Another salad…ho hum I wanna be done.


Okay – so just a word of warning:  this blog post is definitely a whoa-is-me whining post.  So feel free to move on if you have never had a day like I’ve been having lately.

I’m done.

I’m done having Celiac Disease.

Are you?

Well, okay. I just wish I were done.  Today is one of those days.  I’m hungry.  More hungry that my salad and pear are going to satisfy.  More hungry than my now longer-than-expected workday is going to handle.  And I hate it.

I hate the daily reaching in to grab some fish crackers for the Littles and wishing I could just as easily grab a snack for myself (crackers, peanut butter toast, etc) that I either didn’t have to make from scratch or would bust the budget.  After all, our grocery money only goes as far as yours and I want us to have as many fresh fruit and veg that it can handle rather than carbs anyway.

Yes, I can and do make crackers, muffins, toast, bread, etc for myself.  It tastes a hell of a lot better than the stuff I can pay for. Really.  And I know exactly what is in it.  Always an added bonus, right?

But this week I am tired.  Final exams were last week (I moaned about the papers/projects I am grading on Facebook) and grades are due i two days.  I’m practically done.  That’s not the problem.  But I’m tired – dog-dead-wrung out tired.  Grading, planning, etc and sticking to my absolute time-for-the-Littles each night to read, bathe, play and laugh together = all of that has worn me out.  Doesn’t matter that I’ve gone to bed earlier than usually (if you count 10PM as earlier – it is… earlier than my normal 11-11:30 when grades are due!).

Does tired make me more resentful of having Celiac Disease or just the minor amount of time required to PLAN and PREPARE for said hunger meltdowns or carb-needs?  Yes.

And this would be why – when people ask – why it is SUCH a pain in the butt to go “grab something” for lunch.  It’s not because it’s not always possible, because yes, I can go grab a bag of GF chips or carrots or whatever from the grocer.  (And no, I can’t run out to get something to eat while teaching.  We have 20 minute long lunch periods during which I eat at my desk and work – see photo above.)  It’s because of simple this:  sometimes it sucks not to be able “just to grab anything” convenient.

Simply that.

And I’m not about to go demand that people feed me correctly or safely.

I’m not about to go whining my way through the GF product chain about the need for better (and cheaper!) crackers or bread.

I’m just going to suck it up today and put on my big-girl pants.

And then tonight I am going to back the biggest batch of pumpkin muffins that ever existed on the planet.  By God, I will.

And I might just eat them all.  Unless these two little stinkers get their hands on them.  They are the reason why the last two batches got demolished in record time too.


Hope you are having a successful and happy GF Day today to help make up for the crab-pants I appear to be wearing.  

PS.  It does not help in the least bit that my next two classes are starting a unit about food in Spanish class. Really.  Today is out to ruin me, I swear.  Or… I might just eat my arm off before I get to the kids for pick up after work today.  That outta be pretty.

10 steps to building a better gluten free life

There are huge hurdles to overcome when you receive your diagnosis of Celiac Sprue.  But there are great things ahead.  Just hold on tight – it does get easier.  Oh, you will have your moments of rueing the lack of gluten free cafe/sandwich & soup shops or convenience food.  You will feel a hunger-pang followed by a mini-angry pity party when you are no where you can easily access gluten free goodness.  And then, with each of these moments, you will wisen up.  Because yes, it is up to you to figure it out.

Since my diagnosis of Celiac in 2000, I have seen gluten free food explode across the market place.  I am thrilled to be able to find something, some where when I need to.  But more importantly, I’ve found the things I love and buy enough to keep some on hand.

Yes, gluten free living is getting easier.  And I hope that this blog helps some of you find more food to love as well.  If I had to give advice to someone who was starting out … just leaving the doctor’s office and wondering what in the world they were going to do, this is what I would say:

1.  Learn what you can/cannot eat.

Get a list and put it in your pocket.  Seriously.  I carried around a 5 x 8 card (yes, pre-SmartPhone days) and used it as my reference guide.  Nowadays, you can put it on your phone, buy restaurant cards (lamented instructions to share with servers/chefs),etc.  So do whatever… but keep it handy.  You will want it.

If you have Celiac and are strictly gluten free (trust me, there are others with *many* more things they have to avoid that “merely gluten”), then check with these REPUTABLE sources.  I love the Celiac Disease Center in Chicago.  They even have a “Care Package” program for people newly diagnosed with Celiac Disease.  It’s a GREAT pick-me-up for people who are struggling and/or for people to get their minds wrapped about this diet.  They have a lot to explore on their website.

2.  Learn how to cook – if you don’t know how already.  

And don’t worry about paying anyone money to take a specialty “gluten free cooking” course either.  Baking takes a while to get a handle on, but cooking?  Nope.  Get yourself a basic cookbook and go.  (No need for specialty cookbooks for cooking either, if you ask me.  I love my Joy of Cooking book so much that the binding is trashed.  HOWEVER, keep this in mind:  KNOW what you can/cannot eat.  THAT is what makes all of the difference.  See #1)

3.  Get a buddy.

There are Celiac Disease support groups (online or in person), but they don’t always fit the need.  And depending on how/who is running it, they may not be up on the latest information (and THAT leads to conflicting information…not good for anyone, but especially not good when you are just starting out).  If you are like me, the support group thing doesn’t always fit, so find a buddy.  My buddy is my spouse.  😀  He’s a willing guinea pig and was the first to walk in the house with gluten free cookbooks (Thank you, Bette Hagman – the only books around were hers at the time).

4.  Take some time at the grocery store the next time you shop.  You’re going to need it. 

Your new grocery budget will appreciate you taking the time to figure out the new scheme of things too.  No longer is the center  of the store your budget’s friend.  I wrote about grocery shopping a long time ago.  Maybe it will help you now.  ?

5,  Just because it says “Gluten Free” DOES NOT MEAN ….  And just because it DOESN’T say that it’s Gluten Free DOES NOT MEAN…

…that it is or is not….. or that it tastes good.

Use your cell phone, call the company.  Ask them about their processing, etc.  Go on the web.  Look around.   Better safe than sorry.  BUT – if you make a mistake, don’t kick yourself for it (your body will most likely do that for you).  Just figure out what you did and then try not to repeat that mistake.

6.  Find a local specialty market (or … take road trip, if possible).  

If you are lucky (like me), you might just have one near you.  The owners of these local shops not only are amazing people for finding our niche market and building their business for our needs but they are also MAGNIFICENT resources for been-there-done-that.  Don’t be afraid to ask them which pasta brand they like (because there are many… and they are NOT equal) or which fresh bread, frozen pizza, flour blend, prepared foods, etc are (1) tasty, (2) good deals, (3) worth the time/money, etc.  The owners more likely than not travel to specialty food shows, so they are also IN the know as far as upcoming products, trends, etc.  ASK.

If you are fortunate enough to live in a town with a co-op or organic grocer (Whole Foods, People’s Market, etc…), you will also find knowledgeable people (or a decent stock) too.  Just don’t expect your local grocery stocking crew to necessarily know the gluten-free section well enough to tell you what tastes good and what doesn’t.  (But you might just be surprised, the woman who stocks the “Natural” section at our local Safeway has a brother with Celiac.  She struck up a conversation with me about helping her brother … I loved having a little influence over what got stocked in that section, to be honest.  LOL)

7.  Grab a cup of coffee (or tea… or whatever) and sit down at Barnes and Noble in the cookbook section.

Read the difference authors and the flours they use.  Find a few recipes that are similar and compare them.  Some authors use only starches (like cornstarch) for their “flour base”.  Not only do you have to figure out if you can make what they are proposing, but are you going to like it?  I, for one, am not a fan of cornstarch-based stuff as it leaves a funky aftertaste.  A buddy I know dislikes sorghum (too bitter for her).  Another thinks brown rice is the only way to go.  Whatever.  Figure out what works for YOU, YOUR KITCHEN, YOUR LIFE, YOUR NEEDS, etc.

8.  Want to bake?  Risk it.  Really.

Just don’t do it with 8 million spendy flours.  Start simple.  Don’t kick off your foray into gluten free baking by looking for the loaf of bread you remember from some far-off place in gluten-land.  Start with a flour mix and make some cookies.  Really.  Follow your recipe for cookies from when you were a kid and use a gluten free flour mix (like Gluten Free Mama Almond Flour Blend (not much almond, by the way), or Pamela’s, etc) and add some xanthan gum.  (1/2 teaspoon per cup of flour in a cookie recipe). (GF Chocolate Chip Tahini Cookies, anyone?)

Some gluten free recipes seem fairly elaborate.  If you are trying to re-create a croissant in a gluten free version, it will be a long process.  Have you ever made a croissant?  It *is* a long process.  (Here’s my GF Croissant recipe, if you are so inclined.) Now, if you are trying to make a focaccia bread and the flours are going to cost you $35?  Reconsider.  Really.  Well.. unless you have a different grocery budget weekly than I do.

9.  Choose your gluten free path wisely.

The longer some people are gluten free, the crazier the path they tend to follow.  Or so it seems.

I know a few gluten free bloggers who venture into the never-neverland of food from husks or strips of coconut bark or… I don’t know.  But it’s true.  I don’t think I’ve landed on those islands just yet, but truly, I live gluten free because I have to.  NOT because I want to make a career path out of it.  I still bake/cook like I used to – but just differently.  We probably eat quinoa now because I had to go GF, but there’s no saying I wouldn’t have tried it otherwise.  I think it just came into my life a little sooner rather than later.

Find a gluten free blogger or site that seems to echo you/your family’s eating habits.  Then keep reading.

Check out advertsements in gluten free magazines or websites just to familiarize yourself with the wide variety available, but don’t feel the need to “throw the baby out with the bath water” from your family diet.  I am willing to bet you have SOME things in your repetoire that were gluten free to begin with.

10.  Find nutritional balance.

Not all gluten free goods are going to offer you nutritionally sounds whole grains, etc.  PAY ATTENTION.  Most commercial gluten free breads rely heavily on starch (tapioca, potato or corn) for the majority of the “fluff” and “flexibility” of their toastable creations.  This is a far leap from the whole-grain high fiber breads you may have been eating.  You will need to adjust your baking, buying and consuming to give your body what it needs to be healthy again.  It’s more than gluten free, you need to find gluten free AND good for you.   Start here in blog-land.  You will find lots of treasure recipes that use whole grains.  You can analyze recipes on Nutrition Data too.

Most importantly:

You are not alone.

There are millions of Americans with Celiac Disease.  And MANY more who are gluten intolerant.

You will survive and thrive.

Welcome aboard the Gluten Free Train – 
We travel with food. 😀

Is soy sauce “safe” for people with Celiac?

Just recently my husband and I were talking about soy sauce.  I know, it’s not your typical lovey-dovey conversation, but really – who has those everyday and/or posts them on their blogs?    But in all honesty, our discussion has often bounced back to soy sauce in regard to Celiac/Gluten Free diet.

You see, the reality of my life is this:  soy sauce is in everything (well… almost everything) my in-laws cook.  And while we sadly have not been able to travel in years (read: 2003) to visit them, we would like to.  We want to bring these beautiful babies toddlers (!) we have back to see the rest of our family.  So we start talking about the added expense of traveling when you need to buy food and/or cook.

Primarily while staying at someone else’s home, I don’t want them to feel put-out that I don’t eat what they are serving.  At my parent’s house, I have no problem sliding in to the kitchen and cooking.  In fact, I love it!  But at my in-laws, the kitchen is laid out differently and they do a different style of cooking than what I grew up with.  It makes cooking for them a bit more of a hurdle.  Add to that the fact that food intolerances/allergies are truly not a common topic nor common in the general Asian population (aside from dairy/lactose which isn’t really in the main diet plan anyway) and well… it can lead to some hurdles.

So back to the soy sauce.

When we traveled in 2003, I just bought a bottle of San-J when we arrived for cooking.  It was a great conversation starter (lol!) as we talked about the salty (or non-salty) factor compared to the sauces they liked to use.  (Yes, each varies significantly in saltiness, thickness, etc.)  At one resturant, my father-in-law tried to help my by explaining that I can have wheat/soy sauce and he beamed with pride when the wait-staff and chef told him there was no wheat in what they made.  And then out came the wheat-puffed pancakes for the wheat-soy sauced laden Peking Duck.  (PS.  The “dao mew” – snow pea pods shoots – were AWESOME that night.)

Soy sauce is everywhere in the Asian diet.

And I don’t always trust the labels.

And then I found this study by Frederik Janssen on the GlutenTox blog.  (I am not associated with them, just found them via my search about gluten and soy sauce).  (Copy of the PDF is here:  Safety-of-Asian-soy-sauce-in-gf-diet).

Approaching the gluten free diet frustration of eating-out and the common exposure/concern of soy sauce, the study looked at the varying ingredients found in different soy sauce brands (European based) and analyzed them for their gliadin content.  Remember, the protein that causes the damage to the intestinal track for Celiac patients (like myself) is this protein.  Truly, it is a speck within the wheat grain.

From the anecdotal piece of their survey, Celiac patients who self-reported information regarding how they approach soy sauces responded with the following commentaries:

  • avoided all products with wheat listed on the label
  • consumed soy sauce with wheat listed on label with non-typical reactions that could not be attributed to the wheat/soy sauce
  • consumed soy sauce with wheat on the label with “ease since they know the proteins in these sauces were almost completely degraded; consequently they did not experience any symptoms.” (p.56/Jannsen)

The report further states that “given the results of our analysis, it is quite remarkable that symptoms occurred in some coeliacs after these products were eaten.”

The scientific analysis appears to demonstrate that the levels of gliadin are slightly lower (on average) that the proposed levels (20ppm in the EU).  Most surprising to me was this statement:

“Given the amount of soy sauce used in Asian dishes this level might be irrelevant.   


“There seems to be no correlation between gluten content and the declaration of wheat on the product label.”

The attached PDF (referenced above) then continues on to discuss the types of labeling laws now required (and those not, like for wheat starch) in the EU as well as whether or not the methodology available for analyzing such materials is suitable for the hydrolyzed gluten proteins found in the fermented goods like soy sauce.

As a result of their analysis (please, read it for yourselves) are the following recommendations:

  • that, as far as possible, Coeliacs should choose Asian soy sauces which do not include wheat.
  • if such information (ingredient listing) is not available, they should not be worried about the ingestion of gluten as investigation have shown that hte level so fgluten are almost insignificant in relation to the safe dose as reported by Catassi…
  • Coeliacs should, however, still avoid dishes with very high levels of soy sauce.

Truly I am awed.

I have always wondered.  And in all honesty, have not worried too much about soy sauce.  I have a good handle on food prep/recipes in Asian (mainly Chinese) foods and have felt fairly confident selecting my items with care.  But soy sauce remained one of those ingredients that I question.  NOT because I think it is “bad” but because I wonder what the levels truly are.  This paper has brought the conversation back to our dinner table.

I’d love for it to begin conversation here.

What do you think?  I’d love to collect some info/ideas from you all to post in a follow up post.  I will NOT share you personal information ever.  The results will be tabulated into a graph for sharing.  If you are willing, please click here.

Is soy sauce ‘safe” for the gluten free diet?

%d bloggers like this: