Archive for April, 2011

Going the Distance

[As you know, the National Foundation for Celiac Awareness staff members are big Phillies fans. So when one of our newest 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 experience throughout the 2011 Phillies season.]

Going the Distance

A Phightin’ to Be Gluten Free Blog

April celebrates great milestones, and this year is no exception. Among the highlights: my birthday, warmer weather and the Phightin’ Phils. Yes, Victorino’s inside-the park home run against the San Diego Padres was worthy of all my cheers and DVR replays. However, I am referring to the Phillies’ back-to-back complete games – a feat we haven’t seen since 1999, according to the Associated Press.  Cliff Lee pitched a 12-strikeout, three-hit shutout in a 4-0 victory over the Washington Nationals, precisely a day after Roy Halladay pitched nine victorious innings.

Today, Cliff Lee’s record is 2-2 after he gave up four runs on five hits over seven innings to take the 0-4 loss against the Arizona Diamondbacks. Much like Lee’s season thus far, my journey and fight for a healthy, happy gluten-free life includes both wins and losses.

gluten-free birthday dinner

Gluten-free birthday dinner at Distrito

My April success stories combine my love of family and delicious food/beverages, as I enjoyed two Passover Seders, a birthday dinner at Distrito and a cold brew at Citizens Bank Park. If you’re Phightin’ to be Gluten-Free like me, even a few gluten-free options can go a long way. For instance, my enjoyment (and that of my family) was elevated to a whole new level with gluten-free matzoh and cakes at our Passover Seders, Iron Chef Garces’ flavorful los karne beef, pollo and and nopales tacos at Distrito, and refreshing Redbridge gluten-free beer at Citizens Bank Park.

Gluten-free Los Tacos at Distrito

Gluten-free Los Tacos at Distrito

This month, Cliff Lee and I share an even ratio of wins to losses (a.k.a., my setbacks). The more serious moments along my journey included a stomach study at the Hospital University of Pennsylvania (HUP) and uncomfortable bloating episodes.

Shortly between Cliff Lee’s shutout against the Nationals and one of my setbacks, I read an article on espn.comwhere Lee shared: “I want to be a guy who throws complete games every time.  That’s not really realistic, but going into each game, that’s what I’m trying to do.”

Gluten-free beer at Phillies game

Enjoying the Phillies game

Lee gets it. I get it. Now, it’s your turn. Sure, I want to be 100% healthy, happy and gluten-free every day. That may not be realistic, but going into each day, that’s what I’m striving to do – all season long!

– Nadina

*Get your tickets to NFCA’s Celiac Awareness Night at the Phillies and Celiac Awareness Night at the Mets (vs. the Phillies!) by visiting »

About Nadina:

Nadina Fraimow began volunteering with the National Foundation for Celiac Awareness (NFCA) in April 2011, and will be happy to answer messages sent to the email account. Nadina learned that she has a 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.

April 29, 2011 at 5:44 pm Leave a comment

Welcome Emily: NFCA’s Newest Team Member & Culinary Whiz

[Emily began working with the National Foundation for Celiac Awareness (NFCA) in March 2011, and assists with NFCA’s GREAT Kitchens gluten-free foodservice training program. She became interested in the gluten-free diet in 2010 through a culinary school project.  Emily received her BA from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln in Art History and Criticism in 2005, and is now working towards a Culinary Arts degree. She enjoys cooking, working out, reading and creating recipes for alternative diets.]

My Introduction to the GREAT Big Gluten-Free World

Hello celiac and gluten-free friends! My name is Emily Hansen, NFCA’s new intern.

I became interested in alternative diets (specifically vegan, gluten-free, raw foods, diabetic and, recently, kosher) in mid-2010 during some extracurricular research for culinary school. At that point, I was midway through the program and realized that our classes gave us merely a passing overview of this important segment of the foodservice market, an unfortunate result of cramming all the basics into a 2-year program.  So, I set out to learn as much as I could on my own.

In the fall of 2010, I was enrolled in a class that required each student to put on a high-end, 5- to 7-course meal in a restaurant setting for paying customers. I was already set on creating a delicious menu of healthy low calorie, low sodium foods, when my instructor mentioned that he wished someone would do a gluten-free meal.

I scanned my recipes and realized that most of my menu choices already were gluten-free, and those that weren’t could easily be modified without losing taste or nutritional qualities. I accepted the challenge!

My teacher introduced me to NFCA’s Beckee Moreland, whom he had worked with before, and suggested I reach out to her in preparation for the project. A gluten-free expert with a nationally recognized organization, Beckee offered to look over my menu and advise me when needed. I couldn’t have been more thrilled!

Here was my Gluten-Free Menu:

Raw Oysters on the Half Shell
Served with a tangy Mignonette sauce.

Butternut Squash Soup
A chilled blend of seasonal butternut squash and ginger.

Gluten-Free Multi-Grain Bread
Soft, moist bread made from a variety of wholesome grains.

Jicama and Bell Pepper Salad
A crisp mixture of jicama, smoked corn, and red, yellow and green bell peppers tossed with peppercorn vinaigrette.

Cucumber Granité
A refreshing blend of cucumber and champagne vinegar.

Loin of Lamb with Blood Orange Sauce
Succulent lamb loin drizzled in a savory-sweet blood orange sauce served atop a bed of wild rice with hazelnut. Accompanied by steamed garlic spinach.

Molten Chocolate Cake with Vanilla Bean Ice Cream
Warm, rich chocolate cake paired with cool, smooth vanilla bean ice cream.

My dinner went spectacularly! The food was great and the attendance phenomenal. I was proud that so many members of the celiac community came and enjoyed our efforts.

I believe with help of Beckee, my amazing classmates and incredible instructor, we proved to our diners that healthy, gluten-free food can taste as wonderful, or even more so, than run-of-the-mill fare.

– Emily

*For gluten-free recipes and meal ideas, visit NFCA’s Recipe of the Week blog and Seasonal Gluten-Free Recipe Box.

April 26, 2011 at 9:24 am 1 comment

Finding Relief: My Gluten-Free First Aid Kit

[As you know, the National Foundation for Celiac Awareness staff members are big Phillies fans. So when one of our newest 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 experience throughout the 2011 Phillies season.]

Stuck on the Mound
A Phightin’ to Be Gluten Free Blog

As I watched Cliff Lee’s second game, I commiserated with his frustration and look of being stuck on the mound.  In an off night for Lee, he pitched merely 3 1/3 innings and gave up six runs, ten hits, one walk, and three strikeouts.

My sense of stuck has occurred numerous times, especially after a rough gluten episode or doctor blunder.  However, I have learned to brush off defeat and snap out of it, with the help from something I call the relief bag.  Similar to a relief pitcher, or pinch hitter, the items in my “go to” bag offer extra support.

The Gluten Free Bible by Jax Peters Lowell- A bon voyage gift from my Mom before traveling post diagnosis. This book, intended to be an easy plane read, became my patient advocate guide.  For example, prior to reading Chapter 8, “How to Get a Chef to Eat out of Your Hand”, enjoyable restaurant experiences were infrequent and dining out, in a city full of amazing cuisine became obsolete. I found that through reading this book, my food preparation concerns diminished just in time to enjoy some memorable dinners with my boyfriend on vacation.

Heating pad – An oldie, but goodie in my medicine chest that eases discomfort from sports injuries, cramps and bloating.  My travel friendly heating pad alleviates pressure from “gluten episodes” and helps relax clenched stomach muscles.

Running sneakers, yoga mat and Be-LEE-ve t-shirt- From gym bag to relief bag, these items are holistic strengtheners and attitude changers.  They help me push through the set backs and restore balance in my life.  For example, I unfortunately experienced all the side effects of a newly prescribed stomach medication on the night of the Oscars, one of my favorite times of year to relax.  Decked out in my Lee apparel, I yoga stretched and distance ran a total of 12.5 miles while cheering The Social Network, The Kings Speech and myself to victory.

Trader Joe’s Gluten Free Dark Chocolate Nibs- As a chocolate lover, I always make sure I have a tin of these sweets in my kitchen cabinet, office drawer and purse. After numerous occasions (at weddings, sporting games, airports, etc.) of being unprepared and just plain miserable with hunger, I have learned to always carry gluten free emergency “in a pinch” snacks and to never go anywhere hungry.

Phightin’ Phillies fans: What items go into your relief bag?

About Nadina

Nadina Fraimow began volunteering with the National Foundation for Celiac Awareness (NFCA) in April 2011, and will be happy to answer messages sent to the email account. Nadina learned that she had a 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.

April 19, 2011 at 12:09 pm Leave a comment

Celiac Disease, Functional Medicine, and an Event For All

I shuffled between five physicians (a mix of general practitioners and gastroenterologists) over the course of 4 1/2 years on my path to identifying the root cause of my fatigue and digestive distress. During this stretch of time, I left each doctor’s appointment feeling, for lack of a better word, compartmentalized. Each physician focused solely on my abdominal pain and discomfort, and couldn’t seem to connect all of the dots.

Celiac Disease Symptoms Checklist

NFCAs Celiac Symptoms Checklist - Helping others find the cause!

After a revolving cycle of trial diets, medical tests and procedures, and still no diagnosis, I began to sort my days by how well I could manage my symptoms. How close to a bathroom do I need to be? Do I have enough energy to do this? Should I be wearing a loose-fitting shirt today? (No joke! My stomach would stay distended for days).

It became increasingly clear that my providers were treating my symptoms rather than the actual root cause of my symptoms.  Once I was diagnosed with celiac disease, I realized just how fitting this description truly was. Sure, my energy skyrocketed after I eliminated gluten from my lifestyle, but what I found most fascinating was that my gut was healing simultaneously.

One day, early in the game of getting to know the gluten-free diet, I stumbled upon functional medicine, an approach defined as: “personalized medicine that deals with primary prevention and underlying causes instead of symptoms for serious chronic disease.”

The idea of using the “patient’s story as a key tool” really spoke to me. I quickly became engrossed in reading anything I could get my hands on that discussed this patient-centered, whole-systems approach, and I have since remained just as interested.Should You Be Gluten-Free? Event

So you can imagine my excitement when Alice and I were introduced to Jill Shah, Founder and CEO of Jill’s List. An online directory, Jill’s List enables the health and wellness community to access the growing network of patients, practitioners and organizations in the field of Comprehensive Medicine. Read a Q&A about Jill’s List in NFCA’s April e-newsletter »

Our first phone call quickly turned into a brainstorm session of how Jill’s List and NFCA could work together, and in the weeks that followed, we put our ideas to paper.

The result: Should You Be Gluten-Free?, a live Q&A with celiac and gluten-free experts Dr. Mark Hyman, NY Times Best Selling Author and family physician; Jill Brack, Founder of Glow Gluten-Free Cookies; and Alice Bast, Founder and President of NFCA.

Join us on Wednesday, May 11th at 1pm EST as Jill Shah moderates a 60-minute discussion with these three panelists.All of us at NFCA are thrilled to have celiac disease, gluten sensitivity and gluten-free at the center of what is sure to be a dynamic panel discussion.

With Jill’s List focusing on the “least invasive (yet effective) treatments for health conditions,” I couldn’t think of a better topic to join this repertoire of resources.

*To learn more about this event, see the listing in NFCA’s Upcoming Events»


April 15, 2011 at 1:38 pm Leave a comment

Free to Be Gluten-Free

[As you know, the National Foundation for Celiac Awareness staff members are big Phillies fans. So when one of our newest 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 experience throughout the 2011 Phillies season.]

Phightin’ to Be Gluten Free

As Cliff Lee throws his first pitch of the 2011 baseball season, I think about the 162 games and long journey ahead to the playoffs. The Phillies, with players like Roy Halladay and Chase Utley, succeed because of their true grit.  Collectively, they are our Phightin’ Phills.

As I watch the team, I can’t help but reflect upon my personal 162 day plus gluten-free journey, and the fight for a healthy, happy gluten-free life. Much like the Phillies 2010 season, my journey contains highs, lows and – my favorite – the breakthroughs.

I am not a gluten-free expert, but after 9 months of a full food diary, 3 GI consultations, 3 nutrition consultations, 3 probiotics, 28+ bottles of myralax, 1 digestive enzyme, 4 self help books and 1 supportive family, I feel passionate about sharing my season highlights with other fans fighting to be gluten-free.

Hypothetically, if ESPN were to compile the top plays from my season thus far, the highlights would feature:

  • Enjoying a Flyers game with my family (the stadium has gluten-free concession stands!)
  • Finding a GI doctor who recommended an alternative to Myralax
  • Getting involved with the National Foundation for Celiac Awareness
  • Establishing my voice in the gluten-free community with this first blog entry

Over the course of the next 162 games to the playoffs, I will share with Phillies fans and the celiac & gluten intolerant community alike, why it’s time to Be-LEE-ve!

– Nadina

*Get your tickets to NFCA’s Celiac Awareness Night at the Phillies and Celiac Awareness Night at the Mets (vs. the Phillies!) by visiting »

About Nadina:

Nadina Fraimow began volunteering with the National Foundation for Celiac Awareness (NFCA) in April 2011, and will be happy to answer messages sent to the email account. Nadina learned that she has a 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.

April 14, 2011 at 3:17 pm 2 comments

Gluten-Free Passover: Restriction or Freedom?

The Jewish holiday of Passover centers on the symbolic use of food. The 8-day holiday prohibits Jews from eating grains, unless they have come into contact with water for less than 18 minutes and were prepared under strict Rabbinic supervision.

While Matzo (typically made from wheat) is a staple of the Passover diet, many products specially made for Passover contain potato and other creative mixes of non-grain ingredients. These are valuable products to those on a gluten-free diet, and they may only be found at this time of year.

Yehuda Gluten-Free Matzo

Fried matzo - One of my favorites, gluten-free style!

Passover celebrates the journey of the Jewish people from slavery to freedom, when they left Egypt with only unleavened dough on their backs. The holiday encourages us to put ourselves in the shoes of our ancestors, look at our own modern lives, and take action against oppression.

It’s an interesting dichotomy that we restrict what we eat to remember our ancestors, but at the same time we celebrate our many freedoms. We recall the stories and embrace the position we have come to enjoy as 21st century Americans.

But as I look at my own family, I can’t help but think of my daughter Molly, and how she lives every day as a slave to her disease. Not only is she restricted from the basic freedom to choose what she eats, but she also must opt out of many social situations because of cross-contamination concerns or a lack of acceptable food choices.

I am thankful, however, that Molly knows the face of her oppressor. Her diagnosis allows us to make accommodations that embrace her at our table. My Grandma Pauline was not so lucky. She sat out of many holidays and family celebrations due to (what I think was) undiagnosed celiac disease. She spent much of her 84 years not able to travel and not even able to leave her bathroom. She didn’t know the face of her enemy.

Molly and Grandma

Molly and my grandmother at a Seder several years ago.

The Torah refers to Egypt as a narrow place. When I think of Molly eating alone in her dorm room every night while all other first-year students happily socialize in the dining hall, or I think of my grandmother sequestered to her tiny bathroom while our family tried to enjoy another Thanksgiving without her, I understand this narrow place in a whole new way.

Fortunately, even Matzo is now offered in gluten-free versions. I recently had the chance to test out Yehuda’s Gluten-Free Matzo-Style Squares. How did it go? Find out by reading my review at

How do you celebrate gluten-free Passover in your home? Do you focus more on the restrictions or freedoms associated with the holiday?

– Jennifer

April 14, 2011 at 10:07 am 2 comments

Pizza Gran Gets a Gluten-Free Makeover

Between our April 2011 Celiac Central Newsletter and posts on, we’re as hopped up on Spring as the Easter Bunny himself. So when gluten-free blogger Paul Biscione emailed me about a special holiday treat he’d been working on, I couldn’t resist. Paul has contributed several gluten-free recipes to NFCA, and this time, he included a story along with it. Read about the inspiration behind this dessert, then learn how to make it by visiting NFCA’s Gluten-Free Recipe of the Week.


If you aren’t Italian or haven’t lived in Brooklyn, you may not know what Pastiera is. It is an Italian dessert seen around Easter time. It has many names, such as Pastiera, Pizza Gran (as we call it in our family), Grain Pie and Italian Easter Pie. However, calling it something as vague as “Italian Easter Pie” is a mistake, since there are two traditional pies made around Easter: Pizza Gran and Pizza Rustica. Pizza Rustica is a savory meat and cheese pie, while Pizza Gran is a sweet dessert pie.

All names and differences aside, what is Pizza Gran? Simply put, it is a sweet ricotta-based pie with citron and grain…and still my personal favorite dessert of all time! This pie brings back childhood memories when I so much as smell it being baked, and yes, my Mom still makes it to this day.

Sweet Ricotta Ramekins

Easy to make, but they look gourmet!

My Mother used to bake about five of these pies at a time; we would keep one and give away the rest to family and friends. The only problem with her giving away the other four was that the pie was so popular in our house – one was just never enough. Inevitably, she would start making individual mini pies just to appease us. I still remember her yelling at me and Dad for digging into our mini pies only an hour or so after they came out of the oven. “It’s still too warm and has to set!” she said. But we didn’t care, and to this day I still love to eat these sinfully delicious pies while they’re warm.

Family tradition continues, and only a few years ago I was so happy to introduce my own daughter to this favorite childhood memory of mine. Just as I expected, she went to town on it. Between the two of us, the pie was gone almost as fast as Easter Sunday itself, and a new happy family memory was made.

Since then, we found out that Gia is gluten intolerant. This is a big issue because one of the main ingredients in this pie is grain from wheat, and the pie crust is made with gluten-containing flour. Would this be the end to Pizza Gran? Nope. Gia may not be able to have the pie crust or the grain in the filling, but what is stopping me from making a gluten-free version?

To be honest, it’s not the crust or the grain, but the decadent sweet ricotta filling that makes this pie so delicious and flavorful, in my opinion. If I can make this like a custard and simplify the recipe, it should be just as delicious, right? Well, it is!

What’s great about removing the grain and pie crust is that it saves the time and mess you generally get when baking. It would take my Mom days to make this. She would have to go to the Italian specialty store for the grain, soak the grain overnight and make loads of pie crust the day of the actual baking. She would line our entire kitchen table with brown paper and form a baking assembly line.

Without the grain or crust, I can whip up a batch of these in no time flat. I have also opted to remove the milk from this recipe to make these even easier to make. I’ve already made this recipe for numerous gatherings at my house, and each time gotten rave reviews from even the toughest critics.

Gluten-Free Dessert

Beware...these go fast!

Since my new recipe has no grain in it, nor is it a pie, “Pizza Gran” just didn’t seem to fit. So, I’ve dubbed my creation “Sweet Ricotta Ramekins” (that’s “Tazza Con Dolce Ricotta” in Italian).

The recipe is simple, takes very little time and still holds true to the flavors of this traditional Italian holiday favorite. They also look so dressed up in their little individual ramekins, guests will think you spent hours making them. And the very best part of all is that my daughter can once again enjoy this holiday favorite with me. Childhood memories restored; new ones being made.

Now if I can only stop her from eating them less than an hour after they come out of the oven. Heck, I think she’s worse than I was.


Get the recipe »

April 11, 2011 at 11:21 am Leave a comment

A Berry Good Reason to Go Gluten-Free

Whenever I come across a new gluten-free product, I wonder what prompted its birth. Was someone at the company diagnosed with celiac disease; is the product part of an overall “allergen-free” line; or was it an attempt to jump on the bandwagon of brands going gluten-free?

Lately, it seems that our cheers for new gluten-free items may come with some skepticism.  Companies large and small are churning out packages emblazoned with “gluten-free,” so naturally, we’ve begun to wonder about their motives.

Like it or not, “gluten-free” is a hot commodity, and people go where the money is. But when you’re dealing with a trend that has a real medical basis, missteps can be (quite literally) sickening. Just this week, customers testified against the former shop owner who allegedly sold gluten-containing bread as “gluten-free,” and the community is still brewing over the server who proudly gave traditional pasta to gluten-free diners.

Fortunately, there plenty of chefs and manufacturers who have good intentions when they dive into gluten-free. In fact, many of NFCA’s GREAT Business Association members, including Kettle Cuisine, Glow Gluten-Free and Simply Shari’s, have a direct connection to celiac disease or gluten intolerance.

My latest find: Missy and John Villapudua, the couple behind WildeBerryaki sauce. When I emailed Missy and John to ask about a Gluten-Free Hot Products review, I had already done some research about the company. WildeBerryaki is just one of the couple’s ventures; they also own the WildeBerry Inn on Whidbey Island, just north of Seattle, and WildeBerrySports, where John offers personal training for endurance athletes. (Sensing a theme?)

Missy and John - Wildeberryaki

Missy and John with their berries.

Fresh food, fitness, and a great place to sleep…it’s a lifestyle I envy. But how did the sauce come into play? Partly out of necessity: Missy had been laid off, and with too many bills to survive on one salary, the couple put all their berries in a basket and launched WildeBerryaki. The “gluten-free” part, Missy explained, was for friends:

“To be honest, we didn’t even know what ‘gluten-free’ meant 4 years ago,” she confessed. “A girlfriend of mine was stricken with breast cancer and we wanted to help her and the family out by cooking meals while she was healing.  She was gluten-free and had several food allergies.  I was scared to death to cook for her in fear that I may inadvertently include an ingredient with hidden gluten. The experience forced us to gain a better understanding and appreciation for individuals afflicted with celiac and gluten intolerance.”

It’s a heartfelt story, and it reminded me that gluten-free goods really can be…good.

WildeBerryaki sauce

Can you tell I took this photo AFTER I used it?

As a friendly follow-up to our exchange, the couple sent one of the latest hits in their WildeBerry repertoire: a recipe for WildeBerry Chicken & Endives. When barbecuing season finally arrives, I’ll be bringing this in tow:

WildeBerry Chicken & Endives


  • ¼ cup gluten-free mayonnaise
  • 3 Tbsp. WildeBerryaki sauce
  • 2 cooked chicken breasts (or equal amount of pork loin), finely diced
  • 2 green onions, chopped (save half for garnish)
  • Endive leaves
  • Grated purple cabbage
  • Black sesame seeds


1. Combine gluten-free mayonnaise, WildeBerryaki sauce, chicken and half of the onions. Mix well.
2. Spoon mixture onto endive leaves. Top with remaining onion, cabbage and sesame seeds.
3. Enjoy!

There are many other gluten-free companies that were inspired by celiac and gluten-free connections. If you’d like to share the story behind your gluten-free company or organization’s, visit and Submit an Empowerment Story.


April 8, 2011 at 1:44 pm Leave a comment

Whitney & Kristin’s Week Long ‘Opening Day’ Celebration

Phandemonium at the Phillies Game

While my baseball fandom (particularly when it comes to the Philadelphia Phillies) has already been well chronicled on the staff blog, last week marked the beginning of what is sure to be four months of rabid insanity and delusion…MLB Opening Day!

Kristin and I chose to celebrate the entire week in style by attending not one, but two Phillies games – a Tuesday, March 29th pre-season game verses the Pittsburgh Pirates, and on Saturday, April 1st, to watch the Fightin’ Phils face off against the Houston Astros.

For Phillies fans, the 2011 World Series campaign is already off to a great start, our home team swept the Astros and will start the season at 3-0 for the first time since 1970.

Needless to say, we’ve got some rather ‘High Hopes’ for our team at the moment.

Opening Day Phillies Fever

On a related note, it seems that more and more MLB teams are welcoming gluten-free baseball fans this season by ramping up their stadium food options. Here’s just a smattering of teams that have already made headlines this year:

St. Louis (Cardinals)

Florida (Tampa Bay Rays)

Chicago (Cubs)

San Francisco (Giants)

And of course, the entire NFCA office is looking forward to hosting TWO Celiac Disease Awareness Nights with MLB Teams this season – Friday, May 27th with the New York Mets, and Friday, July 8th with the Philadelphia Phillies.

So much gluten-free fun to come this summer!


April 4, 2011 at 3:02 pm Leave a comment

No Reservations

I live vicariously through Anthony Bourdain’s adventures on “No Reservations.”  I can’t say I want to BE the man, especially not his liver or lungs. Instead, I’d like to be one of his pals who get to share the laughs, late nights, and pure love of food…just once.  (I doubt if he’d ever consider dining with a fuss bucket like me, with all my dietary no-no’s. But a girl can have her fantasy, right?)

Tony does have the life. Wouldn’t it be delicious to swagger around the world with a film crew, communing with the locals who take you to the places to dine on the best regional cuisine, and get paid for it? To relish the beauty, flavors and soul of the food and land, with comrades who dig it as much as you do? To spend hours in fellowship with those who chew, chug, and moan with the same appreciation for every morsel and sip?

Just once, I want no reservations.

To experience the submission that Tony considers one of the true pleasures of dining – whether it’s sucking marrow from a bone in a primitive hut, or dabbing caviar with tiny spoons by candlelight – would make me complete.  I want to totally submit to a dining experience. I want it for all of us who must eat gluten-free. Some say it’ll never happen.  With celiac disease and all the planning and preparation that go with dining out, it’s difficult to put your faith, trust, and stomach in the hands of a chef, kitchen staff, and wait person…completely. With no reservations.

Gluten-free appetizer

The dishes at Appetite for Awareness prove that gluten-free can be safe AND delicious!

For the celiac community, “no reservations” often has the opposite connotation. As in, “No reservation. No table. No food.” Once, after a long day of speaking engagements, I headed to a hotel property near the Detroit airport searching for hot food and a cozy bed.  I hadn’t eaten since breakfast, so I was famished.  After calling the finest “made from scratch” restaurant in the complex, I was told by the manager that they could not accommodate a gluten-free diet.  I thought they must just need an explanation regarding my special diet needs. Nope, they refused to serve me.

Luckily, another chef at a nearby eatery (whose dining room was closed) prepared a simple but lovely piece of fish, potato, and fresh green salad perfectly and safely.  Two restaurants from the same hotel chain with different attitudes and different reactions to a guest’s request.

So why do chefs and restaurateurs have reservations about serving gluten-free options?  Some think it takes too much time, or it’s too difficult. Others don’t know how to prepare food safely, so they opt out. Some think it’s a trend or fad that will go away. We also can’t forget those who think they don’t need special training for gluten-free options. “All you have to do is take out the wheat.” How scary is that?!

And then, there is the one chef (let’s hope only one) who thinks the gluten-free diet is BS, so he serves wheat-laden pasta to those requesting gluten-free pasta. It’s so wrong on so many levels, it’s almost hard to comprehend.

What some chefs don’t get is the knife that just sliced the bread can’t be used to cut the baked potato. What some cooks don’t realize is the ladle used to spread sauce on the traditional pizza crust can’t be used to spread sauce on a gluten-free pizza crust. What some waiters don’t understand is that people who request a gluten-free option most likely would rather not have to bother them for such a need. Our request isn’t a choice; it’s a medical condition.

What the above-mentioned chef doesn’t realize is this: Those with celiac disease who eat gluten in a restaurant probably won’t react to it until later, when they’re stuck in the bathroom all night.  (I’m sure vacations have been ruined by this chef’s intentional glutening.)

I really love my job. As director of NFCA’s Gluten-Free Industry Initiatives, I’m privileged to offer affordable, gluten-free training to those in the foodservice industry and improve quality of life for those with celiac disease at the same time. NFCA’s comprehensive training program is called GREAT (Gluten-Free Resource Education Awareness Training), and we offer it to Kitchens, Schools/Camps, and Dietitians. GREAT restaurants provide safe gluten-free options, train their staff, and make a commitment to follow safe protocols. As a result, they reap the benefits of having loyal customers who bring tables of 4, 6, and 8+ with them time and time again.

National Restaurant Association Show 2010

Teaching chefs what's what at last year's National Restaurant Association Show.

We need your help spreading the word about NFCA’s GREAT program ( I know sometimes it’s difficult to speak up and demand safe gluten-free choices, especially because we are grateful for those who put forth an effort to serve us. But providing a GREAT solution helps all gluten-free diners. People are getting sick, their health is at risk, and NFCA wants to end that.

Don’t just fantasize about eating at a famous or local hot spot. Promote GREAT training for a GREAT dining experience, so you can enjoy your food and conversation…with no reservations.


April 1, 2011 at 11:14 am 5 comments

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