Posts tagged ‘NFCA in the wild’

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

– Cheryl

 

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

Trials and Tribulations – My First Experience with Gluten-Free Baking

New to the National Foundation for Celiac Awareness (NFCA) team, Healthcare Relations Intern Josh Goldberg has developed an interest in all things celiac disease and gluten-free related.  Eager to get more involved, Josh took to the kitchen to put his gluten-free baking skills to the test.  Read on for Josh’s account of his first try at gluten-free baking.

Savory Avocado Coconut Cookies.

I glared at my monitor incredulously.  It sounded like the sort of thing you would make on a dare.  I had wandered into this recipe while searching for something gluten-free to bake.  If I had a lick of common sense, I would have stuck with something a little more traditional for a dessert.  My eyes darted down to the ingredients and baking steps.  The recipe only required three ingredients: a large avocado, coconut flour, and some salt.  All I had to do was mash up the avocado, mix it into the coconut flour and salt, toss the concoction onto a tray, and leave in the oven for a bit.

Savory Avocado Coconut Cookies.  Three ingredients.  Seven steps.  What could go wrong?

I scrambled over to Whole Foods and picked up the necessary ingredients.  Once I got home, I pre-heated the oven and got to work.  The avocado peel came off easily and I attacked the fruit with all the precision of Norman Bates.  Some of the resulting mess ended up on the floor where the cat sniffed it curiously and then retreated.  I tried not to think of it as a bad omen and dumped the appropriate amount of coconut flour into the avocado’s bowl.

After the salt was added, I grabbed a big spoon and started to mix.  It felt like I was pushing sand.  The flour and avocado were adhering to one another, but the product was crumbling and barely clumping.  It took a good long while to bunch the mixture into what can only be described as The World’s Saddest Cookies.  Despite their less-than-perfect appearance, the bright green of the “cookies” brought me some level of optimism.  I pursed my lips and guided the cookie tray into the oven.  Surely, the baking process would instill some flavor into these little green lumps.

All signs should have pointed to me lowering my expectations for the cookies.  I caught a sniff of the coconut flour and began thinking about sharing these cookies with my family.  I would now have a signature dessert that I could bring to my in-laws when we ate at their residence.  Their fears of the bizarre-looking cookies would dissipate with a single taste.  I would be the new gluten-free baker on the block.  The thought was as savory as I hoped the cookies would be.

Beep!

I vaulted off the couch and grabbed the tray with a gloved hand.  The little green lumps that I had sent in were now…little green lumps with a tan.  I could still smell a hint of coconut, so my hope for a good, savory flavor remained intact.  After giving the lumps time to cool, I brought my fiancé into the kitchen to take a taste test with me.  She was surprised by the appearance of the cookies, but tentatively took a bite with me.

I didn’t even have time to ask her if she liked them before she placed what was left of the lump in my hand and ran to get a drink of water.

Dejected, I got in touch with my stepmother-in-law.  My fiance’s father and sister were diagnosed with celiac disease over ten years ago and it largely fell to her to figure out how to cook and bake without gluten.  Surely, she would give me some guidance as to what went wrong with the recipe or my cooking method.  My stepmother-in-law listened to my story and shrugged.  She had recently spent a Saturday making cookies of her own.  She made the cookies multiple times with different ratios of ingredients to get the right level of consistency and texture, but the end result was the same.  This woman, who had been cooking and baking gluten-free for so long, still struggled to perfect a recipe.

I was stunned.  Having eaten with my in-laws on numerous occasions, I knew her cooking was top-notch.  My stepmother-in-law noted my surprise and told me that cooking and baking is a constant learning process.  You rarely ever get the recipe right the first time.  The issue is compounded in gluten-free baking.  It is important to not be discouraged when a recipe does not go as planned.  Instead, take stock of what you have learned and incorporate it into your next try.  The reward of having a go-to baking recipe is worth the effort.

My discussion with my stepmother-in-law soothed my bruised ego.  She had spent an entire day on a cookie recipe that went nowhere and I was upset over one simple recipe gone awry.  I went back over the avocado coconut cookie recipe and checked some similar, more complex recipes.  It turns out that I need to add some additional binding agents to the recipe to bulk up those green lumps.  It would also help to add chocolate to enhance the flavor.  My lesson has been learned.  I don’t feel embarrassed about the experience anymore.  I feel empowered.

Savory Avocado Coconut Cookies.  I’ll give you another try…someday.

–          Josh
Healthcare Relations Intern, the National Foundation for Celiac Awareness

June 13, 2013 at 8:55 am Leave a comment

Be Well Philly Bootcamp – The Gluten-Free Way!

It’s summertime and lots of women are thinking about how we look and, after that, how we feel. On Saturday, June 8th, Philadelphia magazine hosted their annual Be Well Philly Boot Camp at the well-equipped Recreation Center on the campus of Drexel University. The goal was to motivate, educate, and empower women to get healthy and fit.

And, did they ever!

The National Foundation for Celiac Awareness (NFCA) was there to participate and cheer everyone on! After all, our mission is based on empowerment and education.

The 500 gals attending this amazing event checked out all manner of health and fitness items. Penn and Drexel medical teams were there with health tips and on-site screening. There were cooking demos hourly and delicious food sampling, plus group fitness classes — Zumba, yoga, and spinning. If learning how to climb a rock wall is on your bucket list, this was the place to be. Some attendees even grabbed a massage!

And, there was a chance to talk to the experts. All during the day, there were panel discussions on a wide variety of subjects from advice about the right running shoes to how to have more energy. Representing NFCA, I joined a panel called “Gluten Free Guide”. Our moderator, Cass Bailey from Slice Communications, has celiac disease and has embraced the gluten-free diet. Joining me on the panel were Michael Savett, publisher of the Gluten Free Philly blog, and Jennifer Fugo of the Gluten Free School.

It was fascinating! The audience had great questions and was eager to learn the “ins and outs” of the gluten-free diet. Plus, there was real interest in what celiac disease and other gluten-related disorders are all about. We talked about the difference between celiac disease and non-celiac gluten sensitivity (NCGS), along with getting tested and what to look for in restaurants as you begin the gluten-free journey. Getting family members tested was an important point for a number of audience members having relatives with celiac disease.

The big question was… “Is it a diet fad, a real medical issue or just a good thing to practice?” This panel did a great job of making sure everyone left with an understanding that there is such a thing as a medically necessary gluten-free diet. For real!

The overall point of the story is that there is no time like right now to start paying more attention to your health. No kidding, it actually does boil down to exercise and diet — perhaps a gluten-free diet!

– Nancy

June 12, 2013 at 9:15 am Leave a comment

Gluten-Free Food for the Soul

I really like to stay home. I’m not embarrassed by this statement but embrace the fact that I no longer feel pressure to “go out.” Not only have I had plenty of years spending countless nights and weekends making the most of my free time, but both mine and my husband’s jobs require that I attend events, dinners, receptions and every feasible sport played by college athletes possible. The added benefit to staying home is the control I have over my food.  A perfect weekend night is eating an Amy’s gluten-free cheese pizza on the sofa, catching up on all my shows on the DVR. Now that’s indulgence! But, despite typically loving my weekends at home, I was super excited to head out last Saturday night with the National Foundation for Celiac Awareness (NFCA) to the studio of Liddy Lindsay, local artist and friend of NFCA Founder and President, Alice Bast. It was such an amazing night!

Liddy Lindsay's Art Studio

Liddy Lindsay’s Art Studio

NFCA brought lots of gluten-free goodies for guests to experience gluten-free food and ask questions about celiac disease and gluten sensitivity. Everyone was surprised that they were eating gluten-free; comments, like “this actually tastes good” were heard throughout the night. The studio was filled with this wonderful array of individuals from varied backgrounds and lifestyles. Everyone was inquisitive and curious about NFCA and celiac disease. While most people did not know what celiac disease is, they all have heard about the gluten-free lifestyle and most know someone with gluten sensitivity.

Group Photo

NFCA Founder Alice Bast (center) with her daughter Linnea (left) and artist Liddy Lindsay (right)

As the end of the party neared, it became apparent that no one wanted to leave (always the sign of a good party!). The evening continued for a number of us NFCA art-lovers once we arrived at Pod – a West Philly, Steven Starr, establishment that provides gluten-free options on their menu. So, while a night out typically means worrying about what I’m going to eat, this night was less worry and more “let’s eat!” (Post-party confession – I stashed a gluten-free pizzelle in the car for an after dinner treat and enjoyed it when we left the studio. What a nice way to end the night!)

Gluten-Free Food for the Soul: Nanny Vogt and Alex

Nanny Vogt and her guest Alex at the event.

While it may be a bit out of character for me now, I am looking forward to heading out with my NFCA pals for more events throughout May for Celiac Awareness Month. On May 7th, we’ll be shopping at C. Wonder in the King of Prussia Mall in Pennsylvania with 20% off purchases and 10% of sales going the support NFCA (isn’t that great?). After that, I’ll be heading on up to New York City for a very special evening with Chef David Bouley on May 9th.

All of the ladies at NFCA are buzzing with excitement for the upcoming month and the energy is contagious. As I’m catching on to their excitement of being out-and-about more often than usual this month, I can’t help but be reminded of a famous quote from the infamous Dorothy Day: “Food for the body is not enough. There must be food for the soul.” I’m so happy to be part of a team that helps people get diagnosed, restore their health and reclaim their lives, especially during Celiac Awareness Month – now that is food for the soul.

– Kim

April 30, 2013 at 5:45 pm Leave a comment

Gluten-Free Pizza: Las Vegas Style

I LOVE pizza – cold pizza for breakfast, hot, gooey, cheesy pizza with thick or thin crusts and toppings of all kinds: pesto, pepperoni, olives, onion, even anchovies. So when I was diagnosed with celiac disease back in 1992, when very few gluten-free products existed, I concluded my love affair with pizza was pretty much over. Making gluten-free pizza was a chore I could handle, but it just wasn’t the same.  Eating pizza out of the box and sipping an ice cold beer while watching a movie, and hanging with the family or friends seemed impossible or too depressing.  During a pity party, I even told my husband, Dave, my last request before I died was pizza delivered to my death bed with a cold brew as my last meal. (What’s one last jolt of poison when your about to take your last breath anyway?) I’m so glad gluten-free has come so far that I can pick a more extravagant last meal….maybe chocolate croissants.  Never in my lifetime, did I expect to live to experience gluten-free pizza so accessible and tasty.

Gluten-Free Pizza: Las Vegas Style: Gluten-Free Pizza in Oven

Gluten-free pizza has certainly come a long way in the past 20 years!

Recently, I was honored to speak at the International Pizza Expo in Las Vegas on behalf of the National Foundation for Celiac Awareness (NFCA). Gluten-free pizza is a HOT trend and operators across the country want to know what it takes to include gluten-free as an option for their customers, so I was thrilled to be asked to attend. Over 7,000 pizza operators attend this show annually to taste the latest, greatest ingredients, find new equipment, and attend educational sessions to learn how to make their business more successful. The energy at this show is over the top and the events are show stoppers. These operators are serious competitors, too. The contests happening right on the “All Pizza, All-of-the-Time Show Floor” included Bake Offs,  Freestyle Acrobatic Dough Tossing, Pizza Challenges, and Demonstrations for pizzas, salads, and beer brewing.  What an amazing experience.

My educational session, “How Pizzerias Can Serve a Gluten-Free Pie” included 3 panelists. As moderator and speaker, I provided education about serving diners with gluten-related disorders, the importance of training and safe preparation. My panelists, GREAT Kitchens grads (a training course from NFCA on safe gluten-free food preparation) Adam and Debbie Goldberg from Fresh Brothers, LA area, and Willy Olunds, from Willy O’s in Michigan, gave the attendees real life experience in serving gluten-free pizza. These experts gave different perspectives since Fresh Brothers has 8 locations and Willy O’s is an independent operation.

Gluten-Free Pizza: Las Vegas Style: Willy O

Willy O himself with his delicious corn-based gluten-free pizza.

Willy invited me to tag along during his pizza competition in the non-traditional category. (No gluten-free category yet, but maybe next year.) According to Willy and his wife, Carla, this is highly irregular to allow non-participants in the competition area. I felt honored and so impressed with the intense passion each competitor brought to their pie including Willy. His unique corn-based crust and decadent ingredients made for a pretty impressive entry.

Elizabeth Falkner

Iron Chef Redemption challenger Elizabeth Falkner doing her kale demonstration.

Other GREAT experiences included hanging out with the staff at Venice Bakery. (Their booth was amazing and so was the pizza!) I also sat in the front row and watched Iron Chef Redemption challenger Elizabeth Falkner demonstrate kale salad (crispy, fresh, and blanched kale) and actually met her after the demo. She’s really cool.  I had some time to check out the exhibitors, so I  said “hi” to  old friends like Joel Schut from RW Bakers, Pamela and Alison from Pamela’s, and the DeIorio’s team.  Best of all I made a new friend, Denise San Filippo (a fellow gluten-free gal) from Schar. Denise and I hit the strip one night and had a fabulous gluten-free dinner at Mon Ami Gabi in the Paris Hotel.  From our window, we could see the Eiffel Tower and watch the Bellagio fountain show. (Sometimes this job is grueling!) Our waitress was well-educated about allergens and gluten which gave us confidence in our restaurant choice especially when she answered all of our probing questions correctly.  She even brought us toasted gluten-free bread and warm olives for our starter. Denise had the scallops and I tried the Lemon Chicken with shallow Pom Frites. (Shallow means fried separately in a pan not a deep fryer.) It was delicious, especially the fried potatoes.

Gluten-Free Pizza: Las Vegas Style: Venice Bakery

Me and the Venice Bakery Team

Gluten-Free Pizza: Las Vegas Style: Beckee and Joel

Me and Joel from RW Bakery

Eiffel Tower

Our view from our gluten-free-friendly restaurant.

With every expo and conference I attend, I have the opportunity to meet new people and can’t help but feel ecstatic over the progress we’re making.  20 years ago, I thought I would never eat pizza again.  Now, there are people seeking information on how to make both delicious and safe gluten-free pizza.   And, to be able to be a part of that is a GREAT feeling.

– Beckee

April 15, 2013 at 12:48 pm Leave a comment

Take Me Out to the Ball Game! Family Fun & a New Gluten-Free Stand at the Phillies’ Stadium

Spring is has sprung and that means baseball is here!  All of us at the National Foundation for Celiac Awareness (NFCA) have started following our favorite teams and are ready for a great season of America’s favorite pastime. And, we are preparing for our annual night out at the ballpark.

This year, Celiac Awareness Night with the Philadelphia Phillies is on Friday, August 16that Citizens Bank Park as the Phillies host the Los Angeles Dodgers. This will be NFCA’s 6th Celiac Awareness Night and we are looking forward to a great night of great baseball.

This year, we are excited to have a special free raffle to offer visitors to our information table near Section 210.   Thanks to the Phillies and Aramark, the basket will include Phillies memorabilia, two tickets to a 2013 regular season game in section 116, a preferred parking pass and a complementary food coupon valued at $30. Better yet, there will be an expanded menu at the gluten-free concession stand that is set up for NFCA’s night out.

Last Friday, I went to the Phillies Home Opener.  I either am a terrible influence or a great grandmother as I snuck my grandson Zachary out of school for the afternoon so he could cheer on the home team. The weather was perfect, the seats were good and we were all set to start a winning season.  Unfortunately, the Phillies weren’t quite as ready as we were and lost to the Kansas City Royals. As the crowd streamed out at the 7th inning stretch, my grandson refused to lose faith and declared, “I am a Phillies fan and I am staying!”

Grandson at Phillies Game

My grandson checking out the new gluten-free concession stand at Citizens Bank Park. Such a dedicated fan!

We did have a great chance to check out the new permanent gluten-free concession stand in Section 136. What a boost to the Phillies experience! We had delicious hot dogs and cheesesteaks and watched as people who were thrilled to find gluten-free food so available ordered pizza and chicken fingers. Sweet Christine’s furnished brownies and other sweet treats, along with the hot dog rolls.  Of course, you can get a gluten-free brew with that dog—Redbridge beer and Woodchuck Hard Cider.

Gluten-Free Phillies Fans

I had the pleasure of meeting Teddy and Caitlin, two fans stopping by the gluten-free concession stand.

No matter what the final score, it always is a good day at the ball park. With more gluten-free food, it is even better.

See you at Celiac Awareness Night!  You can grab your tickets here.

Play ball!

– Nancy

April 9, 2013 at 11:53 am Leave a comment

Gluten-Free, Miami and Me

I don’t know how many of you are like me but when I travel, I pack most of my food with me so that I know exactly what I am eating at all times.  That usually means one suitcase full of food including my handy Magic Bullet for my morning gluten-free shake.  But a few weeks ago, I was off to South Florida with the National Foundation for Celiac Awareness (NFCA) team and there was no room for all of my food.  This made me a little nervous, but I knew that I could manage this trip because of all the additional knowledge I’ve gained from working with NFCA.  Plus, everyone I would be meeting would be gluten-free, so how hard could it be?

The flight down wasn’t too bad since I had armed myself with ThinkThin bars (there’s always 2 in my bag) and bottled water.  By the time I checked into the hotel, it was so late there was no need to eat.  The next morning, I took another bar and water with me for breakfast and was off to visit a member of our Gluten-Free South Florida Group.  We spent time talking and sharing our stories of diagnosis- guess who else travels with food?  Isn’t it a great feeling when you realize you are not alone in your pursuit of gluten-free food and desire not to be cross-contaminated?  It’s like a big hug from the world telling you it will all be okay.

Dinner worked out well that evening at Seasons 52, a restaurant that had a gluten-free menu.  Even though they are a chain restaurant, I went with another member of the South Florida Gluten-Free Group who has eaten there many times and felt safe in her recommendation.  Plus, I was starving!

The following day was literally a GREAT day.  Alice Bast, NFCA’s Founder, was invited to speak at a country club in Gulfstream, Florida.  They were trained by NFCA’s Gluten-Free Resource Education and Awareness Training (GREAT) Kitchens program, so the entire meal was gluten-free and I felt confident the chefs understood safe gluten-free food preparation.  If any of you have heard Alice speak, you know that she is dynamic in her presentation and her passion for celiac and gluten-sensitivity radiates from her inner core.  The crowd of more than 100 was in tune with gluten-free and more than half knew about celiac disease or are personally affected by this autoimmune disorder.  They all had such amazing questions and were engaged throughout the evening.  Most of the guests were also shocked at how delicious the gluten-free meal was and the flour-less chocolate torte was exquisite!  It was so great to be surrounded by people who understood the need for safe (and tasty!) gluten-free food.

My final day, I visited with a doctor who has non-celiac gluten sensitivity.  We met at his home where he made me a fabulous gluten-free grilled cheese on Udi’s bread.  Oh, and truth- we split a gluten-free chocolate bar.  After talking for three hours about all things gluten-free and NFCA, I had to go or I would have made myself at home for dinner.

Now what is it that I want you to take away from my trip south?  I survived and thrived without a full suitcase of food.  We have an amazing and inspirational community that I am fortunate to meet on my travels and in the Philadelphia region.  All of you teach me something new in our conversations and emails.  I leave tonight for overseas…with just 3 bags of gluten-free food.  I’m not scared, I’m confident.  But I wouldn’t be if I hadn’t found NFCA and the amazing gluten-free community.  Thank you for giving me my wings back.

– Kimberly

March 18, 2013 at 11:48 am Leave a comment

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