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

Saturday, November 28, 2009

A friend to the Gluten Free

A few weeks ago, Randy and I went to Atlantic City for our anniversary. Before we went, I did a search for gluten-free dining establishments. Luckily, I'd read The DC Gluten-Free Examiner Site (written by my Twitter buddy Sandra "Maryland Celiac" Robins) and had seen this piece. I was delighted to find that there were gluten-free offerings at four of the restaurants at Harrah's, where we were staying.

This post is about that person -- James W. Harris II, the Chef. You GOTTA love a guy who has a NFCA GREAT certification on his card! (Gluten-Free Resource Education Awareness Training program)

I was thrilled. We went in search of him as dinner time approached. In the quaint Italian restaurant called Polistina (where Tony Bennett was dining at the same time, by the way!) we found a gluten-free diner's hero. For James brings in gluten-free food, on his own, from the specialty vendors, for diners who need it. He oversees the preparation, trains the staff and chefs in the ins-and-outs of things like cross contamination and preparation of items (they know how to read labels for gluten items!) And best of all, the hostesses of the restaurants IMMEDIATELY get Chef James when a gluten-free diner comes into the restaurant.

I like that. A lot. He's a role model for the gluten-free restaurant chef. And he made me feel incredibly special.

It's a level of treatment that I've received at only one other place, frankly, in more than two years. And it's a level of treatment that got me to eat three of my five meals in Atlantic City in his kitchens.

Imagine: Warm gluten-free bread with butter at dinner, and gnocchi with marinara. Or maybe some freshly made hollandaise sauce on fresh poached eggs and gluten-free toast. Or maybe some pierogis? Or lasagna? All gluten free? And these are the top-notch, top-of-the-line product out there, certified GF and prepared with enormous care.

I too up way too much of James Harris' time Friday and nights, talking about gluten free issues. He is first and foremost certified by the NFCA -- he participates in their cooking events. He got interested in cooking gluten free when we cooked at a restaurant where one of his managers couldn't eat the food because she had gluten issues. So he created the food she could eat.

He gets great support from his chefs, including Mike Laurenza of Polistina's and David Suscavage, the chef at the grand buffet on Saturday and Sunday. They, too, have learned about the seriousness of the gluten-free diet and are quick to help accommodate a gluten-free client. Mike was absolutely adorable and attentive, making sure everything on my plate was perfect. By the end of the night, he said, "You're part of the family now." So kind!

And Dave, well, he really scurried around for me at the buffet. He even called James at home to find the gluten-free bread he left out for me! A wonderful guy! We had a great time!

But James Harris -- well, I really can't say enough about this remarkable chef. When I told him I wanted to bring my Gluten-Free Girlz (Jennifer, Julie and Lori) back for a gluten-free weekend, he said he'd take us on a walking tour of Gluten-Free Philly while we were there. When I told him I couldn't get a certain Atlantic City Bakery bread (gluten free) here, he offered to send me a care package. I promised to send him the contacts of some of my favorite gluten free bread and desserts.

But I mostly want to say THANK YOU to James Harris. You see, it's caring, concerned people like you who make travel and dining safer for gluten-free people like me. You're a Celiac Hero. And I thank you from the bottom of my gluten-free heart.

Much love, and I hope to see you soon!

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Be wise this gluten-free ThanksLIVING**

**coined by my dear friend Carol Harrell. I love it!

Thanksgiving, that mine-field for the gluten free, is just a few days away. I've been to two TOTALLY gluten-free Thanksgiving dinners, for which I'm eternally thankful, this year, but both of them reminded me of a few things that bear remembering this holiday season. It all kinda starts creeping up on me this week, as the holiday season gets into full swing.

1. If in doubt, bring your own food. And smile a lot!

And if that thought annoys you, stay home. SERIOUSLY. If you're having 12 people over and I'm the only GF one at your table, I will bring my own plate of food or eat before I go. I don't mind, really. If asked, I might even contribute a GF casserole for everyone. I promise it doesn't hurt my feelings**, and I truly appreciate your trying to tell me what is GF. And if I'm in doubt, I'll discreetly bring my own.

(**The only time this DOES NOT APPLY is if you're related to me by birth or marriage. If you exclude me then, I'll just be upset and think I don't matter in your world. If you're my family and the roles were reversed, I'd do it for you.)

2. If someone goes the extra mile for you (or even a few extra feet!) Make sure they know how much you appreciate them and how THANKFUL you are for what they've done. Because it touches my heart every time a student or friend makes me gluten-free brownies, or when Mary and my Dad make sure the meal on the table is one I can eat, or when ANYONE make sure I can eat at a restaurant for safely. This is a time for thanks-giving, so be sure to give thanks to them!**

**Oh, and that said. If someone tries to make you something gluten free and you don't happen to enjoy that food, try to be polite. Your Mama raised you better than that.

3. Be a smart gluten-free diner, even when you know the dinner is GF. Don't automatically expect that something marked GF is the cause of your immediate (or long-term) gastric distress after a holiday meal. Seriously? If you filled your plate with a lot of GF food, don't you think THAT might make you feel like the proverbial stuffed turkey? What if you introduced a new GF food to your diet at that meal? That doesn't mean contamination -- it means there just might be something different triggering it.

For example. Yesterday and last Saturday I had delicious GF meals prepared at the Middle Georgia GIG and Atlanta Metro Celiacs gluten-free holiday lunches. I ate myself silly with a delightful assortment of guaranteed GF food. And honestly, I felt sick all night. I wasn't glutened -- I know that. In spite of my medicinal preparations, I just ate too much AND ate GLUTEN-FREE things I shouldn't have. But that was my choice.

Don't immediately jump to conclusions that a GF food is not GF if it causes a reaction. It might be that you're sensitive to it or ate too much.

3. There is no such thing as "just a little bit." No, you can't have the first slice of a gluten-stuffed turkey. It's filled with gluten! No, you can't take the crust off the pumpkin pie and eat it just this once**. And yes, Campbell's Cream of Mushroom soup has gluten in it! So do some instant mashed potatoes. But plain mashed potatoes are ok -- as long as a fresh stick of butter was used with them. And homemade potato salad is ok, too -- as long as they used a new jar of mayo and pickles and mustard without knife crumbs in it. And coleslaw? Same.

And for those family members who insist you try "just a little bit" or who just don't get it? Show them this.

It's not worth it to ingest just a little gluten. You'll feel horrible for days. **That said, if it is killing you and you can't stand it and you're willing to suffer the consequences with a gluten item, you are able to make your own personal choice. But don't complain to me if that happens. You know?

4. Try to remember, as I have for the past three holiday seasons, that Thanksgiving is about more than food in its historical meaning -- and try to adopt that attitude. I love being with my friends and husband on Thanksgiving, and I love the penny-ante poker game after the meal. I either bring my own food or I eat before I arrive. They try to make sure I know what is gluten-free. And I make choices. But I have always had fun! So much love and fun in one room is worth it.

5. Finally, the resources for GF Thanksgiving items are endless. I've listed two for you here, and if you look down the side of my recipe file on the side, you'll fine more. I honestly can make ANY of my favorites GF. If I choose to cook, fine. If I don't, it's my choice, too. But I WILL eat totally gluten-free through the holidays.

Here is Celiac.Com's guide to a gluten-free Thanksgiving.

And here is Daniel and Shauna James Ahern's 2008 Thanksgiving menu.

The new site The Gling @thegling on Twitter has a new menuzine for Thanksgiving.

Oh, and I have a new GF recipe I'm testing that might be good for you this season. I'll report it might work for the December and January holidays!

But I WILL be Thankful this ThanksLiving! I will. And I hope you will, too.

Much love, and happy ThanksLIVING!

Friday, November 20, 2009

Why I am thankful!

Jeffrey's First Guitar Solo Performance

Last Friday, Jeffrey performed his first-ever solo guitar performance at the Creative Expressions concert. The sniffling you hear in the background is me!

This is why I am thankful -- my son is being cared for and taught by loving, talented people like Katie Whipple and the wonderful people at the Life Enrichment Center in Milledgeville.

Much love, and go Jeffrey!


Thursday, November 19, 2009

Thanksgiving news from Butterball

This is truly a GF Turkey!

I believe the message below sent to me by Megan at Triumph Dining is important, so I'll post it here.

Hi Ginger-

We don’t normally reach out to our fellow bloggers with news (we don’t want to clog your inbox)… But this was really exciting, and I thought you might be interested to know! Butterball turkey now offers gluten-free gravy mixes with a bunch of their turkeys. I think this is super-cool because 1) Butterball is synonymous with turkey, and it’s exciting to see someone so mainstream do gluten-free, 2) as you know, gravy is almost never gluten-free, and 3) the GF gravy isn’t a specialty version, but it’s the default option for some turkeys.

It turns “gluten-free going mainstream” on its head! Instead of having specialty gluten-free options (like Betty Crocker mixes) alongside “regular” gluten-full options, this is a company that’s making the gluten-free option THE default option. Our wonderful blogger, Tiffany, uncovered this story. And we are super-excited about it, and thought you might be too. The full story is here (just in time for Thanksgiving!):

That’s it for us. Hope all is well with you. Happy Thanksgiving!

Kind regards,
Megan & the rest of the team at Triumph Dining

And Much Love from me!

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

There's a new post on Ging Recommends!

And it's a favorite!

Quiche me, Quick!

Sorry I've been out of touch for a week. I just hand thumb surgery. Typing is still iffy :-)

I have always loved a good quiche. It is one of the first foods I learned to cook -- summer of 1973, Dekalb Honors Program, French class. Since then I've made thousands of quiches. I've always loved them, especially when made with a store-bought frozen crust. I admit it -- I can't make pie crust to save my life.

Since going gluten-free, though, I haven't made as many quiches as I used to. But with the wonderful gluten-free pie crust at Whole Foods, there's no reason for this not to be a quick meal any more.

A week ago, I tried a combination I've never tried before. Here it is:

Italian Quiche

One GF pie crust
Six eggs
One cup milk (or half and half, or almond milk)
One cup Italian Mixed Cheese
One pound browned mild Italian sausage (bulk) GF, seasoned with a pinch of red pepper flakes if you want
Six sun dried tomatoes, snipped into strips (I used dry pack)
I large jar mushrooms (or one package, sliced, sauteed with the sausage)
One half small onion (sauteed with the sausage)
I t. Mrs. Dash Garlic and Herb
1 t. Italian Seasoning (I used Penzeys Mural of Flavor)
1. t. salt and pepper

Sautee mushrooms, onions and sausage and drain, then place in bottom of crust. Top with cheese, sliced tomatoes, then top with mixed eggs, milk and spices. Pour over. Bake at 350 degrees for about 45 minutes to one hour. You know it's done when the knife inserted in the custard comes out clean.

Here are the details on the Pie Crust:
Butter, sweet rice flour, tapioca starch, cornstarch, eggs, potato starch, water, lemon juice, salt, xanthan gum, baking powder (sodium acid pyrophosphate, sodium bicarbonate, cornstarch, monocalcium phosphate), evaporated cane juice.

Per serving (About 2oz/57g): 270 calories (130 from fat), 15 g total fat, 9g saturated fat, 0g trans fat, 2g protein, 31g total carbohydrate (less than 1g dietary fiber, 0g sugar), 70mg cholesterol, 280mg sodium. Servings per container: about 9

Slice and eat!

Much love, and quiche me, quick!

Sunday, November 1, 2009

There's a new post on Ging Recommends!

What can I say, I've been busy today

A GF/No Sugar Added Banana Nut Tea Bread

I don't know about you, but I've always got some bananas in an overripe state on my counter. Today I had three, which meant it was time to make Banana Nut Bread!

My friend Carly Harvey posted this on her blog, and I've tried it a couple of times as written, except I use my favorite "GF Bisquick," AKA Pamela's Baking and Pancacke Mix.
I also haven't tried to make it since I've had to cut back significantly and seriously on sugar and white carbs this summer.

So I spent a little time working with this, and I've adapted it for a GF/No added Sugar diet. One loaf makes about 8-10 slices. Note: While the sugar in this is natural sugar (from bananas) and from Splenda products, THERE ARE CARBS in here, folks. A lot of carbs. But they're good, fiber-filled carbs in this adaptation, not just empty white calories (and oh Lord, I do love empty white calories). I would say the fiber count in a slice of this is about 10 grams or so, with all that flax and all. So small slices, people. Small slices.

Here it is, for your holiday baking.

Carly Harvey's Meme’s Banana Bread, adapted to GF/No Sugar Added

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a loaf pan.
1 1/2 cup mashed ripe bananas (about 3 bananas)_
2 cups Pamela's Baking Mix
1/3 cup ground flax seeds (I buy them ground and refrigerate them)
1/2 cup Splenda and 1/4 cup brown-sugar Splenda (or if you're not SF, use one cup sugar)
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1 tsp vanilla
3 eggs (or equivalent egg substitute if you like. I have great free-range eggs, so I use eggs).
1/2 cup chopped nuts (I used hazelnuts).

Beat all ingredients vigorously for 30 seconds. Bake 55-65 minutes.

Much love, and isn't that kid cute? I all know what banana nut bread looks like, right?