Author Archive

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

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

National School Lunch Week: School Nutrition Consultant Talks Gluten-Free

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, RD, LD, SNSNFCA:  What is the biggest challenge schools face in offering gluten-free options? Is it the cost? Not enough demand? Staff training?

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

October 15, 2012 at 1:51 pm 1 comment

FNCE 2012: NFCA’s Gluten-Free Workshop for Dietitians

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.

Mixing Gluten-Free Flours

NFCA Director of Development Kim prepped our gluten-free flour blends.

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.

Gluten-Free Workshop Goody Bags

The dietitians took home these goody bags full of gluten-free treats!

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.

Chef Coppedge - Gluten-Free Baking

Chef Coppedge helped the dietitians as they baked gluten-free goodies.

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.

Gluten-Free Cookies and Muffins

Yum!

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.

Fresh Fruits and Vegetables

So much fresh produce!

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.

Gluten-Free Ancient Grains Challenge - Judges

The judges had some tough decisions to make.

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.

Gluten-Free Dish

The dietitians didn’t skimp on presentation.

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.

Gluten-Free Food from Dietz & Watson

Lunchtime! A generous gluten-free spread from our sponsor, Dietz & Watson.

Educational Sessions

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.

Gluten-related disorders info session

Alice’s morning session focused on gluten-related disorders.

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.

Gluten-Free Case Studies Session

Beckee presented three case studies about gluten-free needs.

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.

Wegmans gluten-free

Thanks to Wegmans for sponsoring our gluten-free workshop!

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!

– Cheryl

For more photos from the workshop, visit NFCA’s Facebook page.

October 12, 2012 at 10:21 am 1 comment

New Gluten-Free Find: Pure Tacos in Philadelphia

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.

Pure Tacos in Center City Philadelphia

Inside Pure Tacos in 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.

Pure Tacos Premium Flavors - Gluten-Free

Premium Flavors – and they’re all gluten-free!

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.

– Cheryl

Tickets to Appetite for Awareness 2012 are now available. Get Early Bird pricing »

July 26, 2012 at 8:47 am Leave a comment

Older Posts


Recent Posts

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 175 other followers

Gluten in Medications Survey
Nourished Blogger Conference