all weekend.

So to my blogging circle of fave alumnae Julie, Joy, and Jenn: Actually, you're not at the top of the fave list. You've transcended that list to another list entirely. You're more than faves -- you're FAMILY. As a professor, I learned so much from all of you, and as your former professor, I am inspired by all you've become. I'm proud you choose to keep me in your lives.

And that list? It's short and very selective. Yes, JP is on it, too.

Much love, period.


Saturday, August 18, 2007

Poppin Fresh!

I returned home from aerobics this morning to the glorious smell of fresh-baked bread. It is a smell I adore, and let me tell you, I am so happy now....

well, look at this loaf of glorious gluten free whole grain bread.

I took my Pampered Chef Bread knife and sliced off a piece, and it is so delicious, I did the happy dance. THAT sent Jeffrey running for his house!

This is made from Bob's Red Mill Gluten Free whole grain mix. I think it needs about 2 t. of salt in it (I already added one) but otherwise, it is perfect.

I can't wait to have STUFF on it -- peanut butter...hummus....cheese melted...

Much love and where is my baking sheet?


Friday, August 17, 2007

A trip to the abattoir

Maybe I should wait a couple of second for you to Google that one. I had to Google it, too.

Most of you are smarter than I, so you know that abattoir is French for a slaughterhouse. And today, in search of more local meat and pork products, I rode four miles down to the Baldwin County Line to C&B Processing, the local abattoir, as my friend Douglas Keith called it. That sure sounds classier than slaughterhouse, doesn't it? And much less scary.

I swear, it is the best-kept secret in town. While I was there, not fewer than 8 people came in and left with fresh ground beef, fresh sausage, thick and thin cut bacon, steaks and roasts. All sell for a reasonable price, and all are processed on-site.

I don't know what I expected -- visions of Upton Sinclair? Meat hanging from the ceiling? I was so wrong! The place was spic and span, spotless, and it smelled fresh (not, as I feared, like the old market in downtown Milly that closed last year). For $22 I got 3 pounds of freshly ground beef, a large package of local bacon, a frozen 3.5 pound chuck roast, and 2 pounds of fresh link sausage. I don't eat much sausage, but I am going to crockpot some of this with a head of cabbage for dinner one night next week.

I was so happy I did the happy dance. I've made a couple of reference to my "hundred mile diet," and I can't wait to try this beef. I know it's not llike the beef at WalMart, treated with chemicals and colors to keep it shelf worthy longer. If I can't have Cacciatore Brothers in Tampa, well, this is a good local option.

One man who was there bought four of the most beautiful ribeye steaks -- about six pounds worth, for about $19. He said he swears by the place. I can see why.

They are 10 minutes from my house, and I can't believe it has taken me 11 years to find it.

I also acquired my first of two bread machines today, bought for $20 each on the GCSU sale list. (Wanted: Gently used bread machine.) I want two, one for each house, and tomorrow I will make my own homemade GF bread with the first one. I can't wait. First I'm using a GF Mix, but I'm going to try to make my own in the next week or so, too. But I thought it would be easier to test the machine with a mix.

I ended my shopping day (which included a full day of advising, visiting with two fave alums Tyler and Mallery, and a faculty meeting) with a trip to Big Lots. I found LOTS of GF pantry staples I needed, including one of my favotire snacks: Wasabi Peas. I've got two packs of cashews and GF Japanese Rice Crackers for work, too.

Tomorrow, after aerobics, we check out the produce stands. Can't wait for that, either.

Much love, and it's OK to laugh at the slaughterhouse.


The girl who cried "Fad Diet"

My trek into gluten freedom has certainly raised some eyebrows among my friends and colleagues. I really don't want to become one of those people I hate -- you know the kind. The vegetarian who insists everyone in his or her presence eat that way because he or she does; the dieter who is intolerant of those who aren't. The organic god or goddess who won't touch an apple unless it's certified.

My eating gluten free has not been a choice. After I went through the elimination diet and realized most of my gastric woes have healed and I'm BETTER, I simply connected the dots. To some extent, I did make a choice to examine the need. But largely, once I knew there was a legitimate allergy there, there was no choice.

The problem, of course, is a lot of people around here have seen me through diets, exercise, and more in the past 12 years, and I know some of them are shaking their heads and saying, "yes, this too shall pass." Sure, I did give up carbs for close to a whole year back in what, 2001 or 2? And I did get on this whole mega vitamins thing in 2003 because of pre-menopause. And in 2002 I lost a lot of weight (I've gained back only 15 pounds or so).

I admire my friend Amy who takes her food with her and simply doesn't bother to explain. I haven't gotten that far yet. I still feel like I owe it to servers, people, etc. I have found that the word FOOD ALLERGy works wonder. People fear anaphalaxys.

So please, to quote my students, bare with me as I go through this. I mean bear, but that always cracks me up when they do this. Thanks, I think I'll keep my clothes on right now...

As I eliminate more and more sources of gluten from my diet, and more and more allergens, I am finding eating out difficult. It doesn't mean I don't want to go with you. I just might not eat. And yes, I am doing some weird things with my food. I promise not to force a spoonful on you.

But it is hard for me to make people understand a few things:

1. No, I really can't just take the meat off the sandwich. And no, for the most part, I don't eat luncheon meat any way (unless it's Boar's Head or I know it's GF.) Pizza is even worse, so please don't get hurt when I decline.

2. Sorry, pizza places are hard for me. Not because I love pizza (I'm a good Italian girl, after all). But the flour dust really flies at a pizza place, and unless I know they make my salad over there, I don't want it around. But still invite me, or I'll feel left out. I might come along for the company, who knows?

3. I DO want to have a birthday party and contribute to the parties-celebrations of others. Sometimes I do eat ice cream. And if it's my birthday, bring me some fruit salad, like my lovely coworkers did last year! I think that's very special.

4. Please don't roll you eyes and make a snide comment when I ask about ingredients when we go out to eat. Don't YOU want to know how your food is prepared? I am not being difficult. I have an allergy. It makes me sick. Trust me, you'd rather see me well like I am now. I promise not to be an asshole about things and embarrass you. I promise to respect your needs and choices.

5. Yes, I know it's crazy that I might go to the country store to get my food. But hey, it's colorful. Tell me to shut up if you don't want to hear the story.

6. If you come to my house, I might cook GF, but trust me, if it doesn't taste good, I don't eat it. If I come to your house, I will ask questions, but you don't have to change the whole menu to suit me. I am polite about things and will make do.

7. Don't worry, I will NEVER try to convert you to this lifestyle. EVER. I won't proselytise about the benefits, etc. If I find a tasty food, I'll share a tip, but you need not worry -- I wouldn't wish this on anyone, even the most annoying person I know.

Much love and thanks for understanding me!

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Organic v. be the judge

I was having a discussion with a friend today about the importance of organic foods v. sustainable agriculture. I've never had much interest in prganic food -- I buy it; I appreciate and respect those dedicated to it. But I've never really felt compelled to buy it exclusively.

But it really hit me yesterday at the grocery store -- are there organic foods that SHOULD be important to someone with significant food allergies like me?

I've decidedto check this out. My first big change is going to be eggs. I know that CHEAP chicken feed can include wheat products, which mean egg yolks are will contain wheat gluten. I don't eat a lot of eggs, but I'm going to buy Eggland's best brown eggs because they're fed an all vegetable diet and are cage free (happy chickens, happy eggs). Wheat, of course, can fit in that description of vegetarian, but I feel like it's safer. I'm trying to get on the list for a local egg producer. When we raised chickens, I know the eggs were much better and tastier. I want to get those kinds of eggs. But the Eggland's eggs will do for now.

Next will come milk products -- well, that's tough. I don't drink much milk. I eat yogurt and prefer active culture yogurt. I eat light sour cream. I am truly not careful about cheese. I buy what I like. Again, I'm more interested in the more natural cheeses than I am in organic cheese and milk.

I'm frankly more interested in sustainable agriculture -- I want fresh, locally grown and produced food, not over packed and mass distributed. That is why I've made a decision to shop more often at a local "mom and pop" country store called Johnny McDade's. All their fresh meat and produce is from Georgia, and while they stock national brands, they also stock fresh milled cornmeal from Wrightsville, Georgia. Their produce is delicious and amazing, and it comes from South Georgia or the local farmers.

When you buy sustainable food, you buy fresh, in season. Some call this the "100-mile diet," and I really admire that. That is good for the state and community, and for the soil and air. And that more directly benefits many people.

It also kinda makes up for the fact that I drive an SUV.

I'd love to hear the thoughts of others on this!

Much love and bring me some fresh okra, please!


Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Back to School

Tomorrow, I start a new school year at Georgia College & State University. While I'm very sad that Randy headed home today for his own school year, I am happy to be beginning my 12th year here. If I can't be there with him, this is the next best place for me to be right now.

Admittedly, it will be wonderful to see my students again. I feel so much better now, and I hope I can be a positivie, effective teacher to them.

But I also have a whole new attitude in life. And for that, I'm thankful.

I've been exploring the GF options in downtown MillyVegas since I've been back to school, and I feel pretty good about things right now. I love sushi, and we have a booming new Japanese restaurant. They even said I could bring in my own bottle of LaChoy Soy Sauce! And there's fine Tex-Mex on the corner with chips, guac and cheese available. I don't know that I'll try much else there. We also have another Mexican place.

But mostly, I have to get organized and bring in my food for lunch. Today I brought in my stash of Larabars, nuts, fruit, and cheese; tomorrow I need to bring in some crackers I forgot.

On a sweet note, I ordered some baked goods from Bread of Life today. I read about them on the Celiac Chicks website, and when I visited their site, I was so impressed. I had an email exchange with Amy Middleton there, and she was delightful -- I could sense a sweet spirit in her. I can't wait to get my brownies, muffins, and mixes from there! I will report back, but for now, I've posted their address on the side.

And a big shout out to Joy Peterson, who has been scoping out the peanut butter aisle for me. Thanks, Joy. You ARE a JOY!

Much love and happy Tuesday,

Monday, August 13, 2007

Doing my homework

I mentioned in my post the other day that I had a Honey Baked Ham bone. I did some additional research, and I did find that ALL THEIR MEAT contains wheat and soy in the glaze. So thank goodness I didn't eat a hunk of it, and I wish I'd known that before I dropped $20 on the stuff Saturday.

That, of course, is my fault, not theirs. I didn't do my homework. Their customer service rep was wonderfully nice, and she sent me this link that shows all their details. I am glad I contacted them to ask this. They were lovely about it.

But I finally have a product that I can truly say, "I'm going to miss that a lot."

I also checked out Chick-Fil-a and Einstein's Bagels. We have both on campus. I need to find out what brand of vinegar our Chick uses, but there are options there, thanks to their wonderful nutritional information.

And Einsteins has two salads that will work. I know this because I called a quizzed the people there. Their nutrition information is more about calories and less about ingredients. That troubles me, but I can make it work.

One of the hardest things I've faced is explaining why I can't just "take the meat off the bread," or why it matters if the pickles are fried in the same stuff as the French fries. After the elimination diet I was on, even the smallest amount of guten causes trouble. It's getting tougher and tougher to eat out. I need to get more organized, that's for sure.

Maintaining a GF lifestyle can be time consuming and annoying. But happily, it's worth it. I've never felt better!

Much love and have some ham for me :-)

Sunday, August 12, 2007

In praise of pasta

I've mentioned several times here that I'm a big fan of Tinkyada's line of pasta. Today, our good friends Paula and Steve were coming to dinner, and I had a craving for lasagna.

Pictured above is what is left of the pan of lasagna I made. It's so true -- if you didn't know if wasn't traditional pasta, you'd never know with this Tinkyada Pasta product. . That, and it is the EASIEST pasta I've ever worked with. I'd recommend it even if you don't eat GF food!

Everyone has a lasagna recipe, right? If not, here's one that is based on my Italian family's recipe.


Prepare pasta: Boil a large pot of salted water and add Tinkyada lasagna noodles; boil for one minute, turn off the heat, cover the pan, and wait 10 minutes. This provides the perfect al dente pasta for stuffed lasagna. Rinse in cold water and drain and dry over side of colander.

Sauce for lasagna

One tube Jimmy Dean Italian Bulk Sausage
a generous pinch of red paper (adds heat -- you can leave it out)
one chopped onion
One pound chopped mushrooms
six cloves of garlic chopped
1/8 c. Penzys Italian Dressing Mix OR 1 envelope Good Seasons Zesty Italian Dressing Mix or Italian herbs, fresh or dried, like oregano, basil, tarragon, and the like (This was my mother's "secret" to sauce. I love it.)
four fresh chopped tomatoes or 28 ounces drained diced tomatoes
32 oz (one quart) of spaghetti sauce, your own homemade leftover or jarred (today I used Muir Glen Four Cheese Sauce)

This will make enough for one large pan of lasagna with a container of sauce left over for another meal:

Saute onions and garlic in olive oil til tender; add sausage and cook til no longer pink. Drain and add mushrooms and tomatoes, seasoning, and red pepper. Add sauce and simmer one hour. Turn off heat and left meat sink to bottom of pan. That makes the first layer easy, (Clearly, if you have leftover homemade sauce, which I usually use, crumble up the sausage, pick out the meatballs, and reheat.)

Cheese layers for stuffed lasagna:

2 cups shredded Italian cheese mix (Sargento is GF)
1/2 sliced fresh mozzarella cheese
1 container fresh ricotta cheese, NOT FAT FREE
2 3ggs
1 T. Mrs. Dash Herb and Garlic mix, or garlic powder and italian seasoning.

In a bowl, mix the ricotta and 1/2 cup shredded cheese, add eggs and herbs set aside.

Optiona second layer: Four sliced hard-cooked eggs; 8 sliced or chopped cooked meatballs; 1 cup shredded roasted chicken, tossed together in a bown.

You have enough noodles in the package for three layers with a layer of pasta on top and on bottom. Save three of the prettiest ones for the top. I got very little splitting and tearing from this product. Tonight I only made TWO layers, thus leaving out the eggs, meatballs and chicken. But it's a nice special additional layer.

Layer one: Ladle sauce without too much meat in it on the bottom of 13 by 9 by 2 pan. Make this a light smear of sauce. Put three noodles on top of this. Add 2/3 of ricotta mixture, then top with a layer of sauce; top with another three-noodle layer.
(Note: The optional second layer here is a layer of eggs, meatballs, and sauce. Top with three more noodles.)
Next layer: Add 1/3 ricotta cheese mixture and top with all the sliced mozzarella. Add a layer of meat sauce and top with three more noodles. To end, top with a thin smear of sauce and the rest of the grated cheese.
Note: If you use the optional middle layer, USE A DEEPER PAN. Use at least a 13 by 9 by 4 or 5 pan for that.

Cover the finished lasagna with foil and allow to rest (if possible) for six hours or overnight if you can. Before baking, tent the foil (so the cheese won't stick) and bake at 350 for one hour. Remove cover and bake 15 more minutes til bubbly.

Serves 6-8.

I served this with Caprese salad: Layered tomatoes, basil, and fresh mozzarella topped with the balsamic vinagrette of your choice. Allow the salad to marinate at least one hour before serving. I also made sauteed fresh spinach. For desert, we had fresh fruit and Pamela's Peanut Butter GF Cookies.

Kudos, Tinkyada -- you make this italian girl SO HAPPY. Someday soon I'll post my mac and cheese adapted beautifully, too.

Much love and are you hungry yet?


Saturday, August 11, 2007

The vast wasteland

otherwise known as "A Trip to Macon."

I was kidding a friend the other day, but I have never considered Macon destination shopping, but with this new gluten free diet, I wanted to survey my options. Macon is about 30 minutes from my house, so it's the closest "city."


I can't tell you how disappointed I was by the availability there. I went first to Mia's Health Food Store, which, though they're lovely people, is no mecca for the gluten free. They don't have any more Larabar selections that my Kroger here, and they had fewer bags of Tinkyada pasta than I have in my pantry! I mean, I have more in stock than THEY DO!

Also, I'm really not comfortable patronizing a store that passes out the Phyllis Schafley newsletter. I'm sorry, but I choose not to go back there. Their organic produce section is smaller than the one in Milledgeville's Kroger. So I guess I'll just bug them and shop at home.

Another disappointment: Publix in Macon. Pickins were slimmer there than in Milledgeville, too. GAH, to quote Jena.

I did find some beautiful produce at the Georgia Farmer's Market, though. That is always worth a trip. I know if it's there, it probably is either 1. locally grown or 2. comes from the Cordele Farmer's Market, which is the state market for middle Georgia. It's supportive of local, sustainable stuff, which is fine with me.

Awkward seque: Awkward, because as much as I care about food contents, I still like ham :-).

I was seriously interested in a ham bone from Honey Baked Ham, only to find that their crunchy toppping has wheat starch in it. I am going to par boil the bone, drain it and pat it dry, and then use the one I bought (there's almost no glaze on it and that glaze isn't injected, so it doesn't penetrate). Thank goodness their turkey doesn't have it on there. It's Gluten Free, but sadly, Honey Baked Ham isn't.

It just baffles my mind the things that have wheat gluten added. I wanted to patronize a Jerry's Kids sidewalk sundae sale at Publix, but the ICE CREAM they were using had wheat starch in it. DAMN.

I told Randy on the way home, it saddens me that I can't get things I want in Macon. It's so close. But on the happier side, I now have a more regular reason to go to Atlanta and see my Daddy -- not that I needed one, but it's nice to add to the trip.

Much love as I have to go rinse out my new streaky hair color....


Thursday, August 9, 2007


I just saw this recipe in the Flavors from Afar email newsletter, and I have one word for it: YUM!

I want a record of it so I'm posting it here.

Fig and Goat Cheese Tapenade

1 c chopped stemmed dried figs
1/3 c water
1/3 c kalamata olives
2T Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1 T balsamic vinegar
1T drained capers - chopped
1 1/2 t fresh thyme chopped
Two 5.5 oz soft goat cheese cut into 1/2" thick rounds
1/2 c chopped toasted walnuts
1/4 c toasted walnut halves.

Cook figs and water in med/hi heat until no liqui and figs are soft, about 7 minutes Mix in olives, olive oil, vinegar, capers and thyme. Season with salt and pepper Arrange overlapping cheese rounds. Stir walnuts into tapenade - spoon over cheese - garnish with walnut and thyme sprigs.

A gluten-free cruise

with Alina, my new BBGFFF (best gluten-free friend forever)

Two weeks ago today, our extended family got back from a five-night Caribbean cruise on the Carnival Inspiration.

And everyone knows what you do on cruises, right? EAT EAT EAT!

I was worried about this, frankly. Our July 21 departure was only two months into my elimination diet, and I didn't want to regress. I also didn't want to find myself in dire straits on a cruise ship in the middle of the ocean! But Randy reminded me of the woman at our table two years ago with a gluten allergy, and they had fresh bread for her, special recommendations for entrees, and yummy deserts every night.

And thanks to a lovely young woman named Alina, I had six days of outstanding gluten-free cruise! I highly recommend it to everyone, even though it takes a little work.

Here's what it required of me: First, about three weeks in advance, I called Carnival and told them I had a food allergy. I reported I was on a gluten-free diet. I even mentioned the C word --- Celiac -- to make sure they got the point.

The reservation agent took this down, and sent me a form to fill out asking if I'd be bringing my own wheelchair and oxygen.

I called once more t to be sure. Yes, they knew I was on a sugar and wheat-free diet and would be ready for me.

At dinner, I told our head waiter, Pronoy, and with great efficiency, he brought me some gluten-free bread. It was the first I'd ever tasted AND was the first I'd had all summer. Warm and toasted, it was delicious with butter. Yummm. He told me to tell my server at breakfast and he or she would also bring me bread. But the only dessert available was ice cream or fruit -- while my tablemates ate molten chocolate cake, I sulked.

I was a little disgruntled after breakfast. I was hungry, and I wanted that bread with my poached eggs and yogurt. The bread arrived long after I ate the eggs, but I happily ate the bread. I decided to discuss it with the purser's desk to be sure.

That was whenI learned lesson, and I share this with anyone on a cruise with a food allergy: When you arrive in the main dining room, find the maitre d or hostess, and check in. They're the "keepers of the list" -- the list of passengers on board with a food allergy. In fact, don't wait -- speak to them immediately upon arriving at dinner the first night. The purser assured me they wanted to serve me correctly, and told me it would be corrected. It was -- immediately. Within a half hour after this conversation, the dining room maitre d, Babu ('re a very very bad man, Jerry. He said that all the time) had called and left a message. Sadly, my Dad didn't catch who called, so at lunch, I checked in with the maitre d on duty.

That's when I met Alina. From that second on, she took such good care of me. For the next 15 meals, I had an assortment of bread and lucious desserts. She made sure I didn't order anything with the wrong sauce on it (once I forgot about soy sauce in teriyaki sauce...oops). And for dessert, I had sugar free chocolate mousse in a candy cup, warm coconut creme brulee, creme anglaise with fresh berries, and a lovely black and white mousse. For breakfast, I had a gracious plenty of homemade French toast; for lunch, a special hamburger on the GF bread. I ate so much, I had to start adding Joy Peterson's favorite fruit (not) to my diet.

By the second day, Alina and I were buddies. She asked lots of questions about my diet, saying it helped her help other customers. She was kind to my son Jeffrey, always remember his name (and mine). I gave her an enormous tip and our phone number in Tampa when she's in port.

I was sad to leave her on Thursday. She came by our table and said she wished she could send me home with some extra bread, but customs considered it a forbidden agriculture product (since it's not wrapped and made in a plant, I guess).

But I was really impressed. This kitchen served 2,700 people every day, and I felt special, not singled out. In fact, some days I felt a little guilty -- at breakfast, Alina would arrive at the table with a plate piled high with GF French toast, warm sugar free syrup, and a pile of turkey bacon. At dinner, I always had beautiful steamed vegetables on my plate.

I gave you one tip, which was check in early. The second tip is to bring a small supply of snacks. While the dining room really caters to someone with a food allergy, it's really hard to partake in the buffets and other dining venues. There are lots of casseroles, enhanced with cream sauce and pasta, so one has to be careful. They don't have much on the room service menu, either. These snacks are especially important when you're in smaller ports. Just to be safe. I had nuts, Larabars, and some dried fruit. Of course, if I'd told Alina, I'm sure I'd have whatever i wanted at my disposal.

A third tip is to make sure you register you food allergy in advance. That "food allergy" list I mentioned -- it's long. There are kids with peanut allergies, vegetarians, vegans, even, and LOTS of diabetcs.

Finally, realize that their food may cause something of a reaction because it's simply not your food. You might have some discomfort. To be safe, I brought along my usually remedies.

Consider it, and don't worry -- have fun. With proper precautions, you can have a safe and very delicious gluten-free cruise!

Much love and bon voyage!

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

Pickled Okra

On the way home from Florida, I bought some beautiful fresh okra, emerald green and crisp, and some were the perfect size to make pickled okra.

Never pickled your own okra? It's one of the easiest to do!

You'll need:

•About 2 dozen okra pods the height of your jars, packed tight into two clean, sterilized wide-mouthed jars (I do my jars and rings in the dishwasher, then I boil the flat lids in water for 5 minutes. You can reuse jars and rings, but not the flat lids.) Wide mouth jars work best, and this time of year, you can find the lids and rings cheaply at the store (but I always keep them on hand). Be sure to use canning jars, not old glass -- the hot vinegar could burst them. These are easy to find at garage sales, but I also have a few on hand.
•Four garlic cloves for each jar and three hot red dried peppers for each jar.
•A bottle of cider vinegar (the cheap kind will do); make sure it's a clear or pale vinegar

in a saucepan, boil the garlic, peppers and vinegar to a rolling boil. Fish out the garlic and peppers and divide among jars. Add a generous pinch of salt to the jars. Pour hot vinegar into each jar to the top.
If you have fresh dill in your garden, add a generous sprig in each jar. I like spicy garlic; if you don't, use the dill and leave that out. Don't leave out the salt, though.

Cover with lids and let cool on countertop. Store in the bottom of the refrigerator for about three weeks and then consume. They're great in a bloody mary, but I like to eat them all alone. And I've seen them chopped on BBQ Pork Nachos at Lee Roy Selmon's in Tampa. Two words: YUM YUM.

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Pantry purge

Yesterday I cleared and restocked my pantry. With a couple of exceptions, all the wheat products are gone!
Isn't it lovely?
And check out my fabulous Larabar basket. Thank goodness I stocked up!

(OK this was a test. I finally figured out pictures! Thanks, Julie.)

Another one hits the list

And this time, it's Applebees.

Most of my students who read know I teach mass media law; I'm not a lawyer, but I have studied law, especially the law of libel. What I'm about to write here is not libel: it is true, it is a true reporting of an exchange I had with Applebees, and I am being fair to them.

But I want to warn people: if you have an allergy to any food, you should know how Applebee's feels about this. After having such good luck at Chili's, I wrote them and asked them if they had such a list. Here is the very polite response.

Dear Ginger,

Thank you for your recent request for a list of wheat-free menu items
available at Applebee's. Due to the frequency in which we change our
menus, as well as the small risk of cross-contamination, we can not
provide the list you requested. The health and safety of our guests is
simply too important to risk sharing inaccurate or outdated nutritional

You may call us at 888-59APPLE and a Guest Relations Coordinator can
work with specific requests regarding any of the FDA's Top 8 Allergens
(dairy, soy, wheat, eggs, shellfish, fish, treenut and peanut) that may
be contained in our core menu items. You can reach us between 7:00 a.m.
and 7:00 p.m. Monday through Thursday, 7:00 a.m. and 4:00 p.m. Friday,
or between 10:00 a.m. and 3:00 p.m., on Saturday. All times listed
are Central Standard Time.

For some reason, that just set me off. I thought about it for an hour, and I sent them the following reply. I'm afraid the PR bitch that I can be really lost it.

Actually, XXXXX, your response tells me that I don't
need to eat at Appleebees any more. If your servers
and kitchen aren't provided with this BASIC
information, then there's no way you can protect your
guests like me with allergies. You may be worried
about cross contamination, but I'm more worried that
the only times you can help me are certain times
during the day when it's convenient for your customer
service department.

I know you're trying to be helpful, but I need more
assurance. Don't worry, there are plenty of other
places that WILL give me that list up front without my
calling them on their schedule.

I'm sorry if I sound a little frosty, but you have to
understand: I didn't choose this lifestyle, like some
of your guests choose to go on Weight Watchers. If
you want to cater to them, it your right. I applaud
that, too.

But at least 3 in 100 Americans have a wheat allergy.
Wonder what it would do to your business if you
advertised and promoted a menu that supported THAT in
your stores.

Food for thought. I thank you for your timely
response, and I really do not mean to shoot the
messenger. Feel free to share this with others. I
promise, I'm really a nice person. I just can't eat

Ginger Carter Miller, Ph.D.

This is my right to fair comment. I'm not telling you not to go to Applebees, I'm just saying, if you care about knowing what's in your food, they're probably not going to know. I mean, I was at a local Mexican place last night and asked the server, who spoke English but was new at it, how the fajitas were seasoned, and she came back with the word "worchestershire" written on the back of her order pad! THAT is service, and that's why I'll go there instead.

Earlier this summer, pre-blog, I also gave up on The Cheesecake Factory. They're not on the bad list -- they just politely said NO, we can't tell you what's in the food because the chef has control at each store. I know if I go there, I have to ask for the chef to find out. I'm not that enamoured with them to make that effort. But in MillyVegas, well, Applebees is a staple for us -- Jeffrey loves it. The fact that they won't even provide a ready list for CORE MENU ITEMS (and not those Tyler Florence things) is really upsetting. I know I probably made too much of this, but it was very condescending, in my opinion.

Sometimes life is about choice and sometimes it's not. I didn't choose this gluten allergy thing, but I sure can choose who gets my money.

Much love and a straightforward list of ingredients!


Monday, August 6, 2007

GF Laugh of the Day

I almost killed my child because he had to have Popeye's Fried Chicken on the way home from work today. I'm so converting my recipe for Fried Chicken this weekend.

but I digress...

Conversation in health food store parking lot after I gleefully purchase a Nana's Oatmeal Raisin Cookie (GF):

Me: (Doing the happy dance and song by my car. A passerby looks at me askance.) I'm a happy girl.

Randy: I'll have chocolate.

Me: This is better.

Randy: silence

I take a bite.

Me: BLEAH. This is horrible. It's mushy and has no flavor, and it has a really bitter after-taste. Bleah. I can't believe I ate that!
(....pause) Want a bite?

Randy: Though with salesmanship features like that, it's hard to do so, but I think I'll pass.

Sorry, Nana's, but so will I in the future.


Adventures in the MillyVegas GF wilderness

...or, as they call it here, Kroger.

This morning, after I took Jeffrey to work (and while Randy was deep in sleep) I ventured into our local Kroger. You have to understand something about Kroger here. Until a few months ago, when Wally World started selling organic stuff, it was the only grocery store in town with a dedicated health food section. When the store opened six or so years ago (replacing a Bi-Lo) you would have thought it was the second coming of Jesus already. With two college communities here, there is adequate (that word again) interest and support for organics and the like. Some folks are in food co-ops. But there aren't many local home-grown farm stands, which surprises me. You have to get lucky and know someone with a garden (which, thankfully, I do).

I've always thought Kroger was adequate for my needs -- they sold Amy's products, before anyone else, and it has Bob's Red Mill and various soy milks. They sold Kashi when Kashi wasn't cool. I buy a lot of frozen vegetables, so they have good brands there, too. But I've been dreading my first GF foray into the Kay-rogere...

So today, armed with my trusty magnifier, I went in search of the GF foods.

The pickins are slim, folks. The pickins are slim.

1. No frozen GF bread (but five kinds of whole wheat, one with an inch thick of ice on the bottom of the bag. ICK).

2. Six, maybe seven Amy's GF products, but no pizza.

3. TWO kinds of DeBoles brown rice pasta, the same ones at the Wally World.

4. FOUR Pamela's mixes -- the good ones like chocolate cake and brownies.

5. An outstanding selection of Bob's products -- all I need.

6. Three GF type's of Barbara's Puffins.

7. One kind of white and brown rice bread, the same brand.

and the most hopeful for last:

8. THREE kinds of Larabars!

They've just started over the summer stocking no-additive chicken (good news) but I've gotten used to a butcher shop that is so good, well, this was depressing. Just depressing.

The hummus I like was $2 a container more than it is in Tampa, which is also depressing. I need to bring the food processor back with me so I make it myself again.

The selection is adequate to get me through in a pinch. I spoke to the manager and asked him to please order the Tinkyada white and brown rice pasta (I hope he will. He wrote it in his palm pilot) and please get more Larabars. But they need to have a meeting with a few individuals who purchase stuff from them, and really beef up their product line for GF eating. I know it's a sea of folks out there in the Ville.

Much love as I commence to unpack...


Sunday, August 5, 2007

Back in the 'ville, and a pleasant surprise

It was a long drive and a long day, but we're back in Georgia. I did discover a couple of gluten-free jewels on 1-75. Luckily they did not cause traffic to back up!

At exit 5, just in the Georgia line, is a great Sonny's restaurant. I say it is great because of their amazing salad bar. What makes it amazing is the lovely woman named Pamela who runs the salad bar. She makes every salad on there (tuna, smoked turkey, etc.) and she can tell you EXACTLY what is and isn't in there. For instance, there are no onions in the tuna, which made my dear onionless Randy happy, and there are no marshmallows in the Watergate salad, just pudding and pineapple. And they have plain chunked, unsauced turkey on there, too! She'll even tell you what kind of mayonnaise she uses if you ask (I didn't, but she was that nice). There's a lot of dressing choices, too, plus pickes, olives, okra, etc. I had a hearty lunch and drove on with no ill effect.

At exit 109 is one of my favorite places on I-75, Ellis Brothers Pecans. They make all their own candies there, and their nuts are freshly roasted and cracked. OK, it's not your place if you have a nut allergy...and I'm sorry for that. But they list all the ingredients in their candies (in English since they are made there and not elsewhere) and even have a great selection of sugar free stuff. They also have homemade preserves and the like. REALLY FINE STUFF. They're also a certified farmers market, so I got some beautiful okra (more friend okra coming up soon) and fresh figs, Not the big ones, but the beautiful little ones that grow here in Georgia. YUM. I'm getting some in a few minutes. I also got some roasted pecans. We Georgia (state, not UGA, sorry Julie) love our pecans.

I was pleasantly surprised when I went to our Wally World (Wal Mart) to find DeBoles Brown Rice Pasta AND Spaghetti, Van's Wheat-free Waffles, and a decent selection of Amy's Entrees. I also found my favorite peanut butter and Activia Prune Yogurt (sorry, Joy, but I like it). There's also a new cheese that's overpriced but has active cultures in it. I checked it, and it's wheat additive free.

Perhaps the most pleasant surprise came at Chili's in Milledgeville, which now wins the champion award for catering to someone who is gluten free. (Me!) I asked our server a specific question about their fries, and she went to ask the manager, who brough out the BOX so I could make sure it was not dipped in flour. Then he told me what else is fried in that oil (just fries). The manager was very nice when alerted to my allergy, before he found out who the customer was -- the manager was my former student Bo Smith, who then told me some additional details about the food there.

Bo said managers at all Chili's are alerted to be ultra attentive if a customer identifies an allergy and need. I like that (as I said, he didn't know it was his old prof, just a customer with an allergy). He asked some good questions, too -- he didn't know about the soy sauce issue, or why most Ranch and Blue Cheese dressings aren't permitted. Some things he told me:

1) Ask about the arrangement of the fryers. You might be OK if the store separates cheese sticks and fries, if that is a big problem for you. You, too, could have fries with that!

2) Their fajitas are not GF because put soy sauce on their onions, but I didn't ask what brand. I might call and ask...if it's LaChoy, then it would be OK. Or you could ask they not add any -- it's added during cooking, not before :-) And they also will gladly substitute corn tortillas for wheat.

3) They have a list available for every potential food allergy, from nuts to soy to eggs to wheat to milk. He gave me a copy, and it is quite nice. In the GF category, all their ribs, most of their steaks, some of the chicken, and some of the fish are prepared GF (and of course the burgers, without the bun...) But they really will leave stuff off it you ask. If you're really concerned, ask the manager to give you the 10-page Chili's Allergen Information Guide.

You can ask Randy, I've never really liked Chili's much, but now, I'm a new convert. I feel like I can get a good meal there, prepared to suit my needs. Their list is complete and good, their people know the ingredients, and they were willing to help a customer with a food allergy.

Kudos, also to the server, Kim Moseley, who attends my university but isn't one of my majors :-(. She was very attentive and did exactly the right thing.

If you read this and haven't seen the list and want more, let me know in the comments and I'll zap it over to you.

Much love from home, sweet home.


Saturday, August 4, 2007

Tampa Bay Summer 2007 GF Honor Roll

"All my bags are packed, I'm ready to go..."
and I hate it. I know I'm leaving a city with a plethora of resources for the gluten free diabetic, and it seems like so long until my next visit and extended stay.

But before i leave, I wanted to leave for you the Tampa Bay GF Honor Roll, based on my personal testing and tasting.

1. J Christopher's on Dale Mabry. The manager, Bill, is such a great guy. When I asked if I could bring in GF bread (of any kind) to go with my meals, he said "Of course!" Now if you know restaurants, you know they don't usually like this. But not only can I provide some GF bread, they'll toast it, make French Toast with it, and generally help me out. This doesn't cost me a lot of money to do, and it doesn't hurt them. Their service is impeccable, too -- perfect poached eggs, great Tangerine iced tea, and their turkey sausage is outstanding. They're also wireless for those laptop moments.

2. Next door is Abby's, and I think it's the best health food store in town. For one, they have an enormous GF section, but they also have a great restaurant in the back. I spoke with the chef a few weeks ago, and he said they don't cook with a lot of wheat because a lot of people are sensitive. So they make their Tabboule with Quinoa, not wheat, and their roasted beet salad is amazing. They do an awesome hummus, in several flavors, too. It's not just vegetarian, either. There's meat and chicken, plus other things. BEST of all, they can tell you what is in the food. I love that. Eat in or take out, it's amazingly wonderful. PLUS it's a Larabar and Tinkyada heaven, and they have no-sugar added dried papaya, pineapple, and mango in the bins there. THAT is hard to find (and such a favorite treat for me!)

3. The Hurricane at St. Pete Beach gets props because they don't mind the questions and will make accommodations for the GF diner. Fresh seafood, not breaded, prepared nicely, with a decent price. I liked it a lot. Plus they've got a beautiful sunset outside most days...

4. Even though my friend Cary is gone, I still recommend Pannarano on the corner of Himes and Busch. I went on about them a few posts back, but I still like that they will try to make it work for you.

5. Ditto for 5 Guys Burgers at Fletcher and Dale Mabry.

I also had some good dining experiences at Lee Roy Selmon's (love the Pork and Chicken Nachos,) Samurai Blue in Ybor City, Tijuana Flats, and Gino's on Armenia. This means if I asked a specific ingredient question, the server was polite and went into the kitchen to get me an answer!

Besides Abby's, the Health Food Store on McDill and Nutrition S'Mart had a good supply of GF products, as did Wild Oats. But I took issue with something at Nutrition S'Mart -- they labeled a loaf of fresh-baked local bread as "wheat and gluten free" but the label CLEARLY said it "Could contain traces of wheat, rye, and gluten." I could likely get away with a trace, but not everyone can. And I don't want to take a chance. I put the bread back.

The wall of shame....well, check out the list on the side there.

That's my thoughts for now...I'll be Gluten free in Georgia tomorrow, and that, my friends, will be the real adventure.

Much love til later...

Bunker mentality

No, not Archie or Edith...

I'm headed back to MillyVegas tomorrow for school and it's been a whole two months since I've had food in my refrigerator at home. Alas, my pantry there (which is overstocked ALL THE TIME - I'm one of those who can usually make any recipe because of this. I usually have it on hand) is not GF. I know I can give the stuff with gluten in it to my ex and his fiancee (it's good food, and I did this a while back when I went totally sugar free). But I've got a bit of pasta, a bit of cream based soups, a few mixes, that I won't use.

Now Jeffrey loves egg noodles, and I'll have to keep those on hand. But he makes his own mac and cheese (thank you Kraft for Easy Mac!)

So we set out today to stock my pantry til I can find a health food store again. I hit my fav fruit stand for mangoes (no, they do not have champagne mangos in Georgia) and a few other things. I also got some local avocados and limes.

The MillyVilla (we call that home our country home) is devoid of health food stores. With a college like ours there, you wonder why. The Kroger has a decent organic section but I don't know what I'll find there. I'm doubtful about Wally World and the Piggly Wiggly (stop laughing. You know I'm southern, and that is a real place.)

While Randy did a preliminary web search of Macon and Greensboro/Lake Oconee (where sadly except for Publix and a store called Amy's, the pickins are slim) I decided to call the GNC in MillyVilly. When I was on Sugarbusters a while back (great diet, BTW) I found lots of good stuff there like agave nectar and stevia and such. Here is the enlightened conversation.

Me: Hi, do you stock gluten free products in your store.
Clerk: uh, what?
Me: Gluten-free products.
Clerk: Uh (pause grunt) let me check.
Me: Nothing
Clerk: Nuh uh. CLICK

So I waited a few minutes to call back. I'm pretty sure neither of the people there knew what I meant by Gluten Free. So I tried again.
Me: (changing my voice a bit) Do you sell a product called Larabars?
Same Clerk: Let me check. Do they come in an orange box?
Me: Some do -- but there are about 13 flavors.
Clerk: I think we did, but we're out.
Me: What about any wheat free pasta or rice pasta.
Clerk: No.

OV VEY! P.S. GNC, you're on the list...

Amy's in Macon does sell two kinds of Larabar and Tinkyada pasta, so I have a little hope there. But two kinds? I'm heading to the Larabar site to inquire about mail order as soon as I finish this.

So I went to Abby's Health and Nutrition on Dale Mabry, $100 and about 25 Larabars and lots of pasta later, I am set for a couple of months. I have lasagne noodles for this week (I'll post the recipe, I promise -- it's my family recipe).

But I have to find a local and better source for the Larabars. They're so amazing and work with my blood sugar issues so well, I need them! I wrote this just for them

Ode to the Larabar
by me.
(Tune: America the Beautiful)

You're wheat and added sugar free
It's like you're made for me!
You're filled with healthy nuts and fruit
Your power sets me free!

Oh Larabar, sweet Larabar,
You make my meals complete
And snack time too, I promise you
you're number 1 with me.

The jocolat tastes just like fudge
and makes my tummy smile;
The pecan pie bar is a treat
that drive this lady wild!

When I was last in Mexico
I saw some Mole sauce;
but it did not hold candle one
to Cocoa Mole bars!


OK, enough. You get it. I love Larabars.

I'll post my ode to Tinkyada pasta soon, with my modified mac and cheese recipe. You'll love it for a special occasion, I promise (as long as you're not lactose intolerant.)

Tomorrow we head north. Much love til I blog some again!

Thought for the day

From my Y buddy Florence. This made me laugh out loud! And we all need a laugh.

Friday, August 3, 2007

Field peas, fried okra, corn and cornbread!

It's New Year's Day at the Miller abode! I have been thinking all day about the year in front of me, and tonight I'm fixing a traditional southern New Year's Dinner -- field peas (black-eyed peas, no humps), fried okra, fried corn, cornbread, tomatoes and bar-b-que chicken. Our dear friend Larry will be over for dinner in an hour, so I've only got a few minutes to write for now.

All gluten free!

Today has been very New Year's like, somewhat bittersweet. In an "Auld Lang Syne" kind of way, I've said good-bye for now to my YMCA water buddies -- Florence, Sandy, Cookie, Connie, Ann, Tony and Richard, plus our lunch buddy, Louie. We all went to Tijuana Flats for lunch and had a lovely time and exchanged email addresses. Randy will see them every time he goes to work out at the Y, but I won't see them til late September. I'll miss them all -- I'm sad Mary Ellen and Maggie weren't there, as I'll miss them, too. And I also said bye to Connie, who has been such fun in another class. These folks have been a great deal of fun this summer. We talked about food and vacations and movies and cruises and Prince William and Paris Hilton. And on Fridays, we went to lunch (I know, work out and head to lunch. GREAT FUN!) I have to say I will especially miss Florence, because she reminds me of my mom. That, and I am envious of her tattoo....

On to recipes for dinner:

How do I make fried okra gluten free? I have always done fried okra one way -- I cut fresh okra into small rounds and dust it with corn meal mix. Since I gave that Martha White stuff up ('s the best) I will sprinkle it with cornmeal only and fry it in canola oil. Cut it into little pieces and put in a bowl, then let the cornmeal adhere to the "okra juice." It makes wonderful, crispy fried okra (I got in the mood for it last night at dinner, but since they didn't know if it was battered in flour or not, I passed).

The peas are easy, as is the corn. Peas get gently boiled with a little bit of seasoning, and I will fry the corn in a little olive oil and butter in a wok until it's crisp tender. I use frozen bagged silver queen with no additives (which I get at the Fresh Market). You can use plain on frozen niblets, too. Works fine. Salt and pepper when finished.

Now, the cornbread is cool. I've seen other people offer a recipe for corn bread, but mine is southern style. First, you heat your DCS (dedicated cornbread skillet - you have one, right? Cast iron, perfectly seasoned?) at 425 with 1/4 cup or so of canola oil (I used to use Crisco, but this works fine). Use an oil that can hold the high heat.


1 cup cornmeal (stone ground is best)
3/4 c. brown rice flour
1/4 cup tapioca flour (or 1 cup of a non-sweet mix)
1 heaping t. Zanthan gum
1 t. baking powder (GF)
1 t. salt
2 eggs beaten (or egg substitute if you must)
1 1/4 c. buttermilk (or any milk will do, even soy, but we like buttermilk) or perhaps a little more
1/4 c. plus 2 T. oil for the frying pan

Mix wet and dry and incorporate wet into dry. Pour all but a little bit of the hot oil from the frying pan in the mixture (leave enough hot oil to cover the bottom) and stir quickly (it will sizzle), the pour the batter back into the frying pan (it will also sizzle). THIS is the key to that crunchy crust we love so much. Bake 20 minutes at 425 degrees until golden brown. Take it out and invert it on a place, and serve it bottom up to show off the crust! (OK you can flip it if you want to. Your choice.) It will be fluffy and beautiful. Leftovers, if there are any, are delicious split and buttered and popped under the broiler.

Please note: NO SUGAR, please, I'm southern. If you're not and want to add it, go ahead, but to us, that's a sacrilege. And if you don't have a DCS (or corn stick pan, either one) then do this in a dark/heavy 8 by 8 pan. Don't use the silicone stuff for this - ouch.

This is the second recipe I experimented with as I've started cooking GF, as it's an essential in my house. I can eat off a pan of corn bread for about week myself, and it's GREAT in soup or chili, or topped with pinto beans and chopped onions. Or crumble it in a glass of milk even works for this!

I added some sliced tomato from my Daddy's garden, and voila (or VWA-LAH, as some of students have written in the past).

Happy New Years! And much love in my new year!

Thursday, August 2, 2007

It's New Year's Eve!

And I am preparing for a lovely dinner with our dear friends Tim and Robin tonight.

I was going to smoke some ribs on our Big Green Egg (more on it later) but it has been raining since mid-day yesterday. NOT smoker material.

But I am following my mother's advice (rest her soul). What you do on New Year's Eve, you do all year. So I am going to relax, enjoy my lovely husband, and share time with friends.

This is to segue to a comment that has plagued me since I made the switch to GF: Why do servers get so hostile when you ask for specifics at restaurants?

For instance, we were at a place we enjoy earlier this week, Pannarano Pizza (more on it later, too). I had decided I would have a Sausage Parmigiana sub sans bread and green peppers. I PLANNED for it. I know where they get their sausage and it's GF. Ditto their marinara. They do it in a nice little ceramic container away from the pizza dust.

They were out of sausage. Grrrrr. So, I asked, what is in your meatballs? They were so sweet -- they offered to get the box and let me read the ingredients. Of course, since I found out they didn't make them, I had my answer -- it had to have bread crumbs in it (I personally make mine with ground GF oatmeal...but I digress).

So I had a Philly cheese steak instead. Yum yum. And no reactions.

But my point, and I swear there is one, when I asked the uber chic server at PF Chang's, which NATIONALLY ADVERTISES that is has a GF menu, what was in the food, he had no clue. What is that crunchy stuff on top, I asked? I dunno. Want me to ask? What do YOU THINK?

Let me add this: My dear friend Sandy Killam-Hall, MS, RD, is a vegetarian and for the 20 or so years we've been friends, I've watched her poll kitchen staffs and waiters. She has it down, and I want it too. She won't patronize a place that won't tell her what is in her food. Why should she? I mean, she's paying for it!

But what I can't stand is the attitude...look, 1. I am polite when I ask. 2. I explain that the food additives make me sick. 3. I smile a lot. 4. You get it right, and I tip big. How hard is that? I had a significant reaction the next two days, including all the bad stuff.

I do that with sugar, too, especially in teas and drinks.

Look, it's not like I chose this! I am GF because I get the screaming epizootis when I eat gluten. I blow up like a tick. Just because I'm fat, don't assume I'm on a fad diet (Atkins) or something like that. You want my business? I'm very loyal to those who treat me right (I'm very deontological that way).

So let me say a couple more things about Pannarano, the great lil pizza place. It's in the shopping center at the corner of Himes and Busch Blvd. next to Beef O Brady's. A few weeks ago, the former manager (sadly, he's gone now...) Cary Lee (a prince among men) decided I needed a gluten-free pizza. All summer he'd been telling me to bring him some flour and he'd make me a pizza. So I took some Bob's Red flour and he experimented and made a crust when he knew I was coming in. I LOVED IT. It was crisp and thin (which I happen to like best) and he topped with sausage and onion and sauce. And best of all -- NO REACTIONS! (He said he even made it in a different part of the kitchen :D ) Sadly, he doesn't work there any more and I'm heading home soon, so my pizza days are done for now. But they have great salads (love the Greek, no dressing) and they will make that killer Sausage Parm for me.

Or take 5 Guys Burgers. I know, a burger place? But they individually wrap each burger or all-beef GF Kosher hot dog in aluminum, and they're more than happy to leave out the bun. And they keep the buns away from the burgers until assembly! (Now, they don't pretend to be gluten-free like Outback. They're just nice.)
But I love that I can have a tasty ground beef burger, some wholesome fries, and some good toppings there without worry. Kudos, 5 Guys!

Service. That's what I'm talking about.

Happy new year's eve. And much love for reading this...

The summer of MEEEEEEEEEEEEEE (or things I've learned about gluten freedom, pt. 2)

There are some things I've found on my own (and others surely know about) that I really need to make this work. Without them, and I'm sitting on the couch with the peanut butter and a spoon (wait...I do that anyway).
So I give you


1) Larabars. Especially Pecan Pie and Cocoa Mole. They sustain me through my YMCA workouts. I read a lot of labels to find them.

2) Plum juice. No, not prune juice, plum juice. Sweeter with the same effect, if you catch my meaning. Plums are just prunes with a good marketing campaign behind them.

3) Penzys Spices -- dried shallots, especially, since Randy won't eat onions, and their Country French Vinagrette seasoning. ALL of them, really. No food starch, no additives, and they know their stuff. I mean, you call them, they know. Kudos to their magazine Penzys One, even if I do have to adapt it.

4) Yogurt. Stoneyfield Farm. Activia (I took the challenge). There's a great one here in Tampa that has Mango and Guava flavor. YUM. Milk is problematic for me, but yogurt is not. I love the stuff.

5) Hummus. I love the Sabra brand, but I had a seriously bad reaction to the baba ghanoush earlier. The caponata is great, too. No food starch.

6) Peanut butter: Smart Balance Omega creamy (for now). I want to try crunchy. The best PB in a jar out there, and I've tried them all.

7) Tinkyada Brown Rice pasta and Ancient Harvest Quinoa pasta. I'm Italian. I have to have pasta. These are tasty and hold up well.

8) Basic corn tortillas. For wraps and stuff.

9) Pom juices. All of them.

10) Coke Zero and Fresca. I mean, come on....

What are your favorites? I'd love some ideas!

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

The summer of MEEEEEEEEEEEEEE (or things I've learned about gluten freedom, pt. 1)

I told Lee, my therapist, that I was going to spend the summer getting my gut in order, and I have done that. I called this "the summer of MEEEEEEEE." We also joined the YMCA, where I've met some wonderful people (not to mention gotten a great tan doing water aerobics with the lovelies Pam, Maggie, Ann, Cookie, and Connie).

Here are some of the things I had no idea about GF two months ago:

1) Ice Cream that has the "home made" label on it might have flour in it. You cannot trust that ice cream is gluten free. If you make your own and want to add flour, brown rice flour is a great 1-1 sub. But what about in a restaurant? I know that McDonalds and Dairy Queen are GF, and so is most Ben and Jerry's and Breyers. But you have to ask brands. Blue Bell, in some cases, and sadly, is not.

2) Salad dressing is a mine field. Avoid it if you're really sensitive. I make my own now, and who says there's anything wrong with a nice vinagrette? Hidden Valley Ranch? Uh uh. And watch out for blue cheese unless you make it yourself. And lots of Italian have modified food starch. If you're a dressing ho like I am, that can be a problem.

3) There is no substitute for a good health food store. I'm up the creek right now in Georgia, but in Tampa, I have the delightful Abbey's on Dale Mabry. It is right next to the delightful J. Christopher, where they really will make you three poached eggs all by themselves.

4) Don't eat Chinese food unless you make it yourself and know it has no soy sauce. Because soy sauce has wheat in it. It's fermented. This segues to my next advice

5) Most food servers don't know what's in a dish they're serving. For example, big pet peeve here: PF Chang's is one of my favorite places, and I love that they proudly announce they're GF. They have a menu and everything. BUT, as I found out Friday, you can't be assured anyone knows what that means. Tsk Tsk. I ordered the Singapore Street Noodles (GF on the menu, rice noodles and all) and it was dry. I asked for some wheat free soy sauce (they offer it, so I asked). The waiter asked if I wanted more "sauce" for my noodles. I said yes. Guess what kind they brought me? Saturday, I looked like a tick it caused such problems. I know, I need to complain to PF Chang's, not you. But it's a good warning. PF Chang's, you're so on my list.

6) GF doesn't mean "just remove the bun." Sorry, Outback, but you get no major points from me. What nerve! They actually suggest you ask them to leave off the bun if you want it gluten free. DUH.I did find out that the "Chocolate Thunder From Down Under" is flourless, but again, see item 1. What kind of ice cream is that? Outback, you're so on my list.

7) Oatmeal is seriously suspicious to most Celiacs (which I don't profess to be) and those with gluten insensitivity). Buy good oatmeal and cook it in your crock pot. It's better for you.

The recipe for steel cut oats in the crock pot is simple. 1 cup oatmeal, 4 cups water (or half milk if you want). 2 t. salt. Simmer high over night. Warm and crusty and tasty by morning (Joy and Julie, when your girls get to real oatmeal, you should try this!) Four cups of oatmeal works for me for four days at least, and because it's hearty, you can actually reheat it! Buy the steel cuts at a health food store.

6) This is a biggie: AVOID MODIFIED FOOD STARCH! See, I finally know why people have food allergies. Look at this recent Menu Foods pet food thing and you'll see why. Food needs additives to preserve shelf life. Additives can be expensive. Shortcuts are cheaper. Shortcuts cause problems. It costs more to make tuna casserole with flour, milk, butter, salt and pepper -- add modified food starch, whatever the heck THAT is (seriously, no one knows exactly what those ingredients are. In China, apparently, they can contain plastic. But I digress). SO when food was simpler, allergies were fewer. The more additives, the more problems. I'm not saying eat low on the food chain -- to quote Ron White, I didn't crawl this high up to live on carrots -- but I have discovered that made from scratch or with ingredients you can pronounce will help a lot. And guess what? It almost always eliminates gluten! I'm just saying....

This is my challenge.

much love for reading this!

August the First: A year in review

Welcome to my new blog. I'm calling it "Gluten Free in Georgia (and Florida)" because I split my year between homes in Tampa, Florida, (which you've heard of) and Milledgeville, Georgia, (which you probably haven't). I am a college professor (that's Dr. Gluten Free in Georgia (and Florida) thank you), and actually. I am a wife. I am a mother of a disabled adult. And now, I'm coping with a gluten intolerance. Since blogging seems to help some people, I thought I'd give it a chance. I hope to post tips on dining and eating, restaurant suggestions (and comments) and recipes, plus other web discussions. And it will have a southern spin, since it seems most of the GF focus out there is in on the west coast!


On August 3, 2007, I am celebrating A Happy New Year. You see, it was one year ago that day that I began a journey that now makes sense. Back then, it sure didn't.

First, about me: I'm Ginger, and I'm 50 years old. I'm married to Randy (my love, my soul mate, the man of my dreams), and my son is Jeffrey (my prince, my love light, the best thing I ever did). Randy and I have been married since Nov. 12, 2005, and Jeffrey was born on July 10, 1982. The two incidents are related only in that one led me to Tampa (Randy) and one led me to what I call gluten freedom (Jeffrey). That, and they both love me unconditionally.

This first part is going to take a while, and sadly, even though I'm a professor of journalism, a food writer, and a feature reporter, I can't do a Reader's Digest version of anything (I digress a lot, don't I Diva?)

Flashback: High school: I am bulimic. I had been on drill team and a baton twirler, but I loved to eat. When I got money from babysitting or jobs, I ate. At home I dieted, out of the house...well, at one point I was taking SIX Correctal tablets a day. Get the picture? I later abused Lasix (diruetics) along with laxatives. I still gained weight. By 1977, I weighed pretty much what I weigh today. I was obese. I also had ulcers. BIG PEPTIC ULCERS. I had all the tests.

May, 1980. I get married. I get fatter than ever.

June, 1982. I am pregnant with Jeffrey, still obese, and my doctor discovers a rampant case of gestational diabetes. Jeffrey is seven weeks (at least) premature but weighs 7 lb. 12 oz, and he is confirmed with autism at age 8; are the two connected? Who knows. What I do know NOW is that gestational diabetes doesn't go away like the say it does -- and mine comes back in 1991, full blown. Like the typical 31-year-old woman, I "play with it" and though I take the pills regularly, I never really tackled it full on. Oh sure, I got my A1c blood test down to respectable levels, but I have never lost the weight. Today, I weigh within 10 pounds of what I did 25 years ago when I got pregnant with Jeffrey. Heck, I weigh within 15 pounds of what I weighed the day I graduated from Georgia State University in 1977 (August 20).

1999-early 2000: A rheumatologist diagnosis me with Fibromyalgia. She tells me it's hard to know what else I have since, because of the diabetes, I have so many other markers. I know this: I am prone to exhaustion, depression, bone spurs, and arthritis.

2001: I'm a diabetic who has her gall bladder out and ends up with IBS (Google it if you don't know what I mean). Then I have my appendix out. Then I get something called gastroparesis (which means, sometimes I don't digest food very well). My entire digestive tract is an enigma. Sometimes too much, sometimes not enough. No balance. I never know which monster I will face. I exercise, I get my A1c down, but I am still obese. I stll have reflux (ulcers) And my GI system, well, forgive my language, but it's majorly f'ed up.

2003: I end my 23-year first marriage. I fall in love with my long-time friend, Randy. Life is good. No ex husbands will be harmed in the making of this blog.

August 3, 2006: I have surgery on my left shoulder to remove a bone spur. I wake up in such intense pain I beg them to put me back to sleep. The shoulder nerve block has worn off in recovery, and I am screaming. FOUR doses of pain meds later, and I begin retching. Then, to quote Robin Williams, it's "two exits, no waiting." A traumatic bowel/gastric experience, to say the least, coupled with "Holy mother of God" pain. And I'm still in the recovery room. The next months are a blur. I am in constant pain, and I sleep all the time. I sleepwalk though my classes daily begging people to forgive me (I got good evaluations, for some reason. Maybe I woke up to teach some days).

But what plagued me was my lethargy. I was depressed. My arm wasn't healing. I lost 23 pounds in a month and subsisted on peanut butter for a month and a half. They had to reopen my arm and reoperate because it had massive scar tissue. More PT (Paul Higgs, you are the best! Like a screen door in a hurricane...) THEN: Pneumonia and massive antibiotics, more depression over losing a job in Tampa (RAT BASTARDS) then a breast cancer scare. By this time, early May, I am in SIGNIFICANT. gastric distress. And I ache all over. I am taking mega doses of acet...Tylenol, you know, and Advil. And XANAX. I'm in therapy. And I'm still hurting. I have to stop clogging (which I LOVE for exercise) because my heel hurts so much). My knees are swollen. My joints ache. Suddenly I have a cavity in my tooth, and one chips!

My doctor, Catherine Roberts (a saint among women) says I'm one of the smartest people about their own bodies she treats. If I called her and said I had the fleeting huganupsis, she would know I did. I have NEVER been wrong. I knew I had appendicits and a blown gall bladder before the tests came back. And I call her phone and say, I have bronchitis and an ear infection, and I do. I'm my own medical detective, and I'm 98 percent right. I KNEW it was connected to something in my immune system, to the IBS/GP, and that surgery. It's clear it's diet related, as is most of my malady.

After a thoughtful conversation with another of my doctors (and a not so thoughtful dismissal from another, whom I'm about to part company with after 12 years) I begin to examine what and when the distress happens, and I see it is with the following: BREAD. PASTA. CRACKERS. PITAS. Because I'm on a seriously low-sugar diet, I don't eat cakes and stuff, but a brownie sent me over the edge one day, too. (I told my friend Janet I used that as an excuse for a brownie binge...stupid, I know, but see part I for the denial thing).

On May 1, after said thoughtful discussion with doctor, I stop the bread but still eat pasta. A lot of pasta. Gastric DISASTER. A week later, on May 7, I give up pasta. And since May, I have worked all traces of gluten out of my diet. No slight breading, no soy sauce, no cream of mushroom soup, NADA. I have checked all my pills, etc. I have purged my pantry in Tampa and head to Georgia soon to do the same. I no longer knowingly eat gluten.

I'm gluten-free in Georgia (and Florida). And I'm lots better. The mega joint pain is gone and my heel has barely hurt at all. My knee is fine. And my skin has cleared up. I still like a good nap (and sleeping late) but I'm not physically exhausted. While I'm still on Lexapro, I don't take the Xanax much at all.

Yes, I still have IBS occasionally, but now it's more of the GP than anything else. I eat a lot of fresh fruit, veggies, and the like. And finally, I'm ready to experiment with GF products so I can craft a diet to finally lose some damn weight!

So if you've been through this, you're thinking what I have colloquially discovered: the surgery "woke up" the gluten problem (I won't say I have Celiac Disease, but I have all the symptoms). No, I'm not having the tests -- after all, since the only cure is to give up gluten, and that has helped, why should I?

So August 3 begins a new year for me. I'm putting that hell-hole year of last behind me, and I'm going to heal my body, God willing. And I'm going to write about it. Join me if you will -- and help me if you can. Pray for me if that's in your focus. It's a jungle out there!

much love for your patience,
Ginger, GF in GF