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Easy Gluten-Free Recipes for a Summer Block Party

I have three criteria for the perfect block party food:

1)      It has to be handheld.

2)      It has to be tasty.

3)      It has to get people talking.

With those stipulations in mind, I embarked on creating two recipes – one savory, one sweet – for NFCA’s Virtual Summer Block Party. The only requirements were that I use Blue Diamond’s new Artisan Nut Thins and one of the many gluten-free products from Go Veggie! (I chose the dairy-free cream cheese alternative because it seemed the most versatile.)

Gluten-Free Summer Block Party: Blue Diamond and Go Veggie Recipe Ingredients

Just a few simple ingredients made for delicious gluten-free block party snacks!

Products in hand, I proceeded to take a “Chopped!” approach and made my dishes using only the ingredients I could find in my kitchen. Since the whole point of the Summer Block Party is to help everyone feel more confident and included at food-centric social events, I decided to make my recipes not only gluten-free, but also vegetarian.

First up, I created a spin on stuffed tomatoes. I have looked at a number of stuffed tomato recipes online, but never have tried them myself. Some call for baking the tomato, but for this batch, I left the oven off. Instead, I crumbled up the Artisan Nut Thins and toasted them in a pan, which added a nutty flavor and crunch to each bite.

I’m not one for exact measures when creating recipes, so you’ll have to bear with me when I say just wing it on the amounts. Everyone has their preferred veggies-to-cream cheese ratio, and I tend to use more pepper than salt in my seasoning. So, customize it to your liking.

For the sweet dish, I first tried blending strawberries with the Go Veggie! Cream Cheese Alternative. What I didn’t anticipate was that the water in the strawberries would thin the cream cheese out too much. It was delicious, but didn’t have the heft that I was looking for in a cracker topping. My guess is that it would make a fantastic pie filling, especially if mixed with a gluten-free, dairy-free vanilla pudding. Chilling the mixture in the fridge also helps it set up.

In my second attempt, I opted for a deconstructed strawberry cheesecake. I mixed the cream cheese alternative with agave nectar, spread it on Artisan Nut Thins, and then topped it with balsamic glazed strawberries. This recipe earned a verbal declaration: “Winner!” For an even sweeter bite, I would recommend dusting the Artisan Nut Thins with some cinnamon and sugar and giving them a quick bake in the oven before adding the toppings. (Make sure they are completely cool so the cream cheese spread doesn’t get runny.)

If you ask me, these recipes offer more interest than the standard chips, salsa and fruit salad, but I’m eager to hear what you think. Invite the neighbors over, give these recipes a whirl, and let us know how it goes!

Stuffed Tomatoes with Gluten-Free Cracker Topping

Stuffed Tomatoes with Cracker Topping

Easy & delicious!

Gluten-Free Strawberry Cheesecake Bites

Gluten-Free Summer Block Party Recipes: gluten-free strawberry cheesecake bites

A simple, bite-sized dessert.

– Cheryl

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July 25, 2013 at 10:50 am Leave a comment

From School Nutritionists to Food Scientists: NFCA Educates Far and Wide

The next few days will be particularly busy for our president, Alice Bast. She’s speaking at two conferences – the School Nutrition Association (SNA) Annual National Conference and the Institute of Food Technologists (IFT) Annual Meeting and Food Expo – in the course of 48 hours.

The two audiences are vastly different, but they both play critical roles in keeping our community safe. School nutrition teams are key advocates in coordinating gluten-free school lunches for children with celiac disease and other gluten-related disorders. Food technologists make sure we have gluten-free options in the first place, spending months testing new formulations and making adjustments to create gluten-free products that are tasty and safe.

I’ve had the privilege to work on both presentations, gathering facts, creating slides and rehearsing with Alice to make sure we are delivering the most up-to-date information and explaining why this topic is so important. With so much attention on the gluten-free “fad,” we believe it’s more important than ever to emphasize the medical necessity of the gluten-free diet and the serious health concerns associated with that need.

Alice will not be alone in sharing this information. She’ll be joined by some incredible people who are leaders in their industries.

At the SNA Conference, Alice will be presenting with Gabriela Pacheco, RDN, LD, SNS, a school nutrition consultant with a keen interest in accommodating special dietary needs. You may remember Gabriela from last year’s Back-to-School webinar; she served as our panelist and shared a number of helpful tips that parents can use when working with school nutrition teams.

At the IFT Meeting and Expo, Alice will be presenting with Jennifer Williams of Penford Food Ingredients, which produces the gluten-free starches found in many of your favorite gluten-free foods. Penford is constantly developing new ingredients to help manufacturers improve the taste, texture and nutrition of gluten-free products. It falls under the category of “things I never knew existed before I worked at NFCA,” but it’s a critical step in making sure your gluten-free food is not only safe, but also something that you’ll want to eat.

Giri Veeramuthu of PacMoore Products, a contract manufacturer that works on gluten-free products, will also share his insights during the presentation.

Our trade show presentations are one of those behind-the-scenes functions that make a big difference in our mission to increase diagnoses and improve quality of life. It’s our chance to bring the voice of all people affected by celiac disease and gluten sensitivity to the forefront, and we wish we could bring you all along to see the education in action!

What are you interested in learning about the trade shows that NFCA attends? We are interested in hearing your thoughts, so leave a comment below!

– Cheryl

 

July 12, 2013 at 2:53 pm Leave a comment

Has a Special Someone Cooked Gluten-Free for You?

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.

Vegetable Spring Rolls - One of the gluten-free recipes in our Cook for Your Love campaign

Vegetable Spring Rolls – One of the gluten-free recipes in our “Cook for Your Love” campaign

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)!

– Cheryl

February 13, 2013 at 11:23 am 2 comments

Healthy Times Ahead

[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.

Nadina and Michael wedding photo

Jennifer Childress Photography

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.

Tuna rumaki with wasabi on pineapple and lox on gluten-free rice cracker.

Tuna rumaki with wasabi on pineapple and lox on gluten-free rice cracker. (We paired the tuna with a gluten-free rice cracker for our wedding day.)

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

 First Course:

  • Spring vegetable soup with rice noodles

Intermezzo:

  • Alternating strawberry kiwi and lemon sorbet

Entrees:

  • Herb crusted baby lamp chops
  • Grilled sea bass with mango salsa
  • Vegetarian Napoleon

Accompaniments:

  • Baby carrots and green asparagus
  • Roasted russet potatoes
Herb crusted baby lamp chops, accompanied with baby carrots, green asparagus and roasted russet potatoes

Herb crusted baby lamp chops, accompanied with baby carrots, green asparagus and roasted russet potatoes – Jennifer Childress Photography

Grilled sea bass with mango salsa, accompanied by baby carrots, green asparagus and roasted russet potatoes

Grilled sea bass with mango salsa, accompanied by baby carrots, green asparagus and roasted russet potatoes – Jennifer Childress Photography

About Nadina:

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 info@celiaccentral.org.

February 7, 2013 at 3:46 pm 1 comment

I’m a Food Stylist for the Food Network, and I Have Celiac Disease

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.

– Jaquy

November 20, 2012 at 9:07 am 9 comments

Gluten-Free Campus Carnival: A Success Story

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.

Gluten Free My Campus Carnival

The officers of Gluten Free My Campus

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.

Gluten-Free Carnival on UPitt Campus

Our first Gluten-Free Awareness Carnival was a big success!

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.

Gluten-Free Carnival Prizes

Thank you to all the companies that donated prizes for our raffle!

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!

– Dhanu

November 14, 2012 at 8:40 am 1 comment

Why This Gluten-Free Entrepreneur Caught Our Eye

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.

October 24, 2012 at 4:29 pm 1 comment

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