When I first started working at the National Foundation for Celiac Awareness (NFCA), I was terrified to cook for the team. I was still learning about the gluten-free diet, and there were two things I knew for sure: 1) There is a serious need to keep gluten-free food from getting contaminated; and 2) Avoiding that contamination can be challenging, especially when you have three gluten-eating roommates at home. So, I avoided making any offers to bring in homemade snacks for the group.
Then the team decided to have a potluck. I easily could have contributed some gluten-free products from the grocery store, but I felt this was an opportunity to get in the kitchen and make something from scratch for my co-workers.
Knowing that I wasn’t quite ready to dive into gluten-free baking, I opted for a simple, crowd-pleasing dish – what I call my Festive Fall Bake. It’s a combination of sweet potatoes, butternut squash and apples, splashed with some orange juice and baked until fork tender. Before preparing any food, I cleaned all the surfaces in my kitchen and thoroughly washed any bowls or utensils that I planned to use. I washed the baking dish and lined it with aluminum foil, just to make sure there would be no risk of gluten residue. As soon as it was done, I covered the dish with aluminum foil and stashed it on the top shelf of our fridge.
The next day, the staff raved about my Festive Fall Bake. Best of all, I was confident that I had made the food safely. Everyone enjoyed, and no one got sick.
My gluten-free cooking skills have become more and more helpful over the years, and it now hits even closer to home. Recently, one of my soon-to-be in-laws learned he has to avoid gluten for health reasons. When he came to dinner at our home, we served cheese and gluten-free crackers for appetizers; pork with mole sauce, roasted asparagus and homemade gluten-free cornbread for the main course; and ice cream with a gluten-free crumble for dessert. It was important to me that he got to enjoy the same complete meal as everyone else – no exclusions.
This month at NFCA, we’ve been hosting the “Cook for Your Love” campaign. It stems from our belief that everyone deserves a home-cooked meal, no matter what their dietary restrictions may be. You’re probably used to cooking your own gluten-free food each night, but every now and then you should be able to have someone else cook for you. So, this Valentine’s Day (or any day, really), take the opportunity to cook with a special someone and teach the ins and outs of gluten-free safety. It could be your mom, or your kids, or your best friend. Chances are, they’ll be eager to learn, and it could give them the confidence to cook gluten-free meals more often.
The gluten-free recipes on our “Cook for Your Love” campaign should be enticing enough to get your special someone in the kitchen, but if you need extra encouragement, sign up for the weekly giveaway. Nothing says “try me” like free products, right?
Has a special someone cooked a delicious gluten-free meal for you? Tell us about it (and include recipe links if you have them)!
[As you know, the National Foundation for Celiac Awareness staff members are big Phillies fans. So when one of our volunteers, Nadina Fraimow, told us she shared the same passion for sports, wellness and all things Phillies, we had to get her on board. Nadina will be sharing her gluten-free experiences as she follows the Phillies year-round.]
Healthy Times Ahead
A Phightin’ to Be Gluten-Free Blog
There are many reasons to love February, but Phillies Spring Training definitely tops the list. While the excitement of team changes, athlete updates and ticket sales resonate for fans, the Phillies pitchers, catchers and position players are preparing for Clearwater, Florida in one week. If healthy teammates translate into prospective wins, it is imperative the lineup stay off the injured list this season. Be-Lee-ve it, healthy times are ahead for Chase Utley, Ryan Howard, Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee and the rest of the Phightin’ Phils.
For those of us Phightin’ to be gluten-free, the food we eat determines how healthy our season will be. When it came to our wedding menu, my husband and I made no exception.
Criteria: Kosher, gluten-free and lactose-free menu that incorporates our favorite foods and fresh ingredients.
Vision: Beautiful presentation, delicious flavor and variety that is reflective of us and our enjoyment of healthy, delectable dishes.
Experience: Romantic, festive, memorable and a gourmet gluten-free culinary experience for our friends and family.
Our lineup for the big day included Jannette Axlerod of Food Designs and her chefs. They had prior experience safely cooking gluten-free for affairs and were a great addition to our Fraimow-Bronstein all-star team. Practices were rigorous with menu tastings, ingredient changes and creative food pairings.
Outcome: Grand slam! With the support of our strong, loving management team, we pulled-off a perfect win. Our playbook now includes new dishes that we can replicate for healthy, fun times ahead. Read below for a taste of our wedding bliss and ideas for your next party.
A sampling of Butlered Hors D’oeuvres:
- Tuna rumaki with wasabi on a gluten-free cracker
- Lox on a gluten-free cracker
- Cherry tomatoes stuffed with quinoa
- Sushi rolls
A sampling of Stations:
- Portabella bar
- Carving station, including oven roasted turkey and prime rib
- Spring vegetable soup with rice noodles
- Alternating strawberry kiwi and lemon sorbet
- Herb crusted baby lamp chops
- Grilled sea bass with mango salsa
- Vegetarian Napoleon
- Baby carrots and green asparagus
- Roasted russet potatoes
Nadina Fraimow began volunteering with the National Foundation for Celiac Awareness (NFCA) in April 2011. In January 2013, Nadina was conclusively diagnosed with celiac disease by one of the nation’s leading gastroenterologists. Prior to her diagnosis, Nadina was living gluten-free for over three years due to what was originally thought to be non-celiac gluten sensitivity. Nadina enjoys having fun in the kitchen and creating recipes that are both tasty and healthy with her husband. She is a Communications and Marketing professional living and working in Philadelphia. Nadina is also a proud Penn State alumna and an avid fan of the Phillies. She will be happy to answer messages sent to her attention at email@example.com.
The following is a guest post by Jaqueline Yngvason, a freelance food stylist, culinary producer and host of an online cooking show. Jaquy has celiac disease and multiple food allergies and is determined to bring awareness to these special dietary needs.
Since I can remember, growing up meant weekly visits to the emergency room, handfuls of pain medications and strong shots. In my half Icelandic, half Ecuadorean world, this seemed normal, but I would grow up to find out otherwise. While my brother and sister were outside playing with their friends, I was forced to hide from the sun, spending a large portion of my time sick in bed with excruciating migraines.
At the age of 16, after years of going to countless doctors who couldn’t seem to figure out what was wrong with me, I finally found out that I was sensitive to gluten. It wasn’t until I was 24 that I was fully diagnosed as having celiac disease. After that, my relationship with food was forever changed. I had to turn away from all of the foods that I loved and savored; wheat, eggs and dairy had to go, or I would continue to feel sick all of the time.
When I was first diagnosed with gluten sensitivity, there wasn’t much information on the subject and I was pushed to experiment and learn how to cook for myself to avoid eating out and getting sick. It was then that cooking went from a hobby to a healthy obsession, finding inspiration in recreating dishes that I once loved and transforming them in to something I could safely eat.
Shortly after college, not being satisfied with the current state of gluten-free awareness, I started my own health company to teach others in need. Feeling that I still had a lot to learn about proper handling of food and technique, I enrolled in culinary school at Le Cordon Bleu in Oregon. Looking back, for someone like me, going to a French culinary school may not have been the most logical choice. But, I was a newly diagnosed celiac, and I wanted to learn the only way that any chef does from cooking… by tasting.
If you don’t know much about French culinary schooling, let’s just say they didn’t understand how to deal with my multiple food allergies. I ostracized by my teachers and peers, and encouraged to drop out because I did not belong. But like all hurdles in my life, I pushed on and became stronger. Going into baking and patisserie classes wearing a breathing mask, goggles and latex gloves to protect myself and further my culinary knowledge was necessary. I would find a way to flourish no matter what they threw at me, all in the name of furthering my awareness of food. Living with severe food allergies is strangely similar to boxing; no one gets to the top without taking a beating.
After culinary school, I headed to another place that left me feeling isolated: the Food Network. Again, I pushed through and went from being an intern to producing some of the Food Network’s top shows and food styling major commercials all in under one year.
Currently I live in New York City, working as a freelance food stylist, culinary producer and allergy friendly cooking show host (see one of my videos above!), always working to share my knowledge and learn from others along the way. Looking back at all of the pain and suffering I subjected myself to, I now know that it wasn’t all for nothing. Being gluten-free and having celiac disease isn’t a curse or a fad; it’s a blessing, and with the proper knowledge and understanding, you can live an extremely fulfilling life using food in a positive way.
My goal in life is to spread celiac and food allergy awareness to those similar to me who feel isolated and alone. The world can be changed through food, making it a better place not just for those with celiac disease, but for everyone.
The following is a guest post by Dhanu Thiyagarajan, a sophomore at University of Pittsburgh and founder of Gluten Free My Campus, the university’s gluten-free student group.
October 16, 2012 was a great day for Gluten Free My Campus, University of Pittsburgh’s Gluten Free club. With tons of planning since the month of May, the club was able to host a wonderful Gluten-Free Awareness Carnival for the entire UPitt campus. The carnival consisted of more than 20 gluten-free related companies/organizations either in attendance or providing materials, and several gluten-free related carnival games for the students to enjoy while learning what gluten-free means! Between learning about various gluten-free companies, gaining gluten-free knowledge from the games, enjoying the free food and earning raffle tickets for our wonderful raffle prizes, the carnival was a great success with more than 500 Pitt students and faculty in attendance.
Planning started with brainstorming a list of companies and organizations on and off campus that we thought would enjoy being a part of our event and would help our goal to spread awareness – and of course, those companies have great gluten-free options! After contacting all of these companies/organizations, we got many replies and of course some rejections as well. It was a great honor to have all of these companies trusting a club on a college campus to host this kind of event, and we were glad to build contacts with such people, too. Susannah Faulkner from Udi’s Gluten-Free Foods was also a great contact who put us in contact with several other gluten-free companies that helped us out greatly.
This event could have not been such a great success without the support of other campus organizations and the members of the club. Getting companies to attend is one very important aspect, but getting people to come and enjoy the carnival is the biggest and most important part of this kind of event. We were able to get many organizations and companies to post our carnival’s flyer on their website along with local companies posting the flyer in their stores. We also posted flyers all over UPitt’s campus and had club members spread the word in person and through texting. We also had a Facebook event inviting much of Pitt’s campus. We had many campus organizations helping us out, specifically Sigma Gamma Gamma, a service sorority that provided us with most of the volunteers needed for the event.
For the future, we hope to expand our array of companies/organizations, and of course increase our attendance by spreading the word even more! With the support of these companies, campus organizations and of course all of our attendees, we were able to host our first Gluten-Free Awareness Carnival of hopefully many, and it was a great success. This was a day that Gluten Free My Campus will never forget!
Last week, I received an email from Benny Solomon, the founder of celiac and gluten-free resource website called OnTrackCeliac. The website is still in its infancy, but the goal is to include restaurant listings, product recommendations and other tools for living gluten-free. Nothing out of the ordinary, but here’s what caught my attention: Benny is only 14 years old.
After reading Benny’s email, I just had to find out how a teenager decided to shelve some of his social time and spend it developing a gluten-free resource.
NFCA: What inspired you to start OnTrackCeliac?
Benny Solomon: I was diagnosed with celiac disease in late 2009, and immediately switched to a completely gluten-free diet. Within days, I noticed that many people knew what eating gluten-free was, but had no knowledge of cross-contamination. I did not feel comfortable eating out and not knowing what was happening in the restaurant’s kitchen. I realized that most places did not fully understand celiac disease.
For about a year and a half, I refused to go to more than about four different restaurants that I felt comfortable in, simply because I didn’t know which ones I could trust. It was at this time that I realized that those with celiac needed a place to go to be sure that there was no need to worry.
Many websites have huge, outdated lists of restaurants with gluten-free menus. If you were to go to about half of the restaurants on those lists, you would find that most of the staff has no familiarity with celiac. People with celiac disease needed a place to find gluten-free options that were reliable and where they did not have to worry about cross-contamination. In February of 2011, I started OnTrackCeliac to satisfy this need.
NFCA: Why did you decide to do a restaurant and food finder?
BS: I wanted to work with restaurants and foods since they are the base of starting a gluten-free diet. My plan was to develop more resources around these two categories over time.
This was not my first time making a website or app, but it was the first time that I seriously took on a technology-related task. For a few years I worked on a few iPhone games, and later I ran a small website that featured “the best videos on YouTube.” OnTrackCeliac truly felt like an idea where I could apply my computer experience to something I am passionate about.
NFCA: How do you choose the restaurants that you feature?
BS: My policy is that any restaurant that is safe for people with celiac disease should be listed on OnTrackCeliac. I don’t exclude any restaurants for quality of the food, or any other reasons. I try to provide as many options for restaurants as possible, as there are very few that have a strong knowledge of celiac. Although the main focus is on gluten-free safety, I will be starting a new star system, so that restaurants that have exceptional food and go above and beyond expectations will be recognized.
NFCA: How do you create your list of gluten-free foods on the website?
BS: When creating a list of gluten-free foods, I generally start by exploring the company’s website. I try and ask myself if the company looks reliable, and if they are promoting gluten-free foods. If they actively publish a list of gluten-free foods, that becomes a strong indicator of the company’s reliability. If not, I generally call companies to find out if they have a list of gluten-free foods, but do not publish it online.
The company must show significant knowledge to pass the test and make it onto the site, and if they do not have any apparent efforts for showing which products have gluten and which do not, they do not make the cut.
NFCA: How do you juggle this project with school and other activities?
BS: Working OnTrackCeliac development into my schedule is certainly difficult. I generally don’t work on the site every day (after homework is done); instead, I find that I work best when a large chunk of time is available. On a break from school, for example, I sometimes sit down and work on the website for 3-4 hours a day. I do give OnTrackCeliac a quick check every day though, just to make sure nothing has gone wrong, and that everything is working smoothly.
NFCA: Some people get discouraged about having to live gluten-free. You seem to have a passion for it. How do you stay so positive?
BS: I have mixed feelings towards having celiac disease. At times, I like having it, because it gives me something that I feel is unique to me in the way that I deal with it. At other times, I do experience frustration, such as on trips and when I go to a restaurant at a last minute’s notice. The way that I stay so positive is by knowing that OnTrackCeliac helps other people. By encouraging people to stay informed about celiac, we can only encourage progress for the future.
For the first year I worried about having celiac, but realized that worrying wasn’t getting me anywhere. By educating others, I hope that someday celiac will not be a burden at all on my lifestyle, and I am motivated to teach others to have the same outlook on eating gluten-free.
NFCA: What advice do you have for teens who feel tempted to cheat on their gluten-free diet?
BS: To any teens with celiac that want to cheat, I would say it’s simply not worth it. After having spent the first part of my life eating gluten without knowledge of celiac, I can assure anyone that the best substitutes for gluten-free are just as good as regular food. The trick is you have to find the best (I cannot stress that enough) brands. For example, there are hundreds of gluten-free breads out there, but in my opinion, only about two of the brands taste like “normal.”
Cheating might not initially seem like a big deal, but the long-term consequences are extremely serious. There is nothing to gain from eating gluten. Set a goal for yourself to not eat gluten, and reward yourself when you reach points along the timeline (but not with eating gluten!). If you ever need advice on the best foods, check out OnTrackCeliac’s food page!
NFCA: Is OnTrackCeliac something you’d like to turn into a career?
BS: At this point in development, I hope for OnTrackCeliac to become even more of a resource for people with celiac disease. I would like my career to be somewhere along the lines of what my website strives to accomplish, but I just can’t predict what lies ahead. I hope that OnTrackCeliac has a long future, and I want people to have the mindset that it encourages: To embrace celiac, find reliable ways to live your gluten-free life, and educate others.
Last August, the National Foundation for Celiac Awareness (NFCA) hosted a back-to-school webinar with Gabriela Pacheco, RD, LD, SNS, a school nutrition consultant with expertise in specialty diet accommodations. In honor of National School Lunch Week, we decided to circle back with Gabriela and get some more tips on how parents and schools can work together to provide gluten-free school lunches to celiac and gluten sensitive students.
Gabriela Pacheco (GP): All of those challenges happen and are different in every district.
Staff training is certainly the biggest challenge. With or without a diet prescription, the foodservice staff must understand proper label reading and handling of all foods. This is especially challenging when a reaction to cross-contamination can have serious effects on the student.
Cost can be a challenge in some districts because the school cannot pass on the extra expense to the student. In other words, if a student gets free, reduced, or pays full price for school meals, the school cannot charge them for the extra expense to make the special meal.
The demand “should” not be an issue. One child or 100 students should be treated the same. However, some districts may push back if there is only one student or a few students needing the special meal. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) states that if a student has a food intolerance or allergy, the school can – but does not have to – modify meals, unless it is a life-threatening reaction such as anaphylaxis. It all lies on the diet prescription from a certified medical authority; if the diet prescription states that meals must be modified, then the district has no choice.
With or without a diet prescription, if the school nutrition staff works with parents of students with celiac disease or non-celiac gluten sensitivity, they demonstrate support of a segment of the community by helping them improve their quality of life and concentrate on school – not stress about food.
NFCA: What are some schools meals that meet the new USDA nutrition guidelines and are gluten-free?
GP: USDA – The National School Breakfast and Lunch Program ensures that your child eats a healthy meal, including meals for children with special dietary needs. Although a gluten-free diet limits some food options, schools can put together kid-friendly school meals. Having a diet different from that of his/her friends may cause your child to feel singled out. Get him/her and yourself involved with cafeteria staff to go over food preferences to make him/her feel more comfortable about school meals.
School meals must meet new meal pattern requirements, which include fruits and vegetables at every meal, as well as a meat/meat alternate (protein source), legumes, fluid milk and whole grains. Gluten-free foods include fruits, vegetables, poultry, fish, beef, nuts, eggs and more. Schools already have these onsite; however, preparation is the key. Purchasing gluten-free bread, for example, can be the only substitution the student requires to have a lunch which looks the same as his friends. Along with a side salad, a fruit and milk, the meal is complete!
Most schools now have salad bars that contain a wide variety of items such as kidney beans, fresh fruits and vegetables, cottage cheese, and some even have the protein available there to make a complete meal. Add milk and again, a complete meal. The student just has to make sure to watch the salad dressings or anything else which may have been cross-contaminated. If the student is old enough, they learn what to choose. If still young, a teacher or cafeteria staff can help with the salad selection.
There are several manufacturers who make gluten-free items specifically for schools. One good resource is Rich Products. They make pizza dough and other items that will fit into the school meals and meet guidelines.
NFCA: How can schools be more welcoming to special dietary needs? Should they post the information on their website? Ask the foodservice director to speak at parents’ night?
GP: Both of those options are a great start. The first step is to consider the needs of the student. Second, it really takes a lot of teamwork. The school nutrition department, the parents and the student should all be involved. Forming partnerships is key. Many districts already post carbohydrate counts/exchanges, PKU diets, etc. – why not add gluten-free options?
Keep in mind that they are not required to post gluten-free options, which is why communication is important. Asking for the menus so parents can go over it with their child and circle meals they like also helps. The cafeteria staff can then work with the student on proper gluten-free exchanges. This way, the meal is not so “special” and different from other students.
NFCA: What advice do you have for parents who are reluctant to contact the school about their child’s gluten-free needs? How can they approach the conversation with confidence?
GP: The first place to go is the foodservice/nutrition director. The cafeteria staff can refer you to him/her. Parents can discuss options with the director.
If the student has a diet prescription from a medical authority, then it is especially important that the director ensures the cafeteria staff, your child’s first line of defense, is trained and understands gluten-free diet and modifications. Even without a written medical statement, the school may provide the child with special meals, but is not required to.
Form a partnership with the cafeteria staff and offer to help choose your child’s meals. Remember that they have to order foods from approved manufacturers, so it may be that they have to order from outside vendors to provide gluten-free options. They cannot charge the student more for that meal, so they do have to consider the increased cost. A parent should never hesitate approaching the nutrition department about their child’s needs, but keep in mind that there are regulations.
NFCA: What’s one thing parents can do during National School Lunch Week to advocate for gluten-free needs in the lunchroom?
GP: Parents can form a partnership with the food and nutrition department to send out a newsletter or a side note on the month’s menu regarding children with celiac disease and non-celiac gluten sensitivity, and how the department can help with modifications. School administrators can also benefit from this, as they don’t always understand regulations.
For more articles on this topic, visit NFCA’s Gluten-Free Resources for National School Lunch Week 2012
After pulling long hours leading up to Appetite for Awareness last month, you’d think our staff at the National Foundation for Celiac Awareness (NFCA) would take some time to wind down. Not the case.
We immediately went full throttle on our next activity, which was hosting a Gluten-Free Culinary Workshop leading up to the Food & Nutrition Conference & Expo (FNCE), an annual meeting for food and nutrition professionals run by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (formerly the American Dietetic Association). Planning had already been underway for months, and all the pieces were in place:
- A Gluten-Free Baking Workshop with Chef Richard Coppedge, CMB, author of Gluten-Free Baking with The Culinary Institute of America (CIA) and a professor at CIA.
- The Ancient Grains Challenge, featuring a “Chopped” style cook-off between teams of dietitians.
- Educational sessions, including “Current Understandings of Gluten-Related Disorders” and “Case Studies: Living with Celiac Disease,” led by NFCA’s Alice Bast and Beckee Moreland, respectively.
I eagerly volunteered to help out and take photos and video at the workshop. (A chance to spend some one-on-one time with dietitians and top chefs? Please, I’m there.) So, bright and early last Saturday morning, I pulled up with a car full of goody bags and made my way up to the Academic Bistro at Drexel University.
Even with all the details our VP Jennifer had provided, I still wasn’t prepared for how active this day would be. After spending the first few hours mixing huge batches of gluten-free flour blends and setting up our impressive ‘pantry’ of ingredients and fresh produce, it was time to step back and put the dietitians to work.
Our participants were from the Food & Culinary Professionals Dietary Practice Group (FCP DGP), a subgroup of the Academy. They already had a basic understanding of gluten-free food and cooking, but they came eager to learn even more. I think had just as much fun watching them as they did participating.
Gluten-Free Baking Workshop
Our baking workshop started off with an introductory lesson from Chef Coppedge. It was clear that he’s an experienced teacher, as his presentation was brief, yet informative. He brought good energy to the room and gave us a few chuckles as he talked. My favorite tip: Use seltzer water to make your dough lighter and fluffier, but don’t leave it overnight or it will over-ferment and deflate upon cooking.
Then it was time to hit the kitchen. The dietitians whipped up gluten-free goodies like jalapeno & cheese muffins, spritz cookies and – my favorite – peanut butter and chocolate cupcakes. The hard part was figuring out which of the four gluten-free flour blends to use for each recipe. While the dietitians were mixing and measuring, Chef Coppedge was there offering quick tips. Best of all, they got to bring home a sample of what they baked. And the smells? Heavenly.
Ancient Grains Challenge
Across the hallway, our participants had to think on their feet as we presented them with pre-cooked gluten-free grains (amaranth, buckwheat and quinoa) and challenged them to make a fresh and healthy meal. For the additional ingredients, we had an impressive display of fresh fruits, vegetables and herbs, plus sauces, broths, beans and more, to complete their dishes.
To determine the winner, we recruited a diverse panel of judges:
- Alice Bast, Founder and President of NFCA.
- Chef Garrett Berdan, RD, a registered dietitian and chef who is part of the White House’s Chefs Move to Schools program.
- Chef Charles Ziccardi, Assistant Teaching Professor of Culinary Arts at the Goodwin College of Professional Studies at Drexel University.
NFCA Board Chair Dorothy Binswanger even stopped by to assist with the judging – a deliciously good decision, as it turned out.
The Ancient Grains Challenge went above and beyond our expectations. The dietitians were incredibly imaginative and resourceful, and their dishes had wonderful flavors. Among the finished plates, there were breakfast/dessert porridge with berries and a touch of orange zest; homemade soup with a side of bean salad; and ‘croutons’ made out of gluten-free grains and flax seed.
To make the challenge even more realistic, some of the ingredients on the table were not guaranteed to be gluten-free, such as a broth that wasn’t labeled gluten-free and some premade sauces that required verification with the manufacturer before using. For the most part, the dietitians were cautious about choosing ingredients that were clearly gluten-free. On a few occasions, they asked about questionable ingredients, which became a teaching lesson as our VP Jennifer walked them through the process to verify the ingredient. When in doubt, they left it out.
While the hands-on activities proved to be learning opportunities, NFCA’s workshop also balanced those active moments with some thoughtful discussions. The morning session on gluten-related disorders prompted good questions from the audience, and the dietitians left with a better understanding of the disease spectrum.
In Beckee’s session, the dietitians discussed a variety of perspectives and scenarios related to gluten-free needs. There was an 8-year-old with celiac disease struggling with her school lunch program; a 19-year-old newly diagnosed and figuring out how to eat gluten-free at college; and a chef who was catering a gluten-free event. The case studies sparked plenty of “A-ha” moments as the dietitians worked through these real-life applications.
So, to make a long story short, it was a winning day for all involved. My favorite part was chatting with the chefs and dietitians during and in-between each session. It always amazes me how a group can have similar interests and skills, yet put them to use in such a variety of ways.
Bravo to the dietitians for putting in an A+ effort at our Gluten-Free Culinary Workshop. We hope to “see” you again during our upcoming webinar on October 31!
For more photos from the workshop, visit NFCA’s Facebook page.
A few years ago, I caught wind of a place called Pure Tacos that serves incredible food – all gluten-free. It’s based right on the boardwalk in Ocean City, NJ, and has become a hit among the general population and those looking specifically for gluten-free eats. Now, the beachside stand has an urban outpost, with a new location that just opened in Center City Philadelphia.
Kristin and I were there for the soft opening (like a dress rehearsal) of Pure Tacos in Philadelphia, which gave us the chance to taste the tacos before anyone else. There, we met up with Michael Savett of Gluten Free Philly and Claire Baker of So, What Can You Eat? and enjoyed a carefree, finger-licking, tortilla chip dipping meal.
What’s on the menu? First, there’s your usual chicken, bean and ground beef option. Then it kicks up with Cheeseburger and Chicken & Bacon Ranch. But it’s the Premium Flavors like Orange-Chili Fish, Chipotle Beef Brisket and – my surprise favorite – Seared Mushrooms, that draw in the crowds. Each of these include two tacos on corn tortillas (you can also opt to have them over salad, nachos or rice) and topped with things like sour cream, citrus guacamole, cilantro and homemade salsa.
Now, what about that gluten-free claim? Well, one of the co-founders has celiac disease, so they went to great strides to ensure a safe place to eat. There is no gluten allowed in the facilities; in fact, employees are instructed to eat the gluten-free food that is provided at Pure Tacos or go out to eat lunch. And as is standard for restaurants, employees must wash their hands before returning to work.
When you’re used to asking question after question at restaurants, it’s a relief to find a place where you can just order what you want. For it to be tasty and under $10? That’s gold. Our group gave nods of approval as we worked our way through the tacos, dripping salsa and all. We even shared a side of guacamole, which had a light, creamy texture and a flavor I still have yet to put my finger on. Whatever, it was good.
I’ve already recommended Pure Tacos to a few local friends, and I hope to see them at Appetite for Awareness this September. I’ll remind them to bring the guac.
Tickets to Appetite for Awareness 2012 are now available. Get Early Bird pricing »
[As you know, the National Foundation for Celiac Awareness staff members are big Phillies fans. So when one of our volunteers, Nadina Fraimow, told us she shared the same passion for sports, wellness and all things Phillies, we had to get her on board. Nadina will be sharing her gluten-free experiences as she follows the Phillies year-round.]
A Phightin’ to Be Gluten-Free Blog
On Wednesday, May 30, the Phillies won 10-6 to the New York Mets at Citi Field. Cliff Lee gets a shout out for pitching, and so do old timers Shane Victorino, Jimmy Rollins and Carlos Ruiz for playing a little offense. If the Phightin’ Phils continue to gain runs, they will have sweet times ahead.
My family team has sweet times ahead with birthdays, summer BBQs, wedding festivities and reunions. My sister and I love to find an unexpected Grand Slam in summer food adventures, just as much as watching the Phillies persevere against the New York Mets.
Below are two summer dessert reviews on the following baseball-inspired scale:
Triple- Very good
Home Run- Must try
Grand Slam- Sublime
SO Delicious- Coconut Milk Fudge Bar Minis- certified gluten-free, soy-free and dairy-free – Home Run
Overview: Allergen-friendly packaging alert! With a certified gluten-free seal, dairy-free and soy-free labels on the front of the box, the SO Delicious Fudge Bar Minis get right to the point: They are safe.
Safety: In addition to the labels on the front of the box, SO Delicious Fudge Bar Minis contain allergen information on the side of the box, which includes that the company sample tests products for the presence of dairy, gluten, peanut, almond and soy allergens.
Note: For more information, visit http://www.sodeliciousdairyfree.com/
Taste: One sample of the fudge bar is a satisfying mouthful of chocolate texture and flavor. As the fudge bar melts on your palate, the dessert becomes a delectable chocolate mousse. After the first bite, the overpowering coconut flavor fades and each layer of the mini fudge bar is more delicious than the last.
Result: Coconut Be-LEE-vers and dis-Be-LEE-vers will come together this summer to enjoy the easily digestible and portion controlled fudge bar mini. (Tip: Be creative and enjoy with an assortment of fresh berries, as seen in above picture).
BYOBS (“Bring Your Own Beach Snack”): Toss the fudge bar in a cooler and enjoy on the beach with friends and family!
Capogiro Kiwi Gelato- gluten-free and lactose free- Grand Slam
Overview: I found it…the perfect summer treat! The Capogiro Gelato Café is a great spot to bring family or a special summer date.
Safety: A portion of the flavors displayed at one time are gluten-free and lactose-free. The staff is knowledgeable of the flavors, so don’t be afraid to ask questions!
Taste: I was taken by the cool, natural flavor of the kiwi and delightfully surprised by the presence of the fruit seeds seamlessly placed in every mouthful. Although I am a devoted fan of the kiwi, I love trying a new flavor every time, such as champagne mango.
Result: A gluten-free and lactose-free taste of Italy in the heart of Center City, Philadelphia.
Note: There are a few Capogiro Gelato Cafés throughout Philadelphia. For more information: http://capogirogelato.com/wheretobuy.php?c=n
BYOBS (“Bring Your Own Beach Snack”): Purchase gelato in large container with lid. Store in freezer and take out when ready to eat.
Now it’s your turn to try the gluten-free sweets of summer while tuning into the Phillies weekend series against the Florida Marlins at Citizens Bank Park.
*Join NFCA on Friday, July 20, 2012 for Celiac Awareness Night at the Phillies. Tickets are now available.
Nadina Fraimow began volunteering with the National Foundation for Celiac Awareness (NFCA) in April 2011, and will be happy to answer messages sent to her attention at firstname.lastname@example.org. Nadina learned that she has non-celiac gluten sensitivity in February 2011, and is grateful for having been diagnosed promptly and correctly by a knowledgeable gastroenterologist. She enjoys running, shopping for gluten-free sweets and creating recipes that are both tasty and healthy. Nadina is a Marketing and Communications professional living and working in Philadelphia. Nadina is also a proud Penn State alumna and an avid fan of the Phillies
Whether you have plenty of downtime or little time to spare, there are several ways you can fundraise for your favorite celiac organization. Here are 5 ways you can take your support to the next level:
1. Cupcake Party
One of NFCA’s signature fundraisers is a Cupcake Party, which you can sign up for right on CeliacCentral.org. As part of the fundraiser, you’ll receive supplies from Pamela’s Products, including gluten-free baking mixes, frosting, recipes and gifts for your guests. It’s a wonderful chance to gather friends, spread awareness and help NFCA continue to offer free resources to the community.
2. Birthday Wish
Have you ever checked out NFCA’s Facebook Cause? By clicking “Join,” you can raise awareness, recruit others and gather donations. As your birthday approaches, you can create a Birthday Wish, which sets a fundraising goal and invites family and friends to donate in honor of your big day.
Take your fundraising to the next level by creating your own fundraising page on FirstGiving.com. You can create a special page in honor of your birthday, gluten-free anniversary or another special event. NFCA Athlete for Awareness Peter Bronski is dedicating his 3rd Annual Ultramarathon to celiac awareness, and he’s using FirstGiving to collect donations. Personal fundraising pages are also popular among kids, like NFCA fans Jack Simpson and Noa Spanier, who each raised more than $3,000 in last year’s Awareness All-Stars fundraiser.
4. Gluten-Free Restaurant Night
Do you have a favorite restaurant? Consider asking them to host a fundraiser for NFCA. Michael Savett, founder of Gluten Free Philly, has organized Gluten-Free Dinners to raise money for celiac awareness. He offered these tips:
- Get to know the person in charge of your favorite gluten-free restaurant. Restaurant owners and managers want to keep their customers happy, so introduce yourself and let him or her know that you are a loyal customer. That often makes a restaurant more receptive to hosting a fundraising event that will bring in many patrons, particularly if the event will be on a slower night like Monday or Tuesday.
- Run a Google search for restaurants that regularly sponsor community events and fundraisers in your area. You can do this by using search terms like “restaurant fundraising night” and your town or city. Many larger chains also participate in these kinds of events, including gluten-free-friendly ones like Uno Chicago Grill’s Dough Raisers and Outback Gives Back.
5. Coupon Campaigns and Special Promotions
Like many companies, gluten-free manufacturers are looking to give back, and they’re doing so by donating funds to organizations like NFCA. This month, take advantage of these charitable promotions – and don’t forget to tell family and friends!
- Rudi’s Spread the Bread
Download a coupon to get $1 off Rudi’s Gluten-Free Bread and they’ll donate $1 to a celiac disease organization of your choice – including NFCA!
Visit Rudi’s Gluten-Free Bakery on Facebook
- GoMacro Bars
GoMacro is offering this Celiac Awareness Month special: Order 1 case of any flavor of MacroBars and their stainless steel water bottle for $49.95 ($55.30 value) and 10% will be donated to NFCA. Enter NFCA10 as the coupon code.
- Cecelia’s Marketplace Gluten-Free Grocery Shopping Guide
Purchase the new 2012/2013 edition of this guide, and Cecelia’s Marketplace will donate a percentage of proceeds to non-profits and celiac disease centers.
Visit Cecilia’s Marketplace
- The GFB Celiac Sweater Project
The folks at The Gluten-Free Bar (GFB) have sent a sweater on a long cross-country journey to raise awareness for celiac disease. For anyone who dons the sweater and submits a photo to email@example.com, The GFB will donate $1 to NFCA. Keep an eye out – the sweater could be in your local area!
Visit The GFB Sweater Project