Posts tagged ‘cheryl’

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

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

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

5 Things I Learned from NFCA’s Getting Started Guide

One of NFCA’s most valuable resources is our Getting Started Guide – a 24-page booklet filled with information for those newly diagnosed with celiac disease or non-celiac gluten sensitivity. It lists gluten-free alternatives, sources of hidden gluten, tips for cooking and dining out, and contact information for support groups and celiac disease centers.

When I started at NFCA, I didn’t know much about celiac disease. Here are 5 things I learned thanks to the Getting Started Guide.

1. Take baby steps.

The gluten-free diet can seem overwhelming, especially when you try to jump in with an overly complex recipe. Instead, start with a few basics. As the Guide says:

“A first and simple step is to look for dishes that need very little customization, perhaps just the substitution of one gluten-free ingredient for one that is not gluten-free. For example, make macaroni and cheese or baked ziti with rice, corn, or lentil pasta, or prepare enchiladas with corn tortillas instead of the wheat flour variety.”

NFCA Getting Started Guide

NFCA’s Getting Started Guide

2. Don’t skip out on your doctor.

Follow-up visits are critical to ensure you are healing and not accidentally ingesting gluten.

“To make sure your gluten-free diet is successful, schedule annual exams and take the celiac antibody test when directed by your doctor. If your blood test comes back normal, it will confirm that you are maintaining a completely gluten-free diet,” the Guide says.

3. Cup for Cup conversions.

Baking with gluten-free flours isn’t as easy as using a box mix (which, thankfully, include gluten-free versions). Fortunately, the Getting Started Guide has a cheat sheet. Page 12 lists conversions for replacing wheat flour with a gluten-free alternative. For example, use ½ cup of almond flour for every 1 cup of wheat flour. Sorghum flour, on the other hand, swaps 1-for-1.

4. Those “weird” health issues could be related to celiac.

Dental enamel defects. Pale mouth sores. Fatigue. They don’t always get the spotlight, but they are signs of celiac disease. The Guide has an abbreviated list of symptoms (there are more than 300, after all). You may find yourself having an “A-ha” moment after reading them over.

5. Generic and brand name drugs can differ.

Yes, but how is this relevant. Well, there are things called excipients (binders) used in medications that can sometimes contain gluten. In some cases, a brand-name drug may be gluten-free, but its generic counterpart may not be. So, it’s important to always check with the manufacturer to ensure a medication is gluten-free. Find more details in the Getting Started Guide.

Where can you find this Getting Started Guide? It’s available for download 24/7 on NFCA’s Printable Guides page. Just scroll to the section called Restoring Health. In fact, all of the Printable Guides you find on that page can be helpful in your gluten-free lifestyle – and they’re all free!

Is there a topic you’d like us to cover in a Printable Guide? Leave your suggestions in the comments below.

– Cheryl

May 4, 2012 at 10:51 am Leave a comment

Celiac Awareness Month 2012: Get Ready to KISS!

Celiac Awareness Month 2012_KISS banner

National Celiac Awareness Month is quickly approaching, and what celebration would be complete without a blogger campaign? This year, we rounded up 16 bloggers for a series chronicling every stage of the gluten-free journey, from Day 1 basics to advanced cooking and advocacy.

In keeping with this year’s theme, Keep It Simple and Safe, each blogger is offering 5 key tips or lessons related to that day’s topic. The guest posts start tomorrow, April 30, so check back daily!

NFCA Celiac Awareness Month Blogger BadgeWeekly Focus

  • Monday – Cooking/Baking Gluten-Free
  • Tuesday – Nutrition/Wellness
  • Wednesday – Raising a Gluten-Free Kid
  • Thursday – Dining Out Gluten-Free
  • Friday – NFCA Resources You Should Know About

Schedule and Guest Bloggers:

Week 1: Just Diagnosed (April 30-May 4)

  • Anne Byrn of The Cake Mix Doctor – Reading labels and cooking with boxed mixes
  • Shirley Braden of gluten free easily – Avoiding hidden gluten
  • Kathleen Reale of Be Free for Me – Talking to your child about celiac disease
  • Lisa Garza of Gluten Free Foodies – What questions to ask when dining out
  • NFCA – Discover NFCA’s Getting Started Guide

Week 2: Getting the Hang of It (May 7-11)

Week 3: Hitting a Roadblock (May 14-18)

  • Diane Eblin of The WHOLE Gang – 5 tips to get out of a food rut
  • Alisa Fleming of Go Dairy Free  – First gluten-free, now lactose intolerant? 5 tips to becoming a dairy-free diva
  • Wendy Kaho of Celiacs in the House – Gluten-free challenges at school
  • Michael De Cicco-Butz of Gluten-Free Mike – Traveling while gluten-free
  • NFCA – 5 resources to handle life’s hurdles

Week 4: What’s Next? (May 21-25)

  • Amie Valpone of The Healthy Apple – Publishing your gluten-free recipes
  • EA Stewart of The Spicy RD – Healthy gluten-free foods you’ve never heard of
  • Katie Chalmers of G-Free Kid – 5 tips to empower gluten-free kids
  • Carrie Forbes of Ginger Lemon Girl – Starting a gluten-free dining group
  • NFCA – Ready to fundraise? Here’s how to start

For more Celiac Awareness Month  fun, including a chance to win a Gluten-Free Pantry Raid, visit CeliacCentral.org/awarenessmonth

April 29, 2012 at 8:10 am 6 comments

Attending a Celiac Disease Patient Conference: Part 2

Last week, I gave you a wrap-up of the food and people I encountered at the Intestinal Immune-Based Inflammatory Diseases Symposium at Columbia University on March 2-3. While I had a fine time networking and meeting others in the gluten-free community, my main reason for attending was to hear from prominent celiac disease researchers. Needless to say, I was an attentive listener.

The Education

The sessions in the Patient Program covered everything from the basics of celiac disease to the latest research in therapeutics. Here are a few takeaways that perked my ears:

The No. 1 cause of poor response to a gluten-free diet is gluten exposure.

7-30% of patients with celiac disease reported continued symptoms on a gluten-free diet. The reasons can vary, from lactose intolerance to bacterial overgrowth to microscopic colitis. But as it turns out, most people simply aren’t following the gluten-free diet as diligently as they should, or they are ingesting gluten unknowingly. Another factor can be having the wrong diagnosis, so doctors stress the importance of confirming an individual’s celiac diagnosis. Which leads into the second point…

Columbia University Conference - Patient Session

1 room. 2 days. Lots of learning!

Reviewing biopsies is essential.

A few months ago, a study revealed that many gastroenterologists do not take a sufficient number of samples during a small intestinal biopsy. The presenter noted that several factors play a role in making a successful diagnosis: orientation, interpretation, number of biopsies and location. That means if too few biopsies are taken, or if the small intestine hasn’t been examined as thoroughly as it should be, it could affect the diagnosis that the pathologist makes.

Children are not little adults.

A proper celiac diagnosis is critical for child development. A child diagnosed with celiac disease early on will most likely grow to their full potential. A child diagnosed later in life may be permanently stunted from so many years of malabsorption. How exactly does this malabsorption affect their development? Iron deficiency can lead to poor concentration or irritability; calcium deficiency can lead to poor bone calcification and zinc deficiency can lead to growth failure and sexual immaturity.

There’s a lot to learn about the autism/gluten-free connection.

I was eager to hear Columbia’s presentation about the potential benefits of a gluten-free diet for those with autism spectrum disorders (ASD). It was the perfect build up to NFCA’s ADHD and autism webinar that took place the following day. While research thus far has been inconclusive, it appears that the gluten-free diet may help a subset of those with ASD. More research is needed to identify these subgroups and the specific proteins in gluten they’re reacting to.

Discovering risk factors is the No. 1 step to prevention.

There are a number of potential therapies currently being researched, and they each aim to accomplish one of three goals: Reduce exposure to gluten, reduce intestinal permeability or reduce immune activation. However, the question of how to prevent celiac disease remains. As healthcare turns from a model based on treating symptoms to one based on promoting wellness and prevention, we can expect this to be a focus. The answer lies in identifying more of the risk factors, because once researchers know what causes the disease, they can focus on ways to stop it.

– Cheryl

March 28, 2012 at 4:49 pm 2 comments

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