Monday, August 30, 2010

A Picnic in the Park

Today I had the rare treat of having lunch with my friend Eliot. We decided earlier to enjoy the last few days of summer with a picnic in the park and I was going to come up with the menu.

Over the weekend, I was googling "gluten free picnic." I need to remind myself to think OUTSIDE of the box. A picnic for two twenty-somethings does not have to be a ham sandwich, pasta salad, and potato chips (those are great - don't get me wrong). I finally realized that a picnic can simply be eating your normal lunch foods...outside. I also have the luxury of working a block from Millennium Park, so I am able to heat my food in the microwave before leaving the office. So I was free to create whatever I wanted since Eliot is always willing to eat my creations.

I made my very first rice pilaf, using a recipe from my Better Homes and Gardens' New Cook Book. The recipe calls for onion, mushrooms, celery or green pepper, garlic, butter, water, rice, bouillon granules, pepper and bacon. Instead of the bouillon (since the only ones I have contain gluten AND lactose), I used some of my homemade chicken stock. I used green peppers and omitted the mushrooms (based on their absence in my fridge.) It was really delicious and I now feel like I can start exploring more with rice pilafs as another way to eat rice!

I topped the rice pilaf with Chicken in Lemon and Garlic - a recipe from my tapas cookbook. This is a favorite of ours - it is so easy to make! The first time we made it, I served as his sous chef and watched as he beautifully plated the dish. This time, I was executive chef and scooped the chicken over the rice pilaf in my ziplock containers.

These two dishes were really easy to make AND I was able to practice my knife skills - including chopping fresh parsley from my windowsill garden!

For dessert, I gave good ole Betty Crocker a second chance and tried her brownies (substituting my dairy-free butter). They were like traditional brownies in every way whatsoever with the exception of putting them in the pan. One of my tricks of making brownies is to plop the mix in the center of the brownie pan and shake the pan around until the mix evenly settles. True to their packaging (Betty Crocker's recipe writers deserve much praise for their explicit instructions), the batter was thick so my trick did not work. They looked like real brownies and tasted like real brownies! But they made me a little sick. I know it is not from cross contamination this time since I have had no problems while using my baking equipment the past few weeks. Their chocolate chips don't seem to contain any dairy; the only allergen listed is soy. If I eat the brownies slowly, my stomach can tolerate them much better (rather than the fresh-out-of-the-hot-pan large bites.) Perhaps their serving size of 16 per container should have been a clue? I cut my brownies into nine squares...was I sick from overeating? The brownies are still delicious nonetheless.

Once Eliot and I arrived at Millennium Park and I opened my picnic basket and spread out the picnic blanket, we surveyed our food. In addition to my rice pilaf with chicken and brownies, he brought Enjoy Life's soft baked double chocolate brownie cookies (double yum!) and a bottle of sparkling juice (we are always classy in our beverage choices). I also brought rice crackers and a can of pears...just in case we were super hungry. I have quickly become a fan of Enjoy Life's snack bars, but haven't tried the cookies yet (even though they are in my pantry.) They were super delicious and I love supporting a product that is super allergy friendly (free of the eight common allergens) with "no artificial anything!" labeled with their nutritional information! These were much tastier than any cookie I've had before - they were super rich and loaded with chocolate.

I truly love living in Chicago. For one hour, I was able to leave behind my office job in the hurried Loop and sit on the grass in a park eating delicious foods with my best friend with the sound check for a free concert playing in the background! Plus, I love having a friend who is willing to go to the store and survey all of the gluten and dairy free options they provide before making an informed (and tasty) choice!

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Back to Reality...Qdoba

After our cruise, my family and I headed to the Orlando airport. Before leaving Chicago, I had already spent three or four hours deciphering the airport maps and the different restaurants that had allergen information on their websites so I could make positive food choices. (I've learned that a lot of websites are gluten-free friendly! Adding the dairy made things a little more complicated as I was constantly cross-referencing different charts.) In the end, I decided that at Qdoba, I would be able to get a full meal rather than just a hamburger bun on wax paper.

Qdoba's website is super easy to navigate and identify the food allergen section quickly: I had the pdf version of the menu printed out, but transferred my "yes" food choices to a small business sized card I had in my wallet. Their website states: At Qdoba, we care about giving you the information you need to make informed decisions about eating. Food intolerances make these decisions even more important. Ingredients like wheat, soy, milk, eggs, nuts and fish are found in certain food items served at Qdoba. Perfect! Although my shell and meat options were limited to the Soft White Corn Tortilla with Pork, that was fine since I only needed to eat their once so variety was not that crucial. (Although a little disappointing because their Adobo Seasoning contains whey - dairy.)

My brother ordered his flour burrito and I was next. I told the woman working there that I was allergic to gluten and lactose - could I please have the soft white corn tortilla with pork? The pork does not have their marinade on it, right?

She stared at me. What marinade? The one that is on all the meat. Based on your website, the marinade contains dairy. She had no idea. They were a franchise - they didn't have to follow procedures. They don't have soft white corn tortillas - they turn them into crispy shells. Did they have their allergen chart? Franchise. No. Go to the website. Well, I did and I didn't have the print out with me.

Thankfully, someone else came to my rescue. I explained that I was allergic to gluten and lactose. Could I have the soft white corn tortillas? He got the manager who was able to help me a little more. He brought out three tortilla shells for me. And the woman took them in her gloved hands and put them on the tortilla press. My mom and I yelled "No!" in unison. Again, with the stare. I said that I couldn't have them any more because they were cross contaminated. Frustrated, she threw them away and the other guy and her washed their hands, changed their gloves, and got new tortillas for me. The manager said they would be cold. I said that was fine. (I was not a fan of warm flour being pressed into my shells for some reason...)

While the other guy (who was probably the most helpful of the trio) filled my shells, I learned that my normal taco additions (thanks to my Chipotle habit) of rice and fajita vegetables had an extra charge. And I'm cheap. So I got some salsa and corn. He asked if that was it. It was. These were the three saddest tacos ever. They were not even worth photographing.

And now for the kick to the gut (as if my whole ordeal was not stressful enough and reminded me how unaware people can be about the food they serve): while the whole "no, I'll have the cold tortillas" debacle was being straightened out, a pilot (the only other person in line) asked me where I was flying. I said to Chicago.

"If you are that allergic, you should have brought a snack. It's not fair to the other passengers if your plane has to divert to St. Louis."

I mumbled something about not being that kind of allergic - I just will be running to the bathroom. I was doing everything right in this situation (except for walking around with Qdoba's allergen chart in my back pocket) and a stranger had the audacity to essentially tell me that I don't deserve to eat out since it isn't fair to other people.

I've lived almost two years being gluten intolerant (and unaware and gluten-filled). True, there were some days that I was so sick I left work after 30 minutes (those days were probably the ones where I had a bagel for breakfast instead of skipping the meal) but I NEVER was prevented from taking the bus home (a 30-60 minute ride). I may have been uncomfortable during that time, but my food allergies/intolerances never once affected someone's commute.

I will never eat at Qdoba again. Some people are jerks. This is what I have to look forward to. Great. Welcome back to reality...can I just stay on the cruise ship next time?

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Royal Caribbean Cruise

I love Royal Caribbean. Hands down.

My family and I took a last minute vacation on Royal Caribbean's Monarch of the Seas - a four night cruise from Port Canavaral, Florida to the Bahamas (CocoCay - their private island, and Nassau.) Last summer, we road tripped to Colorado and Wyoming, but that vacation style was out since I am still learning to navigate gluten free at restaurants and did not want to deal with the stress of having fast food as my only roadside options. The price was right for Royal Caribbean's cruise and I fell in love as soon as I searched for "gluten" on their website:

We make every effort to accommodate our guests' dietary requirements whenever possible. We can accommodate dietary needs such as: Food allergies Gluten-free Kosher Low-fat Low-sodium

Lactose-free/soy milk, Ensure, and kosher meals are available no extra charge. All you have to do is notify us at least 45 days prior to sailing (90 days for European/South American Itineraries).

Immediately after my mom made our reservations, I e-mailed their Special Needs department and requested lactose and gluten free foods. I inquired about how I should navigate the buffets and was told to ask the matire d once on ship.

We flew out of Chicago first thing on Sunday morning so I brought my little bag of General Mills cereal to tide me over while the rest of the family searched for breakfast. Once in Florida, we ate lunch at a Thai restaurant near the hotel. This was my first time really dining out with my family without gluten...and my brother's first time eating Thai! Like most Asian restaurants, their soy sauce contains wheat, but I was able to order Sweet and Sour Chicken that was gluten free! My mom and I triple checked that the meat was not breaded - it never is there. It was very delicious and I much prefer the flavors of their take on Sweet and Sour Chicken compared to the Americanized heavily breaded option. For dinner, we went to an Italian restaurant. Upon arriving, I told the hostess that I was lactose and gluten intolerant and if there was anything I could eat there. She said that I could have the pizza without cheese. These seemed too good to be true, so I asked if their dough was made with wheat. It was. Luckily a waitress was nearby and said that she served someone gluten free before and that they could make me vegetables with chicken (one of their pasta dishes sans pasta). While my family ate pizza, I had my plate of veggies. The waitress was even kind enough to charge me for the vegetables and chicken as sides rather than the full price meal, saving me a few dollars. Our vacation was off to a fantastic start!
The next day around lunch time, we boarded the Monarch of the Seas and headed straight towards the buffet at Windjammer Cafe. I felt lost as soon as I entered the cafe. There was so much food and all of the labels were only one or two words in English, no ingredient disclosures that I have grown to love. I found a waitress and said I was gluten and lactose intolerant - could she help me choose food? She quickly came back with one of the chefs who pointed out to me all that I could eat - and I had plenty of options! I started off the cruise with some seafood paella (literally the first thing I ate on the ship was a baby octopus) and accepted (and failed) my brother's challenge to eat a mussel in one bite.

That night, we had our first dinner in the main dining room. I told my waiter that I was lactose and gluten intolerant and he was surprised by the gluten intolerance. It seems that they never received my e-mail about my diet and were instead going off of my mom's initial reservations - she wrote down that I was lactose and glucose intolerant. The head waiter, waiter, and assistant waiter all did a fantastic job accommodating me - I had gluten-free bread, salad, steak with a baked potato and roasted veggies, and a truly last minute dessert of blueberries and strawberries. After we were done with dessert, my waiter brought out the menu for the next night's dinner and I was able to choose my starter and main course ahead of time.

The next day, we had breakfast in the main dining room and they were able to make me fresh scrambled eggs (everyone else's scrambled eggs contained milk) and bacon! Yum! There was even a roasted tomato on the plate! For lunch, we spent our time on the island and ate their buffet. This time, the chef I spoke to was not as knowledgeable about the food, so after confirming that their ribs were gf, I had a few with watermelon on the side. For pre-dinner (we had an 8:30 seating and lunch was SO long ago at that point), I had Mediterranean chicken with rice. The rice was so delicious - I took two bites and had to stop eating since the flavor seemed a lot like buttered rice. I asked a waiter who asked the chef about their white rice - it was just plain white rice. The chef was from the Philippines so really knew how to cook rice well. Plain white rice never tasted so good! I wish I knew his secrets... For dinner, I had a cold mango soup, roasted duck and a poached pear for dessert.
I repeated my breakfast order again, it was simple and filling. I had chocolate soy milk (Silk), but could only drink half the glass since I'm not a big fan of non-traditional milk (even with my mom telling me to just drink it - I need the calcium.) For lunch, I had some more of their amazing flavor-filled plain white rice, meat, and veggies. Dinner was tortilla soup (sans tortilla) and salmon and lentils with rice pudding for dessert. That night was the midnight buffet. A few minutes before the buffet opened, my mom and I went to the poolside deck. I somehow managed to find the maitre d who had one of the sous chefs tell me yay or nay for all of their food. He obviously started with "You can have the fruit!" before showing me all of the yes's that were on the buffet. I had pig, plantains, fish, and grapes.
Our next day was spent at sea. I started breakfast with scrambled eggs and bacon and asked if it was possible to make hash browns with olive oil. The waiter came back with everything but the hash browns, so I dug into my food. Then he brought out the best hash browns ever. I've never had hash browns that were quite so tasty before! For lunch, I had fish with white rice and veggies. I had to wait about five to ten minutes longer for my food than everyone else. The head waiter came to apologize for the wait - the chef jumped out of the boat to catch my fish - he joked. My family and I pre-gamed our dinner as well. The rice noodles in a make-you-own-soup line caught my eye. It took me a little while to confirm that the broth was wheat free (it was freshly made) so I was able to order a bowl of soup. I requested the rice noodles, expecting the traditional Asian style ones I have been using (there were about four or five noodle options) but they came with a Ramen-style noodle. I confirmed that those were rice noodles - they said they were. I couldn't tell what type of flour was used to make the noodle, but I didn't get sick when I ate it so went off the assumption that they were right! The soup was very delicious and I was able to tell that the broth was homemade - it had such a rich flavor! For dinner, I had French Onion soup (minus the cheesy bread on top), steak and potatoes, and another poached pear.

This was such a relaxing and empowering vacation! There is so much food that I CAN eat; it was very exciting for me. I missed cooking, but the eating was so great. Plus I didn't have to do any dishes!!! Royal Caribbean did a wonderful job making sure that I never went hungry and that I always had options for my food. Whenever I told someone on the ship that I couldn't have gluten or lactose, they immediately offered me soy milk and gluten free bread. Their gluten free bread was a little on the dry side, but was much better than some of the other gf breads I have tried. I am no longer scared of seafood and realize that sometimes the simplest recipes can be the greatest (and bursting with flavor!) if they are prepared well. I have so many new menu ideas now!
I'm not going to lie - it was disappointing to see my brother and sister able to eat whatever they wanted. I was most upset by not being able to eat soft serve ice cream. I realize that this may change if my lactose intolerance goes away, but soft serve ice cream invokes so many happy memories of camps and our last cruise (9 years ago). During the hour or two when there was no official dining service, the food options were pizza, soft serve, and fruit. I now have a few new pizza topping ideas, but I was always eating fruit as my afternoon snack. I only gained one pound on the cruise. I don't know how the rest of my family did...

I would travel again with Royal Caribbean in a heartbeat and would recommend them to anyone with food allergies or intolerances. Dining out has never been so stress-free!!! I get sick really easily due to cross contamination and I am pleased to say that I had no problems whatsoever on this cruise! Everyone I talked to was very helpful and knowledgeable. They truly took care of me on this vacation! Thank you, Monarch of the Seas dining staff!!

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Pizano's Sausage Crust Pizza

About twice a year, my day job treats our office to pizza from Pizano's! Today was our lucky day! The past few times, I had a roast beef sandwich as my pizza alternative, but ordering this time around would be a little more difficult. My boss's wife and I were brainstorming what I could order and then I decided I would just call and see what they had that was gluten and lactose free. I had my answer: a sausage crust pizza. (I was unable to find this on their website.)

There was only one review on yelp that mentioned this specialty pizza and it was overwhelmingly negative. I heard of this sausage crust phenomenon before - it seems to be a Chicago thing since deep dish pizza is our speciality. I decided to go for this exciting pizza option! Normally, I have cheese and sausage pizza, but when my crust is sausage, I don't think my stomach would be able to handle the explosion of meat. I decided for a cheese-less pizza with green peppers (for balance.)
Here it is! All in its greasy glory!!

And where it is after I worked my magic and added some goat cheese that I brought from home. Almost everyone at work was intrigued by my pizza and a few people asked if they could have a slice. With only four slices of my personal pizza, I was cutting slivers of the sausage crust for people so they could try it. Everyone loved it! It overall was a pretty good pizza. It was not bursting with flavor - it was just a traditional tasting pizza that just so happened to be made with a sausage crust. This is something I will be ordering again in the future!

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Wilde, Flat Top and Oberweis

I realize that I'm a little behind on blogging about some of my recent dining out experiences - and they were all fantastic!

For my birthday, I spent almost two hours researching restaurants in Lakeview where I could easily eat gluten free with my friends. I was googling and yelping restaurants and finally returned to one of my first finds: Wilde. The theatre geek in me was super excited about going to a pub and restaurant named after famous playwright Oscar Wilde. The gluten and lactose intolerant in me was thrilled at their GLUTEN FREE MENU! (See here to check out all their delicious options! I ordered their Wilde Burger with a gluten-free bun and said that I was also allergic to dairy - so no cheese and no buttered bun. Then my waitress revealed that she too was gluten and dairy free! I was super excited by that - she said that should would make sure they took good care of my food in the kitchen. This was one of the most delicious burgers I have ever had. The whisky added a nice touch, too. ;-) For my side, I had herbed brown rice - also delicious. One of the most amazing parts of the meal was the hamburger bun. I had not had that much luck with bread at that point, so it was thrilling to have bread that tasted like actual bread. (It was worth the upcharge of the gf-bun; the burgers can also be ordered sans bun.) I would love to return to Wilde and try more of their food, otherwise that Wilde Burger is a delicious default option! (P.S. My friends all were raving about their food as well - including the mac and cheese - but I was too busy obsessing over my mouth-watering food to pay that much attention!)

Last week, a friend and I dined at Flat Top Grill. I am always a fan of stir-fry, but a stir-fry restaurant that is super allergy aware? I'm in heaven! The dairy intolerance really doesn't come into play if you are creating a stir-fry; with the exception of the Mu-Shu wraps, all of their dairy items (grand total of 4) are part of dessert. I came to the restaurant with a print out of their web page so I could make good food choices. I shared it with my waitress, who returned with their allergen binder so I could look at the ingredients in their sauces, since they had more sauces available than what was on-line. For the non-marinated meat, my waitress was able to go to the kitchen and get my beef for me (it looked like all the meat they have out was marinated, but I could be wrong.) I had a brown rice bowl with beef, ginger water, rice wine vinegar, and LOTS of veggies! Since their allergen guide says "Feel free to use: All Vegetables" I went to town with adding some vegetables that were new to me. I had endame and a few others new vegetables, whose names now escape me. I added a white stick to my bowl and it was cooked in its own wok, so cross-contamination risks were greatly lowered. My waitress was great and even brought out gf soy sauce to our table for me! I had a fantastic time and really enjoyed dining here! I hope all Flat Top locations are as welcoming as the one I went to!

For dessert after our stir-fry dinner, my friend suggested Oberweis Dairy. Thanks to my blog inspired can-do attitude, I said that sounded like a great idea! I glanced at the menu and decided that I could not figure navigate the menu myself, so I asked the cashier if they have anything that was lactose-free. They had one option! Lemon Sorbet. I asked if she knew if it was also gluten-free. Since she did not know, she pulled out a binder that had their allergen chart (same one as here: The lemon sorbet was both dairy and gluten free! The cashier even showed me the chart so I could see for myself what allergens were in my sorbet of choice (which I love!). My sorbet (which was delicious) was served in a glass container with a metal spoon. My friend (who ordered ice cream) had his served in a paper cup with a plastic spoon. Next time, I think I will pay more attention to the different options of "cups" (since cones are clearly out unless I am in an allergy-friendly location) and request a disposable to cut down on any cross-contamination risk. I really enjoyed knowing that I could still go out and "get ice cream" with my friends without any issues!

Monday, August 9, 2010

Bacon and corn

I am always suspect of people dancing around as they put food in their mouth because the food is just THAT good.

Yesterday morning, I was watching 5 Ingredient Fix on the Food Network. The theme of this episode was Southern Style cooking in the city. After my fried chicken and biscuits, I was still on my little Southern kick, so I sat down and watched the episode rather than having the tv on as background noise while cooking. Claire Robinson showcased a family recipe with Grandma Moore's Creamed Corn. There are only two ingredients: bacon and corn. The cream comes from the corn which is essentially "milked" with the back of your knife! No dairy! The recipe is here: I highly recommend watching the video to see how she cuts the corn. It took me a few tries before I got the hang of milking the corn. In the end, I was able to get a lot of the liquid out for my cream corn. Since I still had the bacon, I crumbled it up and added it over the corn.
I cooked 3 ears of corn and 7 pieces of bacon. I was fully intending on eating this as a side with some leftover fried chicken, but I ate it as my main dish! That can't be healthy!!! (It really was dance-in-your-kitchen so delicious!)

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Fish #1

I have been frantically preparing for an upcoming vacation. In addition to packing and assisting with some of the trip planning, I have been researching restaurants near our hotel, double checking the cruise line's website about having gluten free and lactose free meals, figuring out which restaurants had food I can eat at the airports, tasting and buying packaged snacks, and cooking fish.

Yes, you read that right. I was cooking fish. We are going on a cruise and I know that fish is going to be on the menu often and what better place to eat fish than the Caribbean, right? I can count on one hand how many times I have eaten fish (ignoring McDonalds fillet of fish and super cheap fish sticks that are so far removed from fish, that they really don't count.) And I grew up Catholic - I should have loved eating fish on Friday's during Lent! Somewhere along the line, I decided that fish was gross. (Likely because of the slimy texture that I attributed to the fish I would see in the grocery store.) Life without fish really never was a problem. I was able to opt for macaroni and cheese or a grilled cheese sandwich on those meatless Fridays. But now, with a cruise looming in my near future, I needed to eat fish. To make sure I was not intolerant or allergic.

So I consulted one of my many cookbooks and found an easy recipe that was very hands-off with regards to the actual cooking. I placed my single serving of Whole Foods salmon on aluminum foil sprayed with cooking oil and added some lemon before sealing up the packet and cooking it on a cookie sheet in the oven for 20 minutes. Meanwhile, I cooked some rice in my rice cooker. When the timer went off, I took the fish out of the oven, consulted the cookbook to make sure that the fish was indeed done (it was) and added some fresh squeezed lemon juice on top. For good measure, I also added a little bit of lemon juice to the rice.

The fish was not slimy at all. It has a much softer texture than meat, but nothing scary. It was quite tasty, despite the overpowering lemon. The good news? I'm not intolerant to fish! So I can add that to my "approved" menu and enjoy some delicious fish prepared by chefs who know their way around a fish much better than I ever will! One more culinary door has opened!

Fried Chicken 'n Biscuits

I went to the library on Friday and checked out Roben Ryberg's You Won't Believe It's Gluten-Free. What is truly unique about her book is she gives the same recipe a few different ways using the different flour. So there are multiple recipes for breads that are rice, potato, corn or oat based. These recipes all emphasize the chosen flour so unlike the other cookbooks I'm reading, there is only the need to have one or two special flours - not five or six! A welcome change for my small pantry! She includes recipes for fried chicken. I have not had fried chicken in over a year. Although at some fast food chicken restaurants, I could have a certain variety of chicken that was not made with milk, my choice of sides were extremely minimal and I could never have the biscuit. Growing up, I would eat more than my fair share of biscuits when my mom brought home KFC or Popeye's for dinner! I'm not sure what I loved more - the crispy flour texture surrounding the chicken or the melt-in-you-mouth biscuit.
I set out to make my own fried chicken. I have never fried anything before; I am much more of an oven-baked kind of cook. My small kitchen lacks a deep fryer so I used the last of my cheap cooking oil in one of my pans. I used Roben's recipe for corn-based fried chicken ("special" ingredients are cornstarch and xanthan gum) and used eggs with water for my dredging liquid. Making the fried chicken was fairly easy but a bit messy. In hindsight, I would have cut my chicken pieces smaller and cook them for a few minutes less, but overall, an easy dish to repeat.

For the biscuits, I used her rice-based recipe, substituting rice milk for rice. The result was a very softy and delicious biscuit. It lacks the height of my favorite fast food biscuits, but it was still tasty!

After dinner, I began reading another one of my library books: How to Read a French Fry and Other Stories of Intriguing Kitchen Science by Russ Parsons. I wish I began reading it sooner! The very first chapter is all about the science behind frying, which leads to extremely helpful tips on frying because when you know the why behind cooking, it is much easier to do.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Summer Squash Medley with Rice Noodles

Instructions on making a super easy and fresh gluten-free, lactose-free, vegetarian and vegan dinner:
Go to farmer's market on lunch break. Be indecisive. Finally choose a summer squash variety that includes patty pan's that you need to google to learn the name. Also buy "The Best Italian Garlic" and a tomato.
Arrive home. Boil water with some Kosher salt. Wash vegetables. Take pictures of ingredients.
Add rice noodles to boiling water. Cook for 6 minutes, per instructions on bag. Heat your finest (Spanish) olive oil in wok. Add some thinly sliced garlic. Watch garlic burn quickly. Turn down heat to low. Chop other vegetables. Take pictures of improving knife skills.Drain noodles. Add vegetables to wok. Pick out burned garlic. Stir (allowing it to cook for about 5 minutes on medium heat). Add four more garlic cloves - chopped in half this time. Dice a tomato. Add noodles to wok. Stir. Add tomatoes. Stir. Cook for a minute or two.

Place in bowl. Take pictures. Eat. Decided to add salt and pepper to make taste. Continue eating.

Repeat the "eating" step for lunch as well tomorrow.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Gluten-Free Girl

I just finished re-reading Gluten-Free Girl: How I Found the Food That Loves Me Back & How You Can Too by Shauna James Ahern.


I initially read this book simultaneously with Gluten-Free for a Healthy Life. Shauna's book is a conversational invitation into her world and experiences with Celiac disease and moving towards a life full of "yes" rather than depriving herself of foods when she went gluten-free. I have already recommended this book to a few people who are looking to know more about Celiac disease and gluten-intolerance.

Shauna recommends shopping from local butchers and at farmer's markets. The last time I went to a butcher shop was when I was a very little girl and accompanied my mom to buy meat for a party. I'm sure I could find a butcher in one of Chicago's ethnic neighborhoods (I'm surrounded by chains in my neighborhood.) Almost religiously, I go to the downtown farmer's market on my Thursday lunch hours. Being able to buy fresh food from a market is so great. Seeing the abundance of foods in season help navigate food choices for upcoming meals.
***The next day***

Two of Shauna's tips are to "Make as much as you can from scratch" and "Only use a packaged product if it says it's gluten-free."

When I initially read that, I was congratulating myself on finding so many incidentally gluten-free products. Even with a list of dozens names gluten can go by, I paid the price by having incidentally gluten-free chicken broth. It was manufactured in the same facility that processes milk and wheat. I used the broth earlier and felt a little sick. I made quinoa with the broth (to give the food some more nutrition) and felt sick when I had about half a cup. Last night, I had about a cup and absolutely crashed. The pain returned in my chest, I had trouble breathing, I lost all energy and could barely string together some coherent thoughts and even went to bed two hours earlier than normal. Well, I think my incidentally-gluten-free broth is the trouble-maker. (And I bought three more boxes of the broth - oops!)

Moral of the story:
Use the chicken broth I already made from scratch myself.
Avoid packaged foods that are surprisingly gluten-free.

When I first found out that I was going to be gluten-free for the rest of my life, I was disappointed because my taste buds were finally maturing and coming alive. My body wanted to be a foodie but my lifestyle was forcing me into a grab-and-go way of eating. I learned to cook foods that I could easily freeze when I was not able to cook more than once a week for a few hours (2 or 3 total). Now, I AM a foodie. Every closed door in my diet means that a few new doors open with foods I have never tried. Nothing seems daunting any more. Reading Gluten-Free Girl has been such an encouragement to me. Here is someone who is a few years into her gluten-free life and what a life it is! She is truly living and loving her food. If you are gluten-free or simply want to better appreciate food or live better, please read her book! It is a guidebook and an uplifting testament from someone who really knows food and the dangers that gluten can cause some people!