Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Thanksgiving recipes, tips, tricks

It is my favorite time of year - THANKSGIVING
It is a great holiday for eating, being grateful, while surrounded by friends and family. It is truly the best! 
Here is my annual round out of tips and recipes. I hope you have a fantastic Thursday and fun cooking your way to it. 

Planning ahead tips - for the newly gf or new-to-hosting-someone-gluten-free
Brining a turkeyCooking a turkey Brining and cooking a duck Stuffing (aka dressing)
cranberry orange saucecranberry apple saucestuffed mushrooms
vegan sweet potato cornbread
homemade crackers
chex mix 
apple pie
vegan pumpkin custard
pumpkin pie 
English toffee

buttermilk brioche (you could turn them into rolls by doling them out into muffin tins)

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

how difficult is it to be gluten free

Jennifer Esposito's recent interview got a few wheels turning. Is it actually harder now than it was 4 years ago to be gluten free? Are there really no resources "out there" for Jennifer (and the millions of other humans who need to live gluten free)? 

When people are first diagnosed I cut them a lot of slack. I offer them advice. I tell others to be care, generous, and above all forgiving. When you are first figuring out the gluten-free landscape it can feel overwhelming and one can be prone to hyperbole. But after 4 years, perspective should have set in. There are now more gluten-free cookbooks, online resources, guides, friends, and medical professions who know what gluten is. It is far from perfect, but it is leaps and bounds better. It is also millions of times easier to find information than if you were diagnosed before the mid-90s... you know before the internet. 

I think we need a time out to talk about privilege. Gluten-free privilege looks like this:

If you had the ability to google anything about celiac disease or gluten
If you have the free time do research about gluten
You have a computer
People listen to you when you say your are ill
You found a doctor who would work with you and doesn't say its all in your head
You have a doctor
You have health insurance
You have the time and money to go to multiple doctors visits
You have paid sick time to have medical tests done like an endoscopy and colonoscopy
If you made it this far down the list, there is a high probability that you are white and not suffering from other healthcare disparities 
You have choices in what you get to eat and when
You have access to gluten free replacement foods (like gf bread)
You can afford gluten free replacement foods
You can afford the time and money to research gluten-free options
You have a platform where people listen to you (cough blogging cough)
You have access to gluten free recipes, cookbooks, guides

So why does this matter?

In the US, right now, 15% of people live at or below the poverty line ($23,050 or less a  year for a family of four). That is over 45 million people. It is actually a lot more complicate. Let's put this in perspective. The average actual cost of living for a family of 5 in the US is $58,627 a year

There are millions of Americans who don't have access to time, information, or money to buy gluten-free replacement foods. Millions of Americans don't have the privilege that Jennifer does, or that I do. There are people who won't get a chance this year to find out that by not eating gluten, she could feel a whole lot better. 

The second big problem I have with Esposito's comment is the fact that it has the effect of erasing people. By saying that there aren't any resources out there, she is blanketing decades of research, books, advocacy, and lives of people who helped make it possible for her to be diagnosed as having celiac disease and have something to eat before she opened her bakery. 

Jennifer, as does everyone, has the right to feel alone and frustrated with the current gluten-free marketplace in the US. It can be incredibly difficult to navigate through misinformation, cross-contamination, and feel like you are constantly having to educate others. It can be exhausting. But we need to acknowledge that we aren't the first human beings dealing with this and that things would be a lot more difficult with the incredible work of other people who shared recipes, engaged in scientific research without the funding of drug companies, provided support networks in-person and online, and made safe gf food options available before yesterday. Ignoring those people, erasing them from history, that doesn't help us at all. It hurts us. 

Friday, September 27, 2013

boycott barilla

It is really hard to find good gluten-free pasta. So much of it tastes like shoes or disintegrates a millisecond after it reaches al dente.

And now it is a bit harder.

Barilla's CEO's bigoted comments means it is off the table. I implore you to add your voice and tell Barilla that an apology isn't enough. They need to include all types of families in their ads. A boycott is not enough. Leave them a comment on their site. Let's flood them with our voices.

Here was what I wrote them:

As an Italian American, and a human being, I am appalled at the bigoted comments made by your CEO. LGBT pasta eaters and their allies care about such language and will boycott your products until you apologize and add images of all families into your ad campaigns. You need to make reparations for the wrong and painful language used by the head of your organization and acknowledge that you actually care about your consumers. I will not be eating your products until you do so, nor will anyone I know.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

the very best gluten free pumpkin bars

I am not one for gloating, but hear me people when I say that I have made the most delicious pumpkin thing ever! (The picture doesn't do it justice - these treats survived the worst public transit could throw at them this morning and still provided joy to others.)

Do you remember when I totally tried to pull of a failed pumpkin bread recipe and call it a "brownie"? We can laugh at that now, because with a few tweaks, that recipe has sprouted a new MOST GLORIOUS food.

Oh yes I did cut them into parallelograms. On-the-bias slices might just be tastier. Don't even think about asking me if one could put chocolate chips in said recipe. Chocolate has no place here. Stop trying to put chocolate on/in everything! Chocolate is good, but it overwhelms squashes in general. While I cannot stop you from mucking about in your own kitchen, I am going to pause and stare-you-down towards the right decision.

Ok, put the bag of chips down, and pay attention.

These guys are spicy, not in the chili pepper way, but in the loads of wonderful, intense spices that make this a borderline spice bar. If you are a traditionalist - aka boringmouth - you can half the spices and you will still have a good pumpkin bar. But why settle for good when you can have the best square of pumpkin in the world? (Seriously, why would you?)

gluten free pumpkin bars
1 stick unsalted butter (aka half a cup)
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup white or cane sugar
2 eggs
1/2 cup millet flour
1/2 cup brown rice flour
1/2 cup hazelnut meal
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp xanthan gum
1 tsp salt
1 1/2 tsp Ceylon cinnamon
3/4 tsp Vietnamese cinnamon
1 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp ground allspice
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
1 tsp ground cloves
1/2 tsp ground coriander
2 tsp psyllium husk
15oz (canned) pumpkin

Preheat oven to 350F
1. Cream the butter and sugars. You aren't going to fluffy, but you want to take it past the point where it is a ball of grit hanging on to your mixer, to a smear of stuff coating the mixing bowl.
2. Add in each egg, one at a time. Mix till it is thoroughly incorporated.
3. Combine all of the dry ingredients in a separate bowl.
4. Pour half of the dry mix into the butter/sugars/egg mixture and combine. Add half of the pumpkin to the bowl and combine. Repeat.
5. Bake in a 9x13x3 inch baking dish at 350F for 25-40 minutes depending on the awesomeness of your oven. You want to be able to insert a stick into the center and have it come out clean.
6. Cool.
7. Cut and enjoy! 

Friday, September 6, 2013

sarcasm, hyperbole, and access oh my

I treasure sarcasm, so when HuffyP throws at me some sarcasm with science I am in a special little part of hog heaven. It is really really really hard to not respond to asinine blanket statements about "food fads" that hit close to home without exploding in some form of rage. The reality is - it is personal. Being hyperbolic is a fun way of pointing out some pretty ridiculousness without perhaps seeming shout-y.

5+ years later I still get irked when people equate their "diet" with my inability to eat gluten without becoming ill - and opening up long-term health risks. It is not the same. Not remotely.

I am frustrated-at-hypothetical-you, equating your desire to avoid a food for weight loss is no the same. In fact, I have a new speech in my back pocket for you. When you say "oh maybe I should go gluten-free, its so much healthier and I could probably loose some weight" I say "most people gain weight on a gluten-free diet, many because they were malnourished, but a lot of gluten-free replacement foods are higher in calories. And you need to be very vigilant and read every label and you don't get to go to a new restaurant on a Friday or Saturday when its busy, and the biggest hurdle is crumbs and cross-contamination..." At this point your eyes start to widen, or glaze over, and a little piece of me hopes I have dispelled any notion that living gluten-free is anything like that 2 weeks you tried Weight Watchers in the mid-90s.

Also, I have noticed that "you" are a woman under 50. Men don't say shit like this to me. (White men however do feel the need to point at my cane and ask me "so what happened there?" like it is their business, and obviously temporary.) This isn't a controlled study, but 5 years of gf living and I feel like its gotta be a bit more than anecdotal at this point. Women who I speak to about my food needs assume I am doing it to loose weight, nearly every single time. They also assume that I want to discuss weight loss techniques because I am on a "diet". We have a lot of work to do to create a better, healthier social climate for women and girls to talk about food and to do so without having it bound up in the binary of either being on a diet or not.

Don't get me wrong, I will talk to you about what I eat, I will talk to you about what you eat, but if your goal is to have a performative discussion about how we are all on "some sort of diet" I am going to stop you and stop you hard. These discussions are not ok. I am not going to perpetuate how you having a cupcake and eating it in front of me makes you feel bad or guilty. I am not going to do it. First off - your cupcake is poison to my body. Secondly, it is a cupcake. It is a treat, a snack, a celebratory food. I am not going to be part of some food vilification or you feeling the need to go on and tell me about how many extra sit-ups you are going to "make" yourself do tonight as penance. I am just not going to be part of it. We can talk about things, and I will do my best to hear you and understand that you are probably dealing with a whole lot of feelings about your body and its relationships with food, but hear me people: I am not going to make you feel ok about hating your body or yourself for the food you eat.

I bring all of this up because I think one of the points that Sisson misses is that the term "diet" is causing a problem. No one who refers to abstaining from eating peanuts because they have a peanut allergy as a "peanut-free diet", though clearly that is what is going on. I have talked before about the power and limitations of language. The word "diet" conjures images of choice and cheating and the ability to choose, not the inability to choose.

Back to the article, basically it is great because it is a decent round up of research, laws, studies, and cursory trend analysis; plus the bonus of being sasserific. Like nearly every article out there, is misses out on who has access to the information and gf foods - it almost goes there when he talks about gluten-free replacement foods costing more and the current medical advice to not go gluten free without talking to a doctor first - but Sisson falls short of actually having a frank discussion (or sarcastic one) about who is getting the access, knowledge, and option to go gluten free. (Hint it is not those most impacted by the "exacerbated obesity problem")

And yes, clearly Sisson is promoting his own agenda - primal eating. If I am honest, we all have our own agenda. I want people to be less asshattery about gluten-free options actually being gluten free! I want real SNAP and school lunch reform that is socially, economically, and culturally appropriate! I want people to understand the social implications of dietary restrictions!  I want all french fry frialators to be dedicated to potatoes only! I want the US to stop subsidizing corn! I want the price of solar panels to come down! I want the minimum wadge to be a living wage! I want healthcare to not be tied to employment! (hopefully this one is coming soon)

I have a lot more wants, but I feel like I am pretty clear about it. Sisson was being a little sneaky and a few people are feeling touchy about it. I don't know. I could never be fully honest about all of my biases, Sisson at least linked to his site. It feels like a baby/bathwater thing. He offers a lot of information in one spot, and even thought I don't feel like he is making the strongest argument for giving up all grains, he is pointing out how bonkers the whole fad-climate is right now.

This is the third major oversight - so many people are getting it wrong
Fame and publicity is a weird thing. Gluten free being a fad has opened a lot of doors to more options, and more problems. It is a clear way of increasing profits, but not necessarily doing it right. (Thanks GFG for pointing out the hypocrisy in the gluten-free cheesecake with wheat husks) It is really really hard to be truly gluten free since it has become more popular. Yes there are more options, but most of those options aren't really safe. There is a giant false-sense-of-security-blanket draped over crumbs and soy sauce. We need to talk about this more.

Overall, yay for more research. Yay for more people talking about this. Yay for more nuanced discussions about these issues. And I will still hold out hope that one day we will look back and laugh at the amount of time we spent worrying, because there will be a cure. Till then, I think we need to try harder to include more people in the discussions and make sure those who need to be gluten free are and have the tools to do so. 

Friday, August 30, 2013

Daly Dogs - worth the drive

I couldn't believe it was true. Fried dough. Real, gluten free fried dough. Those words are like a unicorn, a mythical beast not to be found, only to be spoken of with yearning. Hold on friends, gluten free fried dough can be yours and it shall be delicious.

Daly Dogs, in Haverhill, MA does it and does it right.

I didn't expect to order a sandwich, but the Ruben was awesome. Overstuffed and messy, on buttered toasted bread - it was nearly perfect. The pizza is Sicilian style with a surprisingly sweet sauce - if I got it again I would cover it in chili flakes to help balance it out. The fried dough is really why I showed up. The texture isn't an exact replica of the gluteny kind, but there is a fantastic crunch and softer interior. The generous amount of cinnamon and sugar help to bring me back to summers on Hampton Beach.

The menu is about half gluten-free, half gluten-filled but the staff is really knowledgeable. The family that owns the restaurant also runs a small detached gluten-free store. They also have ice cream... which I foolishly did not leave enough room for. Who is up for a second trip road trip?

Thursday, August 29, 2013

double twist on summer favorites

This is less of a recipe and more of a eureka moment. Same friend who cannot eat any grains, and nearly no carbohydrates, was in town at the start of tomato season. I really love a fried green tomato blt. It is probably my favorite sandwich of all time. The combination of the crunchy fried green tomatoes, soft, sweet ripe tomatoes, plus well there is bacon, which rules in general... it is just prefect.

In attempts to make something similar, and use up stuff in the freezer, I began wondering about the possibility of hazelnuts. I had some left over hazelnut meal from a recipe I tried (hazelnut strawberry tart, pictured on the faceybook, that tasted good but didn't hold together well enough to share the test recipe.)

I combined about a cup of hazelnut meal, salt, ground coriander, ground celery seed, ground cumin, cayenne pepper, toasted onion powder, garlic powder, and ground black pepper. I dipped the slices of green tomato in an egg wash (egg, salt) and then into the hazelnut mix. Fried in bacon fat these rounds wouldn't fool a southerner, but they were tasty and satisfying.

The salad is a slight adaptation of my previous attempt at a blt salad. Instead of a mayo-based dressing I used avocado. Just a whole avocado, the juice of one lemon, and some salt proved to be a fantastic creamy dressing for some mixed greens. Adding chopped, ripe tomatoes and crumbled bacon just took this over the top.

 Be mindful. Bacon-laced foods will attract beasts.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Boston Globe finally getting it right

I have complained about the Globe before, and even wrote a letter to the editor when they got it wrong.

I have to hand it to them, that years later, they finally got it right. Title aside, the April article finally highlighted the problem with contamination and need for dedicated equipment for gluten-free options. It feels like a giant relief to see Melinda's name in print next to accurate information. It is amazing the amount of work and time it takes to get a few hundred words to line up in a way that is truthful and engaging. Really excited to see more and more articles that I read with my head nodding in agreement... rather than shouting and ranting. (Though rants are still fun!)

understanding your intestines

"This is your gut on gluten" is one of my favorite articles I have read in a long time. It does a great job of explaining the autoimmune response to gluten exposure in those with gluten sensitives and celiac disease. It could only be better if it had some rad images to go with it.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

satay you stay - very best Thai food

I was always fond of Thai cuisine. Sweet, spicy, sweet, tangy, what's there not to love? Since 2007 I have really ramped up my appreciation and consumption. I think I have unintentionally sought it out almost everywhere I have traveled.

Bloomington, Indiana - Esan Thai (best northnern Thai I have ever had)
Chicago, Illinois - Pho's Hot & Spicy Thai Cuisine (best green papaya salad I have ever had)
London, UK - Manorom Too Thai Restaurant (really knowledgeable staff that double checked everything)
Cambridge, MA - Pepper Sky (always a slam dunk, eat in or take out)
Smile Thai closed in Cambridge, which broke my heart. They actually brewed their own gluten-free soy sauce.
Boston, MA - Chili Duck

See what I am saying? And there are just my greatest hits.

It takes a lot for a place to nudge on my list. It takes even more for me to be surprised. Well Krua Thai blew my expectations out of the water. It is a tiny spot that would be easy to miss because there is a giant service bridge overshadowing this small 10 table restaurant. Photos of food don the walls, but don't let you think there is anything cliched about this find. Dishes are made to order, and before I could even snap pictures half of our meal was devoured. We expected greasy, overcooked pad thai, but could not be more wrong. The server was incredibly well versed in the entire menu and understood allergens and double checked ingredients. I don't have anything bad to say - nothing. The food was fresh, interesting, well prepared. I am not even a fan of eggplant and truly could not stop eating the basil eggplant special we ordered. The satay was truly the best I have ever had... and I sure do enjoy me some meat on a stick.

I didn't realize how much I liked this place until I was plotting how or why I needed to be back near Buzzards Bay just to get a chance to eat here again. 

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

arthroscopic knee surgery - making it gluten free

Ok so there is no real trick to making a surgery gluten free, it is surgery! But the recovery time can be tricky so here is my list of things I wish I knew before I had arthroscopic knee surgery. (This site is pretty great and has images that didn't make me want to throw up = I recommend.)

Pack your bag with all your identification cards, paperwork, doctors' names and contact info, and your allergy list. Pack one or two snacks - you might need to take a small amount of food with your medication when you wake up from surgery.

Wear very loose fitting shorts or pack them for the ride home. You aren't getting any form of pants on for a while.

Narcotics cause constipation - you should have a game plan for dealing with this and a back up plan for when that doesn't work.
Plan A - magnesium citrate. I really like NaturalCalm but found it wasn't enough
Plan B - senna tea. I like Smooth Move but usually don't drink it because it is strong for me. Well this is the time for that strength. A friend brewed up several cups and iced it down and kept it in the fridge. This was a huge lifesaver since I wasn't the most coordinated while on crutches.
Plan C - propylene glycol. I really hate this stuff, but it was useful to help get the wheel going again
Plan D - saline enema - this is not pleasant but some find it necessary

Yes, you read correctly, I had a 4 step poop game plan. It is far easier to plan ahead than have to phone a friend to get you supplies.

Other supplies to have on-hand
Aspirin - you may be put on an aspirin-a-day regiment for a few weeks post-op. I don't normally stock this in my home, so its good to ask and have some ready.

Compression socks - you will be given a set to wear home, and wear for 2 weeks. I am an avid supporter of support hose, but the hospital kind have openings at the foot, which I found itchy and uncomfortable when it was time to get back to work. A good friend went out and bought me a full-foot pair that were easier for me to use while walking. Warning - they don't hurt but are pretty much spanx for your feet and legs - aka will make your feet and legs incredibly toasty. Having a second pair was nice to be able to wash them and air them out.

Baby wipes are a nice-to-have extra. Since you can't shower for a few days post-op it is great to be able to "wash" your face without trying to close your eyes and balance over a sink. They also are pretty fantastic when you spill food down  your arm... not saying that will happen but juice is in general, juicy.

Totally not necessary, but I was pretty grateful for a grab-bar in the bathroom to help get on and off the toilet. It is harder to do with crutches than I thought and it was nice to be able to be able to steady myself and get the crutches up and under my pits. (They cost about $15 at Home Depot - make sure the bar is secured into a stud or you will rip it out.)

If you got some sleep, congrats. You are probably waking up to the desire to drink a large amount of water filtered through some delicious beans. Sorry. Grab you stuff, throw on your medical bracelet, and make the trek to the hospital.

After you check in, breathe. This is a great time to give your personal belongings to your designated ride home buddy.

Once you are called back to sport a fancy hospital gown, you will get asked a lot of questions. Your medical history will be gone over several times. If you get motion sickness you might get extra medication. You will be given a prescription for post-op pain meds. Really important to remind them that it needs to be gluten free. They will ask you a bunch of times what surgery you are having and even mark it with a pen on your body. Maybe you will freak out the night before and create your own body art.

After waking up your body might think "that's not so bad". You are on a lot of drugs - listen to the nurses. They are your best allies in getting everything accomplished like not falling down or successfully peeing in the toilet. Nurses are also the ones who tell you the absurd things you said in the operating room, like "I think we should all get donuts together". Nurses are awesome. Nurses will also try to feed you graham crackers. Stay vigilant and stick with your packed snacks.

I got sent home with a knee wrap that contained ice packs - which is probably my second favorite part of knee surgery. If  you can, ask for an extra set of ice packs. It is great to keep one in the freezer at all times.

You will get a take-home sheet of dos/don'ts post surgery. The nurses recommended keeping my knee elevated above my heart to help with the pressure/pain. This is pretty difficult to manage on your own. They suggested a pile of blankets/quilts but my favorite was a giant triangle pillow. It isn't the cheapest thing, but it stayed in one place - unlike the moving blankets - and I could easily adjust it for sitting and lying down.

As you can see, everyone loves geometry!

Since I had a back injury, I also used a cervical back roll for support. It ties around and helps keep the lower spine in a neutral S-curve to prevent further injuries to my less than happy slipped disks. It does make you look like a child in the shallow-end but it was totally worth having one less thing to worry about when slouching on the couch.

Hopefully you have gotten some sleep. You may be tempted to take a look-see at your wound. Don't. You might need a friend to remind you that that is a horrible idea.

It is really helpful to have paper or a chart so you can write down when you take medication. I found it really easy to forget time. It was also helpful to keep track of things since I needed to take an aspirin 1x a day, but was not allowed ibuprofen. It was the most useful when waking up in the middle of the night with pain to know if it was ok to take more medication or not.

This was the most painful day for me. I was pretty surprised.

If and when you are ready to head back to work, you are likely off of narcotics. Pain management is still going to be a pretty important part of your day. I chose to add tart cherries into my daily smoothies and/or taking additional tart cherry supplements. Why? Basically they are close or as effective as NSAIDS for inflammation. They also taste awesome, so it is hard to really complain about eating something that is delicious and helpful.

PT is not fun. PT is going to make you do unfun things so that in the future, you can do fun things again. Do your PT. Listen to your therapist and be honest about your pain. Just because you could do ____ before surgery does not mean you can do it now. You need to rebuild muscle and it takes weeks to gain back what you lost. Ice after PT is probably my favorite part of PT. Ice is your new best best friend.

You have stopped being able to do every form of exercise - congrats, you have loss muscle mass and gained weight. There is some of this that you can control and then there is the lure of potato chips. First off, cut yourself some slack. Then realize what you can and can't change. For me, I decided to make a few dietary changes and deal with the rest of the fall out.

- I cut out sugar and cream out of my coffee (hard at first)
- avoid foods that are easy for me to over eat (see potato chips). I asked for a house-wide ban.
- try to make sure there was green veggies at every meal
- breakfast became a green smoothie

None of this caused me to loose weight, but it did help prevent me from gaining more. Normally I don't talk about such things, but if you having surgery on a joint, the last thing you want to do is put more strain on it. Excess weight = strain.

The other great part of going to PT is that if you are anxious to get to exercise again, you can work with your therapist to be able to add more movement to your daily routine. I got really stoked to be able to do plank again so I could start rebuilding my back and core strength, but I only felt comfortable doing so after working with my therapist to make sure I could do it safely.

So there you have it, everything I wish someone told me ahead of time and then some. I hope you never need to use this info, but also feel free to ask more questions.

Monday, August 5, 2013

nearly carb free friendship - sugar free gluten free pudding

Friendship is weird. It is wonderfully complicated and gets better once you have gone through something really unpleasant together and come out the other side still wanting to talk to each other. So when a friend tells me I can't eat _____, I feel a special need to try to ease the transition. Us, those whom gluten cannot pass our lips, understand better than most, what it feels like when your food life is messed with.

That is how a nearly carb-free dessert was concocted. Count yourself among my pals, and a lover of sweets, well this is my best effort at a chocolate dessert for you. 

This recipe takes two days to make, which is ridiculous if you compared it to traditional pudding, but consider it like you would icebox pie, something that needs the power of the refrigerator and time to make delicious. 

There are three steps: creating the licorice syrup, soaking the chia seeds and cocoa powder, and then combining and cooking. Using both the licorice and stevia worked well together. Licorice has that sweetness that doesn't hit till your finished and your palate is nearly cleaned, and the stevia hits more up front at the start of the first bite - so together they work pretty well and don't test chemically or too weird.  (Surprisingly, the finished product does not taste like licorice at all!)

This isn't going to be a sweet dessert, it is going to end up tasting like a chocolate pudding like thing but its no pudding pop. You might be tempted to add more sweetener(s), don't. Adding more stevia or licorice results in a very off-putting mess that tastes more like you lost a dare and had to eat an entire packet of Equal. 

Licorice "syrup" 
3-4" piece of licorice root, bent into pieces if you can
1 1/2 cups of boiling water
1. In a heat safe bowl, pour the boiling water over the licorice root. 
2. Allow to steep for at least 2 hours, overnight if you can. 
The water will turn light yellow, then bright yellow.

Pudding base
1 cup coconut milk - the pour-able-when-cold kind from a tetra pack
1/4 cup chia seeds
1 tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder
pinch of sea salt
1. Combine all ingredients - you are going to need a fork or whisk to break up the cocoa powder
2. Refrigerate for at least 4 hours or overnight

Finished product
1/4 cup of the licorice syrup
Pudding base
4 drops liquid stevia extract
1. In a saucepan, boil 1/4 cup of the licorice syrup. 
2. Once it has come to a boil, add in the pudding base, stirring constantly. The whole goal is to cook the mixture so it doesn't taste like raw cocoa powder. This will take about 10 minutes, or until the mixture darkens and no longer tastes chalky. 
3. Remove from the heat and add in the 4 drops of stevia. 
4. You can enjoy it warm, or return it to the fridge to chill. Using the pour-able coconut milk will help prevent the pudding from separating or hardening when cold. 

I couldn't pick a name - faux-pioca doesn't have quite the right ring to it. I am calling it pretty darn delicious. 

Friday, August 2, 2013

the big day is here

Guys... it is time to PARTY!

It has been 9 years, but finally the FDA has ruled on what "gluten free" can mean in the USA. The verdict, not surprisingly, is less than 20 parts per million - aka the same standards Europe recognizes.

This means that gluten-free actually now will mean something if you see it on packages. This isn't going to happen overnight, companies have a year, so please as always be careful.

This has the potential to make life a lot easier. I am hoping that full disclosure on binding ingredients in prescription drugs are next!

I am literally singing about this on the twitters.

UPDATE - more information about what this really means is available on the FDA page

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

gluten free buttermilk rolls - a look inside my brain

Ever wondered how I test out a new recipe? Here is a rough draft of how most of my blog posts start. I usually keep a running list of notes that I go back to and edit. Here is what a start looks like:

This developed as an afterthought. I made buttermilk biscuits and had a bunch of extra buttermilk. I wanted to do try to do something that could be a hamburger bun and/or cinnamon roll dough. I am going to call this a working success (?). The dough held up well baking as buns and didn't disintegrate when a delicious burger was thrown in the middle. The texture was a little more dense than a traditional bun, but substantially better than any gf packaged version I have tried. (I have actually gotten in the habit of making half-size burgers for gf buns to sort of work. If the bread ratio is much larger I have had better luck of them not completely disintegrating. That said, it is a horrible ratio for actual burger enjoyment.) I am pretty stoked at this test batch.

[PIC - pull from twitter]

buttermilk rolls - good but not perfect recipe
(tag - recipe, veg, ?)
Try half batch, maybe add an egg too?

2 eggs
3 cups buttermilk
1/4 cup honey
1/4 cup canola oil (need to up - maybe refer to brioche recipe? dough is ok but a little dry for cin buns)
1 tbsp instant yeast
2 cups millet flour
2 cups corn starch
2 cups arrowroot starch
1 cup potato starch
1 cup tapioca starch
1 cup white rice flour
1 tbsp xanthan gum

Mix, proof. Add 1 tbsp salt. (recipe needs more salt)
Dish out and proof again. [PIC - talk about how sticky]
Bake at 375F for 12-20 minutes or until golden brown on top, and just beyond golden brown on bottom
[PIC with cut, show crumb is smaller than previous, what is it good for]

You can see that I talk to myself in drafts - a lot. I find it really helpful especially when I am working from scraps of paper and on more than one computer, the blog "save" format becomes a log of ideas - I have over 100 posts that I never published that mostly look like this. 

What happens next - I usually wait till I have another half-used bottle of buttermilk and then I will look up this draft and play around with the recipe and type the second attempt below the first, add notes, and then hopefully have a final product that I am proud of sharing!

How do you test recipes?

Thursday, June 13, 2013

I feel like writing again

I didn't want to hear it, and a large part of me wanted to pitch a fit. I wanted to stick my fingers in my ears and make nonsense noises and wake up and laugh at the silly dream I just had. 

You need surgery. 

Three small words have upturned the past year. Last autumn I had a back injury that took me out of the game for a few months. I haven't written about this because it has been incredibly depressing. I am a pretty active person and went from going to the gym 3-5x a week to mandatory bed-rest. Just as I was feeling better, my knee buckled out from under me and I couldn't walk. 

This has been a trying 10 months. I haven't cooked, or written about food in the ways that I really love to. I haven't shared as much because I didn't really know how to. Chronic pain zaps a lot of you and makes it hard not to be angry. That combination is exhausting and made it impossible for me to be able to cook and really hard for me to want to write. In hindsight (those are beautiful words!) I wish I had written more. It would have been funny to see the mini milestones documented in the amount of senna I did or did not need while on pain killers. (you know I am only half kidding)

If I have to shine this turd I would say that I have learned two things:
-there is a lot more out of one's control than in
-we are incredibly interconnected and interdependent

Two weeks ago I tried to grab something on the bottom shelf of the grocery store and got stuck. I could bend down, but I haven't built back enough muscle yet to get back up. I looked like a new born horse, minus the cuteness. I had to ask for help.

I have had to ask for a lot of help. I have had to ask for rides, for people to carry anything over a few pounds, for people to slow down, for people to give up their seats. (If you ride public transit never ask someone "do you want this seat" just get up and give it to them. If you don't need the seat let someone else have it without having to beg.)

I have realized that we all need help, a lot of help. Just think about how many people were needed to make the computer you are using right now happen! We rely on so many people very day, but most of these people are invisible and distant. Being sick makes those people very close and highly visible and that can be pretty uncomfortable. I wish we could shake this feeling and just be ok with the fact that today I might need someone to help me stand up, tomorrow another person might need me to hold a door. That isn't bad, it is a good thing, and important thing.

In addition to realizing that asking for help isn't a weakness, I have had to ask myself to chill out.
I am slowly trying to be more compassionate. A big part of that has been acknowledging that my body isn't going to be perfect. Even after surgery and PT and even if I do everything "right" hold on - there is no "right". My body just is. That has probably been the hardest part to accept. Right now this is my body. It sounds so simple, but it is very hard to not think about my aspiration self or past self or what-I-might-look-like-if-I-sucked-in-my-gut-all-day-in-this-outfit self.

For several weeks I needed a cane. It messed with my head more than it should have. Canes, braces, crutches are tools to help us. We live in such a culture of able-bodyism that even knowing that couldn't get me passed what I would look like with a cane. I actually put myself in jeopardy because I was afraid what other people would think of me with a cane. As I type that I realize how incredibly foolish that sounds and how foolish it was. Why do we judge people for using tools? Tools are awesome!

Not so surprising I have lost a lot of muscle and gained weight. This has been really hard to mentally get over. I don't look that different - to others - but I don't feel me. It has been challenging to let go of a lot of negative self image. I didn't know how bad it was until I could no longer feel "guilty" for not exercising. It is weird that now that during the least active part of my life I am the most accepting of my body. There are moments in the day where I am even proud of it - it has accomplished a lot!

Today I was able to walk down stairs, for the first time in 6 months without pain in my knee. This is a huge feat. It means all of the not-so-comfortable physical therapy and less than ideal surgery is working. It also means you should hold on to your hats because more food posts are on their way!

I am grateful for everyone who has helped get me here. I would not have stayed sane without friends. I would not have clean clothing if people didn't do my wash. I would not have kept moving without the motivation of things to look forward to. I am grateful to everyone who has been patient with me, especially grump me, and who has still been able to see that I am a creative person who wants to read, cook, knit, create, watch films, and gossip. I am really grateful for those who fed me. The circle of love, compassion, caring, and help is pretty fantastic.

I am a super dependent person and maybe for the first time ever, I am loving it. 

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Your friend is newly diagnosed - here is what (not) to say

If you have talked with me in the past two months I have probably discussed or pushed you to read this article. It has some many applications and it is a great example of clear, concise writing. I love it for so many reasons!

Just go read it, it will take you 5 minutes and it is way better than any summation I might try to make.

See why I love it?! Comfort IN, dump OUT.

It is so incredibly simple, but so easy to forget. 

If you have a friend or loved one who is recently diagnosed with celiac disease, or anything else for that matter, you don't get to complain to you friend. It is that simple. And trust me, you do need to get to complain, and vent, and be comforted, but not by the person in the middle of the circle. Just remember as hard as it is for you to learn all of these new rules about where gluten can hide, how to rearrange your life (because you are a fucking amazing and supportive human who isn't going to ostracize your loved one from social interactions or make their lives even harder right now, cause you are reading this and you are a decent human being), it is still a lot harder for your friend. Way harder, TONS HARDER. Because at the end of the day, you can make a mistake and not be violent sick for making a mistake and you get to take a breather from reorganizing your kitchen, your brain, and your life - your friend doesn't. So don't complain to your friend, but for your sanity find someone to help you through this.

Being a newbie to anything is hard, but going gluten free is still a giant pain in the ass. There are no federal guidelines that define what gluten free is (or isn't), mainstream media thinks it is still ok to act like the medically required need to avoid eating all gluten is some kind of joke or fad, and it is incredibly difficult to not get glutened at a restaurant. These are some of the factors that contribute to to hire rates of eating disorders and depression for those with celiac disease.

While I am in the doling out advice mood, here are some other suggestions:
-avoid the phrase "oh this is soooo good, shame you can't have any" (this is cruel)
-never say "just try a little" (gluten is poison to celiacs, small amounts are never ok)
-if you invite someone to share a meal with you try to do a little leg work to make them feel welcome and safe...
-but understand that s/he is going to need to ask a lot of questions to feel remotely safe and it is not questioning your commitment, is is their need to feel like they aren't going to digestive-ly and mentally set back again for a few weeks

Most of all, thank you for being not a jerk to someone who just got handed a giant mental and physical challenge.

Friday, May 17, 2013

When a restaurant gets it wrong

I tweeted about Jamie Oliver's Restaurant getting fined, and it sparked some interested discussions. Stories about getting glutened at restaurants poured out. What was most fascinating was the stories about the secondary effects of ingesting unwanted gluten. What happens after the initial pain/problems subside and what people have to cope with, sometimes for months. 

The last time I received unwanted gluten at a restaurant I was throwing up for a day, but had to manage dizzy spells, exhaustion, bloating to the point of not being able to button my pants, and brain fog and food regurgitation for two weeks. This is no where near as severe as the woman in England who was unable to receive life-saving organ transplants because of Oliver's staff members mistake, but it is an extreme example that when a restaurant gets it wrong, it is not just the initial response, there are significant lasting effects.

The more I think about it, the more I feel that $12,000 isn't enough. A chef with as much media presence (and money) as Oliver needs to do more. He needs to publicly apologize and implement a system where this will never happen again in any of his restaurants.

Even if he did do all of that, and make a donation towards celiac research, I am still not sure I would ever dine in one of his restaurants. Is it possible to forgive and trust a restaurant/chef again? I mean that in all seriousness. I haven't been able to go back to any restaurant that has gotten it wrong, it is too much of a transgression .. but maybe you have.

Follow me on twitter.

Friday, May 3, 2013

Gluten free medical bracelet

I never thought I would need a medical bracelet. I have one minor drug sensitivity, if you give me Vicodin  my body will give it right back to you in under 20 minutes. It isn't a huge issue, unless you are 16 year old me post-wisdom teeth extraction. I am also pretty lucky that I haven't needed very much in the way of pain medication. 

But I am having surgery next week. And there will be a chunk of time where I won't be able to verbally advocate for myself. And while knowledge of gluten has vastly improved in the past few years, there is still no legal requirement for prescription drugs to list the what the origin is of their binding starches. (Starch binders are good - they hold the medicine together so it can be a pill shape, I am all for it, I just want to know what it is: corn, wheat, other?) Come on FDA you can do it!

I have done my best to do a bunch of prep work:

-I made sure my medical records clearly stated I have celiac disease
-I told my surgeon, twice that I have celiac disease
-I verbally asked the surgeon's scheduling assistant to note it in my file... she gave me great advice to make sure I tell the nurses the day of surgery too
-I noted both "celiac disease" on my pre-op paperwork and "gluten allergy" under the "what medications are you allergic to" list (Yes this is fudging the medical reality, but I want them to check ALL medications and I have written before about the current constraints of the English language and I am comfortable about using anything in my toolkit to get my point across - do not gluten me)
-When I spoke to the nurse who reviews all pre-op paperwork I asked what type of medications are usually prescribed and how I could best say that anything given cannot have gluten in it 
-I got a medical bracelet

I was resistant to getting on at first, but then realized it would be a really good idea, especially after my first colonoscopy where the nurse tried to feed me cookies. 

I picked a green band - in honor of celiac disease awareness - and because it is the most obnoxious color. This is one time where I want everyone to pay attention... to my wrist. 

It reads:


I guess it also might be time to upgrade my camera so I can take better photos, after all is said and done. 

What other advice do you have for navigating medical arenas gluten free?

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

I am not ok

I have written, erased, re-written, and sat with this post in my "drafts" for a while now. It is not my best writing and I didn't feel ready to post this. I didn't want to post this. It really isn't about gluten free stuff... but it is. It is about me. It is about how we silence and shun those with mental health issues - chronic and acute. 

When I was recovering from my celiac diagnosis - and yes, I just referred to the process of dealing with the diagnosis and re-figuring-out-my-life as recovery - I was depressed. The gluten-free community is really great about being supportive with recipe ideas, managing family dynamics, managing work and social parties, but the giant elephant in the room is often the mental health implications of getting glutened and dealing with the recovery process. 

So I decided to post this. I hope that it helps. I hope it helps me, and I hope it may help others who are trying to figure out how to cope and manage these days.   

I am not ok; and that is ok for now.

I woke up on Wednesdays and was crying. I didn't know what to do, but then I called someone because I knew I needed some extra help.

I am an exceptionally lucky person. Everyone I know who was at the marathon on Monday is physically ok.

I work at the site of the Boston Marathon Finish Line. I was at work on Monday when the building slightly shook, twice. We tried our best to work through a 3 hour building lock-down and get information out to friends, colleagues, and loved ones.

I have felt angry, grief, and that I didn't deserve the luck of not going outside to watch and cheer people on. I have hated the images and words of hate on Facebook and Twitter, and the false reports by the NYPost - they all feel like more pain.

I have been filled with lots of feelings about feelings. Am I suppose to feel this way? Why does this feel different than other tragedies. Why is this getting reported differently? I have felt a weird mix of guilt and bile over the fact that I know how disproportionately this is getting media attention and financial aid.

I got so angry I yelled at my computer for people telling others "don't feel fear, if you do, terrorists win". Please stop telling people how to feel.

I am scared. It is scary to ride to work on the T with armed national guards - who I am so grateful are here - but I can also be afraid and worried. I can cry for those I do not know, and it doesn't make me any less.

This past weekend was very hard. I have never been more grateful for social media - allowing for a space for people who were trapped in apartments and homes to let people know how they were doing, and for people to still feel connected.

I am so very lucky and that is why I am writing. There are a lot of us who are "very lucky" who are also hurting and feeling a lot of different feelings right now. There are people who are all over the globe who are affected by this. Please know you are not alone, and please reach out to others.

I didn't sleep much last night because I had nightmares of people being injured again - memories of Thursday night and Friday morning came to life in my dream. I know this is not ok.

Not being able to "handle" or "process" this by your self ok. But we need to process this. We need to do whatever we can to get some of this pain, sadness, fear, grief, relief, exhaustion, tension, anxiety out of our bodies. Writing, talking, crying, getting a bit of exercise, meditating, and self care are crucial right now.

I knew I wasn't ok this morning, and I called someone for help. I am not cured, I am not better, and I am still  trying to wrestle with thoughts, feelings, emotions, and images. And I know I am not alone.

And hopefully soon, cooking and baking will be back. And I am excited because tulips are blooming and it means ramps will be ready to dig up.

For persons or family members who were injured
City of Boston has set up a special number: 617.343.1373

Resources and information for Copley/Boylston residents and business owners

Boston Acupuncture Trauma Relief

Your place of work may have an Employee Assistance Program (EAP) or OMBUDS office that can also help you access resources.

Monday, April 29, 2013


Twitter cannot contain all of No Gluten Required. There aren't enough characters. Fret not!

Slightly less well thought out, sassy, mostly gluten-free, often micro-bursts of rage can now be found on: https://twitter.com/NoGlutenReqd

What are you favorite gf tweeters?

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Peace Vigil Tonight, Boston Common

There is a peace vigil being planned for tonight on the Boston Common, 6-8pm.

Facebook invite 

The American Red Cross of MA notes the generosity of so many has them not needing additional blood right now. 

Boston Marathon Help - gluten free housing

If you know of someone stuck in or around the city, I have listed my space on the google.docs I have a place to offer.

kristina (dot) nies @ gmail (dot) com

I can accommodate 3, space does have friendly cats. I work down town at the site of the finish line, can pick up/transport.

It is listed as gluten free, but please feel free to share this widely. 

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Curing Celiac Disease

A few years ago, I was in my I-am-going-to-read-every-medical-article-on-celiac-disease phase. So many articles and definitions of celiac disease are wrong or incomplete. I was really frustrated. After getting through a few studies, I realized that there is so so so much that "we" don't know about celiac disease. It was really refreshing. It made me a lot less angry at lot of people. There just isn't a ton of research on celiac disease (or wasn't 5 years ago, that is changing a bit now) and the gut is very complicated. Did you know the digestive system has its own nervous system?! Fascinating right?!

A very good friend, who is a scientist, fielded a lot of my questions. One night, in his kitchen, I was asking with all seriousness: well why can't people with autoimmune diseases just get bone marrow transplants?

This came about after a really lengthy discussion about T-cells, they are the pesky cells that make the antibodies that cause the problem for persons with celiac disease. (There are a lot of T-cells that do great things, like creating antibodies to fight infections, but the T-cells that create antibodies that "attack" gluten, cause significant damage to villi in the small intestines, plus a whole lot of other problems - over 300 symptoms have been acknowledged.)

T-cells are created in the bone marrow, and while they create the antibodies that cause damage in the small intestines, they travel throughout the body. So say you got rid of all the T-cells in your digestive tract, if there is still one in your blood stream, you still have the capability of making more T-cells, and more gluten-attacking antibodies, and continue the cycle of active celiac disease.

So this knowledge was probably the most liberating thing for me. It made me feel stronger. For me, understanding celiac disease, made me truly feel like I wasn't going nuts. It made me feel like I had a clue as to what is going on in my body. (I am going to acknowledge that this is only one way of knowing or understanding things, but it is the kind that helped me a lot.) I cannot tell you how grateful I am to have such awesome friends!

Back to the bone marrow...
After this pretty detailed explanation about how T-cells are made, how they chemically "communicate" and how they synthesize antibodies - I sort of blurted out "can I just get a bone marrow transplant?!"

I realize how ridiculous this might sound. Bone marrow transplants are very risky and only work if you basically kill all of the "bad" cells before you add in new bone marrow. That is why it is not done unless absolutely necessary as a treatment for certain cancers or blood disorders. You literally have to compromise your entire immune system, making you susceptible to a lot of things a lot worse than celiac disease - diseases and disorders that can be fatal.

My friend was very kind and let me go down this path of hypothetical bone marrow transplants and talked about how it may or may not work. It was really exciting. Not because I actually wanted the procedure, but because for the first time since being diagnosed in 2007 I felt like I had a true understanding of what was going on, and of the research that had been done so far. Super cool right?! And knowledge is a decent start towards finding a less risky option for treatment and a cure.

I bring this up because there is actual success story! Bone Marrow Transplants Appear to Cure Celiac in Two Patients. Again, these patients had a need, aside from celiac disease, for the transplant. The ability to consume gluten post-transplant, was a bonus. Hopefully this will inform more research. This is so exciting!

Friday, March 22, 2013


Look, a sensational title to draw you in. Ha! Gotcha!

So it took me a second to cool off from my knee-jerk reaction to Elissa Strauss's piece on Jezebel this morning. "Will Everyone Please Eat Gluten? Please? Because You Are Literally Killing Me, Kind Of" highlights a legitimate issue, but goes for it by poking a bear with a short stick.

If one more person writes one more article about how hard it is to have celiac disease without acknowledging the rare privilege it is to have the time, money, health insurance, and the unicorn of a medical doctor who gives a shit enough to figure out what is wrong with your shit, I am going to scream. 

Yes, there are people who are attempting to avoid gluten as a fad diet, but don't chastise people who are trying to improve their health by working towards figuring out if gluten is the culprit; there is a good chance they are doing it on their own and dealing with a lot of physical and emotional pain. Before you start clacking away on your keyboard take a moment and realize just how lucky you are. And if you want to keep on typing, do us all a favor and stop embarrassing yourself by acting like getting a diagnosis is something that everyone can do. 

So back to the legitimate issue the article does bring up...
People who don't "need" to avoid gluten are going gluten-free but aren't as adherent and causing confusion and dining out problems for those who must not eat gluten.

So this is something I personally care about, because I would like to be able to go out to a restaurant say "it needs to be gluten-free" and not get poisoned. But I also know it is a lot more complicated. In 2010 I gave a conference paper about this very issue. I am going to dork-out for a second, but hold on, I will get all rant-y again soon. 

My paper, "I Cannot Have It But I Want It: Food Analogs Mitigating Dietary Change" looked at just how people with dietary restrictions (medical, personal, religious, ethic, etc) use language and substitute foods. What was really fascinating was how and when people chose to use the word "allergic". In the US, the word "allergy" comes with very specific visuals - people going into aliphatic shock, people needing an EpiPen, a legitimate threat to life - allergy in the restaurant world also can be code for "potential law suit". The word allergy can be used to traverse language barriers when working with kitchen and wait staff - it is an instant conversation stopper. (Especially in Massachusetts were we have laws that require allergy awareness training for restaurant kitchen staff.)

And this is a good thing. It is good to have language - and one special word - that can explain a whole lot of words, quickly. It saves us time, aggravation, confusion; language is awesome!

So what happens when people use the word "allergy" but aren't allergic?

If I say I am allergic to avocados. I go out to eat and there are free chips and guacamole and only have a little bit of it, what does that do

1. Allergies are tricky - some people have a threshold, aka they can be exposed to a small amount of something and not have a big reaction. So I could eat maybe a tablespoon of avocado before I start getting itchy. This does not mean I am not allergic, it just means I have a higher threshold than someone who's throat would close up if they had a very small amount. 

2. Ok, allergies are not universally similar, but we are all using this same word. So what happens then socially when I don't want slices of avocado in my tacos, but I do want to have a little guacamole?
Here is the trouble. People who are very reactive, or have little to no threshold for avocados, may get really angry when I order food and use the term "allergic" because if a waiter hears me say allergic, but sees me then eat the food I said I can't eat - invoking images of ambulances and lawsuits - perhaps she is going to take the next person a lot less seriously. 

3. What happens when people need to avoid a food, but don't have a word like allergic? Ding, ding, ding - celiac disease! I am technically not allergic to gluten - I do not have a histamine reaction - I have an autoimmune response. They are different, but in the interest of not getting violently ill, not wanting to spend 10 minutes educating waitstaff making $2.63 an hour, I use a shortcut: gluten allergy. People do this all the time. Linguistic shortcuts are awesome! Getting your point across quickly and clearly is wonderful and really important. 

Back to the article...
Strauss highlights a current problem in the U.S. with gluten-free being a food trend. Popularizing gluten-free replacement foods (breads, pizza, cookies, etc.) is a double-edge sword. It is awesome to have more options. Truly it is way better than 5 years ago. But as she points out, with the increase in options, there is a quagmire of problems. Crumbs are a huge problem. Here is the thing - crumbs are only a huge problem for people who are allergic or who have celiac disease - they are not a huge problem for people who are trying to avoid gluten for other reasons. But we are all still using the same language. We are all still trying to quickly convey "hey I don't want/can't have gluten in my food, so don't put it there, ok, no really, no gluten" in a fast, efficient manor. So whether saying avocado allergy, or gluten allergy, people are using the word allergy as a short-hand for don't put _____ in my food. 

But what about those pesky crumbs?
If you are on the Gwenth fad-diet of avoid gluten, crumbs are not going to hurt you - and you likely will never know that your food was not prepared to your specifications. If you have an allergy, or celiac disease you will know. 
Gwenth orders gluten free, the cooks and staff can get it right or get it wrong and if you don't have a reaction - no one is going to know. 
Here is the problem. The next person who requests a gluten-free meal, and the cooks and staff do exactly what they did for Gwenth, but the customer is actually allergic and those few crumbs can be a big problem. 

I get it, I get frustrated too. I cannot stand when the gluten-free bakery option is on the bottom shelf, with crumbs falling on it from the gluten-filled options above it. As gluten-free has become trendy, it is harder to be able to clearly relay no, seriously do not feed be even a small amount of gluten, to servers. I feel Strauss's pain because I live with it. 

*For the record, I am not allergic to avocados. That would be a bummer because they are delicious. 

gluten free digestive tea

Most teas labeled "good for digestion" contain gluten. For some reason, malted barley gets tucked into tea bags as the digestion helper. Since barley is not one of the 8 mandatory allergens that must be disclosed (in the USA), it is often hard to know which teas are safe - I am staring you down "natural flavorings". For the most part, I grab some ginger chews and forgo the landmine of packaged teas.

A little inspiration from a local blog, and I decided to create my own winter mix.

1 part dried elderberry (immune system support)
1 part dried milk thistle (supports liver function)
1 part dried rose hips (high in vitamin c)
1 part dried hibiscus flours (beautiful red color)
1 part dried orange peel (tastes awesome)
0.5 part dried ginger root (pieces, not ground), the digestive aid

The resulting "tea"* really needs to steep for 5-10 minutes. It is a little peppery from the ginger and has a great bright right color with a gentle sourness; you can add some honey to round out the flavor. I hand-filled some teabags and you can see in the back I store them in a zip-lock. The rest I saved for when I am at home can can use a metal brew basket.

*Technically a tea has to include actual tea leaves, but I am going to take the vernacular liberties here.

KABLAM - the result tastes awesome and doesn't ironically cause digestive unrest.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

call for compassion and rhetoric change

I read, and normally like and agree with, the Triumph Dining blog. They provide clear, concise information about new products, research, etc. On the whole, they get it right.

Today they are guilty, at the very least, of the lack of compassion. We - those who must avoid gluten - are constantly undermined by those who belittle our perceived "choice". When you categorize intense label scrutiny as "neurosis" it is really difficult to not want to give you the middle finger.

For those who react when using skin products containing gluten - it is not "neurotic" to check labels - this is self preservation.

It is time for "us" to change the way we, and others, talk about maintaining our health and safety - because that is what it is. It is not neurotic to not want to be poisoned, it is common sense.

PS - If you are going to reference a study that "some dish soaps use hydrolyzed wheat proteins, and can even trigger reactions if a Celiac eats off that dish washed with “gluten-filled” soap!" cite it. Otherwise your $0.02 isn't really worth anything at all.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

doctors that "get it"

I had to cover my face to hide my tears at work. I started reading the latest NYT piece on food allergies fully intending on ripping it to shreds. (A friend and I have a fun game of sharing food-related blogs and articles and then getting to talk about what is missing, what is assumed, food access and privilege  It is fun! It reminds me about my favorite parts of being in the Gastronomy masters program.)

So I opened up the link ready to bring the fierce. I was not going to get suckered in by beautiful writing (the clean, tight, yet descriptive prose that pulls you in and is so good you stop looking for flaws). I was not going to let the human stories blind me to the fact that so many people in this country still don't have access to affordable healthcare, that don't have the time or money to get a proper diagnosis. I tucked into this piece ready to hate it.

And then I started to weep.

Dr. Kari Nadeau's caring, compassion, and understanding overwhelmed me. The way she interacts with her patients, their families, and understands that her work does not end at 5pm is key. More than key, it is essential, but so rare. I understand completely the need for healthy boundaries - where care giving professionals need to draw lines between what is and isn't appropriate, but what is great is to see when care givers realize the need to traverse those lines. Accepting a phone call on her vacation to help patients and parents deal with life-threatening conditions is what that family needed at that exact moment. 

Tears streamed down my face for those families, for that doctor, for those times where I have held hands of those in pain, and for the times when I wanted - no needed - a doctor or nurse to feel for me and understand. I wept for the handful of times I have received that type of care. 

I cried for the fear that comes with not being able to eat food, and still not having adequate packaging information; for the sheer panic shared meals can cause. I cried for being told last night that my favorite local food spot no longer feels comfortable serving people with food allergies because they have changed up their menu. I bit the inside of my lip and forced a smile on my face telling the server I was grateful for her telling me, being honest, and it was so much better to know than to be sick. And I cried because I still have hope that someday, just maybe, I took might get to eat gluten again. 

But mostly, I am crying happy tears, because for the first time in 6 years I have a doctor who "get's it". I wish I didn't feel so lucky, that this feeling of compassion, understanding, listening, and engaging with patients was common. I know how rare it is, and how many disparities keep people from getting care and information. Tomorrow I can take others to task for missing out on important facts, talking about why certain disease get attention while others aren't funded, ignoring race, class, gender, age, and language that make access so unequal. Knowing these things is not enough, but for today I am going to acknowledge my privilege and love this article. 

The full article, worth a complete read, possibly with a side of tissues:The Allergy Buster: Can a Radical New Treatment Save Children With Severe Food Allergies?

Monday, March 11, 2013

Working towards a cure

Stuart's article in today's Boston Globe highlights a new "celiac vaccine" that is being developed at MGH. While there is a long road, lots of tests, red tape, and reasonable skepticism, my brain and intestines are in love with this quote:

"Having a treatment that would allow full recovery and return to normal diet would be life-changing for patients, and may motivate more patients to be checked for celiac disease,” he said.

Can you imagine?!

Beyond normalcy and health, can you contemplate a life without having to spend so much time thinking, worrying, reading, planning, back-up-planning your life?! It would be so cool!!!

Monday, March 4, 2013

The bare truth about beer, what a bear

So I have been sitting on a post about Omission beer. It is pretty much my new favorite (ok was my favorite till this morning) but I have been having trouble figuring out just how to write about it.

Omission is brewed with gluten-containing items, i.e. barley. But then the beer goes through a magical process that renders it gluten-free, or really very very low gluten. They post their ELISA tests for each batch online. This level of transparency, plus the taste of REAL BEER, made me feel like this was a slam dunk. (I have consumed it 7 times without a gluten-reaction; and my reactions tend to be pretty strong and violent.)

I was feeling pretty great about this brew until this research came out, and now I am looking long and hard about my beverage decision. The guts of the study show that basically the ELISA test (the one used by Omission) is coming up with false negatives. Yup, you read correctly, the test is not consistently detecting gluten.

This leaves me, and perhaps you dear reader, in the same leaking boat. Without legal standards (still waiting on the FDA), and with faulty testing, it is up to each person to determine what risks to take when eating and drinking. What really infuriates me is what about people who don't have access to the internet, or the time to do all of this research and then extra research about the research to ensure they have the facts about what they are about to ingest?!

Is it worth rolling the digestive and long-term-health dice for a delicious beverage? If you are up for the challenge I have 11 beers with your name on them.

Thanks to Gluten Dude for highlighting the research

Monday, February 25, 2013


I really really love this image of intestines. (Yup, that phrase just happened) And the article in the NY Times that accompanies it is equally as rare and exciting.

Reading through the piece, I also got the feeling that perhaps I am a honey bee. Beyond being fond of flowers, I just kept thinking about the "mysterious" decline of honey bees in the past decade. That there is some environmental shift that is occurring, but humans are still struggling to figure it out. The timeline isn't the same, but that huge explosion in the number of persons with celiac disease, and who have the gene markers for the disease, has gone up exponentially in the past 50 years.

The article touches on environmental research as one of several different factors in "triggering" celiac disease, including changing gut flora. This is really cool from the dorky science perspective, but it has real implications in understanding celiac and other autoimmune diseases. Part of me thought that this type of research would never happen. I am really excited. Even if it doesn't mean a cure for me - perhaps we can work towards eradicating the triggers of the disease for future generations.

Friday, February 15, 2013

labeling leftovers

The freezer is a blessing and a curse. It is a magic ice box that transforms things - it saves perishable food from rotting, but it also can crystallize things beyond recognition. I have tried wax pencils (rubs off), sharpie (rubs off faster with condensation), masking tape (glue that is nearly impossible to scrub off), and for a while was just throwing things into the freezer in different size containers hoping that would jog my memory to what's what.

No more!

A friend recommended painters tape - the blue stuff you can use to help keep paint of floors and trim when paining interior walls and surfaces - and it rules. It sticks to things, holds up to being in the freezer, but comes off without leaving gook on your glass or plastic. If you want to make it even easier for yourself, or anyone with less than dexterous hands (kids, people with arthritis, etc.) you can fold the edge of your label back on itself and you create an instant pull-tab.

Also yes,  you should be jealous of my goat curry. It is awesome.