Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Thanksgiving Recipe Round Up

Thanksgiving is almost here!  If you are looking for some last minute gluten free and allergen friendly Thanksgiving recipes, look no further!  Here is a list of some delicious crowd-pleasing recipes.

If this is your first time cooking for someone with food allergies or intolerances, be sure to check out my How Do I Cook Gluten Free For You? entry.

Cornstarch Gravy

Gluten-Free Stuffed Celery Bites

Gluten Free Skillet Cornbread with Apples and Thyme Recipe

Gluten-Free Cornbread Dressing Recipe

Udi’s Gluten Free Stuffing Recipe

Gluten Free Stuffing

Wild Rice Stuffing With Pine Nuts, Dried Cranberries, and Fresh Herbs

Mom's Mashed Potatoes

Gluten free green bean casserole

Green Bean Casserole

Gluten-Free Butternut Squash Baked Risotto

Grandma’s Pie Crust
Homemade Gluten-Free Apple Pie

Sweet Potato Pie Cookies with Orange Glaze
(Be sure to substitute your favorite gluten free all purpose flour mix)
Have a great Thanksgiving!

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Back on dairy?

On Friday night, I was craving pizza.  I am normally not one to crave things so strongly, so I decided to give in to temptation.  My local grocery store has a pretty decent gluten and dairy free selection, but there is only one option for frozen gluten free pizza.  With cheese.

I've spent years thinking about when would be a good time to do a dairy challenge.  Friday nights are the best since I can have the whole weekend to recover.  I have been working most weekends and have non-stop things to do, so normally I don't have a weekend "off".  With an uncharacteristic free weekend ahead, I decided now or never with a simple dairy challenge.

I ate an entire cheese pizza (I was hungry) and had no major side effects.  Just really minor things that don't cause any concern.

My goal has been to be able to tolerate some dairy again.  Mainly, so I can go out to eat and only be "gluten free".  I am not rushing to the dairy case to buy a gallon of milk or a carton of ice cream anytime soon.  I love the dairy free alternatives.  I now know that if I go out and I hear that the delicious chicken I just ate was marinated in yogurt (as was the case in an Indian restaurant on Saturday), I can enjoy the meal wondering where the nearest bathroom is, getting nauseous, or having a panic attack.  It frees me to enjoy more foods again, but everything in moderation!  I can now sneak chocolate kisses from the candy bowl at my mom's house come Christmas time, but should probably stop at two instead of two handfuls.

I have been dairy free since Spring 2009, gluten free since June 2010 and low fructose since February 2012.  Has anyone else experienced a food intolerance disappearing as time goes on and the gut heals?

GIG Recap: Gluten Free Beers and Simple Squares

Our October Gluten Intolerance Group (GIG) meeting was all about healthy snacks and delicious drinks!

First up in our packed and tasty meeting was Simple Squares.  Founder and Chief Square Kimberly talked about the origin of Simple Squares and how they are a tasty snack.  All of the squares have five ingredients or less and are perfect for snacking on the go.  She shared samples of her soon-to-be released coffee flavor square.  What a great morning snack!  Simple Squares are organic whole food snack bars with vanilla and herbs - without any wheat. gluten, dairy, soy or refined sugar!  I try to always have some squares on hand for grab and go snacks.

In honor of Halloween, SurfSweets sent us their spooky spider gummies!  These are perfect treats to give kids for Halloween without worrying about allergens or high fructose corn syrup!  Their fun shapes even brought smiles to the adults in the room.

We sampled several different types of gluten free beers and ciders.  I tried everyone that was available, had around a dozen empty cups at the end (don't worry - they weren't poured to the top) and found some new favorites.

Gluten free beer has been transforming over the years.  Bard's Beer is perfect for traditional beer lovers - its sorghum flavoring hits the spot (and is perfect for making beer brats).  New Grist also carries a sorghum based beer that we tried.  We sampled three different options from Green's - wow - some of these had the largest amount of alcohol and tasted great!  Pace yourself!  Goose Island recently introduced Queen-OA, a quinoa based beer from Chicago's popular brewery.  My new favorite is New Planet beer - there are three assorted flavors (Tread Lightly Ale, 3R Raspberry Ale, and Off Grid Pale Ale) and are perfect for those who love fruity flavors in the style of malt beverages like me!

The best part about the tasting was that everyone had their own new favorite and we all tried some very delicious beers.  Gluten free beers can be expensive, so having several companies provide samples for our group has been the best way to see what is out there!  This was our second annual Gluten Free Octoberfest Beer Tasting and I can't wait to see what products are on the market next year!

What is your favorite gluten free beer?  Leave a message in the comments!

Our next meeting is Monday, November 5 and we will be talking about gluten free Thanksgiving, swapping recipes, and sampling some bread.  We meet in the South Loop Whole Food's classroom at 8:00pm!  Hope to see you there!

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Gluten Free Bread Bowl Soup

Soup belongs in a bread bowl.  Period.  Just because I am gluten free does not mean that my days of eating soup this delicious way is over!  I used one package of Bob's Red Mill's Gluten Free Homemade Wonderful Bread to form four tasty, you won't believe its gluten free, bread bowls.  After experimenting with their delicious thirteen bean soup mix, I found chorizo to be a great pairing for soup with a kick.

Check out my guest blog post on Bob's Red Mill's site for the recipe and more pictures of the delicious soup! http://www.bobsredmill.com/blog/2012/10/19/windy-city-cooking/  The recipe is gluten free, dairy free and packed with flavor!

Bob's Red Mill and I want you to try this recipe yourself at home!  So much so that WindyCityCooking.blogspot.com is having its first ever giveaway!  Three lucky winners will receive a package of the GF bread mix and the 13 bean soup mix just in time for warming up with a delicious fall soup.  Leave a comment on this entry before November 5, 2012 to be entered.  Let me know what your favorite bean is OR why you love to be gluten free!  Good luck!  And check back on November 6, 2012 for the winners!!

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Thinking about going gluten free?

A lot of people have been asking me if the gluten free diet is right for them.  Their doctor may have recommended it or they just don't feel great.  Here's my advice and nuggets of knowledge for people before venturing into the gluten free diet, a gluten free introduction before Gluten Free 101, so to speak.  Remember: I am not a doctor or nutritionist.  I am a very well read gluten free blogger with a Bachelor's degree in Theatre and Creative Writing who is passionate about helping people.  I literally read every book the Chicago Public Library had on gluten free within my first three months on the diet.  My gluten free diet started in June 2010.  I have been lactose free since spring 2009.
Trust your gut.  Literally.  Listen to your body.  Do you need to take a nap after eating a piece of bread?  Are you sent into the a fit of stomach cramps after a cupcake?  Are things "unusual" in the bathroom after a bite of wheat?  What symptoms do you have?  Write everything down.  Even the stuff that you don't think matters - everything in your body is all connected.  It does matter.  Everyone's symptoms are different.
Know thyself.  Are you okay with going on a gluten free diet for the rest of your life without a confirmed diagnosis of Celiac Disease?  I had the following tests done and my results were always negative: blood work, stool testing, upper endoscopy, colonoscopy, and allergy testing (skin testing).  The only test left was the gene testing.  By the time my doctor suggested it (a new one at this point - I saw four gastros in less than two years), I knew I needed to be on a gluten free diet and was rocking it for over a year and a half.  She stressed to me the for the rest of your life part.  "Forever is a long time at your age."  (I'm 27 years young.)    Honestly, the only thing a positive gene test would change would be to require all my paternal relatives to get tested as well since it is likely from my Italian side of the family.  If the test were negative, I would still eat a gluten free diet.  It cost thousands of dollars to figure out that I did not have Celiac Disease and only one week on a gluten free diet to realize that it solved all of my problems.  (I started the diet on Monday and by Friday was back to normal.  For more on how the gluten free diet flipped the light switch in my body, check out this NBC clip: http://www.nbcchicago.com/news/health/Gluten-Free-Diets-Help-More-Than-Just-Celiac-Patients-110238099.html)  For me, I spent so much time, effort, agony and money and was literally wasting away.  I had nothing else to try but a gluten free diet.  It saved my life.  I'm stubborn enough to stick with something and am passionate enough to do all the research and whatever it takes to keep my body going in a positive direction.  Officially, my gastro wrote down "gluten intolerant" in my chart.  I later found that there was a fancier name for it: NCGI - Non Celiac Gluten Intolerance.  Yes, you can have gluten intolerance without Celiac Disease.  The treatment is the same.  The diagnostic tools aren't defined yet.  Here's my simple test: do you feel better off gluten?  If yes, then stay off it!!!  
Remember: you need to be eating gluten if you want to have your doctor run tests!  Do not start a gluten free diet unless you are okay with never having an official test done to confirm your diagnosis.
No cheating.  When I told my dad that I was going to be gluten free, he asked if I could have a roll with dinner if I was gluten free all week.  Nope.  Not even a bread crumb.  My reactions were pretty mild when I was cross-contaminated or ate the wrong food (why in the world would people put malt in cereal?) my first few weeks of going gluten free.  After that, my reactions got more severe.  Now, if I am glutenized, I miss a day of work, spend five days having my body recover, lose two pounds and get either a cold or migraine (my immune system goes into hibernation after a reaction...)  My mildest gluten hangover is much worse than my worst alcohol induced hangover.  I can't try a piece of my brother's wedding cake next month - not even a sliver.  And when that bread basket goes around the table, I lean back in my chair and let people pass it over me so I don't touch it.
Have a "last meal".  My original expirement was going to be one week off gluten, one week on gluten, then report to my doctor how I felt.  It turns out that I felt so great off gluten that I didn't want to go back on.  I knew I needed to try it again to make sure that no other factor triggered the radical change in my body.  I only made it one meal on gluten.  My "last meal" was ravioli from Whole Foods (finding some that were dairy free was a royal pain two years ago) and a (soy) ice cream sandwich.  After that in June 2010, I never consciously ate gluten again.  For me, it immensely helped to be emotionally ready to move to a life without gluten.  Most of the time, I enjoy the diet.  The negative feelings I have tend to have (and they are rare, but worth noting so you don't think the diet is all sunshine, rainbows and frosted cupcakes) are rejected (going to a party without anything but a glass of wine to eat), annoyed (why the bleep did you put gluten in this food?), sad (I'll never eat Jimmy John's again), and nervous (concerned about safe food options at unknown events).
Eating isn't as spontaneous.  You will become a label sleuth.  Gluten free means more than just wheat free.  You need to be free of malt, barley, rye and most oats.  Oats make the list due to cross contamination issues since they often share the same fields and equipment as wheat.  Did you know that beer and soy sauce contain gluten?  Did you know that companies like Bard's Beer and San-J offer even better alternatives than the original variety?  When dining out, I use restaurant cards to inform my server and chef of my food intolerances.  Almost all of my meals outside the comfort of my kitchen have been fantastic!  Check out some tips and tricks on dinning out.
Gluten is everywhere!  In your lipstick, shampoos, and even medicine!  (Gluten and lactose are often binders on medicine - lactose is especially common.  If you are considering a gluten free diet, call the manufacturer and ask if the product if gluten free.  There's nothing worse than a raging headache made worse by ingesting gluten.)  Companies are being much more proactive about labeling things as gluten free every year.  At my dentist, the fluoride they used said "gluten free" right on the front!
You'll eat healthier.  That's not to say that you'll stop eating bread, cupcakes, donuts, and cookies.  There are plenty of those out there - and they taste wonderful!  But they are pricey so you'll find yourself reaching more for fruit to satisfy your sweet tooth.  I increased my vegetable intake a crazy amount after going gluten free.  Diets like the paleo diet are great for meal inspiration.  Paleo is also known as the caveman diet - so you eat what our foremothers and fathers could hunt and gather.  It is naturally dairy and gluten free!
You'll try new foods.  Have you ever tried millet before?  Tastes great!  (Yes, Mom, this is the same grain that you feed your bird.  But mine is cooked!)  I love using brown rice flour for coating chicken - it has much more flavor than wheat flour.  The diet had me trying new things - like summer squash!  (I know, not a radical thing for most people, but I never tried it before going gf.)
You'll be part of a growing community.  When I first figured out I had NCGI, I felt like an impostor.  Could I go to Celiac events and meetings?  Was I any less gluten intolerant than other people since that had a biopsy test they could point to?  The answer is no.  No matter how you found out or what your doctor says, you can proudly wear the gluten free label.  I am the co-leader of the Chicago chapter of the Gluten Intolerance Group.  I "like" a lot of companies on Facebook and stay up-to-date with their latest products - and even snag some coupons!  This week, I have pizza plans with two other gluten free gals.  My life isn't slowing down on a gluten free diet!
You'll get crafty in the kitchen.  There are so many recipes to try!  With the convenience of fast food taken away, I learned how to cook great tasting meals.  I normally cook 4-6 servings at a time and freeze the leftovers in individual portions so I can have homemade frozen meals at my fingertips.  I work over 50 hours a week and have time to work, cook, clean, and enjoy my life!  If I can do it - any one can!  (I was a horrible cook before going gluten free - but an amazing baker.  Now I can proudly wear my chef's hat and my baking apron in the kitchen.)
You'll use social media in new ways.  I have a blog, facebook page, pinterest account and twitter account...in addition to a social media-free day job!  It can be a lot, but I feel fantastic and inspired being part of this larger community.
What advice would you give to someone considering a gluten free diet?  Anything you wish someone told you before you started?

GIG Recap: Breakfast

Our August meeting for the Chicago Chapter of the Gluten Intolerance Group was all about breakfast foods.  Did you know that there are many delicious options out there?  Start your morning off on a great foot with a filling meal!
At the meeting, we made waffles using Namaste's waffle mix, a little water, eggs and oil.  In mere minutes, the eggs were broken, the mix blended and the waffle iron worked its magic!  Everyone at the meeting had their very own hot waffle - a first for our GIG chapter!

We also sampled lots of different breakfast products.  Ener-G has chocolate donuts (regular and donut holes) and  English muffins that were great tasting.  O'Doughs sent us a variety of their flavorful muffins and bagels   Our members left with a bag of Bob's Red Mill's new certified gluten free oat bran and coupons for frozen waffles from Van's Natural Foods.  Many thanks to these generous companies!  Our members certainly enjoyed tasting everything during our meeting!   You even have some new fans!

Reminder: Use a dedicated gluten free waffle iron!  They are surprisingly cheap.  I use mine a lot and make several batches of waffles at once and freeze them.  They are easy to heat in a toaster.  Speaking of toasters, every gluten free kitchen has a dedicated toaster, right?  Those pesky wheat crumbs go everywhere - don't let it touch your gf food!

Products we tried today:
Oat bran from Bob's Red Mill http://www.bobsredmill.com/
Chocolate doughnuts, chocolate doughnut holes and English muffins from Ener-G http://ener-g.com/
Muffins and bagels from O'Doughs http://odoughs.com/
Waffles from Namaste Foods http://namastefoods.com/
Frozen waffles from Van's http://www.vansfoods.com

Cuisinart Waffle Iron - $39.95

Great Resources for Lots of Breakfast Recipes

Broccoli and Italian Sausage Egg Muffins
Gluten Free Pancakes – Hold the Xanthan Gum
Gluten Free French Omlette
Vegan Chocolate Spinach Shake

Next GIG Meetings:
8:00pm.  South Loop Whole Foods Classroom, Chicagp.  FREE gluten free event.  Open to all!
September 10, 2012.  Lunches on the Go and Smart Shopping.
October 1, 2012. Octoberfest: Beer Tasting and Tasty Treats.
November 5, 2012.  All Are Welcome (Thanksgiving).
December 3, 2012.  The Twelve Cookies of Christmas.

GIG Recap: Barbecues and Picnics

Happy Labor Day weekend, everyone!
I hope you are taking advantage of the gorgeous weather and are enjoying some good eats.

In June, the Chicago chapter of the Gluten Intolerance Group chatted about summer barbecues and picnics.  We tasted Kinnikinnick's very soft hot dog and hamburger buns (they are PERFECT for your gluten free summer eats!) - have you tried them yet?  The adults in the group enjoyed Bard's beer.  It is made with sorghum and tastes just like regular beer, our members said.

Below is the information we shared at the meeting:

Gluten Free Barbecues and Picnics
Just because you are gluten free does not mean you need to pass up that invitation to a summer barbecue or picnic!  Here are some tips we shared:

Bring your own bread. 
Prevent cross-contamination
Grill foods for guests with food intolerances and allergies on a piece of tin foil.  Use separate utensils as well.
Only eat safe foods
This may mean passing up that tempting side dish because you do not know who prepared it or the complete ingredient list.  Better safe than sorry!  If you have friends or family members attending as well, you may want to plan ahead to make sure that there is a variety of delicious foods for you to enjoy.  This may be as simple as a cousin setting aside some half finished appetizers for you before she adds the finishing touches (which contain offending allergens).
Bring some chips!
There are a ton of potato chips now being labeled as gluten free.  These are a barbeque and picnic staple.  Make yourself a plate early on to prevent cross-contamination.
But watch out for the dip
If there are chips and pretzels next to the dip bowl, be wary before eating any dip.  Cross contamination can easily occur if wheat items are scooped into the dip bowl.
Stay (naturally) sweet
Fruit is a great dessert for hot summer days.  Why not try fruit kabobs?   Or cutting watermelon with cookie cutters and placing on popsicle sticks?
Have fun!
Summer in the city is short-lived.  Enjoy it!

Frito Lay’s allergen list:
Heinz’s gluten free list:
Grilled corn on the cob with lots of tutorial photos:

More resources:

We have gathered some recipes that you are sure to enjoy.  As always, remember to read labels diligently to make sure items are truly gluten free.  Prevent cross-contamination in the kitchen by working with clean utensils, bowls, towels…

Gluten Free Potato Salad with Fresh Green Beans and Tarragon Dressing: http://glutenfreecooking.about.com/od/soupsandsalads/r/potatosaladrecipe.htm
Grilled Zucchini Salad with Lemon-Herb Vinaigrette and Shaved Romano and Toasted Pine Nuts: 
Gluten Free Classic All American Hamburgers: http://www.celiac.com/articles/22123/1/-All-American-Hamburgers-Gluten-Free/Page1.html
Chili and Garlic Chex Mix: http://www.chex.com/Recipes/RecipeView.aspx?RecipeId=45296&CategoryId=447
Watermelon Lemonade Recipe: http://coffeetea.about.com/od/lemonade/r/waterlem.htm
Summer Corn Salad: http://www.windycitycooking.blogspot.com/2012/05/summer-corn-salad.html

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Freezing Summer Corn

I recently traveled to my uncle's farm in Wisconsin.  After I helped pick dozens of ears of corn, he gave me a TON of his food.  I literally spent the entire next day cooking and freezing everything, so I'm behind on blogging.  Can I just say that it is so cool to see where your food comes from?  Three years ago on his farm, I learned how bell peppers grew.  To be honest, I never really thought of it.  Blame the city girl in me.  Each year, my uncle's backyard farm gets bigger and bigger and despite the record hot temperatures, his farm is producing a lot of great tasting food without any pesticides.  (I wish I could say the same for my table-sized porch garden that withered in Chicago's heat.)

After I left, I had 17 ears of corn.  My cousin came and took a few, but I still had too much to eat.  I ended up freezing a lot of it.  Now's the time to freeze corn, all you farmer's market lovers!  It is very easy.  Here are simple directions on freezing corn.

Shuck the corn.  Remove as much of the silk as you can.
Fill your biggest pot with water and a tablespoon of sugar (optional) and bring to boil.  Fill your clean sink with ice and cold water.

Blanche the corn by cooking in boiling water for 2-3 minutes and immediately transferring to the sink.
Once the corn is cool enough to handle, cut the kernels off the cob.
Place in freezer bags.  Enjoy year round.
And don't forget to share corn with your feathered friends!  Malika (Mom's African Grey) loves corn cooked without sugar in the water - and she makes a huge mess when she eats it!

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Better Batter Chocolate Cake (Birthday) Cupcakes

Happy Birthday to me!

And what is a birthday without chocolate cake?  (The answer is "pretty sad" if you are a chocoholic with a sweet tooth.)

I previously made a box worth of cupcakes from Better Batter's gluten free and dairy free chocolate cake mix that they sent me to try. I made them for an event and loved the convenience - what a breeze to make for someone who doesn't have all day to spend in the kitchen.  Add water, oil and eggs to the dry mix and mere minutes later, the cupcakes are on their way to the oven.  The cupcakes are wonderfully moist and as I mentioned in an earlier entry about their Yellow Cake Mix, they are a decorator's dream.  The tops bake smooth and are ideal for decorating.  The Better Batter chocolate cake mix tastes so rich - they are a great dessert!  I love making and eating their cupcakes!

At my recent dessert-bringing event, my cupcake versus people ratio was off so I had plenty of leftovers.  I took them home and froze them, hoarding them for future use...like my birthday.  Turns out I can have cake without turning on the oven on a hot July day!

I've read tips from moms from allergic kids that you should cut the cupcake in half and then put the frosting on the inside so it freezes well (and you can make a bunch at once) so kids can have birthday treats with their classmates.  The frosting on the inside is totally unnecessary.  Over the past year, I have been freezing cupcakes - both naked and fully decorated.  With the exception of some squishing of the frosting when I store them in too small containers (as pictured above), there are no issues with freezing decorated cupcakes.  There are a few ways to defrost them:

  • Let sit at room temperature for an hour.  This is best for people who have patience, can plan ahead, or want to throw it in a lunchbox.
  • Defrost with the 0.1 lb setting in the microwave.  This is great for the warm straight-from-the-oven taste for those of you who normally eat your desserts while the pan is still burning hot from the oven.
  • Microwave on high for 1 minute for those of you who want the frosting to slide off and make a hot mess.  This is not recommended if you prefer your desserts to look classy or presentable.  Don't worry - it still tastes great.

Do you freeze your leftover cupcakes?  Or are you asking "what's a leftover cupcake" because they fly off your kitchen counter?

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Sushi Making Class

One of the coolest things I have done lately is take a sushi rolling class.  Part of my plan of continuing my education is taking cooking classes.  (Official culinary education is too expensive for me, but that doesn’t prevent me from taking classes offered on Groupon, Living Social, and the Wilton cake decorating classes!)   I decided to take Sushi Making...Just Roll with It through IWisshLessons.  When I registered for the class, my signature line identified me as a gluten and dairy free blogger, but I failed to come outright and say that I could not consume those two allergens.   Upon arriving for the class (which was held at a downtown bar), I informed the ladies from the company that I was gluten and lactose intolerant.  They went through the ingredients and could not think of anything that would cause me trouble expect for the soy sauce.  Of course, I brought my own, thanks to San-J’s single serving soy sauce packets.  Only when we got to the final roll was any red flag raised regarding allergens – crabmeat.  Thankfully I pretty much memorized the lists of forbidden foods on the gluten free diet over the past two years, so I avoided the crabmeat (imitation crab is often bound together with wheat) and asked for more cucumber sticks.  Everyone was very accommodating and our instructor was excellent.  She is a sushi chef at a nearby restaurant and was great with making sure everyone knew what we were doing.  I went to class solo, but there were couples and groups of friends learning sushi rolling together over a glass of wine or bottle of beer.

Our first roll was an extremely basic Cucumber Roll.  We laid out our seaweed and spread the sticky rice over it, filling it completely except for a small section at the top.  Then we laid the cucumber sticks on the rice and rolled it as tight as possible.  Next, we cut the sushi into equal sized pieces.  (Hint: if you dip a knife in water first, you'll get a cleaner cut.)

The second roll was a California Roll that appeared to be inside out.  It started much like the first, but we added toasted sesame seeds.  Then it was flipped upside down and then the fillings were added.

The final roll could have been made one of the two previously shown ways.  We had spicy tuna added to our ingredient repertoire.  (It was quite spicy, too!)  If we wanted, we could enter our sushi into a friendly competition, judged by the I Wish representatives and the instructor.  The competition was based on presentation.  As a blogger who almost always has her camera attached to her wrist while doing anything food related, I understood presentation.  I carefully plated my sushi and submitted my plate.  Although I lost, the instructor exclusively pointed mine out as “exceptionally rolled”.  Go me!  Maybe I have a knack for this sushi thing after all!
Overall, I recommend taking a sushi class.  The I Wish lessons were well presented and the company’s reps were great about making sure we had the necessary supplies throughout each step.  (Although they didn’t have to be so stingy with the paper towels – I didn’t realize just how much one needs to rinse their hands off after touching the sticky rice!)