Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Udi's Prize Pack

I took part in my first Twitter party this summer, and it was sponsored by Udi's. A Twitter party is an interesting phenomenon. It's held at a set time, and someone posts a question and everyone responds to it. You are able to see everyone's responses and it feels a bit like you are talking to lots of people from all across the country at the same time.
And there are often prizes, and I won a prize pack from Udi's. I was expecting a package with two or three things. There were 12 Udi's items in one box. Talk about a jackpot of a giveaway! Here's a recap of what I won. 

Mighty Bagels - This are probably my favorite bagels from Udi's. It's a close second to their Everything Bagels. With all of the seeds and cranberries, it's incredibly filling. 
Hot Dog Buns - Tried and true, these are probably the best gluten free hot dog buns I've ever had.
Omega Flax and Fiber Bread - This is the first time I've tried this bread, and let me tell you that it's addictively tasty. Because of its whole grain goodness, it's incredibly filling and amazingly delicious.
Cinnamon Raisin Bread - I love to have this toasted with a smear of cream cheese. And with only 150 calories for 2 slices of bread, it's a great indulgence without a lot of guilt.

Peanut Butter Coconut Cookies - Udi's came out with a new line of Soft Baked cookies, and I was excited to receive these as they were the one flavor I hadn't tried yet. They're really good. REALLY good. In an attempt to not eat them all at once. I put the box in a Ziploc bag and placed them in the deep freezer. (Out of sight, out of mind.) And after taking one out and letting it come to room temperature, they were incredibly soft and tasty once again. Win!

Dark Chocolate Brownie Bites- This small brownie bite is perfect for satisfying that chocolate craving. To increase the chocolate satisfaction, there are also mini chocolate chips in them!
Double Vanilla Muffins - These taste exactly like pound cake. I can totally see these cut open with fresh strawberries and whipped cream on top. I see this more of a dessert than a muffin, as is their double chocolate chip muffin. Especially at 250 calories per muffin, this is not something you would want to eat every morning.

I still cannot tolerate oats, so I had to rely on the reviews of others.
Sweet & Fruity Cranberry Granola - Laura and my husband both liked this. It's a bit on the sweet side and it's good on yogurt or for a dessert topping.
Cranberry Almond Granola Bars- Laura said that these were reminiscent of Quaker Chewy granola bars. She did state that they're not very filling.

Other Fun stuff
Ancient Grain Jalapeno Cheddar Crisps- I really enjoy this new chip line by Udi's. They remind me of Sun Chips, which I really missed after being diagnosed with Celiac Disease. I was surprised how much I enjoyed these Jalapeno Crisps, as I don't like spicy things. I was going to try crushing them and using them to bread chicken, but they were so good that the bag was finished off pretty quickly. Major deliciousness.
Tortillas (Small and Large) - Udi's sent me 2 packages of their tortillas, both the small and large tortillas. We've had these before and my non-gf husband really enjoys them. He even stated that he liked them better than regular flour tortillas. I found an interesting online link about making your own hot pockets with tortillas. I would only suggest trying to make these with the large tortillas. It was fun, although not quite the same. Important note, make sure to let it cool completely if you decide to make one. It honestly tastes better as the flavors meld together, not to mention you don't burn your mouth this way!

So which Udi's products would you like to try?

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Celiac Awareness 2014 - Educating our health professionals

As the years pass and more is done in the Celiac Disease community to promote awareness, I am still amazed that there is one group that still seems to be in the dark- 


Through being a blogger, a president of a local support group, and a gluten free fair organizer, I hear story after story of doctors who were not knowledgeable or downright negligent. I've heard stories of people who felt like they were close to death because doctors wouldn't run tests, stories of uneducated dietitians who told their patients to eat more wheat, and stories of doctors who told their client that they just needed to take an anti-depressant. 

Enough is enough. This year for my birthday, which also happens to be Celiac Awareness Day, I want to call on my fellow bloggers, friends and followers to help educate their primary care physicians, their nurses, their dentists - anyone in the medical field- to take the time to educate themselves about Celiac Disease. 

There are many ways that medical personnel can educate themselves. Some are free online and able to be done at their own leisure. Some are on-site, intensive, and require fees to be paid. Both of these are helpful and important. Please consider sharing these links and information with your medical personnel. I am listing them in the order of easiest to most involved. 

Entry Level- 
This online webinar from the North American Society for Pediatric Gastroenterologists, Hepatology and Nutrition is created by doctors that are knowledgeable and that I TRUST. Dr. Alessio Fasano is one of these doctors, and his book "Gluten Freedom" is a must read for everyone in my personal opinion, doctors or patients. If I could afford it, I would give a copy of this book to every doctor in Genesee County.
Don't let the name of the group presenting this webinar deter those whom you are sharing this with. "This activity is designed for pediatric and adult gastroenterologists, primary care physicians, physician assistants, nurse practitioners, trainees, dietitians, and other health care professionals who are involved in the care of patients with gluten related disorders." 
This will take just over an hour of their time and they also get continuing education credits. There is no fee listed on the site. Win-win situation. This offer expires June 4, 2016
Link - http://bit.ly/NASPGHANceliacwebinar

Invested level- 
Harvard Medical School also offers an online training program. This course has a $40 fee, but they also get more continuing education credits as a result. This course is also created by doctors whose names can be trusted. This program is more "serious" as that participants cannot progress to the next section of the program without answering questions correctly. I LOVE this added feature! This offer ends July 29 2017
Link- http://cmeonline.med.harvard.edu/course_descriptions.asp?Course_id=125

Devoted Level- 
The University of Chicago Celiac Disease Center offers a "one-of-a-kind preceptorship program." This center in Chicago is one of my most trusted hospitals doing research in the field today. While some doctors may be looking for a pill or treatment, U of C is looking for an actual CURE. Dr. Guandalini and his staff are at the forefront of research as well as assisting those already diagnosed. 
Their program is an on-site training program at U of C that only takes place once a year. This year's event is in December. While it is $500 per doctor and $250 for nurses and dietitians, the knowledge they will learn will be incredibly invaluable. The knowledge they gain will save someone's life. Priceless.
Link- http://www.cureceliacdisease.org/medical-professionals/preceptorship

(More info about what they offer medical professionals can be found here - http://www.cureceliacdisease.org/medical-professionals/guide) 

So what am I asking you to do, my family, friends and followers? This year for my birthday I don't want gifts or cards. (Although I'm considering doing a fundraising walk- more details to come later.) 

I want you to help me help others. 

How? While I want you to share the HECK out of this blogpost, even more importantly I'm asking you to share and ENCOURAGE your doctors and medical professionals to review this information. We need our health care providers to know the FACTS about Celiac Disease, not just what they heard from someone else or the opinions they have formed by comments of those following the gluten free fad. 

Recently I was talking to someone who had been struggling with Celiac disease for 2 years because their doctor lacked knowledge and was negligent. After talking to her on the phone for at least 45 minutes she said to me, "After talking to you I FINALLY have HOPE." 

Wow. While that honored amd humbled me, I was still heart broken that there are those living without hope due to ignorance. I just can't tolerate that anymore. 

So that's the bottom line. This year, I want to be able to offer hope to others- hope that they no longer have to suffer, hope that they're not in this alone, hope that they can truly LIVE again. 


Wednesday, August 6, 2014

More Mexican with Maseca

We've been busy in the kitchen with our Maseca flour, and it's time to share the love.


My husband has perfected his tortilla making skills. After a first pressing of the tortilla, he uses his fingers to massage the center of the dough and thin it out even more. He then presses them again, and the tortillas are nice and thin and go to the edge of the tortilla press. The original directions on the Maseca bag suggested that one use wax paper to prevent the tortillas from sticking to the press. Sometimes I wonder if words get mixed up in translation, because we have found that using plastic cling wrap is so much better and makes the process quick and smooth.

With these tortillas, I don't think I ever want to purchase store-bought, premade tortillas again. Seriously. Easy, clean, and guaranteed to be gluten free because they're being made in MY house.

Black Bean Enchiladas -

More than once now my husband has made the most delicious enchiladas with our homemade tortillas. We can't seem to remember if he followed a recipe the first time he made these black bean enchiladas or if they were just created by his
imagination.Stuffed with black beans, corn, tomatoes and cheese, this is a restaurant style delicacy. To take it over the top, we add a dollop of Greek yogurt (we no longer use sour cream in our house) and a dollop of homemade guacamole.

Mexican Lasagna -

This recipe from Maseca really intrigued me, as I'm used to using tortillas to make a Mexican lasagna, not a dough. But I have to say this is definitely one of my new favorite dishes. With layers of ground beef and a mixture of cottage and mozzarella cheeses, it is a ooey gooey savory mouthful of YUM!

To make the dough layers even, I separated the dough in half, rolled it out in the bottom of my greased baking dish, then inverted the dish and flipped  the layer onto a plate.

Next time I make this I want to carefully try to roll it our in a 9x13 dish instead of a 9x9.  The dough layers in the pan were a little thick in comparison to the filling. But either way this is a dish that is sure to please!

Friday, August 1, 2014

July 2014 Love It, Like It Leave It

What a whirlwind July has been. Between traveling to Tennessee, extra hours at work, extra meetings, weekend obligations and vacation Bible School, July has come and gone before I knew it. I hope your July was as fun filled and as memorable as mine has been! There has been some memorable new tastes as well!

Amy's Sandwich Rounds - I bought these while I we were in Tennessee on vacation. My step mother had never really been to a Whole Foods before, and I wanted to open her eyes to the gluten free possibilities!
We decided to have a picnic lunch at a local park, so loaded up on lunchmeat, fruits and veggies, hummus and bought these so my dad and I could make little sandwiches.
And these were AWESOME! There are 8 in a box and I love that they come packaged in sealed packets of 4. I never use 8 pieces at one time, and these prevents freezer burn. I am also becoming more and more pleasantly surprised by gluten and dairy free options that really taste like REAL bread. They're soy free too! There are definitely something I want to buy again if I can find them around me.

Walmart Deluxe GF Mac N Cheese-

I'm not always a big fan of Walmart for all sorts of reasons. But I will have to admit that their Deluxe Gluten Free Mac and Cheese was amazingly delicious. My 13 yr old niece who considers herself a bit of a mac and cheese connoisseur really enjoyed it, and she doesn't even eat gluten free.
The rice pasta had little ridges in it, which was great for holding on to the sauce. And the sauce....it's that cheesy sauce packet like you find in the Velveeta mac and cheese. No need to add milk or butter, just cut the top of the pouch and squeeze.

It was because of the sauce packet that I chose to put it into the "Love It" category. Originally I was going to put these in the "like" category because it's not the healthiest thing for you. But I live in a city with lots of poverty, and this is like a whole meal in one box that doesn't require any real measuring. All you have to do is find a way to cook the pasta and dinner is served. Speaking of meals, there is a A LOT of pasta in this box. This box easily provides 3 GOOD sized portions.

Viola Fe Fudgy Brownie
Some may not think it's fair that I put my friend's brownie in this category. I'm sure they just think I'm biased and I'm trying to promote my friend.
But seriously, it was amazing. There hasn't been a thing that my non-gf husband hasn't liked that she has made. And you know that sometimes people say that chocolate is better than sex? Yeah, this brownie proves it. AND it's made while whole grain flours like teff. Amazing. Stupendous. Wow. Yeah, y'all need to try this brownie.  You can find her products at Sweet Peaces Vegan Cafe at the Flint Farmer's Market or you can order by emailing her at violafe@aol.com. Do it!

Like It  
Betty Crocker Yellow Cake Mix  - I agreed to make a dessert for my nephew's 13th birthday. I had bought a BUNCH of these mixes which had been on sale at Big Lots for $1.25 on a limited time offer. (Although I haven't been back since then, so I should check to see if they're back!)

They're easy to make, the mixes are readily available, and they were a hit with the whole family. (Except the birthday boy who was too busy playing to eat one.) I did make one alteration and use an extra egg as suggested by my husband's aunt who makes them for her grandson, who has celiac disease.
This is why I'm putting them in the "like it" category, because that brings the egg count to 4 eggs, and they don't really rise very much. When the box says 12 cupcakes, it means it if you want them to be a good size.

Leave It 

 SPAM & Roasted Potatoes in Gravy - One of the members in our support group told me that she had found these at the store and that they were labeled gluten free. Not all of the SPAM meals are gluten-free, and the gluten free statement was not a "certified" statement from GIG, NFCA, or CSA.
It was hot and quick in a pinch when we had another meeting on another night where we didn't really have time to make dinner. It was good in a pinch. Would I buy it again. Nope- at 400 calories for a tiny serving, I'd be better off having peanut butter toast with two fried eggs and an apple.

Betty Crocker Gluten Free Rice Flour blend - While the cake mix was good, the rice flour blend was not. I used them to make waffles and pancakes, which is one of my "standard" tests for a flour. While the waffles weren't bad, they weren't great, and the pancakes weren't good either. (My niece wanted "Rainbow Waffles," and I attempted them. Lots of work. Won't be making them again, but seeing the smile on her face was worth it.)  I think I'm going to stick with my Bob's Red Mill Gluten Free All Purpose Flour.

Snapea Crisps- Bought these at Whole Foods for our "picnic." MAJOR disappointment. Based on the imagery on the bag, they were not at all what we expected them to be. Won't be buying these again. Thank goodness they weren't more than $2, which is rare at "Whole Paycheck' as it is often known. 

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Chebe Cinnamon Rolls

I LOVE Chebe products. And I say this solely as a consumer. I am not paid by them or reimbursed by them in any way. (Although, Mr. Miller if you're reading this, I'm always open to the idea! LOL)

I recently took advantage of a great deal on their site for a 12 box pack of their products, which included their cinnamon roll mix.

I often times try to skimp on the oil and replace it with applesauce. The natural pectins always seem to help gluten free products rise better. I had made these once years ago, but I think I rolled them into balls like the regular Chebe bread. This is the first time I was brave enough to roll the dough out, cover it with cinnamon and sugar, then roll it up. That in general always seemed daunting to me, and after trying these, I realize it's not all that hard!

So into the oven they went, ready to become morsels of gooey, delicious bits of breakfast heaven.

While they were nice and gooey on their own, I added a bit of leftover Betty Crocker frosting on top. Because, well, frosting rocks!

We had our niece and nephew over for a few days, so I made these especially for them. They don't have to eat gluten free and don't normally eat any of my specialty gluten free stuff. At the age of 13, anything out of the usual is weird.

But when my nephew saw the plate of cinnamon rolls, he didn't hesitate to take one while they were still warm. He asked me if they were a family recipe, because they were so delicious!

Thanks Chebe for making my first sleepover with my niece and nephew tasty and memorable!

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Gluten Free (and not) at the Farmer's Market

I got the nicest compliment from an acquaintance the other day on Facebook.

"I just wanted to tell you I looked up your gf blog a while ago. It's great! Kudos for bringing attention to gf and celiac awareness. It's important stuff that you're doing. Keep it up! "

I was really touched and impressed...and inspired. Inspired and encouraged that I I can do so much more with my blog than just review food and restaurants. I can use this blog as a force for good, for education, for awareness. 

So to my approximate 1,000 readers a month- I pledge to try to talk more about education in the coming months, to have this blog be one you share with those who are searching. 

So today I want to highlight the pluses and minuses of purchasing "gluten free" products at the Farmer's Market. 

My case in point is a bakery near us that has a stand at the Davison Farmer's Market. A friend at church told my husband about them, explaining how excited she was for me, and that she almost bought me a cupcake. So, we went out there ourselves to check it out. So, when I approached, I inquired about their gluten free cupcakes and the steps they take to prevent cross-contamination. This was his response. 

"They're gluten free but not celiac." 

I obviously tried to explain to them that the cupcakes themselves could not be celiac, as celiac is an autoimmune disease.  He continued on, stating that he doesn't make the cupcakes and that he was just there covering for someone, but was still using the phrase "They're not celiac." He did manage to get out that they were not made in a dedicated facility or on dedicated equipment. (I tried to tell him that maybe he should say that they weren't "celiac friendly." When we walked away from their stand, my husband honestly said, "That was scary." Scary for quite a few reasons- 1) This business doesn't have trained staff and his lack of knowledge can cost them business, 2) that their products may not truly be gluten free and 3) my friend who would not have known to ask the proper questions could have purchased them for me, I could have eaten them, and I could have become sick.

I was able to contact the owner, and this was her reply-
"We use a flour blend that we make from gluten free products such as tapioca starch, potato flour, and brown rice flour just to name a few of the ingredients.  We do not have dedicated days and only some of the equipment is dedicated to gluten free products.  When we get ready to make the gluten free products we wash and triple sanitize the counters and equipment to clean as much gluten from the areas as possible.  We understand that some people are very sensitive to gluten and do our best to ensure that there is as little residue as possible.  Because we have not found a way to test that there is less then 20 ppm of gluten we tell people that they are gluten free but not celiac just to be on the safe side.  I believe that we must be in the correct range since my celiac aunt eats them all the time and has never gotten sick.  Many of our customers are returning every Saturday for more and are not getting sick as well."

Unfortunately, I'm still not going to trust it. (First impressions are everything.)

Ironically, on the way in I had seen another stand outside that stated that they had gluten free cinnamon rolls. Originally I was going to let it pass, but after that discussion, I felt it necessary to go talk to them in case they were also possibly not safe for celiacs.

So I stopped by the Cinnamom booth.The owner, who is an RN, was gracious enough to talk to me. She explained to me some of the steps she used to prevent cross contamination. mentioning that she used dedicated utensils and pans. She stated that while she was not in a dedicated GF facility, she did not prepare the regular cinnamon rolls at the same time. And then she gave me free roll to try. 

In all honesty, I don't remember the last time I had a cinnamon roll like that. I warmed it up like she suggested and was immediately transported. As a disclaimer, I felt fine eating it the day of, but had issues the next day. That being said, I've been having some digestive issues lately that may have nothing to do with celiac disease. 

And then I saw someone on Facebook advertising gluten free donuts at another local farmer's market. I swear, some days I feel like an investigator interrogating a witness. Out came the questions about cross contamination and dedicated equipment. 

What follows is the answer from Raphael's Donuts.  I summarized his response because this conversation was through Facebook.

< The gluten free donut batters are made and baked first, always. Gluten free donuts are baked Thursday night while the gluten containing donuts are baked late Friday afternoons. The measuring cups I use for gluten free are separate from the ones used for donuts with whole wheat flour. The gluten free donuts are baked in the same circular pans as the other non- gluten free whole wheat donuts. But I wash them in hot water with dish detergent, rinsed and sanitized with bleach, and air dried before being used for the whole wheat donuts.   After the gluten free donuts are baked and taken out, glazed and placed in cooling racks, the bowls and utensils are washed, rinsed and sanitized and air dried before being use for the donuts made with whole wheat flour. When served at the markets, I take them out with a separate tong and put them in foam containers. I got interested in baking gluten free donuts because I have friends who have celiac disease and have wheat allergies.>

Again, not totally dedicated equipment, but quite a bit of precautions taken. Again, I'm still not going to try them, especially because he markets his donuts as diabetic friendly and uses erythritol in his donuts and glazes. Plus I'm not too excited that he uses the same pans to bake the donuts, because circular pans have little crevices in them, and I don't want to chance it. 

With all of that being said, that makes me thankful for businesses like Ethel's Edibles and Benefit Your Life that make their products in a dedicated gluten free facility. Zero chance of cross contamination. ZERO.

Ethel's Edibles products are made in a dedicated gluten free facility and are sold at the Eastern Market in Detroit. Once you taste one of her Pecan Dandy's or Whoopie Pies, you just might spend your whole paycheck at her stand. (Oh, and by the way, she now does orders online and ships them anywhere in the United States. You might need a budget just for her stuff.)

Benefit Your Life  is a dedicated gluten free facility in Knoxville, Tennessee that we stopped at while on vacation. For some background on their allergen-free status, I took this from their website. "All bakery items are gluten-free, dairy-free, soy-free and sweetened with diabetic friendly coconut nectar... this includes our famous frosting!! Our bakers feel the only way to feel good and get well is to eat food that heals and fights inflammation in the body. You will find many of our bakery items using Organic Almond Flour, Organic Gluten-Free Flours, coconut oil, coconut nectar and mineral rich sea salt. We guarantee you will find ultimate deliciousness and not a trace of white sugar or genetically modified ingredients in our bakery! " 

The Sweet Potato Bar I purchased at Benefit Your Life
So, while this may just seem like a review of a bunch of bakeries, I do this to highlight the potential dangers of "gluten free" products at farmer's market. Take the time to ask your questions. Do your research, because sometimes vendors don't do theirs. While the popularity of the gluten free diet rises, it behooves us as celiacs and as friends of celiacs to truly understand what gluten free means and should be.

It also requires us to have patience and help to instruct businesses about the steps they must take if they truly want something to be gluten free. And the standard should be the same in all places, not "gluten free" for celiacs and "gluten free" for those who have gluten sensitivity. Gluten free needs to be gluten free...PERIOD. 

So as the FDA ruling comes into full force on August 5th, our involvement in gluten free labeling becomes even more important. As companies will not have to send in data to the FDA prior to their packaging stating that it is gluten free, misleading or misinformed producers will not be caught unless we ask the questions and report ill effects from when these products have made us sick. It is also important to support companies that have taken the time to certify their products through independent testers,  such as CSA, the GFCO or the new GFCP program through the National Foundation for Celiac Awareness. Tricia Thompson's independent program called Gluten Free Watchdog is also a great program to support as we move forward.  

Safe Gluten Free foods for us....for all.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Old World Gluten Free Pierogi

When you look up the word "dumpling" on wikipedia, it becomes quickly obvious that humans across the globe love food that's stuffed inside of dough. The Italians have ravioli, the Chinese have wontons, the Indians have samosa, Latin America has empanadas, and Poland has pierogi.

The common denominator, no matter country of origin, is DOUGH.

Generally for a celiac, that means OFF LIMITS.

But thanks to Alicia Bemiss and Old World Gluten Free, you can indulge in dumplings, and more specifically PIEROGI once again! (And there was much rejoicing!)

I keep my eyes peeled and ears perked for all new things gluten free, especially as I am the co-chair for the Lansing Gluten Free Fair. Old World Gluten Free came to my attention after I heard about their attendance at the "Making It In Michigan" Conference. This is a program put on by Michigan State University through their Product Center to encourage and help local Michigan entrepenuers with products "related to agriculture, food, bioeconomy or natural resource industries." 

Not only did Old World Gluten Free attend this conference, they won a Product Placement Award at that conference. Not a "gluten-free" award, but a general award, because they don't taste like their gluten free! The hold their own with the rest of the competition. An  added plus- the first dough ingredient is garbanzo bean (chickpea) flour. Not only does one get to indulge in pierogi, they're full of fiber and protein!

But enough background, let's get to the food! 

Pierogi are versatile in the dumpling world. While other countries usually only focus on savory filled-dough delicacies, pierogi can be made savory OR sweet. And true to form, Old World Gluten Free offers both! 

 I had a friend purchase a bag of them for me while they were at the Tri-County Celiac Support Group's food fair. I received pierogi stuffed with Farmer's Cheese and Green Onions. (For a list of their other flavors, click here.) The first thing I noticed is that they are not some itsy-bitsy two bite dumplings. These are HUGE!

I have never cooked pierogi before, and was glad that there are directions on the bag. I also have a childhood friend who is Polish, and I picked her brain a bit as well. I followed the directions on the package, thawed them a bit in the microwave, and then browned them in butter on the stove. 

There were DELICIOUS! Seriously, what's there not to like about hot cheesy goodness?

What's that you say? You're vegan and don't eat cheese? 

But wait, there's more! Old World Gluten Free makes VEGAN pierogi as well! 

Can life get much better? I submit that it cannot! 

So where does one find these delightful tidbits, these morsels of awesomeness? 

As they are made in St. Clair Shores, they are sold in the greater Detroit area in stores such as Westborn Market and Randazzo's. But they are adding new locations everyday, so I suggest following this link to stay updated as to where to try these gluten free pierogi's. Also, follow their Facebook page to learn of events they are attending and new flavors that they are trying.