Monthly Archives: May 2012

How To Go Gluten-Free: Eating Out At Restaurants

photo credit: Flickr harry harris

Since this month is National Celiac Awareness Month, I thought I’d share some tips throughout the month to help you get started on a gluten-free diet. Previously, I’ve shared why I’m gluten-free (and the symptoms of a gluten intolerance or celiac disease), some tips on how to go gluten-free for the beginner, and how to avoid cross-contamination in your home. But even if you’re no longer a newbie, hopefully this information can be a good refresher. If you have additional tips, please share them in the comments. Many brains together is better than just my little ol’ noggin!

Week before last, I shared tips on how to avoid cross-contamination in your home. Personally, I eat food prepared in my home most of the time. It’s the safest option for me, it’s less expensive, and I eat a healthier, more balanced diet when I am eating whole foods and cooking from scratch. However, none of us can eat at home 100% of the time. For most of us, it’s impossible. I often pack food when I’m going away – I bring my lunch every day to work, and I pack snacks for short day trips, and I pack ingredients for cooking (and make a visit to the grocery) when we go on vacation, trying to stay in places with cooking options whenever possible. But there are times I will be eating out at a restaurant, and I’d like for that experience to be not only safe, but also enjoyable. Nowadays, many restaurants are becoming more aware of the need to cater to gluten-free living, which has started to provide more opportunities for those of us that must live this way to enjoy the restaurant experience.

For starters, many restaurants are now carrying gluten-free menus. Hooray! This helps make the process a bit easier, but if the Domino’s not-so-gluten-free pizza crust is any indication, we must be cautious. Not every restaurant that carries a gluten-free menu or says they have gluten-free items has the proper practices and procedures in place to ensure a safe meal. If you cannot eat gluten, there is a certain level of due diligence you have to do to make sure you won’t become sick.

When I first started a gluten-free diet, I would visit a restaurant, look at the menu, and pick out an item that looked as though it was “probably safe”, cross my fingers, and hope for the best. I didn’t want to draw a lot of attention to myself – I really wasn’t fond of being branded the “picky” eater. (Which honestly, was probably more in my head than a real problem.) Because I wouldn’t speak up, over and over, I’d get sick. As I was gluten-free for a longer period of time, I started to really understand just how sick I was every time I’d eat out. I’d pay for my inaction with days and weeks of misery. It finally came to a point where I knew I would either have to give up eating out, or I’d have to advocate for myself when others were preparing food for me. I’d have to suck it up and speak out.

If the restaurant is new to me, and I will be dining with people that I’d rather not explain my entire dietary situation with, I call ahead and go over my needs with the restaurant. I request to speak to a manager or the chef. I ask questions about cross-contamination. If the restaurant doesn’t have a gluten-free menu, I look at their menu online, if available, and I ask questions about certain seemingly safe menu items (grilled steak with veggies? Salad with grilled chicken? Fajitas?). I ask if there is a marinade – and is it safe? Are the vegetables steamed in clean water or is the pasta water used? (Yes, some restaurants, particularly Italian restaurants, steam veggies with pasta water.) What about seasonings? Is chicken broth used, and is it gluten-free? I discuss using clean utensils and cooking surfaces. Sometimes, I will plan ahead what I am going to eat there, based on these discussions, so I can make the ordering process easier. Then I can talk with the wait staff when I arrive, let them know of my conversation and what I would like to order, and it makes the process a bit less painful and disorganized, especially if they are busy.

I also have Triumph Dining dining cards. I personally think they’re quite helpful, especially if I don’t have an opportunity to call ahead. I use them to explain to the wait staff my dietary needs, and give them the card and tell them this will help explain my needs to the chef. Sometimes, the chef will come out to talk with me, as they will sometimes want to clarify directly with me that what they plan on making will be suitable.

In fact, last year, I attended a week-long conference that was held in the Dallas area at a hotel. I contacted the person coordinating the conference and informed them of my dietary needs (I even gave her some usual solutions that most hotel kitchens come up with – a grilled chicken breast and salad, or steamed vegetables), and asked if I needed to contact the hotel directly (and said I was happy to do so). This person coordinating the event contacted the chef at the hotel, forwarded my description of my needs, and she received a response saying that they could take care of me. The first day I arrived, and the conference broke for lunch, the chef came out to talk to me directly. He asked what I’d like to eat for lunch. I stammered…I’d never had such freedom on my lunch order! The chef expressed clear understanding of my needs, checked for clarification when needed, and had a willing and helpful attitude. I felt comfortable eating here, and that feeling, to me, is important. I said I would be happy with a simple meal of grilled meat and veggies. I asked what he had, and he explained he’d just received in some fresh salmon (and he listed some other meats). I went for the salmon. He described that he could grill it, and serve it with an Asian cabbage slaw. It was excellent – better than I could have possibly hoped for. The rest of the week spent there was just as lovely, and every meal was completely safe. At a conference, especially one where I am to spend all day concentrating and learning tons of material (like I did at this one), keeping healthy is essential. I made sure the organization holding the conference knew just how much I appreciated the quality service at that hotel.

If I am treated well and provide a safe meal, I do all that I can to reward the restaurant for their extra level of service. I tip well. I make positive reviews of the restaurant. I also make a point to return as often as I can. Currently, I have a handful of restaurants that I can frequent safely, and I visit those restaurants time and time again. This also makes it a bit easier when I am going out to eat with someone – I can suggest one of my favorites, and make the whole dining experience less stressful for everyone.

If for some reason I cannot eat at the restaurant that I’m visiting – maybe they only serve pizza, for example, or I tried to contact them only to be met with confusion on how to handle my diet, a total lack of willingness to listen, understand, or work with me, and I was extremely uncomfortable eating there, I will try to eat something beforehand if I can. If that’s not possible, I carry an “emergency snack” with me, such as a small bag of nuts, a LARA bar, or other portable bit of food, so I don’t starve and give in to questionable food. I also might treat myself later to something safe and delicious to make up for my not-so-interesting meal, if possible, so I don’t feel deprived. To me, “cheating”, even if it’s merely eating something that “seems to be” gluten-free, just isn’t worth two weeks of misery. (And those are just outward symptoms. I know some people have little-to-no noticeable reaction to gluten, but even those little amounts still wreak havoc on their insides. Just. Not. Worth. It.)

Eating out isn’t the easiest of processes. Personally, I feel like a kid in a candy store when I discover that there are a few restaurants out there that are mostly or entirely gluten-free. It’s exciting to know that more and more people are becoming aware of the gluten-free diet. However, not everyone truly understands what it means to prepare a safe gluten-free meal for someone who is on a gluten-free diet out of necessity. We have to advocate for ourselves and for our gluten-free family members. Fortunately, education can go a long way, especially if you find a restaurant that is willing to listen and learn how to best serve you. And with a little work on your part, you can help to ensure a safe meal for yourself and/or your family.

What tips can you share to help ensure a safe gluten-free visit to a restaurant?

 

 

 

 

Whole Food Spicy Green “Juice”

Did you happen to overindulge this weekend? I did, just a bit – too much barbecue, and one too many helpings of dessert. I don’t regret it one bit, but now my body is craving lighter, fresher fare. This morning, as I woke up, I knew what I needed was some raw greens.

I am no stranger to green smoothies. I have them several times a week, at least, as part of my breakfast. You often don’t see them here, as I’m usually throwing random fruits and vegetables in the blender at 5:00 AM so that I can take it with me to the office. Not a lot of time to photograph during my morning routine. Furthermore, there are rarely “recipes” I follow when making my smoothies – it’s a “little of this,  a handful of that” and a bit of blending, and breakfast is ready. But since today is a day off, I figured it would be a great opportunity to share with you one of my favorite refreshing smoothies.

It’s almost not a smoothie. A juice, really - only the pulp is not removed. (I don’t have a juicer; if I did, I’d certainly use this combination to make a great juice as well!) I figure I’m getting my fiber in this way, so it’s a win-win, right? But rather than the creaminess that often accompanies smoothies, this one is lighter and thinner, so it’s more of a “whole-food” juice.

It’s my blog, I can call it what I want, right?

Anyway. Again, it’s not truly a recipe, more of a guideline. I didn’t measure. If you don’t have something, just omit it or substitute something else. I opted to not make it sweet – if you want it sweeter, feel free to throw some apple in there. Or stevia. Whatever floats your boat. My version is spicy, refreshing, and invigorating. I like it that way – it’s an excellent way to jump-start my morning.

Whole Food Spicy Green “Juice”

2 big handfuls of spinach

about 1/4 cup parsley

1 stalk celery, cut into chunks

1 small cucumber, peeled

1 inch piece of ginger, peeled

juice of 1 lemon

6 ice cubes plus enough water to blend

Place all ingredients into a high-powered blender. Blend until everything is smooth and frothy.

Drink immediately, as this “juice” will separate.

Note: If you don’t have a high-powered blender, you can use a regular blender, but it may take quite a bit longer to get everything smooth and all of the small bits might not be blended completely. However, you can definitely make smoothies in a regular blender – I did for a long time before dear hubby gave me the VitaMix!

This post is linked to Slightly Indulgent Tuesdays over at Simply Sugar and Gluten-Free, Friday Foodie Fix over at The W.H.O.L.E. Gang, and Wellness Weekends at Diet, Dessert and Dogs.

Looking for more gluten-free smoothie ideas? Check out this conversation over at Udi’s Gluten-Free Living Community!

 

25 Gluten-Free Recipes for your Memorial Day Weekend

This weekend will be a time for many Americans to honor and remember those who have fought and given their lives defending our great country, and we’ll likely do so in American fashion – by playing outdoors, barbecueing, enjoying the freshness of late spring/early summer produce, and enjoying a refreshing beverage with family and friends.

I’m all for that. This weekend, we’ll be celebrating with some crawfish and barbecue, family and friends at the Tasty Eats At Home household.

If you’re looking for that perfect gluten-free recipe for your barbecue, picnic or party, look no further! I’m sharing a smattering of recipes – all gluten-free, most dairy-free, some even vegan - to help you organize your weekend and ensure it’s full of delicious, gluten-free fun.

Have a wonderful Memorial Day weekend, folks!

Salads:

Southwestern Coleslaw from Tasty Eats At Home

Old Reliables: Salads You Can Count On from Diet, Dessert and Dogs

Cucumber Herb Salad from Tasty Eats At Home

Kale Waldorf with Grilled Apples from Tasty Eats At Home

Black Bean Mango Quinoa Salad from Cara’s Cravings

Dips and Starters:

Smoky Eggplant Guacamole from Cara’s Cravings

Green Pea Hummus from Tasty Eats At Home

Wild Plum Salsa from Beyond the Peel

Savory “Wine and Cheese” Charlotte from Diet, Dessert and Dogs

Peach Salsa from Tasty Eats At Home

Mains/Entrees:

Moist and Herb-y Turkey Burgers from Tasty Eats At Home

Pulled Barbecue Chicken Sandwich from Simply Sugar and Gluten-Free

Spicy Mango Black Bean Turkey Burgers from Cara’s Cravings

Smokin’ BBQ Portobello Sandwiches from Go Dairy Free

Peach BBQ Chicken from Tasty Eats At Home

Smoked Pork Ribs, Pork Shoulder, Brisket from Tasty Eats At Home

Sides:

Dill and Caper Red Potato Salad from Tasty Eats At Home

Perfect Corn on the Cob from The Balanced Platter

Cucumber Chickpea Bruschetta from Gluten-Free Easily

Spring Potato Salad from Wheat Free Meat Free

Desserts:

Peach Cupcakes with Peachy Cream Frosting from Tasty Eats At Home

Organic Red, White and Blue Popsicles from Cook It Allergy Free

Farm-Fresh Strawberry Gelato from Tasty Eats At Home

Vegan Raspberry Streusel Bars from Elana’s Pantry

Blueberry Buckle from She Let Them Eat Cake

 

More fun gluten-free Memorial Day Round-Ups (with more drool-worthy recipes!)

Top 10 Memorial Day Recipes from Daily Bites (I’m going to borrow Hallie’s idea and make beet stars for a salad this weekend!)

Memorial Day BBQ Menu from Lexie’s Kitchen (You HAVE to try those jalapeno poppers – they’re awesome.)

Live Chat Tonight – Summertime Treats!

I am co-hosting a Live Chat tonight at 7PM CDT over at Udi’s Gluten-Free Living Community, and we’ll be discussing our favorite summertime treats! Are you looking for fun, healthy gluten-free ideas for snacks and treats to keep cool during the summertime months? Come chat with us tonight and we’ll share recipes and ideas to keep it fun this summer!

 

Cupcakes for a Cause: Grain-Free, Dairy-Free Peach Cupcakes with Peachy Cream Frosting

As you likely already know, May is Celiac Disease Awareness Month. I’ve been sharing thoughts about why I went gluten-free, tips on how to take those first gluten-free steps, and how to avoid cross-contamination of gluten in your own home. Today, I’m sharing something a little more fun! I was asked to contribute to an event called Cupcakes for a Cause, hosted by the American Celiac Disease Alliance. All throughout the month of May, various gluten-free bloggers and bakers will be sharing their cupcakes – baking the number of cupcakes needed to represent the years they’ve been gluten-free. Each entry will be pinned on Pinterest, and you are welcome to “vote” for your favorites there – just “like” it or repin; either counts as a vote.

Anyway, as I have been nearly 3 years gluten-free, I am showing 3 of these lovely, welcome-to-summer peach cupcakes. (In truth, the recipe makes more than 3 cupcakes - it’s hard to make only 3 cupcakes!) Peach season has come early to North Texas, due to the warm temps we’ve had this spring. I was astonished when I started seeing the early peaches at the farmer’s market on the first weekend in May. Since then, I’ve been buying them up - they’re superb this year, full of juicy sweetness. You bite into one, and that sticky, orange-red juice drips down your chin. It’s messy, and it’s heaven. Mostly, I’ve been enjoying them unadorned. They’re one of my most favorite fruits.

But since I needed to bake some cupcakes for this event, what better inspiration than the bounty of late spring/early summer? I opted to make this healthier gluten-free cupcake. But you don’t have to know that it’s healthier; just know that there’s the gorgeous flavor of peach throughout, and a creamy, decadent peachy frosting on top. It’s a perfect way to celebrate both a gorgeous time of year and an excellent cause.

Check them out for yourself, and be sure to go and vote for your favorite cupcakes!

Peach Cupcakes with Peachy Cream Frosting (grain-free, dairy-free, refined sugar-free)

For the cakes:

3/4 c diced peaches

1/2 c medjool dates, pitted

1/4 c coconut oil, melted and cooled to room temperature

3 eggs

1 t vanilla extract

1/4 t almond extract

1/4 t stevia extract

1 1/2 c blanched almond flour

2 T tapioca starch

scant 1/2 t salt

1/4 t baking soda

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a muffin tin with cupcake papers. Place peaches, dates, and coconut oil in the bowl of a food processor fitted with a metal blade. Process until smooth. Add eggs, vanilla, almond and stevia extracts, and process again until well-blended. In a large bowl, whisk together the almond flour, tapioca starch, salt and baking soda. Scrape the wet ingredients from the food processor and add them to the almond flour. Mix together with a spoon until well-combined. Spoon batter into cupcake papers, filling each about 3/4 full. Bake for about 18 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Allow to cool completely before frosting.

Peachy Cream Frosting (grain-free, dairy-free), refined sugar-free)

6 T coconut butter (such as Artisana, or you can make your own)

2 T palm shortening

2 T coconut oil

6 T tapioca starch

1/4 c refined sugar-free peach jam

3 T agave nectar

1/4 c powdered coconut sugar

6 T coconut milk

Add coconut butter, shortening, coconut oil, tapioca starch, jam, and agave nectar to the bowl of a food processor. Whisk until creamy. Refrigerate for 30 minutes. Remove from refrigerator and add coconut sugar and coconut milk and whisk until creamy and thick, scraping down sides of the bowl as needed.

Frost cupcakes as desired.

This post is linked to Slightly Indulgent Tuesdays over at Simply Sugar and Gluten-Free.

NFCA “Amber” Designation Suspended

photo credit: Flickr Mr. Daniel Ted Feliciano

This just in…

The National Foundation for Celiac Awareness announced today that due to community response, they are suspending use of the Amber designation to describe a restaurant or food services establishment. (Read the press release here.)

This is excellent news! Many thanks to grass roots organizations like 1in133.org and the Ditch Amber petition, as well as so many in the gluten-free community speaking out against this confusing designation. The NFCA listened, and for that, I am grateful. Gluten-free should mean gluten-free – no confusing designations needed.

Upon reading the news, I may have run around my living room this evening, giving high fives to everyone. Just saying.

 

Broccoli “Cheese” Souffle over at Go Dairy Free

I am sharing my recipe for a dairy-free broccoli “cheese” souffle at Go Dairy Free today! If you’re not familiar with Go Dairy Free, I highly recommend you check it out! When I first went dairy-free back in July 2010, I wasn’t sure exactly what to look for to ensure I was eating entirely dairy-free, and even more concerning - how could I still have ice cream and cheese? Alisa Fleming, the founder of Go Dairy Free (and the author of the book by the same name – which I own and refer to all the time) shares wonderful tips and recipes that are entirely free of dairy, and many are vegan to boot. This site and her book are both a wealth of dairy-free information.

Anyway, if you’re just waiting for the souffle recipe, head on over and check it out!

How To Go Gluten-Free: Avoiding Cross-Contamination At Home

photo credit: Flickr Laura Appleyard

Since this month is National Celiac Awareness Month, I thought I’d share some tips throughout the month to help you get started on a gluten-free diet. Previously, I’ve shared why I’m gluten-free (and the symptoms of a gluten intolerance or celiac disease) and some tips on how to go gluten-free for the beginner. But even if you’re no longer a newbie, hopefully this information can be a good refresher, and if you have additional tips, please share them in the comments. Many brains together is better than just my little ol’ noggin!

Let’s talk cross-contamination. What is cross-contamination? In this situation, we’re not talking about salmonella cross-contamination – you know, the kind that could happen if you put raw chicken on your cutting board that you subsequently use to cut raw vegetables. Today, let’s discuss gluten cross-contamination.

When otherwise gluten-free food comes in contact with food containing gluten, this is called cross-contamination.

How does this occur? Through a variety of ways. Since everyone has been talking about the not-so-gluten-free “gluten-free” pizza crust at Domino’s lately, let’s use this as an example, even though it takes place in a restaurant. This crust is gluten-free before it is removed from its package. However, once an employee removes it from the package, and sets it on the preparation station where gluten-containing crusts have been placed, that crust now has some gluten on it from crumbs. Furthermore, the toppings were touched by employee’s hands/gloves that were previously touching gluten, and all of the utensils used to move that pizza and cut it into slices were used on gluten-containing pizzas. Chances are, there are quite a few gluten-containing crumbs on that pizza when it’s served to a guest. This pizza has been cross-contaminated. (FYI, many people with celiac disease or other gluten sensitivity react to as little as 20 parts per million. This equates to the smallest of crumbs of bread. Even if a reaction doesn’t occur, damage could still be occurring.) This same cross-contamination situation can happen anytime gluten-containing food and gluten-free food is prepared in the same area – in a restaurant, in a food manufacturing facility, or in your own home.

What can we do about it? How can those of us that need to eat safe, gluten-free food (or provide safe food for our children) ensure that cross-contamination doesn’t occur in our home?

Of course, some of you may opt to remove gluten from your home entirely. This may be due to the fact that most or all of your family has issues with gluten, or there are small children that must eat gluten-free. It does make things easier. Then all that you have to do is read labels and be diligent about what foods you bring into your home to ensure they are gluten-free. Using a company such as Gluten-Free Watchdog can help too, as they run tests on even products labeled “gluten-free” to determine whether they have been contaminated by gluten.

But what about the great many of us that live in “mixed” households? How can we avoid cross-contamination? Here are some tips that work well for me.

- Have a dedicated area for gluten-free items (or if majority of kitchen is gluten-free, gluten items) in your pantry, in your fridge, etc. Label them clearly – especially those gluten-free jars of peanut butter, mayonnaise, and the like. (Don’t want any gluten-y crumbs in your gluten-free condiments!) For certain items like that I use a big permanent marker and write my name on it. If you have young children, putting brightly colored tape around a jar might be a great way to let them know that product is safe for them. Store gluten-free products on a higher shelf than gluten-containing products, so if by chance, a bag spills, the gluten-y crumbs don’t fall into the gluten-free products. Educate everyone in your home so they know where the safe gluten-free foods are and that they need to keep them safe.

- Thoroughly clean counters after cooking, so you won’t have to wonder if a stray crumb is gluten-free or not. Get down to eye level on the counters and inspect. You can also opt to designate one counter or one special area for all gluten-containing food preparation, to make it a bit easier. Other areas to think about cleaning: silverware drawer (notorious collecting crumbs) The drawer below your oven – mine gets crumbs from the oven in it pretty often. Pay attention to other surfaces that gluten-y hands touch – refrigerator handles, backs of chairs, the faucet handle, light switches. And how about that dish towel? Do your kids wash their hands at the kitchen sink? Mine do – and they are not gluten-free. They’re better about actually washing now that they’re older, (I used to have to watch them to ensure they’d do more than a quick rinse and wipe dry.) but still – if there is gluten on their hands after they wash, and then they use the dish towel to dry, that dish towel is contaminated. Also, my family often uses the dish towel to clean up anything from spilled water to milk or crumbs. Normally it goes into the dirty laundry afterwards, but if Mom or Dad aren’t around, the kids use the towel and put it back on the counter. If I wasn’t diligent about replacing that towel ALL THE TIME (we store a lot of clean towels around) I’d end up with gluten (or who knows what, for that matter!) on clean dishes or my hands. We do also use paper towels, (yes, I realize that’s not so green) but you and I both know that some kids (or even adults) will just grab the first thing they see!

- Have separate toasters for gluten-free bread. Gluten-containing crumbs could stick onto the toaster and make their way onto the gluten-free bread. (Alternatively, you can “toast” gluten-free bread in a skillet – I don’t often eat bread, so when I do, I just heat a cast iron skillet with a bit of dairy-free butter or coconut oil and “toast” a slice that way. Delish.) Have separate cutting boards, especially if you ever cut gluten-containing bread on your cutting board. Replace or use separate cookware, mixers, blenders, wooden spoons, rolling pins,  flour sifters, pizza stones, colanders, etc. that previously were in contact with gluten. Some tools can be well-cleaned and reused – like stainless steel cookware, which is non-porous. Tools previously in contact with gluten should not be used if they are plastic, wooden, Teflon, cast iron, or any similar surface that can have small scratches/crevices that cannot be easily cleaned. Even baking pans that have metal seams or small edges that are hard to clean are suspect. Use your best judgment when making a decision about whether to replace or clean a certain tool. Gluten is sticky and likes to hide in these small crevices, so if you know there’s no way you’ll be able to effectively clean it, it’s best to replace.

- Check your spices. Single-ingredient spices (such as oregano, sage, cumin, etc.) should be gluten-free, but read labels on those mixed blends. Also, consider this: did you ever use a dirty measuring cup/spoon to measure out spices, after that measuring cup/spoon was used for flour? This could have contaminating the jar of spices. The same can be said of sugar and other naturally gluten-free baking ingredients – if you used the same measuring cup for the flour and the sugar in the past, it’s best to toss the sugar and buy fresh.

- If you have people in your home that prepare gluten-containing foods in your oven or on your grill (think frozen pizzas on the oven rack, or buns on the grill), you may wish to place gluten-free foods on a piece of foil rather than directly on the oven rack or grill grates, in order to prevent cross-contamination. Also, if you fry foods, be sure you use clean oil to fry gluten-free foods. Never use oil that previously fried gluten-containing items to fry gluten-free foods, as small gluten-y particles could be lingering in that oil and can then stick to your gluten-free food. Bake gluten items on foil or a dedicated baking sheet – not directly on the rack, to keep the oven safe. Teach gluten-eaters to assemble sandwiches, etc. on plates and not directly on the counter – and if possible, assign a designated space for them to prepare gluten-containing foods.

- If preparing gluten items, make sure to thoroughly wash hands your afterwards. If you were handling crumbs or flours, you may want to use gloves or clean with a nail brush as well, otherwise, your hands could contaminate the gluten-free items. Don’t touch any gluten-free foods with hands after handling gluten items. Same goes with utensils.

- Use separate sponges for gluten and gluten-free dishes. Remember how I said that gluten is sticky (What happens when you mix flour and water? You get glue!)? It’ll stick to your sponge, especially if you’re cleaning out a bowl full of gluten-containing sticky pasta or something of that consistency. Then, if you were to use that same sponge on your gluten-free dish, you’ve wiped gluten all over that dish. I have a different-colored ”gluten” sponge for these items, and the family knows to use that when they clean the few gluten-containing dishes that we sometimes use.

- If someone is baking with wheat flour, this can be quite tricky. Airborne flour can stay airborne for many hours, and then can settle on every surface around. It’s best to not use wheat flour in a home where people must eat gluten-free. However, if you do decide to use wheat flour, try mixing the flour outside. If the gluten-intolerant person is mixing the flour, having them wear a mask would be good. Once a “batter” is made, the flour won’t be airborne any longer, and the batter can be brought inside. (I did this with my step-daughter once upon a time, and shared my experience.) Again, use tools dedicated to gluten baking only.

A few other areas you might not think to look for gluten:

- In your pet’s food. I personally haven’t read the labels on cat food – we don’t have cats – but dog food, especially the cheaper stuff, can contain wheat, barley, or oats. My dogs like to give kisses. If they were eating gluten in their food, then they’d be transferring that gluten to my hands (and the hands of the kids). This is something that could be particularly important if your kids must be gluten-free, as they’re more likely to let the dogs kiss them, and subsequently put their fingers in their mouth.

- People kisses are sometimes a problem too. If we’re talking about mouth-to-mouth kisses, and your significant other has recently consumed gluten (even just a beer), then this can potentially make you sick. On that same note, don’t share forks or drink after someone that is eating gluten. There could still be crumbs on that fork, or their drink could be contaminated. And while 99% of us probably never do this, don’t share toothbrushes either.

- Medications and supplements can also contain gluten as a binder. This is a bit more tricky – supplements have gotten better at labeling over the past few years, but most of the time, you’ll have to do research on your medications to ensure they’re gluten-free. Your pharmacist may be able to help you out, and there are some resources out there on the web. I’m hoping legislation passes for the requirement of gluten-free labeling in medications soon!

Yes, gluten can “lurk” in a lot of places in your home. And this does look like a lot of places to inspect. If you’re just starting out, don’t beat yourself up if you miss something. Heaven knows I have! Believe me, though, once you go through and make initial adjustments, keeping your home safe for those who must be gluten-free can become a simple, normal routine. Find what works best for you.

If you or someone in your home has been gluten-free for a while, but there are still gluten-eaters at home, how do you keep cross-contamination from happening? Share in the comments!

Cinnamon Raisin Walnut Bread (Grain-Free, Dairy-Free)

Remember cinnamon raisin toast? That warm, slightly sweet slice of bread, swirled with cinnamon and studded with raisins, slathered with butter, made the best breakfast. We didn’t have it often when I was growing up, but it was a treat when it was around. I didn’t realize just how special it was until I went gluten and dairy-free, and could no longer enjoy it.

Then it became another one of those fond food memories, forever tucked away in my brain, pulled out only every once in a while for reminiscing.

Then one day, I decided that I needed to bring back a version of that breakfast treat. I don’t often make or eat breads anymore, but an exception needed to be made for this. But I wanted to make it both full of nutrition and full of that cinnamon-y goodness. I also wanted to make it grain-free, since I feel best when I’m not consuming too much in the way of grains (and subsequently, that also makes it paleo-friendly and lower-carb).

I wasn’t sure the best way to go about making a grain-free bread, but then I remembered the bread I’d made based on AndreAnna’s recipe a while back when I adopted her for Adopt a Gluten-Free Blogger. That recipe used almond butter. The wheels started turning. Could I do the same with this loaf? I started to play around with the batter.

After 3 tries, I got it down. It’s a lovely, hearty little loaf that rose well, had a subtle sweetness packed with cinnamon, and in every bite, a raisin or a walnut. I love that baking with almond butter brings a gorgeous brown shine to the top of the loaf. The slices held together beautifully as well, and were moist – quite a feat for gluten-free baking. I decided to spread a little coconut spread on a slice, heat it up a skillet, and toasted it on both sides. Heaven.

Print Recipe

Cinnamon Raisin Walnut Bread (Grain-Free, Dairy-Free, Paleo)

½ c almond butter

1 T coconut oil

2 medium eggs at room temperature

1 t lemon juice

2 ½ T arrowroot powder

½ t salt

¼ t vanilla extract

¼ t baking soda

1 T plus 1 t cinnamon

¼ c Medjool dates, chopped

¼ c raisins

½ c walnuts, toasted and chopped

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a small/mini loaf pan with coconut oil and set aside. In the bowl of a mixer, blend the almond butter, coconut oil, eggs, and lemon juice until well-blended. Add arrowroot powder, salt, vanilla extract, baking soda, cinnamon and date. Blend again until well-blended. Add the raisins and walnuts and stir in.

Scrape batter into prepared loaf pan. Smooth out on top with spatula.

Bake for 30 minutes or until toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool completely before slicing.

This post is linked to Slightly Indulgent Tuesdays at Simply Sugar and Gluten-Free.

 

The (Not-So) Gluten-Free Pizza Crust Dilemma

Quinoa crust pizza (above) is truly gluten-free!

It has taken me a while to gather and organize my thoughts, so I’m a bit behind a lot of others on posting about this very hot topic. I wanted to have an opportunity to understand as much as possible about what was going on, get as many facts as I could, and truly decide where I stood before I mouthed off. I hope that those of you that are fired up about this don’t mistake my silence for acceptance, because that’s far from the truth.

On Monday, Domino’s announced they would start selling a “gluten-free” pizza crust. First of all, I want you to understand that I have opted not to consume this pizza, nor do I recommend that anyone with any gluten issues consume it.

The thing is, this pizza is not really gluten-free, because they use the same ovens, the same pizza cutters, the same utensils, and the same toppings that they use for their regular pizzas. But they do share a disclaimer – this pizza is not recommended for those with celiac disease. (Domino’s says the pizza is safe for people with a mild gluten sensitivity. To me, that seems as though it is only marketed to those who are on a gluten-free diet because it is a trend.) Domino’s certainly isn’t the first restaurant to offer a gluten-free product that was still contaminated with gluten (remember when California Pizza Kitchen attempted a gluten-free pizza?). They’re trying to capitalize on a hot trend. It’s a business. I get that.

But then, the National Foundation for Celiac Awareness posted a statement about their collaboration with Domino’s. They applauded Domino’s efforts to meet the needs of the gluten-free community, but cautioned that the pizza is not safe for those with celiac disease. However, they gave Domino’s their new GREAT Kitchens – Amber Designation.

And that is where I protest.

The idea behind the NFCA’s GREAT Kitchens program is great. The NFCA understands that while many restaurants are jumping on the gluten-free train and are offering or preparing to offer gluten-free items on their menus, most don’t fully understand what it means to serve a gluten-free meal. Alice Bast, the CEO and founder of the NFCA, explains in this press release that most restaurants couldn’t tell you what gluten is, much less how to protect a gluten-free customer from cross-contamination. Most restaurant employees weren’t trained on how to provide a gluten-free meal, and gluten-free customers were left in the dark. Many have visited these establishments, and then wondered why they got sick afterward. Many have stopped eating out as a result. Others, those who are new to the diet or don’t exhibit classic symptoms, thought they were safe, but damage could have been done silently, undermining their health.

The GREAT Kitchens program is supposed work to solve this issue by educating restaurants and certify that they have certain measures in place that ensure a gluten-free meal. There are two “designations” that a restaurant can achieve – the Green designation and the Amber designation. The Green designation is excellent. From the NFCA’s website, restaurants with the Green designation must “have comprehensive training of wait staff, managers and kitchen staff, have verified the gluten-free status of incoming ingredients and have instituted strict cross-contamination controls.” Awesome. Yes. We want this. But the Amber designation? It only requires “ingredient verification and basic training of wait staff and managers.” (Note: that doesn’t include those people in the back actually preparing your meal.) Essentially, a restaurant can still provide a potentially heavily cross-contaminated meal on a regular basis, have a disclaimer, and earn this designation.

In my mind, a “designation” is something prestigious. Something you have to work for. It’s a “stamp of approval” – something that others can rely upon to make decisions. Many people that follow a gluten-free diet instill trust in an organization such as the NFCA. They rely upon them for guidance and information related to their diet. They want an organization such as NFCA to advocate for celiac awareness and the need for things like standardized gluten-free labeling and the disclosure of gluten in medications. So when an organization like this puts their “stamp of approval” on a restaurant, they are supporting that restaurant. They are essentially telling those on a gluten-free diet that this restaurant is “safe”.

Only in the case of an Amber designation, the restaurant isn’t safe. The NFCA gave Domino’s the Amber designation, and then clearly stated that Domino’s isn’t safe for us.

I believe this is a mistake.

Either a restaurant is safe (Green) or it’s not. While almost no restaurants can guarantee 100% safety when there are gluten-containing foods present, many can provide a safe meal with some education and special processes in place. (For instance, Chuckie Cheese is debuting a safe pizza – currently in a test city. Boomerjack’s, a restaurant in my area, uses a separate line and separate trained cooks to prepare gluten-free menu items, and even has a different pattern on the paper so there is no confusion. It can be done.) There is no in-between. It’s like being pregnant – you’re either pregnant or you’re not. You’re not “a little bit pregnant”. Same with gluten-free. A “little bit” of gluten is not okay. Not for anyone that needs a gluten-free diet for medical reasons – regardless of whether they have celiac disease or non-celiac gluten intolerance. There should be no “Amber” designation. A restaurant is either “Green” or it’s not. (A “Red” designation, maybe?!)

The fact that the NFCA collaborated with Domino’s and informed them that they could not market this pizza crust to those with celiac disease was good. The fact that they are endorsing Domino’s and commending them on their efforts is not. I’m not happy with the fact that Domino’s is offering this crust and calling it gluten-free, and I’m not happy with the way the NFCA is handling this situation.

Last night, during an interview with Alice Bast, conducted by Jules Shepard of Jules Gluten-Free (listen to the whole thing here - it’s very informative), Alice Bast stated that she wished that they didn’t have to offer an Amber designation; that every restaurant would “Go Green.” Then Alice, why offer such a designation? Instead, why not just have a “Go Green” campaign? Why give recognition when there is no “job well done?” Just like how putting disclaimers all over something doesn’t eradicate the problem, rewarding restaurants when it isn’t earned doesn’t solve anything.

Truth is, the Amber designation and the disclaimers slapped all over these “gluten-free” crusts only serve to confuse the gluten-free community, and for a lot of reasons. For one, you can’t call something gluten-free when it isn’t gluten-free. This is why the gluten-free community has been pushing the FDA for standardization in gluten-free labeling. You do notice that they call this the “gluten-free crust” – not the “gluten-free pizza”, right? Unfortunately, the average consumer won’t notice.

The NFCA realizes that there is a gross lack of awareness about celiac disease and the damages of gluten – that’s why they were formed. However, even with those people that have been told that they must follow a gluten-free diet, there is still a great deal of misunderstanding about the severity of their disease and the strictness in which they must follow their diet in order to be healthy. Someone new to the diet will see “gluten-free”, and even though their are disclaimers, they assume the product is safe for them. Whenever I think of a situation like this, the average teenager or college-age kid with celiac disease or gluten intolerance comes to mind. They’re at school, with friends or peers, and their friends will want to order pizza. Upon seeing that Domino’s offers a “gluten-free” pizza crust, they either a) don’t read or understand this disclaimer, eat it, and get sick, or b) have to explain to their friends, who are telling them “but it’s gluten-free!” that they cannot eat that gluten-free pizza. Either way, they lose. Bottom line: It’s misleading and dangerous to use the term “gluten-free” when it doesn’t really mean gluten-free.

It’s even more misleading that the NFCA has endorsed Domino’s efforts, perpetuates this lack of awareness, and has given them this Amber designation. But I feel I’ve made my point on that topic already.

Another point of confusion – the disclaimers given by both Domino’s and the NFCA in regards to this pizza crust is that they do not recommend it for people with celiac disease. Trouble is, there are a lot of people out there (myself included) that haven’t been diagnosed with celiac disease, but still must follow a gluten-free diet. Perhaps they have non-celiac gluten intolerance. Or dermatitis herpetiformis. Or autism, or Hashimoto’s, or any number of other auto-immune disorders that have been helped by a gluten-free diet. Even though these people don’t have celiac disease, even a little bit of gluten is not okay. A little bit of gluten can cause misery in a lot of people’s lives, not just the lives of those with celiac disease. (Dr. Alessio Fasano of the Center for Celiac Research issued a statement that speaks to this.) The NFCA is aware and acknowledges the existence of non-celiac gluten sensitivity, but their disclaimers, as well as Domino’s, both specifically address celiac disease, leaving out a huge portion of the gluten-free population.

Ultimately, I feel that the NFCA has let down the core group they say that they support by this move. The NFCA has a mission to support those that must be on a lifelong gluten-free diet. If the NFCA wishes to support restaurants because of gluten-free efforts, they need to do so in a way that can best represent the best of restaurants – those that truly understand what it means to keep food safe for those on a gluten-free diet.

While I’m not totally writing off the NFCA at this point, I’ll just say that my faith has been shaken. There has been a huge public outcry against this move already, and it is my opinion that how the NFCA handles it in the near future will mean the difference between being just a figure head for celiac disease awareness and a real, honest organization with the health and wellness of those who must live a gluten-free lifestyle in mind. I sincerely hope they choose the latter.