gluten-free living

Allergies, Sensitivities, and Auto-Immune Diseases, Oh My! Part Two

I've recently had a few scary, accidental run-ins with wheat and nuts. I'm finding more and more that eating out or at social gatherings is hazardous. Thus, I'm finding myself more and more in the kitchen. I am really not that great of a cook, but I can proudly say that I have graduated from the George Foreman burgers, grilled chicken strips, frozen dinners and cinnamon toast stage, where I began almost 6 years ago after marrying Brandon.

All that to say, I have some new recipes I'd like to post. These are extremely user friendly as I think "normal" people could enjoy them, too. They are also healthy, balanced and inexpensive to make.

Red Lentil Soup (the soup for which Esau is said to have sold his birthright)

1 bag red lentils (green will work, but the soup will look more like . . . poop)
1 small onion
2 T. butter
1 small can tomato paste
2 cups+ water
salt and pepper to taste

Saute onions in butter. Add tomato paste, lentils and water. Simmer 20-30 minutes. Add water as needed.
Season to taste. Blend and serve.

Pizza Soup

2 t. olive oil
2 garlic cloves, minced
3 cups chicken broth (i make my own)
1/2 t. salt
3 (14.5oz) cans diced tomatoes
fresh or dried basil, or italian seasoning

Heat oil and add garlic. Cook 30 seconds. Add broth, salt and tomatoes, bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer 20 minutes. Blend.

While soup simmers, saute 1/4 onion in butter. Add frozen or fresh (I use frozen b/c you get more bang for your buck) spinach. Cook until thawed and wilted. Add shredded cheese (I use goat cheese, and I shred it myself).

Serve spinach on top of soup alone or with pepperoni.

Spinach quiche

1 T. olive oil
1 frozen package of spinach, thawed and drained
6 eggs
2 cups shredded mont. jack cheese (if I'm making it for Micah or myself, I use goat cheese)
1/4 t. salt
1/8 t. pepper

Preheat oven 350 degrees. Spray 9 in. pie pan with Pam. Cook onion in large skillet. When soft, stir in spinach and continue to cook until excess moisture has evaporated. In large bowl, combine eggs, cheese, salt and pepper. Add spinach mixture and mix well. Scoop into pie pan. Bake about 30 minutes or until eggs have set. Cool 10 minutes and serve.

Glazed Butternut Squash

Peel and dice squash (or buy frozen). Place foil over cookie sheet and spray foil with Pam. Lay out squash evenly. Mix 1/4 c. melted butter and 2 T. brown sugar. Pour over squash. Sprinkle pepper over squash. Put in 350 degree oven for 30 minutes.

Also, I've learned how to sneak broccoli into Micah's diet. It requires an extra couple of steps, but it's worth it.

Chicken Casserole:

I begin by making my homemade gluten-free cream of mushroom soup, found here.

Then, I chop up a bag of frozen broccoli, thawed. (True, I could buy it pre-chopped, but I can't find it organic, and I'm into that kind of thing.) I throw the broccoli into the soup and let it warm.

I then spray a casserole dish with Pam, and place 1 c. of brown rice and 2 c. water into the dish. I stir in the soup. I take chicken breast strips and season them however I wish, and place them on top. I put the casserole into a 350 degree oven for about an hour.

I've also been enjoying lettuce burgers and homemade fries.

I divide ground meat into fist sized balls, and press flat. I season them with Montreal steak seasoning alone. They can been popped into a skillet on medium heat with butter or on a grill if you want something more figure friendly.

I now make my own french fries, too. I (and by I, I really mean Brandon) cuts potatoes up into small, very thin slices. He also cuts an onion up into strips. He throws the potatoes and the onions a little at a time into a fryer full of hot oil until the potatoes become a golden color. He pulls them out, places them on paper towels to drain, and we season them with Tony's.

I eat my burger wrapped in lettuce. He eats his on a bun. We're both happy. And so is Micah who really enjoys meat and potatoes (along with some veggie or fruit I force upon him).

I hope my gluten-free friends find this helpful!

Allergies, Sensitivities, and Auto-Immune Diseases, Oh My!

I have been called or emailed or texted more than once by friends requesting advice for themselves or their friends when they are given the news that they must drastically alter their diets. Most people are clueless about how to properly nourish themselves if they have to do away with gluten. So how do they manage when they must stay away from gluten, dairy, soy, nuts, etc.? Fortunately for me, when I discovered my allergies, my mother had lived with them for 3 or 4 years already. The change was not easy, but wasn't as difficult as it could have been thanks to her. This post is my way of paying it forward.

Before I continue, know that your life isn't over and neither is your spouse's. You can create yummy, filling meals without gluten. All of the foods in this post are suitable to my personal needs--no gluten, nuts, soy, dairy and limited corn. If you have further allergies and sensitivities, you will want to check the ingredients listed with each item. This post will be a work in progress, and I will update it whenever I discover something new and delicious.

Glutino Crackers Original—Corn starch, white rice flour, organic palm oil, modified corn starch, dextrose, liquid whole egg, yeast, salt, guar gum, sodium bicarbonate, ammonium bicarbonate, mono and digycerides, natural flavor.
Glutino Crackers Vegetable—Corn starch, white rice flour, organic palm oil, modified corn starch, dextrose, liquid, whole egg, yeast, tomato powder, salt, oregano, garlic, guar gum, ammonium bicarbonate, sodium bicarbonate, mono and diglycerides, natural flavor.
These crackers are delicious! The vegetable variety is my favorite. I use them as I would any cracker, but my favorite snack is these crackers topped with pepperoni, sprinkled cheese and diced jalapenos.
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Betty Crocker Cake Mix—Rice flour, sugar, potato starch, leavening, xanthan gum, salt. May contain soy ingredients.
Uses: The cake mix makes a fine cake, but I use this mix along with butter to top my favorite cooked fruit for cobbler. (You may also use a combination of rice flour, butter and sugar for cobbler.)
Betty Crocker Brownie Mix— Sugar, semi-sweet chocolate chips (sugar, chocolate liquor, cocoa butter, soy lecithin, vanilla), Cocoa Processed with Alkali, Rice Flour, Potato Starch, Corn Starch, Xanthan Gum, Salt. May contain soy ingredients.
Uses: I think that it's pretty obvious. I love it topped with homemade goat milk ice cream (see below for recipe).

Ingredients: Brown Rice Pizza Crust—Whole grain brown rice, potato
Uses: Use as pizza crust. It takes some getting used to, but it’s better than going without pizza. I recommend Paul Newman’s Sockarooni Sauce for your pizza sauce. I use aged goat cheese, pepperoni and veggies to top my pizza.

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Ingredients: Barbara’s Brown Rice Crisps—Organic whole grain brown rice, organic fruit juice concentrate (apple, peach, pear or pineapple), sea salt.
Uses: Cereal, Rice Krispie Treats (Watch your brand of marshmallows. Not all brands are gluten-free.)

Gluten-Free Pantry French Bread Mix—white rice flour, potato starch, corn starch, guar gum, granulated honey, salt, and a packet of yeast. May contain traces of soy.
Uses: It is my all-purpose bread, but it serves best as toast. I can’t use a lot of other mixes because the content of tapioca starch is too high. I have a sensitivity to it.
GF Pantry Brown Rice Pancake and Waffle Mix—brown rice flour, white rice flour, corn starch, buttermilk, granulated honey, baking powder (corn), sodium bicarbonate, salt, xanthan gum.
Uses: This mix makes the BEST pancakes!!

Ingredients (Brown Rice Flour): Brown rice
Uses: It is so versatile. It serves well as a flour substitute in banana bread recipes, brownies (see recipe below), cobbler topping, and batters. I have fried venison, squash and goat cheese in brown rice flour seasoned with Tony’s seasoning.
Ingredients (Potato Starch): This stuff is my best friend. I use it to make my own cream soups so I can have casseroles (all processed cream soups contain flour) and gravy. Instructions for gravy are on the package. See recipe for mushroom cream soup below.

Ingredients: (Kinnikinnick Donuts)—Icing (sugar, water, glucose, vanilla), sugar, white rice flour, tapioca starch, water, whole eggs, sweet rice flour, palm fruit oil (non hydrogenated), fructooligosaccharide, yeast, pea protein, egg whites, xanthan gum, fruit concentrate (dextrose, dextrin, fiber), salt rice bran extract, cellulose, baking powder (sodium acid pyrophosphate, sodium bicarbonate, pea starch, mono calcium phosphate), glucono delta lactone, sodium bicarbonate, nutmeg.
Uses: With coffee. They also come in Maple glazed, Cinnamon, and Chocolate glazed. The Maple is my favorite, the Chocolate is my least favorite.
Ingredients: (Kinnikinnick Chocolate Cake Mix)-- Sugar, Potato Starch, White Rice Flour, Cocoa Powder, Sweet Rice Flour, Baking Powder, Guar Gum, Salt, Pea Protein, Sodium Bicarbonate, Pea Starch, Pea Fibre.
Uses: This is my favorite chocolate cake mix. It makes PERFECT cupcakes and a great birthday cake. Top with your favorite icing. I like vanilla icing on mine!
Kinnikinnick is a HUGE gluten-free company stocked with all kinds of goodies! Check out their site here:

Ingredients: Brown rice.

Uses: Perfect substitute for grits. Good sweet, dressed up or with a simple dollop of butter.

Ingredients: Rice

Uses: Makes great Asian dishes. You can also buy the boxes with seasonings. The original flavor is free of soy. Add chicken, veggies, and crushed red pepper for a sweet and spicy treat.

Ingredients: Brown rice.

Uses: Use as you would any pasta. I love this brand because it is so hard to overcook. Other brands will disintegrate if you cook them too long. My husband never knew the difference when we switched, and you can get any kind of pasta you need in this brand (Tinikyada).

Ingredients: Brown rice.

Uses: As above, use as you would any pasta. This brand will disintegrate if overcooked, but I like it because it cooks quickly, and you don't have to cook the lasagna at all.
Ingredients: Rice protein.

Uses: If you are into protein shakes, fruit smoothies with a boost, etc, try this in place of whey. It is grainy, but it's better than itching or being ill.

Ingredients: Corn

Uses: Corn bread. Most cornbread mixes have wheat flour. This makes a yummy, but less fluffy version.
Ingredients: Brown rice flour, water, potato starch, canola oil, pineapple juice concentrate, peach juice concentrate, leavening (baking soda, sodium acid pyrophosphate, monocalcium phosphate), pear juice concentrate, salt, soy lecithin, defatted soy flour, guar gum.
Uses: These are great in lieu of Eggos. They are quick, and very good toasted in a toaster. They are not so splendid microwaved. I like them topped with blueberries and maple syrup.

Ingredients: Goat milk.
Uses: Use the milk as you would any other milk, but decide carefully about desserts. Sometimes the milk taints the cake you’re trying to make. It is perfectly fine for banana bread, pancakes, scrambled eggs and savory cooking though. The aged cheese is also very good. When people say “goat cheese” they are usually referring to the fresh, crumbly goat cheese, which is great on salads and serves as a good substitute for cottage or ricotta cheese on lasagna. The aged cheese is good for pizza, lasagna and anything you would use mozzarella or cheddar for. Both brands are excellent (Meyenberg or Alta Dena).

Now, the holy grail of gluten free snacks!!!

Ingredients: Snap pea Crisps—Green peas, corn oil, rice, salt calcium carbonate, ascorbic acid. Be careful! Peas are legumes!!!
Uses: They are advertised as salad toppers, but they are great with sandwiches or by themselves as a meal. They are very well balanced with protein, fat and carbs, and the main ingredient is peas!
Ingredients: Sorghum Flour; Grape, Apple and Pear Juice Concentrates; Brown Pure Cane Sugar; Date Paste; Chocolate Chips (Evaporated Cane Juice, Chocolate Liquor, Non-Dairy Cocoa Butter); Expeller Pressed-Vegetable Oil (Safflower Oil and/or Sunflower Oil); Water; Natural Rice Dextrin; Xanthan Gum; Baking Soda; Salt; Vanilla; Rosemary Extract

Uses: This little company is awesome. They make sure their foods are free of all of the leading allergens. No gluten, no nuts, no eggs, no casein. Check out Enjoy Life Foods here.

All of these foods should be available at your local health food store. If they are not, check to see if they can/will order it for you. And always tell your health food store merchants about your dietary needs. They can help you find lots of yummy products. Be prepared to spend a little more on groceries than you used to, but you will live. I promise.

In the meantime, do not underestimate the power of these:
Plain old rice and potatoes make GREAT starch substitutes. There are so many yummy potato recipes and you are only limited by your creativity when it comes to rice.

Recipes (kind of):

Mushroom Cream Soup (for casseroles):

Saute chopped onions and baby portabellos in butter and Tony's seasoning. Add goat milk (1 to 1 1/2 cups). Cook until warm again. Meanwhile, mix 2 T. of Potato starch with cold water. Add to milk, onions, and mushrooms. Stir until thick. Add to casserole.

Microwave Rice Flour Brownies:

2 eggs
1 c. sugar
1/2 t. salt
1 t. vanilla extract
1/2 c. butter, melted
3/4 c. rice flour
1/2 c. cocoa
1 c. chopped nuts (optional)

Beat eggs, sugar, salt and vanilla for 1 minute at medium speed. Add butter, continue beating. Mix in flour and cocoa at low speed. Stir in nuts. Spread evenly into greased 8 in. square dish. Microwave 4 1/2 to 5 minutes.

Homemade Goat Milk Ice Cream

4 eggs
2 1/4 c. sugar
6 c. goat milk (ready to drink)
4 cans goat milk (concentrated milk like Pet milk)
5 tsp. vanilla extract
1/2 tsp. salt

Beat eggs. Add sugar and beat again. Mix in other ingredients. chill. Freeze in ice cream freezer. Serve plain or with Microwave Rice Flour Brownies.

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The Deadly Attributes of Chow Mein Noodles

 Vietnamese Chow Mein
Original image via Flickr Creative Commons courtesy of Herman Saksono

A couple of weeks ago, I posted a fun, lighthearted account of my discovery of three grave plots available to me.  Though I've only used a little over 1/4 of my measuring cup of life, it was my plan to get right on the task of choosing one of those plots.  As I pointed out, " assume one as puny as I will live to be 100 is humorously presumptuous. I mean, it's quite possible that I will happen upon a doughnut-throwing contest, open-mouthed, and meet a glutenous doom well before my time."

Well, on Thursday night, I did almost meet a glutenous doom. But not via a tasty doughnut. Oh no. I nearly met my end by way of the rather bland, but potent chow mein noodle. Made of little more than fried wheat, chow mein noodles are basically small strands of death. They come in various guises, but in this instance, the little buggers were masked behind the friendly title of "chicken salad."

Allow me to set the stage. About three times a year, I am invited to a small, Union Parish Baptist church to sing at their monthly singing service. A potluck dinner inevitably follows. (It is a Baptist church, after all.)

I hesitantly began searching for something to eat that wouldn't do too much damage, and finally spotted something with a seeming bit of promise. I asked the lady standing behind it what it was. "Chicken salad." Now, the only thing I've ever had to watch out for in chicken salad is the occasional tree nut. I gave the stuff a quick glance, and decided it was harmless enough.

I sat down with my scoop of chicken salad and took a bite. My first thought was something along the lines of, "Bleh! This is the worst chicken salad I've ever tasted. Oh, well." I took a second bite, thinking, "This tastes so strange." The third bite was halfway to my mouth when an all too familiar sensation began in my lips and on my skin.

I excused myself to retrieve Benadryl from my diaper bag. I took two, then returned. I was feeling very annoyed at this point because I knew I would be ill for days over the worst chicken salad I had yet encountered. I sat back down. My grandmother and her friend looked at my skin and freaked out a little. I had a nice rash forming. I started digging through the chicken salad in an attempt to identify the culprit. Finally, I happened upon tiny noodles that had been chopped and softened by the juices in the salad. I was livid.

"Who puts noodles in chicken salad?" I whispered to my Nona.

She shook her head. "I don't know, but it's not even good." So it wasn't just me.

After a couple more minutes passed, I realized I wasn't feeling better but worse. Surprised, I left to take another Benadryl. I gave this capsule another few minutes, but my symptoms didn't improve. I told Nona that I was leaving, and she insisted upon driving me home.

We had not fully left the parking lot of the church when I felt my chest begin to get even tighter. I had never experienced such a thing after taking THREE Benadryl. I wasn't frightened, but I reached for my Epi pen, muttering to Nona about how this was going to be a long night. As most of you know, I have an acute fear of needles, so I had to count to three aloud before I was able to jab the thing into my thigh. But the point is that I did it. I called Brandon who was at home, and told him to get ready to leave, we had to go to the ER. He was annoyed, but not yet overly worried.

When I arrived home, I prepped a bottle for Micah, knowing he would be hungry and assuming I should not nurse. I also packed an overnight bag for him just in case he would have to stay with my mom. Brandon took Nona home and put Daisy in her pen. We were calm and methodical. Half an hour passed before we were on the road.

Brandon drove quickly with his hazard lights on while I fed my hungry boy. He took it like a champ. Five minutes from the hospital, we turned onto an entrance to the interstate when I felt tight in my chest again. But the entrance was closed.

I said to Brandon, "Don't freak out. I have to use the other one." Brandon said a few choice words, made an illegal U-turn, hopped the median, and sped across the Louisville bridge.

We arrived at the ER. I could barely stand, but the receptionist asked me to fill out an information sheet. I couldn't write, so I gave her my license and sat. They then took me to triage where they asked a series of questions which were rather annoying to a person struggling to breathe because she ate two bites of a bad chicken salad. Fortunately, the second Epi did the trick because it was another half hour before I saw the doctor.

The doctor entered the room at a lope. When he spoke, his voice reminded me of Kermit the Frog. I concluded he was having a nice night in the ER because he also possessed Kermit's "always look on the bright side of life" attitude. He asked me what happened. I told him. He said, "The second shot probably wasn't necessary. The tightening in your chest was probably from the first shot."

I wanted to say, "Look here, Kermy--I know what happened, I know what I felt, and I don't have a habit of stabbing myself for fun!" Instead, I said nothing.

He declared me free from swelling at that point, ordered yet a shot of Decadron (another shot!--yay....), and a pack of steroids to take at home. I was free to go.

Fortunately for me, the deadly attributes of chow mein noodles were overcome by the life-saving ones of the Epi pen. I could've been in trouble had I not had them. I may have even needed one of those grave plots, but I never thought about that in the middle of the crisis. I just did what had to be done, and I'm glad to know I can handle something like that.

I scared my poor husband, and I can't nurse until Wednesday evening, but everything is alright now. I'm still irritated, still unwell, but I'm fine. The moral of the story? Don't trust potluck chicken salad, and don't joke about glutenous dooms.