Author Archive

My Budding Interest In Celiac Disease & The Prison System

Here at the National Foundation for Celiac Awareness (NFCA), I am frequently the recipient of letters and information requests from individuals in prison. Many of these individuals have been diagnosed with the disease while serving time, and have almost zero access to resources on celiac disease and the gluten-free diet.

This week, I received a desperate plea from a man incarcerated in California. Diagnosed just weeks ago, he expressed a need for materials that would help both him, along with the prison medical and foodservice staff, become better educated on the condition and diet.  As our organization’s mission is to empower and educate ALL individuals about celiac disease and the gluten-free diet by providing free, comprehensive resources for patients – I was more than happy to send a him an information packet.

Letter to NFCA

One of the many letters from prisoners with celiac.

I frequently take great care when putting together these packets for inmates. While I don’t excuse whatever circumstances led them prison (and believe me, I’ve Googled them), I am sympathetic to what I consider to be an incredibly vulnerable population. It’s challenging enough to receive a diagnosis and manage a gluten-free diet in our society, I cannot imagine being able to accomplish this in an environment where you truly have ZERO control over your health and diet.  I am touched and saddened by each personal story I read, and even more touched by the DOZENS of thank you notes I’ve received from prisoners after NFCA’s resources arrive at their cells.

In light of my interest and budding passion for this specific celiac population, I am inspired to further investigate what life is like for prison patients. I look forward to sharing my findings with you in an upcoming newsletter article. I hope you’ll also look forward to reading what I think will be an incredibly enlightening and interesting piece, so stay tuned!

– Whitney

January 6, 2012 at 3:00 pm 2 comments

Home Cookin’ For The Holidays

I don’t cook a lot, but when I do, I normally try to make stuff that takes minimal time, effort, ingredients and dishes. My other prerequisite for cooking is that whatever I make, it has to taste great as leftovers. I’m always making enough food to eat for multiple meals throughout the week.

Even with ALL those constraints, there are still plenty of delicious options!

With the holiday season upon us, I’m really into making warm, hearty, comfort foods. Last night I made these really yummy, naturally gluten-free, roasted potatoes with onion and rosemary. They would make a wonderful side dish for your big family turkey day dinner, but can also easily be made as breakfast or brunch option too!

Rosemary is actually one of the wonderful seasonal scents highlighted in our Fall Flavors Cooking and Entertaining Guide from NFCA and Thai Kitchen. This recipe will certainly make your entire kitchen smell just fantastic.

Whitney’s Rosemary Roasted Potatoes with Onion

Ingredients:

  • Red potatoes
  • Onion *any kind will do, but I really love the sweet varieties, particularly vidalia
  • Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • Rosemary Leaves, fresh or dried
  • Garlic Salt
  • Black Pepper

Directions:

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees
  • Wash and chop potatoes and onion, place into large mixing bowl
  • Drizzle olive oil over potato and onion mix and gradually add rosemary, garlic salt and pepper to taste. Stir everything until evenly coated.
  • Spread potato mixture onto a baking tray, cook until tender. Usually takes about 45mins or so depending on the amount you’re cooking.
  • Stir/flip them occasionally to allow potatoes to cook more evenly and prevent them from sticking to the tray.

A shot of the batch I made last night, just before they went into the oven!

If I’m making these potatoes for breakfast or brunch, I usually like to cook them a little longer so they’re slightly burnt/crispy.  But if you decide to make this as a dinner side dish, you can certainly add different vegetables like celery or carrots into the mix.

So from my tiny apartment kitchen to yours, have a safe and wonderful Thanksgiving. I can’t wait to read about all the fantastic gluten-free feasts everyone is undoubtedly already busy preparing!

– Whitney

November 21, 2011 at 2:52 pm Leave a comment

Adventures In Gluten-Free Cooking

Whitney Conquers The Kitchen Thanks To Zatarain’s Gluten-Free Rice Mixes

When I volunteered to create my very own original gluten-free recipe using one of Zatarain’s fabulous gluten-free rice mixes, there were a few raised eyebrows among the NFCA staff.

For one thing, I don’t eat gluten-free – at least not at home (the office is a different story). Secondly, I am not a cook. A great eater? For sure. But completely inept when it comes to anything related to the kitchen!

While I only recently learned that many of their products were gluten-free, I have been using Zatarain’s products for years. So with experience in my back pocket, I confidently accepted the challenge!

Ingredients for Zatarain's gluten-free dinner

Ingredients gathered. I'm ready to cook!

What I’ve always loved about Zatarain’s is that their products are incredibly versatile, and fit seamlessly into a variety of cuisines and dishes. For my foree into gluten-free cooking, I chose to stick to a New Orleans theme because I love spicy food – specifically Cajun chicken.

What’s also great about Zatarain’s is that you can get creative with their products. For instance, I chose Zatarain’s Gluten-Free Dirty Rice Mix, which calls for beef in the preparation instructions. But instead of beef, I added black beans – it worked like a charm and was just as delicious!

Whitney’s Cajun Chicken Tenders with Zatarain’s Dirty Rice

Serves 2-4

Ingredients:

  • Boneless, Skinless Chicken Tenders (12 tenders in a pack)
  • 1 box Zatarain’s Gluten-Free Dirty Rice Mix
  • Black Beans (1 can, strained)
  • Onion (2, chopped)
  • Green Pepper (2, chopped)
  • Gluten-free Cajun or Creole Seasoning Mix
  • Olive Oil

Directions:

To make chicken:

1. Empty Gluten-Free Cajun/Creole Seasoning Mix onto a small plate.

2. Brush tenders (both sides) lightly with olive oil, then coat in seasoning mix and place onto non stick or sprayed sauté pan.

3. Cook on medium heat until chicken is cooked all the way through and seasoning appears charred or blackened.

4. Place a paper towel onto a separate ‘finished’ place. Once tenders are cooked, place them onto the ‘finished’ plate and set aside.

Gluten-Free Cajun Blackened Chicken

Gluten-free Cajun chicken

To make rice:

1. Follow Zatarain’s Gluten-Free Dirty Rice Mix instructions for preparation, located on the back of the box. However, neglect instructions that call for ground meat – prepare without.

2. When rice is completely reduced and prepared, add beans.

Gluten-Free Dirty Rice with Black Beans

Black beans - an inexpensive way to jazz up gluten-free Dirty Rice.

Bringing it all together:

1. After chicken tenders are removed/set aside, add olive oil to the pan and sauté peppers and onions until tender (you can also use a separate, clean pan for this step).

2. Plate rice, chicken and veggies and voila – a healthy, spicy, New Orleans inspired dinner in under 45 minutes!

Gluten-Free Zatarain's meal

The money shot!

-Whitney

*Ready to try your hand at a New Orleans-style meal? Enter NFCA’s “Jazz Up Your Day Gluten-Free Giveaway” by answering the daily question on NFCA’s Facebook page. Each day, a winner will be selected to receive a prize pack of Zatarain’s gluten-free rice mixes. Runs through Friday, July 15.

July 14, 2011 at 9:43 am 2 comments

Taste of Asheville: Part 1

When NFCA first hired me back in 2008, my work revolved around the support and development of 3 major activities:

Now, for someone who had zero experience in the restaurant and foodservice industry, being responsible for the administration and national launch of this major NFCA program was an overwhelming prospect.

Fortunately, as a key member of the GREAT Kitchens team, I had the opportunity to represent NFCA at so many key industry conferences, presentations and events. Listening and networking with chefs, restaurateurs, and foodservice professionals across the country helped me overcome my steep learning curve and gain valuable insight into the industry. I learned so much in those first 2 years that eventually I became an instructor, and was able to conduct GREAT training presentations all on my own, something I found to be surprisingly fun and gratifying!

These days, while my work with GREAT mainly centers around PR, communications, and industry conference/presentation preparation – every now and then I get the opportunity to ‘pinch hit’ for Beckee as a guest instructor on the educational side.

Asheville, NC- Picturesque, isn't it?

So, it was a delightful surprise when, earlier this month, Beckee asked me to fill in for her in Asheville, NC, where the Asheville Independent Restaurant Association (AIR) had recruited 25 members to undergo GREAT Training!

While I had never been before, I was already aware of Asheville’s incredible reputation, particularly as a vacation destination. And boy, the city did not disappoint!

From the breathtaking scenery, fantastic food (which I’ll cover in a later post) and friendly people – I can’t say enough about my WONDERFUL visit. I can’t WAIT to go back.  My only regret was not being able to stay for the Asheville gluten-free fair hosted by Ingles and their passionate dietitian, Leah McGrath.

Asheville, NC definitely has my vote for next year’s top Celiac Aware Cities, that’s for sure!

I don’t need to go into too much detail about how necessary proper training is within the foodservice industry, and the importance of GREAT Kitchens in educating and raising awareness. Most of you already know!

My Hotel: The Grove Park Inn

I was particularly moved by Savvy Celiac’s recent feature on GREAT, and touched by author Amy Leger’s encouraging words about the program and its mission.  Click here to read her review of GREAT and why restaurant education is so critical for our community.

With that said, AIR and its members are committed to providing celiacs with safe and delicious cuisine and making Asheville a gluten-free destination for celiacs across the country.  And now, with 25 GREAT Trained kitchens, I encourage EVERYONE to visit Asheville and support this wonderful, caring and unbelievably TASTY group of establishments.

To check out the FULL List of GREAT Trained Restaurants I trained in Asheville, NC – Visit Did You Hear? on CeliacCentral.org.

You can also go to AshevilleNow.com to learn more about my new favorite city.

Stay tuned for my next post on the fabulous gluten-free cuisine I experienced on my trip!

May 4, 2011 at 4:13 pm 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 info@celiaccentral.org 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

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!

-Whitney

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

A Gluten-free Birthday Celebration at NFCA Headquarters

Birthday Girl Opening Gifts - does she look excited or what?

Today the NFCA office gathered together for one of our special birthday lunches. The guest of honor? Our very own Healthcare Communications Manager Kristin Voorhees!

I so love these rare occasions when we all sit down together for a half hour or so to eat, open presents, and enjoy each other’s company. Today’s lunch celebrating Kristin’s 26th was particularly special for me, because we have become such close friends both inside and out of the NFCA office.

Over today’s lunch of sushi and avocado salad, Kristin opened some fantastic birthday gifts from the gang, including a drop dead gorgeous cookbook from Beckee, cleverly named “Food Porn Daily”.

(Having recently released our Sex and the Celiac video, the group got a chuckle out of the funny…and timely…title!)

Beckee's Fantastic, Funny, Thoughtful Gift.

Celebrating a birthday with a celiac can sometimes be a challenge, especially when it comes to the cake! I took on the role of finding one of Kristin’s all time favorites, and sadly, something she hasn’t had since being diagnosed with celiac disease: gluten-free carrot cake.

Gluten-free carrot cake, the birthday girl's favorite.

Fortunately for me, the wonderful folks at Sweet Freedom Bakery were able to make Kristin’s birthday wish come true, and we all enjoyed a decadent 2 layers of carrot, coconut, frosted, gluten-free goodness.

Special thanks go out to Heather Esposito and the Sweet Freedom Bakery team for making my friend’s birthday celebration a gluten-free success.

If only I could have them come to my kitchen to help with the dinner party I’m throwing for Kristin on Friday night – I am very nervous about cooking my first gluten-free lasagna!

a gluten-free celebration courtesy of Sweet Freedom Bakery

February 23, 2011 at 2:11 pm 3 comments

Schar USA Groundbreaking: My Day Supporting & Reporting

A major milestone in US gluten-free food industry was made this week as Schar USA, the American based division of leading gluten-free manufacturer, Dr. Schar Srl., broke ground on their first stateside gluten-free manufacturing facility.

I had the privilege of representing NFCA at the groundbreaking event, and was thrilled to attend in support of one of our organization’s dedicated sponsors!

The future site of gluten-free heaven, the Schar USA plant!

Schar has been a huge part of NFCA’s efforts to raise gluten-free awareness in the food industry, participating in our NRA Showcase Pavilion, Northwest Arkansas Education Day, and Appetite for Awareness events.

Personally, I’ve had the honor of developing a close relationship with Schar USA RD, NFCA Medical Advisory Board Member, and celiac rock star, Ann Lee. Recently, Ann and I worked together on NFCA’s Getting Started Guide , making needed updates and revisions to this critical patient resource.

The Schar team. Check out NFCA fans Ann Lee, RD (red hat), and VP Donna George (tan coat).

While I was able to Tweet many of the exciting details in real time (@whitneyE1216), here’s a recap and some fast facts about Schar USA’s new facility:

  • Dr. Schar opened its US commercial office back in 2007 and currently distributes 32 gluten-free products nationwide (compared to the 200+ they distribute in Europe).
  • Only 2 Schar products distributed in the US are manufactured stateside (since 2009), at the Rutgers Food Innovation Center in Bridgeton, NJ, The rest are shipped from Germany.
  • Schar USA plans to open their first US based manufacturing plant in March 2012 – that’s about 1 year from now!
  • The 15+ million dollar facility will be 50,000 square feet and bring 51 new jobs to the Gloucester Country economy in the next 2-3 years, with the potential for 500 more jobs in the years following.

You can read more about the Schar USA manufacturing plant groundbreaking on NJ.com. There were many Gloucester County officials in attendance, even the Mayor of Logan, praising Schar for bringing a boost to the local economy and a story to Jersey that doesn’t involve…‘Those kids from the Shore’.

Schar CEO Hannes Berger, just before our introduction!

The absolute best part of the day was meeting Schar CEO Hannes Berger, who traveled all the way from Italy to attend the event!

During his presentation, Mr. Berger talked extensively (and accurately!) about the rapidly growing gluten-free market and expanding celiac and gluten intolerant population in the US. He spoke with incredible sincerity and conviction as he discussed Schar’s passion and commitment for serving our gluten-free community by producing safe and delicious products.

“Our aim with this facility is to bring innovative, tailor-made products for the U.S. celiac population to market,” he said during his speech.

Speaking with him 1 on 1 following event was fantastic. He was incredibly interested in NFCA’s work, and appreciative of our organization’s role in helping to make Schar products available in Wal-Mart Stores across the country!

He also expressed his overwhelming gratitude for the support of the entire US gluten-free community, and confessed that our demand and passion for Schar products was the sole reason for the company’s decision to build a dedicated US facility. He plans to returns to New Jersey in a few months to check on the construction progress, and then a year from now to attend the ribbon cutting ceremony.

32 and counting....we can't wait for Schar gluten-free bagels.

Finally, Mr. Berger was excited to report that a variety of NEW Schar products will be available in the US this year, including cheese nips, hot dog buns and BAGELS, which will be fortified just like popular wheat based breads!

In all, I was delighted to be standing on a cold, muddy patch of land for such a lively celebration. While it may not have looked like much to outsiders, that vacant lot represented the future that Schar, NFCA, and celiacs everywhere envision: one of unlimited possibility and safe, widely available gluten-free food.

-Whitney

January 26, 2011 at 2:45 pm 2 comments

Doctors, Disease & Making a Difference

One of the most wonderful aspects of my job is having an opportunity to follow all the fantastic celiac disease and gluten-free bloggers out there. I so enjoy this incredible online community and always look forward to reading their personal stories, tips, recipes, and so much more!

This week, About.com celiac disease editor Jane Anderson wrote a particularly poignant piece about the lack of awareness and education within the physician community. As we here at NFCA are in the midst of launching a campaign to promote our Continuing Medical Education (CME) program for primary care physicians – the topic couldn’t have been more relevant, and Jane’s message couldn’t have been more compelling:

“How many people with celiac disease have been incorrectly diagnosed with irritable bowel syndrome instead of celiac, or — worse yet! — been sent on their way with a pat on the head and a prescription for an antidepressant?

There are still plenty of doctors out there who don’t know anything about celiac, and who don’t seem to want to learn. And their colleagues cover for them, offering no solace to patients who suffered for years with an easily treatable condition due to physician incompetence and ignorance.”

Now, I do not have celiac disease.  I have never known the struggle that so many in this community have faced in attempting to gain a proper diagnosis. However, the need for more knowledgeable, understanding and compassionate physicians transcends any one illness or disease. The idea of anyone suffering for 1 year, let alone 6-10, is absurd. This is 2011, and this is a COMMON disease.

I encourage you all to read Jane Anderson’s article and the piece by her colleague, Trisha Torrey, who inspired it all.

When you’re done, learn more about the fantastic campaign NFCA and Rudi’s Gluten-free Bakery recently launched to benefit our CME program – and how you can help!

– Whitney

January 13, 2011 at 1:56 pm Leave a comment

A Merry CliffMas in Philadelphia

While our work as a national organization is spent communicating with the general public, healthcare professionals and food industry experts across all 50 states, the National Foundation for Celiac Awareness (NFCA) has always had a special focus on the Philadelphia region given our headquarters location.

Anyone who is remotely familiar with major league sports knows that Philadelphia fans are special. We’re passionate, dedicated and fiercely loyal. (In fact, Whitney openly admits that one of her top daily Google searches is Cliff Lee, despite the trade to the Seattle Mariners in 2009. And Kristin? Her computer’s background is frequently home to a certain Phillies second base player).

Cliff Lee Daily News Cover

Whitney's Desk on Cliffmas Day!

So you can imagine our feelings when late Monday night the news broke that the Philadelphia Phillies made an offer to pitcher Cliff Lee. Our anxiety and excitement over the potential of Cliff Lee returning to Philadelphia was at an all time high. Rather than hitting the sack in preparation for a hard day’s work, we continued to email, text and phone one another into the wee hours of the morning. The possibility of the All-Star lefty returning to our hometown was just too much to bear. At the time, we compared it to waiting up for Santa in anticipation of our Christmas gifts.

Little did we know that in fact this night would become Christmas Eve for the Philadelphia region. Just after midnight it was announced that the Phillies had signed Lee for a five year deal. And for those fans that managed to get to bed on time, missing out on any Cliff Lee news, Christmas truly arrived 11 days early.

Now we REALLY can’t wait till July 8th – when NFCA hosts Celiac Awareness Night with the Phillies at Citizens Bank Park. Hopefully we will get to see Cliff Lee in action, mark your calendars and get ready to join us!

Merry Cliffmas.

-Whitney & Kristin

December 15, 2010 at 12:27 pm 1 comment

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