Posts tagged ‘food photos’

Appetite for Awareness – Truly Philadelphia’s Premier Gluten-Free Food Fest

Appetite for Awareness 2012 is over, but the office is still buzzing with excitement.  When you focus on preparing for an event for months and months, you can’t help but feel a sense of relief and happiness over the success of the event.

I joined the National Foundation for Celiac Awareness (NFCA) team back in May, so this was my first time at Appetite for Awareness.  Leading up to the event, I attended planning and update meetings and absorbed all the fine details that go into coordinating an event of this size.  Last week, NFCA staff and our wonderful event planners, Phyllis and Ed, went over the final plans, and I thought I knew what the event had in store for all its gluten-free guests.  I never could have imagined how big Appetite for Awareness really could be, and how much it could mean to the community.

Appetite for Awareness: National Foundation for Celiac Awareness Store

The first ever NFCA store premiered at Appetite for Awareness

The venue was the Historic Strawbridge Building in Center City, Philadelphia.  For those of you who have never seen it, the building is unbelievably beautiful.  It used to be the Strawbridge & Clothier building, but was just converted into a venue for special events.  It has that historic look to it, with the grand staircase in the back, low hanging, bright chandeliers, and a working fountain in the walkway that divides the massive floor space.  On Sunday, tables snaked through the main hall, loaded with vendor tables all handing out gluten-free samples to the 1,500 attendees.

Appetite for Awareness:  Gluten-Free Vendor Tables

The restaurants and chefs gearing up for the crowds

So here’s how Appetite for Awareness goes:  You come through the door, grab your NFCA tote bag and start eating!  All of the vendors and restaurants get their own table and they serve only gluten-free food.  Even better, all of the restaurants in attendance are trained by NFCA’s GREAT Kitchens program, a training course that teaches chefs all the ins and outs of preparing gluten-free food safely.  This is what makes Appetite for Awareness so special.  From the pasta samples served by the restaurants, to the brews chilling in the beer garden, it’s all gluten-free.   There are no questions to ask your server.  There are no concerns about cross-contamination, because nothing containing gluten comes through the door.  Everyone there knows what the gluten-free diet is and why it’s so important to those living with celiac disease or non-celiac gluten sensitivity.  For once, people on the lifelong gluten-free diet can just relax, eat and have a good time without making special preparations, calling ahead or packing their own snacks.

Appetite for Awareness- Line for Registration

The line to get into Appetite for Awareness wrapped all the way around the outside of the building!

I spent most of the day walking through the Strawbridge building, snapping photos, live tweeting from the event, and doing Twitter giveaways. (Shout out to Amie Valpone of The Healthy Apple & Crunchmaster, Blue Diamond and PJ’s Beef Steak for providing us with the gluten-free giveaway items.  You guys rock!)

I didn’t get to try all of the dishes, but from the massive lines of people eagerly devouring their samples while reaching for another one, I know the food was delicious.  A returning favorite were the soft pretzels from Tonya’s Gluten-Free Products, which earned rave reviews at Appetite for Awareness 2010, too.  I saw people running to go have a pretzel or two (or three or four).  Kids were covered in pizza sauce, and sticky fingers were everywhere.  It was an awesome sight.

Appetite for Awareness: Tonya's Gluten-Free Products: Soft Pretzels

People were talking about how excited they were to have their first soft pretzel in years.

Personally, I was super excited to meet the people that I talk to on social media all the time.  I met Erin Smith of Gluten-Free Fun, Amie Valpone of The Healthy Apple, and the Appetite for Awareness honoree himself, Michael Savett of Gluten Free Philly.

Appetite for Awareness: Honoree Michael Savett of Gluten Free Philly

Michael accepting his award from NFCA Founder & President Alice Bast. (PS- isn’t that staircase great?)

NFCA honored Michael Savett at the event for his major contributions to the gluten-free community living in the Philadelphia area.  When his son was diagnosed with celiac, Michael started teaching restaurants about the gluten-free diet and kept track of the restaurants that could cater to his son’s special dietary needs.  Instead of keeping the information to himself, Michael started Gluten Free Philly for everyone in the area to benefit from.  A driving force in creating more availability for gluten-free options, NFCA would once again like to thank and congratulate Michael for his efforts.

Check out the tribute video NFCA made (with the help of Michael’s friends and family) to say thank you.

I had a blast at Appetite for Awareness 2012, and based on the tweets and Facebook comments, it seems like everyone who attended agrees.  None of this would have been possible without the generosity of our sponsors, the support of the NFCA board and advisory council members, and of course, our amazing volunteers and staff who put in countless hours to make Appetite for Awareness 2012 a fun and safe event for the gluten-free community.

Visit the NFCA Facebook page to see some of my snapshots from the event and stay tuned for the professional photographer’s pictures to come.  While you’re visiting the Facebook page, tell us your favorite part of Appetite for Awareness!

There are so many people to thank and recognize for their contributions to Appetite for Awareness, especially Thomas Jefferson University Hospitals,  KYW Newsradio 1060, PREIT, Mercedes-Benz of Fort Washington and West Chester.   Click here to see all of our amazing sponsors and participating restaurants and vendors.

Thanks to all who came out to make Appetite for Awareness such a memorable event!

– Alicia

September 25, 2012 at 10:42 am 4 comments

Spring Travels: Around the World with Celiac Experts and Dietitians

In my last post, I described where the first half of my spring travels took me – Orlando, Manhattan and Washington, DC. Now, I’m going to fill you in on an international trip and other domestic travels!

It was an honor to share findings from NFCA’s collaborative study with the Celiac Center at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center (BIDMC) and Lankenau Institute for Medical Research (LIMR), “The Use of Disease Symptoms Checklist in Self-Initiated Diagnoses of Celiac Disease and Non-Celiac Gluten Sensitivity,” as a poster presentation at an International Meeting on Coeliac Disease in Florence, Italy this past March.

Together, NFCA, BIDMC and LIMR aimed to understand the diagnostic experiences of patients who use the web, specifically NFCA’s Celiac Disease Symptoms Checklist, to prompt a self-initiated diagnosis of celiac disease or non-celiac gluten sensitivity. NFCA’s Celiac Disease Symptoms Checklist was designed to be a patient education tool that drives awareness of celiac-associated symptoms and conditions. Our ultimate goal was (and remains to be) that patients would use this tool to start a conversation about celiac disease with their healthcare providers. As a result, the Checklist provides the ample opportunity to study health behavior. You can learn more about the study, including the ability to view the poster itself, by heading over to NFCA’s Research News feed.

Of course, I realize that most people don’t have the opportunity to travel to Italy for work. What can I say, I’m a lucky girl and I know it.

For those of you who don’t know, I studied abroad in Florence during my junior year of college (pre-celiac days), so I know the city quite well. It was my first return trip since 2006 and the experience wasn’t anything short of awesome! Between attending presentations from some of the finest celiac experts in the world and enjoying gluten-free pasta and pizza in the country from where pizza and pasta hail, it was wonderful.

What’s more, Alice and I were beyond impressed with how the Italian foodservice industry understood celiac disease and handled gluten-free menu options. Here’s an example: more than once we were turned away from a restaurant who knew what gluten-free required, but were honest about not being able to control cross-contamination. The restaurateurs and servers understood that the gluten-free diet is a form of medical nutrition therapy and not the latest fad diet.

Gluten-Free Pizza with Roasted Vegetables

Vegetable pizza with spicy olive oil for lunch.

Case in point number two: On my last night in Florence I visited one of my favorite gelato spots, Festival Del Gelato, for an after-dinner treat. After suggesting that I pick a different flavor because of the risk of cross-contamination (chocolate hazelnut is popular!), the clerk asked if I would like a gluten-free cone instead of the normal cup and proceeded to grab an individually wrapped cone from a rack. How fun!

Gelato on Gluten-Free Ice Cream Cone

My second favorite flavor, gelato di riso or rice pudding, on a gluten-free cone.

After Italy, my next stop was Little Rock, AR. Talk about night and day, huh?

In an effort to raise awareness of celiac disease and non-celiac gluten sensitivity among Arkansas dietitians practicing in the long-term care, foodservice and clinical settings, NFCA partnered with the Arkansas Dietetic Association (ArDA) and the Arkansas Dietetics in Health Care Communities (ArDHCC) to participate in their 2012 Annual Meeting & Expo.

After spending many months coordinating educational lectures, preparing a delicious gluten-free food sampling and organizing materials for the exhibit hall, I traveled to Little Rock where I spent 3 days. It was great to finally meet the ArDA and ArDHCC team with whom I had spent countless hours emailing and talking via the phone. I also had the pleasure of spending some time with Anne Lee, MSEd, RD, LD, Schar USA’s Director of Nutritional Services, and Dr. Lucy Gibney, President and CEO of Lucy’s, a GREAT Business Association Member. You can read more about my experience in Arkansas here.

Gluten-Free Food at Arkansas Dietitian Meeting

Gluten-free food at the ArDA and ArDHCC meeting.

Just two days after returning from Arkansas I made my way north to Boston to attend a presentation by Claudia Dolphin, a graduate student from Emerson College’s Master’s in Health Communication program, on a research project titled, “Screening for Health: Attitudes and Beliefs of Non-Participants in Disease Testing.” As an alum of Emerson’s Health Communications program, which is in collaboration with Tufts School of Medicine, I was honored to serve as a co-preceptor to Claudia over the past 6 months as she completed her Applied Learning Experience (ALE) project, the equivalent to a Master’s thesis. Here’s another twist to the story: the other preceptor providing guidance to Claudia was my own preceptor from my grad school days – Dan Leffler, MD, MS, the Director of Clinical Research at the Celiac Center at BIDMC in Boston. It has been pretty neat experiencing things come full circle.

Anyway, back to the presentation…

Claudia’s ALE project focused on conducting research on the perceptions of celiac disease among families where a member has been medically diagnosed. Her research sought to uncover the attitudes and beliefs of at-risk family members who have not been tested for the disease.

You may have noticed recruitment notices for research participants this past March and April and wondered what would become of the research. Well, now you know! Together with BIDMC, we are currently gearing up to implement Claudia’s work on CeliacCentral.org and into NFCA and BIDMC programming. Check back soon for an update on how you can help persuade your family members to take getting tested for celiac disease seriously.

In late May, my business travels ended with a trip out to sunny San Diego to attend Digestive Disease Week 2012, otherwise known as DDW, the world’s largest gathering of physicians and researchers in the fields of gastroenterology, hepatology, endoscopy and gastrointestinal surgery.

View from hotel at Digestive Disease Week 2012

The view from our hotel at Digestive Disease Week 2012.

Many of you may have trouble staying awake just reading this meeting’s subject matter, but as a self-proclaimed nerd, it’s the one conference I look forward to each year. In addition to learning the latest and greatest research, it’s always a pleasure to catch up with the field’s different thought leaders, many of whom are members of NFCA’s Scientific/Medical Advisory Board. In addition to attending the lectures, DDW attendees also have the opportunity to visit the poster sessions in the exhibit hall and even speak with the study’s researchers if they happen to be standing at their poster. Each day, the posters are changed to reflect a new topic. Saturday, May 19th was designated for celiac disease.

Here are a few highlights from this year’s conference:

  • Dr. Sveta Shah from BIDMC presented findings from the Boston group’s study “Celiac Disease Has Higher Treatment Burden Than Common Medical Conditions.” A notable conclusion included thatdespite high treatment burden, celiac disease patients reported high disease specific health state.” As a result, Dr. Shah and her colleagues suggest that, “the burden of following the gluten-free diet may be a reason why adherence is limited and argues for the need for adjunctive therapies.” I personally think that this an important finding given what seems to be continually emerging research on the importance that quality of life plays in celiac disease management.
  • Using data of 7,798 persons observed from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) 2009-2010, Jinjuvadia et al. discovered that an estimated 1 in 111 individuals in the U.S. population has celiac disease. The group also noted that celiac was more common among men than women. While the disease prevalence is certainly not “new” news, I thought their method was an interesting way to capture celiac disease in the U.S. And, given that we currently believe more females are diagnosed than males, I found their other discovery to be interesting, too.
  • In the world of celiac disease, we are programmed to believe that gluten is evil. Judging by the work of a group of researchers led by Dr. Schuppan (the scientist who led the way in identifying tTG as the celiac disease autoantigen), gluten may not be the only “evil” protein involved. On Saturday the 19th, Alice and I had the privilege of meeting Dr. Zevallos, lead author of the abstract “Isolation of Alpha-Amylase/Trypsin Inhibitors From Various Plants and Their Ability to Activate Innate Immunity in Celiac Disease.Zevallos explained that they recently identified non-gluten components of wheat, the family of alpha-amylase/trypsin inhibitors (ATIs), as powerful activators of innate immunity. This time, they took it one step further and defined three classes of grains, including naturally gluten-free grains, and their substitutes according to their ability to fuel innate immunity activity. Stay tuned for more details as their research continues.
  • The North American Society for the Study of Celiac Disease (NASSCD), the U.S. national society of medical, scientific and allied health professionals in the field of celiac disease, held its first General Assembly meeting during DDW. Although I wasn’t able to participate since I’m not a clinician, I attended the reception following the meeting and can attest to the establishment being an exciting development. The new group will provide leadership in advancing the fields of celiac disease and gluten-related disorders by fostering research and by promoting excellence in clinical care, including diagnosis and treatment of patients with these conditions. It’s the first time that the U.S. thought leaders have come together to form a clinical and research focused collaboration.

– Kristin

June 13, 2012 at 1:56 pm 2 comments

A Life Saving Diagnosis: 20 Years Gluten-Free and Counting

Whenever this time of year rolls around, I get this feeling. It’s the feeling that I’m forgetting something like a birthday, anniversary, or special occasion. It just so happens that this year the feeling is especially strong and I remember what’s coming.  June 13.

On the 13th, I will be celebrating 20 years of gluten-freedom and the day that was literally life changing.  Not only did my diagnosis with celiac disease save my life, but it changed it as well.

After giving birth to my healthy baby boy, Cole, my body fell apart and I displayed the classical celiac symptoms – weight loss, fatigue, vomiting, depression, and weakness. I wasn’t even able to climb stairs or turn a faucet.

Mommy and Cole at 2 weeks old

Sick Mommy Holding Baby Cole at 2 Weeks Old

Eventually, I was hospitalized, had a small bowel biopsy, and a positive diagnosis. With Dave holding my hand and Cole in my arms, Dr. Dalke described celiac as a “rare” disease affecting 1 in 2,500 people.  Dave whispered, “I knew you were special but not that special.” Turns out, I’m not really that special with 1 in 133 people living with celiac disease. But I was lucky and the gluten-free diet renewed my health, energy, and disposition.

Mommy and Cole at 6 months old

Healthy Mommy and Cole 6 months after diagnosis

Usually on special anniversaries, gifts are in order.  On my special anniversary, I’d like to share a few of many exceptional gifts I’ve received over the years as a result of my diagnosis.

GIFT 1 – Love of Cooking

One of the greatest gifts you can give yourself is learning to cook well. You’ll never go hungry and you’ll always have friends.

Learning to cook from scratch was a challenge, but I loved the process.  Before gluten-free products were everywhere and labels read “GF,” I learned to season with fresh herbs, spices and pure ingredients to make sauces and dressing from scratch. I learned which herbs and spices produce which flavors and enhance certain foods. My spice cupboard is more like a pantry!

GIFT 2 – Share the Love.

Hosting dinner parties and sharing meals with friends and family gives me a chance to show that gluten-free doesn’t have to be horrible, difficult, or medicinal. Clean, fresh, pure and easy are my approaches to cooking. Hostess tips include set a beautiful table, involve guests, and have plenty of wine.

Chinese New Year Table

Annual Chinese New Year party menu – homemade egg rolls, blood orange salad, stir fry veggies, steamed rice, Asian bbq pork, sweet rice cake, and Gewurztraminer wine.

GIFT 3 – Friendship – 2 GF BFs

My two gal pals, Jill and Mary, also have celiac disease. These great women have my back in crisis, tragedy, sickness, and gluten episodes. They share my frustration over gluten-free labeling, restaurant mishaps, and family dynamics. We celebrate the GREAT gluten-free life over amazing dinners, annual holiday cookie baking, and family milestones. I cherish them.

Me and My Gluten-Free Friends

Me, Mary, Janna, Jill on Janna’s wedding day. The food…totally gluten-free

– Beckee

June 4, 2012 at 9:00 am 3 comments

Sweet 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.]

A Phightin’ to Be Gluten-Free Blog

On Wednesday, May 30, the Phillies won 10-6 to the New York Mets at Citi Field. Cliff Lee gets a shout out for pitching, and so do old timers Shane Victorino, Jimmy Rollins and Carlos Ruiz for playing a little offense. If the Phightin’ Phils continue to gain runs, they will have sweet times ahead.

My family team has sweet times ahead with birthdays, summer BBQs, wedding festivities and reunions. My sister and I love to find an unexpected Grand Slam in summer food adventures, just as much as watching the Phillies persevere against the New York Mets.

Below are two summer dessert reviews on the following baseball-inspired scale:

Single– Fair
Double– Good
Triple– Very good
Home Run
– Must try
Grand Slam– Sublime

SO Delicious- Coconut Milk Fudge Bar Minis- certified gluten-free, soy-free and dairy-free – Home Run

SO Delicious Coconut Milk Fudge Bar Minis

SO Delicious Coconut Milk Fudge Bar Minis

Overview:  Allergen-friendly packaging alert!  With a certified gluten-free seal, dairy-free and soy-free labels on the front of the box, the SO Delicious Fudge Bar Minis get right to the point: They are safe.

Safety: In addition to the labels on the front of the box, SO Delicious Fudge Bar Minis contain allergen information on the side of the box, which includes that the company sample tests products for the presence of dairy, gluten, peanut, almond and soy allergens.

Note: For more information, visit http://www.sodeliciousdairyfree.com/

Taste:  One sample of the fudge bar is a satisfying mouthful of chocolate texture and flavor.  As the fudge bar melts on your palate, the dessert becomes a delectable chocolate mousse. After the first bite, the overpowering coconut flavor fades and each layer of the mini fudge bar is more delicious than the last.

Result: Coconut Be-LEE-vers and dis-Be-LEE-vers will come together this summer to enjoy the easily digestible and portion controlled fudge bar mini. (Tip: Be creative and enjoy with an assortment of fresh berries, as seen in above picture). 

BYOBS (“Bring Your Own Beach Snack”): Toss the fudge bar in a cooler and enjoy on the beach with friends and family!

Capogiro Kiwi Gelato- gluten-free and lactose free- Grand Slam

Capogiro Gelato in Philadelphia

Kiwi gelato from Capogiro

Overview:  I found it…the perfect summer treat!  The Capogiro Gelato Café is a great spot to bring family or a special summer date.

Safety:  A portion of the flavors displayed at one time are gluten-free and lactose-free.   The staff is knowledgeable of the flavors, so don’t be afraid to ask questions!

Taste:  I was taken by the cool, natural flavor of the kiwi and delightfully surprised by the presence of the fruit seeds seamlessly placed in every mouthful.  Although I am a devoted fan of the kiwi, I love trying a new flavor every time, such as champagne mango.

Result:  A gluten-free and lactose-free taste of Italy in the heart of Center City, Philadelphia.  

Note: There are a few Capogiro Gelato Cafés throughout Philadelphia. For more information: http://capogirogelato.com/wheretobuy.php?c=n

BYOBS (“Bring Your Own Beach Snack”): Purchase gelato in large container with lid. Store in freezer and take out when ready to eat.

Now it’s your turn to try the gluten-free sweets of summer while tuning into the Phillies weekend series against the Florida Marlins at Citizens Bank Park.

– Nadina

*Join NFCA on Friday, July 20, 2012 for Celiac Awareness Night at the Phillies. Tickets are now available.

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 her attention at info@celiaccentral.org. Nadina learned that she has non-celiac 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

June 1, 2012 at 10:37 am 1 comment

5 Tips to Get Out of a Food Rut

[Diane Eblin is a Certified Health Coach who helps her clients achieve easy, healthy gluten-free living. She is also a professional recipe developer, author of The Gluten-Free Diner e-cookbook and founder of The WHOLE Gang. Diane and her entire family, including her dog, all live gluten-free, so we asked her for tips on keeping meals fresh and fun.]

I’m sure you’ve heard the saying “I’m in a food rut.”  What does that really mean?  Well, the definition of a rut is a settled or established pattern, habit or course of action, especially a boring one. You know  – the daily grind, same old stuff, the same meals over and over, yada yada yada.

So, if you’re in a food rut, how do you get out of it?  Well, the simplest answer is to eat something different.

Before you punch me for such a lame suggestion, I’m going to give you 5 tips on exactly how to do just that.

Diane Eblin - The WHOLE Gang

Diane Eblin of The WHOLE Gang

1. Use Real Food Ingredients

This is the No. 1 most important tip for staying out of a food rut.  Use single ingredient foods, whole foods or real foods.  They are naturally gluten-free, have no labels, and are in the produce, meat and seafood sections of the grocery store.  If you keep making meals out of a box, you’ll keep making the same meal.  If you don’t believe me, Google “chicken recipes” and you’ll get back 77,000,000 results.  They call for chicken, not chicken in a box.

Using real food ingredients will save you lots of money.  You can purchase those organic meats on sale, in bulk and, for beef, choose those less expensive cuts that take longer to cook. Pull out that crockpot and let it cook while you sleep.  Then portion out the meats, freeze what you’re not eating now, and you’re ready to make a few of those millions of recipe results you just Googled.

2. Be Inspired

There are so many inspirational resources for recipes and ideas for your meals.  The list includes wonderful cookbooks, both gluten-free and not, along with websites, magazines and cooking shows. You can even work with a health coach to both inspire and inform you.  Not a food magazine junkie? Then just take a look at the covers to see what the latest and greatest food trends are out there. If you like what you see, get the magazine and the recipe. Learn how to substitute non-gluten-free ingredients with ones that fit your diet. This way, you can grab any recipe and start cooking!

Peppers

3. Menu Planning

Get out of your rut by planning a weekly menu so you’ll have the ingredients on hand to make unique meals and know what you’re doing with them.  Without a plan, you’ll end up grabbing the same old thing, which you’re already bored with and tired of making.  It only takes 15 to 20 minutes to plan out your week and another 15 to 20 minutes to plan out the whole month. Use the resources mentioned above for creative ideas and recipes. I like to start with an inventory of what I have on hand so I can build that into the menu and save money. I often end up with more than a week’s worth of ideas.  Make a multi-week menu to keep those good ideas from going to waste.

4. Variety is the Spice of Life

If you’ve never compared ethnic recipes side by side, you might be surprised to learn that there are common ingredients that span the world.  What changes are the spices and herbs used, which change the flavor profile of each dish. For instance, let’s take a simple chicken stew. You can make it Italian with tomatoes, Mexican with cilantro and green chilies, French with white wine, Indian with cardamom, turmeric and coconut milk, Moroccan with raisins, cinnamon and ginger, Greek with olives, and so on. So gather up your spices and travel the world on your dinner plate.  My two favorite sources for spices are Penzeys and The Spice House. As with any spice, you must make sure they are gluten-free.  These two companies will tell you which ones are not and which ones are gluten-free, as are most.

5.  Pre-made Menu Plans

If you have just plain run out of ideas and nothing is inspiring you, then you can use a menu planning service or you can visit the many blogs that post weekly menu plans and use theirs.  For instance, on my website you can search on Menu Plan Monday and find many weekly menus or Monthly Menu Plan and have your whole month planned out.  A few of my favorite sites sharing menus include Celiacs in the House, Adventures of a Gluten-Free Mom, and Celiac Family.  If you use a menu planning service, you can have the menu plan, recipes and shopping list all created for you on a weekly basis.

So, if you are in a food rut, grab some new sources of inspiration, plan out your menu, shop for real food ingredients and spices and get cooking.  You can have a different meal every day of the year!

– Diane Eblin, CHC, AADP

May 14, 2012 at 8:15 am 5 comments

5 Tips for Baking Gluten-Free From Scratch

[You’re ready to bake from scratch, but don’t know where to start. Fear not! Shauna James Ahern, better known as Gluten-Free Girl, is here to share her tips and tricks for baking delicious gluten-free goods.]

1. Let go of your expectations.

You’ve probably been baking one way your entire life: by scooping out a cup of flour from the 5-pound bag of all-purpose bleached white. It was simple to bake this way. Even mindless. However, that bag of flour is now like a bag full of poison for you. Don’t go near it.
When people begin to bake gluten-free, they expect that the process will be exactly the same, but with different flours. (And more expensive flours, too.) Guess what? As is true of everything in life, those expectations are going to hurt you.
As soon as you can clean the gluten out of your kitchen, sweep away the notion that anything will be like it was. And why would you want it to be, when the old way made you sick?

2. You have to combine flours.

Here’s where people also get stuck. Because AP gluten flour works for a multitude of baked goods — and it’s the only flour most people in this culture know — it’s easy to long for that one magic flour when baking gluten-free.
There are a few places where you can use a single flour. I adore these brownies made with teff flour, much more than gluten brownies. And you can make great buckwheat crêpes, with only buckwheat flour. There are a few other examples. (Make socca your friend.)
Gluten-Free Brownies from Gluten-Free Girl
However, for the most part, you have to combine 2 or 3 flours together to make a flour mix that will work for gluten-free baking.
It’s not hard. Take a bag of sorghum flour, a bag of millet, a bag of sweet rice flour, and a bag of potato starch. (We use Bob’s Red Mill flours and all their bags contain about the same amount of flour.) Pour them in a big container. Put on the lid and shake. Shake that flour until it is all one color.
What do you have? Flour. Use that flour for baking cookies, muffins, quick breads, pancakes, waffles, and biscuits. You’re done.

3. Learn to bake by weight.

Americans are VERY tied to their cups. We believe that all baking has to happen in 1/2 cup measurements. Ounces? Grams? That seems like math.
Believe me, if you want to become a confident gluten-free baker, able to make adaptations to all your favorite recipes, substituting one flour for another when you’ve run out of your favorites?
Buy a kitchen scale.
This will tell you why.

4. Play.

You’re going to make mistakes. This is a funny business. Eventually, it will feel like rote, and you’ll wonder why you ever worried.
But this space? This place of jarring differences and new experiences? This is where we learn.
Open yourself to it.
What’s the worst that could happen? A few bad baked goods? Eh, there are worse fates.

5. Psst! Here’s a secret. Most baked goods are actually better without gluten.

You read that right. Better without gluten.
Think about your favorite cake recipe. What’s the last instruction before you put that cake in the oven? “Mix until just combined. Don’t over-stir.”
You know why? Because that lovely recipe writer was trying to protect you from activating the gluten. Gluten in a cake can make your birthday celebration treat tough.
But without any gluten? You don’t have to worry. Let that stand mixer spin. Leave the room and play with your kids. You’re not going to hurt anything.
Gluten-free cakes can be far fluffier and more wonderful than the gluten ones.
Trust me. It’s worth the initial, shocking investment in flours to learn how to do this.
You don’t want to go the rest of your life without making chocolate chip cookies.
– Shauna James Ahern

May 7, 2012 at 1:20 pm 5 comments

Gluten-Free Cookies in 5 Simple Steps

[If you’re new to the gluten-free diet, you probably have yet to try gluten-free baking. (Yes, we all know xanthan gum bears a rather intimidating name.) Fortunately, there’s a little wonder known as gluten-free cake mix that can do much of the work for you.

Anne Byrn, better known as The Cake Mix Doctor, discovered just how versatile gluten-free cake mix can be when she was creating recipes for her first gluten-free cookbook. We hope her story, and her simple 5-step recipe, will inspire you, too!]

While working on The Cake Mix Doctor Bakes Gluten-Free, I was making gingerbread out of a yellow gluten-free cake mix, adding apple cider, molasses, cocoa powder, ginger, nearly the kitchen sink! The taste of that gingerbread reminded me of my grandmother’s gingersnap cookies, and all of the sudden the most wonderful and nostalgic flashback came into my mind. I was 12 years old and in my grandmother’s kitchen snatching a cookie from the cooling rack.

So, I thought, could I turn this gingerbread recipe into a cookie? I grabbed a clean mixing bowl and wooden spoon, poured a fresh box of cake mix into the bowl and carefully added just one egg, vegetable shortening, molasses, ginger, and other spices. Dropped onto baking sheets, these cookies baked up crisp and spiced with ginger.

There is something unexpected and magical about rice flour and what it does to cookies. Rice flour makes it possible for you to turn a gluten-free cake mix into light, crisp cookies. And because it is flavorless, it is a blank canvas allowing big, bold flavors such as ginger to come through.

-Anne Byrn

Gluten-Free Gingersnap Cookies

Gluten-Free Gingersnaps

(From The Cake Mix Doctor Bakes Gluten-Free, by Anne Byrn)

Makes 2 dozen cookies.

Prep: 10 minutes
Chill: At least 2 hours
Bake: 9 to 11 minutes
Cool: 10 to 16 minutes

Ingredients:

  • ¼ cup molasses
  • ¼ cup vegetable shortening
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 package (15 oz.) yellow gluten-free cake mix
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • ¼ teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/3 cup granulated sugar

Directions:

  1. Place the molasses, vegetable shortening, and vanilla in a large mixing bowl and beat with an electric mixer on low speed until just combined, 30 seconds. Stop the machine and scrape down the side of the bowl with a rubber spatula. Add the egg. Increase the mixer to medium and beat until smooth, 30 seconds. Set the molasses mixture aside.
  2. Place the cake mix, ginger, cinnamon and cloves in a small bowl and stir to combine. Add the cake mix mixture to the molasses mixture, a little at a time, beating on low speed until everything is just combined, 30 to 45 seconds. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and place the cookie dough in the refrigerator to chill for 2 hours or overnight.
  3. Place a rack in the center of the oven and preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Set aside 2 ungreased baking sheets.
  4. Place the sugar in a shallow bowl. Form the cookie dough into generous 1-inch balls. Roll the balls of dough in the sugar and arrange them on the baking sheets, about 4 inches apart.
  5. Place the baking sheets in the oven and bake the cookies until they are crisp around the edges, 9 to 11 minutes. Transfer the baking sheets to wire racks and let the cookies cool for 1 minute. Using a metal spatula, transfer the cookies to wire racks to cool completely, 10 to 15 minutes longer. Repeat with the remaining cookie dough, if any.

April 30, 2012 at 8:20 am 2 comments

Gluten-Free on the Road: GREAT Kitchens in Michigan and Minnesota

Every day, new restaurants are going online and completing NFCA’s GREAT Kitchens training and educating their staff about serving gluten-free to people who depend on verified ingredients, gluten-free protocol, and a celiac savvy waitstaff. They’re learning why it’s important to greet special diet guests with confidence and know how to answer questions to build trust. Owners and managers across the country are hearing about GREAT Kitchens at their local restaurant association and American Chef Federation meetings, through U.S. Foods distributors, and of course, the celiac community.  Thanks for your help!

GREAT training is better than “good enough,” and I’ve had the pleasure to see firsthand the result of GREAT training while traveling for business and pleasure. I can’t tell you how excited I get when I know I’m going to a city where GREAT Kitchens exist, and I can be a secret diner to check out the effects of GREAT training.  There are hints of GREATness that stand out in GREAT Kitchens. Check out some of my travel spots and their outstanding service:

W.O.W. – East Lansing, MI

I ended up in East Lansing, MI, in October 2010, to speak at a local health food store for their Celiac Awareness campaign. On my way back to Detroit, where I would be speaking the next day, I stopped in to meet Steve Pollard at Guido’s pizza parlor in Okemos, MI, just outside of East Lansing. Steve was one of our first GREAT Kitchens, and his staff is well-trained in gluten-free protocol.

Gluten-Free Pizza at Guido's in Michigan

Gluten-free and amazing!

The pizza? Well, it is simply amazing. Soft, tender crust handmade crust with perfectly placed toppings made me teary to think that Steve was serving these sweet pies daily to the lucky East Lansing folks.  Now almost 18 months later, Steve’s moved his gluten-free operation next door. W.O. W. ( With Out Wheat) deli and bakery has fantastic gluten-free breads, sandwiches, rolls, pizzas and dessert.  GREAT progress!

Beckee and Steve Pollard of Guido's Pizza

Beckee and Steve from Guido's/W.O.W.

Hint of GREATness #1 – Taste has not been compromised by gluten-free status.

Pizza Luce – Minneapolis, MN

Staying in Minneapolis for a wedding weekend in September gave me the opportunity to taste a bit of the Mini-Apple’s famous pizza spot, Pizza Luce. Pizza Luce has 5 locations in Minnesota that are all GREAT trained. At the downtown location, the servers were gluten-free informed and the gluten-free options on their menu extensive.

Gluten-Free Pizza at Pizza Luce

One of Pizza Luce's yummy gluten-free pies

Confession…I ate there twice and could have placed an order for the road. What is it about eating in a restaurant that you know has GREAT status, and all will be well with the tummy? It’s seems you have to try everything that’s offered and more. As the director of GREAT, I know what’s supposed to happen when a dining establishment takes training seriously.

Hint of GREATness #2 – The waitstaff welcomes you with a gluten-free menu, say they’ve been trained, and can answer ingredient questions with ease.

More spots and hints in my future blogs!

-Beckee

See the full list of GREAT Kitchens in the U.S. at www.CeliacCentral.org/kitchens

April 20, 2012 at 10:03 am Leave a comment

It’s Spring! Time for a Health Fair!

New Year’s Day may be the time for making resolutions, but the breath of spring in the air makes all of us want to live healthier lives as we get ready to be outdoors more and more. Enter, the health fair!

Two weeks ago, I had the pleasure of participating in two such events, each one targeting a very specific audience.

Sunday, March 25, brought the annual “Education Day” at The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP). Called Growing up with Celiac: A Forum for Parents and Children, this information-packed event was organized by Dr. Ritu Verma, pediatric gastroenterologist and Section Chief of CHOP’s Gastroenterology and Nutrition group. Dr. Verma leads the Center for Celiac Disease at CHOP and also serves as a very active member of NFCA’s Scientific/Medical Advisory Board.  This lady wears many very important hats!

Dr. Ritu Verma of The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia

Dr. Ritu Verma

The conference covered a wide range o f topics ranging from ‘The Genetics of Celiac Disease,’ with Curt Lind of CHOP, to ‘Celiac + Social Media,’ with Priyanka Chugh, and ‘Bone Health in Children with Celiac Disease,’ with Babette Semel, PhD.

CHOP Education Day March 2012

Welcome to Education Day!

Our own Alice Bast spoke about a topic that is grabbing national attention as students struggle with the gluten-free diet in school and on college campuses. In ‘Gluten-Free Goes to School,’ Alice outlined the perils and some solutions for this important facet of a student’s daily life.

NFCA fans Jillian and Danielle

By the way, there was loads of delicious gluten-free food provided as samples by vendors and also for a plentiful breakfast and lunch.

A big thanks to NFCA volunteer Sarah Terley, who passed out information to parents and kids coming to our table.

Sarah Kristin and Alice at CHOP Education Day March 2012

Sarah Terley, Kristin Voorhees, Alice Bast

Thanks to the discerning palate of my associate, Kristin Voorhees, we ended the day with a delightful meal at Garces Trading Company at 1111 Locust Street in Philadelphia.  The Garces Restaurant Group has completed NFCA’s GREAT Kitchens program and, as a result, we were confident that the gluten-free items on the menu really were produced in a safe manner.  Very reassuring. Anne Lee of Schar USA joined us as we enjoyed a delicious gluten-free meal, including fabulous desserts. The quite decadent Chocolat is to die for!

Garces Trading Company

Garces Trading Company

On Saturday, I joined the group at a free Men’s Health Fair at The First Pentecostal Church in Lambertville, NJ. Organized by Jonathan Bridges, a church member and owner of Wallingford Farms, this preventive health collaboration between the church community and healthcare service providers offered lectures plus screening for a variety of the basics: hypertension, hyperglycemia, BMI and more.  Many thanks to Karen Dalrymple and Donna Sawka of the Greater Philadelphia Area Celiac Support Group for coming out to spread the word about celiac disease, gluten-related disorders and the gluten-free diet.

So…great weather, interesting information, delicious food…an all around GREAT experience!

– Nancy

April 5, 2012 at 11:58 am 1 comment

Gluten-Free Passover Facts and Tips

By Annsley Klehr

Passover is a time of remembering the past and celebrating the fact that we Jews are no longer slaves in Egypt. The lengthy dinner we have is called a Seder, which means order. We follow this order using a Hagaddah, which guides us in the order of the 15 different holiday rituals.

Then we spend the next 8 days trying to remember what it was like by removing leavened bread from our diets, because the slaves did not have enough time to wait for their bread to rise in the ovens before running for freedom. That’s why we eat matzah, an unleavened, cracker-like bread. Needless to say, unleavened bread is still made from wheat and is not gluten-free.

But don’t worry!  There is now excellent gluten-free matzah on the market and well as many gluten-free products this time of year!

Facts and Tips for a Gluten-Free Passover

Fact #1: Some Jews also avoid rice, corn, peanuts, legumes, and pulses, since they could be grown in the same fields as the wheat and have a risk for cross-contamination.  (This rule really depends on the person and how closely he/she follows Jewish Law).

Tip #1: Choose how strictly you want to keep a Passover diet.  Passover is a time for celebration and remembrance, but you also never want to compromise your health.  I choose to eat rice, corn, peanuts, and legumes on Passover.

 

Annsley's daughter with gluten-free matzah

My daughter loves gluten-free matzah.

Fact #2: There is another group of strictly Orthodox Jews who do not eat “gebrochts,” which is Yiddish for “broken.”  That means that they avoid any matzah (wheat) product that has come into contact with liquid after it has been baked.

Tip #2: Since gebrochts technically refers to wheat-based products, then “non-gebrochts” means products that do not contain wheat. Look for this statement on packaged goods and you will know that they are not only wheat-free, but also produced in a wheat-free facility, due to the strict nature of Passover laws.

Annsley and daughter with gluten-free matzah

And so do I!

Fact #3: According to KosherConsumer.org, for a product to be qualified as “kosher for Passover” it must be free of “Wheat – all classes, Barley, Spelt, Rye, Oats, Legumes & rice or any derivative of theirs.”  (Matzah is an exception because it is unleavened.) In addition, there is a strict sterilization process for any equipment used to manufacture “kosher for Passover” products.

Tip #3: The kosher for Passover facilities are extremely careful with grains, so I often stock up on gluten-free products for the rest of the year:

  • chocolate bars
  • cocoa powder
  • potato starch
  • baking mixes for cakes and cookies
  • gluten-free/non-gebrochts matzah and matzah crackers

 Note: Not all products follow the strict Orthodox traditions. Therefore, some products for Passover are made in facilities that also process wheat. Read labels carefully.

Gluten-Free Panko with NFCA logo

One of my latest gluten-free Passover finds!

Passover is my favorite holiday. It’s a chance for friends and family to get a little “taste” of what it’s like to be gluten-free.  It’s also a great time to invite friends and family to join you in celebration, or  to experience another culture while sharing a stress-free and gluten-free environment. Just don’t forget your gluten-free matzah!

Happy Passover!

Read more from Annsley, including a personal story about Passover, on her website: Gluten Freedoms LLC

About Annsley

Annsley Klehr is the owner of Gluten Freedoms, LLC, a gluten-free coaching and consulting business.

March 31, 2012 at 8:39 am Leave a comment

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