Posts tagged ‘workshop’

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


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

5 NFCA Webinars to Watch Right Now (Plus 1 on the Way)

You’ve learned the basics of gluten-free, and now you’re ready to learn more information. Well, you can read until you’re blue in the face, but there’s another, more engaging way to get those facts and tidbits you’re looking for: Webinars.

In case you didn’t know, NFCA hosts a monthly webinar series, with topics ranging from everyday food choices to gluten-free holiday prep. The webinars are free, and we always post the recording and slides in our archive, so you can go back and listen again and again. Here are 5 webinars you can find in our archive right now.

NFCA Webinars

1. Food as Medicine for Celiac Disease: Nutrition Beyond the Gluten-Free Diet

In this webinar, NFCA Scientific/Medical Advisory Board Member Rachel Begun, MS, RD, offers practical advice on how to incorporate foods into our diet that heal the body and can even prevent disease. Pay close attention to her tips on combining different foods, like leafy greens and citrus, to improve absorption of nutrients.

Watch this Webinar

2. Maintaining a Healthy Weight While Eating Gluten-Free: The Importance of Mindful Eating and Physical Activity

How often do you eat because you’re stressed? Or tired? Or bored? Dietitian and local celiac support group founder Amy Jones, MS, RD, LD, reveals some of the habits that contribute to weight gain, especially when following a gluten-free lifestyle. (Did you really eat that many cookies before you went gluten-free?) We bet you’ll have an “A-ha!” moment listening to this.

Watch this Webinar

3. Top 10 Ways to Get Gluten-Free Kids to Eat Healthy

This webinar is designed for dietitians who counsel families affected by gluten-related disorders, but there are plenty of tips anyone can use. EA Stewart, BS, MBA, RD, walks you through the best ways to set up a gluten-free kitchen, plan meals with your kids and foster good eating habits by putting healthy options within reach.

Watch this Webinar

4. Nutrition and Training for the Gluten-Free Athlete

NFCA Athlete for Awareness Peter Bronski leads this webinar about the best ways to fuel your body with a well-balanced gluten-free diet. Pete explains what to eat before, during and after an athletic activity, then answers actual training questions from the audience.

Watch this Webinar

5. The Importance of School Nurse Education and How-To Strategies for Parents of Gluten-Free Kids

Summer vacation is just starting, but now is a great time to brush up on what you’ll need to review with school nurses, administrators and teachers in the fall. Nina Spitzer, President of CDF’s Greater Phoenix Chapter, outlines the 504 plan and who you’ll need on your child’s School Team. Bonus! Get a list of recipes for yummy gluten-free lunches.

Watch this Webinar

Coming Up…

Our next live webinar will take place on June 20, 2012 at 2 p.m. ET/11 a.m. PT. The topic will be “Yes, You Can Eat! When Gluten Isn’t the Only Ingredient You Avoid.” The webinar will feature NFCA’s Answers from a Dietitian blogger Melinda Dennis, MS, RD, LDN. Sponsored by Lucy’s.

Register for this Webinar

May 11, 2012 at 10:02 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

Attending a Celiac Disease Patient Conference: Part 1

Earlier this month, I had the opportunity to attend the Intestinal Immune-Based Inflammatory Diseases Symposium at Columbia University. It was a joint event presented by Columbia’s Celiac Disease Center and the Jill Roberts Center for Inflammatory Bowel Disease at Weill Cornell Medical College. I was there for the Patient Program, but it also included a CME track for physicians, dietitians and other healthcare providers.

Gluten-Free Rolls

Yes, these are gluten-free. I'll get to that in a bit.

I had been to conferences before, but never one that focused specifically on celiac disease. Needless to say, I was stoked to meet people who are just as excited to talk about gluten-related disorders as we are.

First up, I’m covering the scene: The People and The Food. Watch for my next post, when I get down to the nitty-gritty: The Education.

The People

As someone who spends more than 8 hours a day in front of a computer, it was a treat to get some face-to-face time with patients and healthcare providers. Breakfast, lunch and dinner afforded us plenty of time for chit chat, and I met a wonderful group of people.

There was Patty McG, a spunky teacher who was diagnosed with celiac disease late in life. She was so full of energy, so inquisitive at sessions and so hilarious at mealtime – a thrill to be around.

Andrea and Allie

Our new friends: Andrea and Allie!

Then there were Andrea and Alexandra, a mother-daughter duo who flew in from Ohio for an appointment at Columbia’s Celiac Disease Center, then stuck around a few extra days for the patient conference. Alex is a senior in high school and was preparing for a 2-week trip to Spain. Kristin and I immediately offered some travel resources to help her stay gluten-free while abroad. They were thrilled to hear about the new Gluten-Free in College section on our website. We’re sure Allie will be a well prepared gluten-free student come move-in day.

Next, I met Jonas Ludvigsson, MD, PhD, a renowned celiac disease researcher from Sweden who is doing research at the Mayo Clinic on a Fulbright Scholarship. I’ve posted a number of his studies on our Research News feed, so it was an honor to spend some one-on-one time with him. Plus, he’s a hoot. (He also wrote a guest post for NFCA back in November.)

Finally, there was Barbara Halpern, a long-time champion of NFCA. Barbara is a practicing dietitian in not one, not two, but three states. She even does nutrition counseling via Skype, so she’s never far out of reach. She leads a local celiac support group, and she’s done wonders to promote our Primary Care CME to physicians.

The Food

What’s a celiac disease conference without delicious gluten-free food? Each day, we enjoyed a lavish spread at each meal, including a seemingly endless supply of gluten-free rolls from Free Bread Inc. These rolls were a huge hit with gluten-free and gluten eaters alike. They were warm and hard on the outside, moist and doughy on the inside. Flavors included the Jalaa!, with cheddar cheese, buttermilk, and jalapeno, and our favorite, the MOXY, with gluten-free oats and seeds, molasses and agave nectar. It wasn’t uncommon for someone to eat two or three rolls in one sitting. (Attendees came from far and wide, so they were stocking up while they could.)

Fresh salmon

This salmon filet was HUGE!

To balance out all that bread, we filled our plates with dishes like salmon, roasted vegetables, chicken with a Dijon sauce, and cold gluten-free pasta salad from the buffet. I have never seen salmon filets as big or beautiful as they ones they served. They were so fresh and tasty, I barely used the sauce.

Gluten-Free Pasta Salad

Gluten-free pasta salad.

For dessert, there was gluten-free cheesecake – plain and chocolate – and fresh fruit. The cheesecakes were light and creamy, not like the dense cheesecakes I’ve had in the past. And who doesn’t like fruit?

Stay tuned for my follow-up post, including some key takeaways from the sessions.

– Cheryl

March 23, 2012 at 1:20 pm 2 comments

Turning Celiac into Service

There’s a certain oomph that comes with having a personal connection to a cause. You dig deeper, work harder and never settle for mediocre. So, it’s no surprise that many of the successful gluten-free companies and organizations out there were founded by someone affected by celiac disease or gluten sensitivity.

Here’s just a sample of gluten-free entrepreneurs we work with through NFCA’s GREAT Business Association:

  • Craig Belser and Kevin Seplowitz over at Bard’s Beer are both diagnosed celiacs.
  • Vanessa Phillips, who has celiac disease, started Feel Good Foods with her chef husband, Tryg Siverson.
  • Simply Shari’s was founded by Shari Cole and her father, Larry Schneider. Larry has celiac disease, while Shari’s daughter has autism and showed an improvement in symptoms on a gluten-free diet.
  • Kettle Cuisine Founder & President Jerry Shafir brought gluten-free soups to grocery stores after his daughter was diagnosed with celiac disease.
  • Dick and Ju Reed started Chebe without the intention of marketing it as gluten-free. When Ju discovered she was intolerant to gluten, they reaffirmed their dedication to providing a natural and gluten-free product.
  • Jill Brack founded Glow Gluten Free after she and her daughter were diagnosed with celiac disease.

And then there’s Alice. Her enthusiasm and energy is so infectious that she caught the attention of Dr. David Ajibade, who runs Building Strength Webinars. He asked Alice to share her story and encourage others to take action like she did. The webinar, Turning Celiac into Service: Unleashing Your Passion and Life Purpose will take place next Thursday, Dec. 15, at 9pm ET. It’s free for all to attend.

Learn more and find the registration link on NFCA’s Webinars page.

If you have a story of turning celiac into service (or a business), submit your empowerment story to NFCA.

December 9, 2011 at 2:01 pm 1 comment

Teaching Student Chefs the Importance of Gluten-Free Training

Twice a year, I have the fortunate honor to be invited to a ‘Gluten-Free Baking Lab’ held at the Lincoln Southeast Community College Food Service/Hospitality program in Lincoln, NE. The students bake items from CIA instructor Chef Richard Coppedge’s cookbook, Gluten-Free Baking, and learn about the needs of those on a gluten-free diet.  The process starts by thoroughly cleaning the kitchen, equipment, and utensils; blending the flours (Chef Coppedge provides five different blends); pairing up; and selecting recipes from the cookbook. The baking begins. Then I arrive for the tasting and a Q & A with the students.

Gluten-free buffet

Check out the spread!

You might think it is pretty bold of me to assume that what’s being served on the plates is really safe and totally gluten-free. Well, you’d be right – if I didn’t know the lead instructor, Certified Executive Chef Brandon Harpster, is GREAT trained. In fact, six of the instructors on the foodservice staff at LSCC completed GREAT Kitchens training back in 2008.  So, I feel pretty confident in the guidance and instruction received by these young chefs.

As I arrive for the tasting, the proud students parade into the classroom with their masterpieces. I snap their pictures, and they gently place them on the table. I get a bit choked up every time I attend these labs. When I was diagnosed almost 20 years ago, I could never have imagined culinary students being exposed to gluten-free baking and embracing the challenge and opportunity. I really believe that 5-10 years from now, all culinary students will have a standard class on allergen-free baking and cooking. It will be commonplace. This generation has grown up with allergies or celiac disease; they have friends or family members who have celiac disease, gluten sensitivity or allergies. Yes, there really is hope and promise in the foodservice industry. We are seeing big strides every day. It was thrilling to hear the students talk about working in restaurants that have gluten-free options, such as a successful local pizza chain and others in well-respected establishments with skilled chefs who “get gluten-free.”

Gluten-Free Cinnamon Rolls

Gluten-Free Cinnamon Rolls

The sampling included Strawberry Bread, Chocolate (Red) Velvet Cake minus the red food coloring, Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Brownies, Cinnabon-ish Cinnamon Rolls, Angel Food Cake, Peanut Butter Cookies, and Zucchini Pumpkin Bread. While they munched, I shared a brief description of my NFCA position, celiac disease history, and current marketplace trends. I really wanted to make sure we had time for questions because I was curious about aspiring culinary students want to know. They had some GREAT questions. Here are a few with my responses.

Student Question: Besides the obvious sources of gluten, what else do chefs need to be concerned about when preparing gluten-free meals?

Beckee’s Answer: Gluten can be hidden in unlikely places. I once learned the hard way that flour can be added to refried beans to thicken them. Gluten can be hidden in sauces, marinades, flavorings and many processed foods. Reading labels is very important, but so is knowing that gluten can be found in soup bases, soy sauce, stabilizers and thickeners.

If you work in a scratch kitchen and know your ingredients and sources, that’s only part of the answer to knowing safe gluten-free preparation. The most important skill to learn is how to prepare gluten-free foods safely because cross contamination is a huge concern to your customers. Picking up a bread knife and cutting a baked potato can turn a perfectly gluten-free option into something that can harm someone on a medically restricted gluten-free diet.  Your customers must feel confident in your expertise to serve safe options. Educating yourselves by taking GREAT Kitchens training will provide that trust and give you another tool in your culinary skills when you start hunting for jobs.

Gluten-Free Zucchini Pumpkin Bread

Gluten-Free Zucchini Pumpkin Bread - Delicious!

Student Question: What is the potential for increased sales for restaurants that “go gluten-free”?

Beckee’s Answer: One in 133 people has celiac disease, and 1 in 18 has gluten intolerance. They are the members of the party that will be making the reservations. Most diners don’t dine alone; they bring friends and family with them. If they order dishes to share, they’ll make them gluten-free. They’re loyal to those restaurants that can safely serve gluten-free and will look for the GREAT seal of approval like the GREAT Kitchens decal, logo, or a reference on their menu telling guests that training is in place. People needing gluten-free options will only increase over the next 5 years due to more awareness and diagnoses.  Advertising gluten-free options can be a differentiator in the restaurant business.

Gluten-Free Strawberry Cake

What's a celebration without some gluten-free cake?

Student Question: If you have a reaction or get sick, do you call the restaurant and let them know?

Beckee’s Answer: Excellent question. Honestly, in the past, I wasn’t consistent about doing so. I’d just take it off my list of dining options and tell my gluten-free pals to beware. However, when I started working with chefs and training restaurants, I asked if they wanted to know. Unanimously, the answer was “Yes.” How can you fix the problem if you’re not aware of it? Now, I always contact the establishment, and I encourage others to do so. I can remember talking with a general manager for a restaurant who had a gluten-free menu but no staff training. He told me they “just didn’t get many people asking for gluten-free.” Hmmm, wonder why?

The last thought that I left the class with was this: When you go out to eat or dine, what are you thinking about after you’ve order your meal? Are you thinking about your gorgeous date? The hilarious joke someone told at the table? Maybe you’re anticipating the fabulous food that will be served soon. Sometimes, people with celiac disease are solely focused on what’s happening in the kitchen. Will they make a fresh salad instead of just picking off the croutons? Will the cooks clean the grill before charring the steak? Does the restaurant really have a dedicated fryer? Through GREAT gluten-free education, all the guests at the table can enjoy the ambience, company, and great food you set before them.

Bon Appetite!

– Beckee

Learn more about gluten-free training through GREAT Kitchens at

December 5, 2011 at 11:36 am 4 comments

A Blogger A Day: The Spicy RD

A Blogger A Day, the Gluten-Free Way logoName: EA Stewart, MBA, RD
Lives in: Del Mar, CA

Blogs at:
Tweets at:
Like her at:

Why we’re fans:
EA joined NFCA’s panel of “Ask the Dietitian” experts back in January, and we’ve been thrilled with her work. EA has the ability to put important nutrition advice into terms anyone can understand, and she does so in a casual and conversational way (Got camel’s milk?). It’s a talent that makes us even more excited to have EA host two of our #GFchat sessions on Twitter. EA will be covering Celiac Disease & Women’s Health on May 17 and Parenting 101 on May 24.

(The first #GFchat is this Tuesday at 8 p.m. Topic: Newly Diagnosed. Get details here.)

EA Stewart, MBA, RD

EA Stewart, MBA, RD

EA’s Story: I was diagnosed with Sjogren’s Syndrome and fibromyalgia shortly after having my children. My primary symptoms included neuropathy, join pain, muscle aches, and migraines. Frustrated by the lack of treatments for both, I researched both conditions and discovered a link between celiac disease and Sjogren’s syndrome.  Although my blood tests came back negative for celiac disease, a genetic test revealed I carry a gene linked to celiac disease , plus a gene potentially linked to gluten sensitivity.  I decided to go on a gluten-free diet and that, along with following a LEAP diet for other food sensitivities, has kept me symptom-free for the past 3 years.

According to EA: The most unexpected part of going gluten-free was re-discovering the love of baking that I enjoyed as a child.

A taste of The Spicy RD:

For more of NFCA’s Celiac Awareness Month celebration, visit

May 9, 2011 at 9:08 am 2 comments

Sweet Success at Gluten-Free Dessert Class

Just desserts. That’s what I ate for dinner last Thursday night.

There was chocolate. There was sugar. There was even heavy cream. It wasn’t the least bit healthy, but sometimes you just have to chalk it up to a good time and plan to balance it out tomorrow.

Gluten-Free Pear Panna Cotta

Gluten-Free Pear Panna Cotta. Fancy, right?

Why so many sweets? Well, I scored a spot in a Gluten-Free Dessert Class at Sur La Table, hosted by pastry chef Monica Glass. If you haven’t heard us gush over her before, Monica is the chief dessert maker at 10 Arts Bistro & Lounge in Philadelphia, also known as the site of a scrumptious Blogger Breakfast held before Appetite for Awareness 2010. Monica whipped up gluten-free French toast for the bloggers, then hopped over to Appetite for Awareness, where she demoed a dessert using pears. They were sophisticated dishes that seemed to be more “watch and enjoy” rather than “do it yourself,” but I was content to smile and nod.


Sur La Table has a fantastic kitchen space.

Lo and behold, those pears were part of the curriculum. In addition to Gingered Pear Panna Cotta and Poached Pears, we would be making Chocolate Hazelnut Tarts, Chickpea Shortbread and 10 Arts’ infamous Chocolate Fudge Brownies. (A heck of a menu, right?)

There were about 14 of us in the class, divided into two tables. My group worked on the panna cotta and shortbread, while the other group made the poached pears and tarts. We all made the brownies.

Gluten-Free Crackers

They even had gluten-free snacks for us!

As we worked, I naturally inquired what brought each attendee to the class. Almost everyone was affected by celiac disease in some way, whether they had it or a family member did. And while none of us had met before, we managed to find connections in the group. Todd and Tracy had been at Appetite for Awareness 2010 and knew one of NFCA’s Board members. Linda was one of the all-stars who volunteered at Appetite for Awareness. Amanda, one of the few who didn’t have celiac, was an aspiring pastry chef and knew the gals at Food for All Market, a gluten-free shop in the Chestnut Hill section of Philadelphia I just happened to visit a month or so ago.

Gluten-free classmates

My new friends, Todd and Tracy!

Maybe you’ve already experienced this at a support group meeting or gluten-free event. That “small world” feeling you get when it seems like everyone knows someone who’s crossed your path. There’s also an amazing sense of normalcy that goes along with it. The group talked about everything from symptoms, to misdiagnoses, to concerns about proper food prep when eating out. By the end, we joked around like old friends – a drastic change from the timid way we first approached the table.

Best of all? The class was pretty darn empowering. Some were experienced bakers; others were still learning the ropes, but we all agreed that the recipes, while gourmet, were easy enough to make at home. And, oh, did we reap the fruits of our labor…

Gluten-Free Poached Pears

Gluten-Free Poached Pears


February 21, 2011 at 3:16 pm 1 comment

Back to School (Gluten-Free Snacktime Included)

It may be December. It may be years since I carried a knapsack. But last week, I went back to school. And it was fun!

On Dec. 8, memberCeliac Workshop Displays of the Methacton School District in suburban Philadelphia held a Celiac Disease Workshop for parents of grade school children. The goal was to raise awareness of celiac disease and to answer questions parents have about the gluten-free diet.  Naturally, I offered to help out and share some materials from the National Foundation for Celiac Awareness (NFCA).

Two very energetic and enthusiastic women with a passion for telling the world about celiac disease organized this evening event. Marykay Lojewski and Caren Meyer both have children at Worcester Elementary School.Celiac Workshop Hosts

Marykay has celiac disease and kicked off the evening by telling her very poignant story as she lived for years getting sicker and sicker as she sought a cure for everything from constant nausea to violent stomach pains to anemia. (Sound familiar?) Marykay even shared her Personal Story on NFCA’s website.

Caren is a holistic health coach with extensive knowledge of the gluten-free diet. Caren answered all sorts of questions relating to healthy living and going gluten-free.

Celiac Workshop MaterialsMarykay, Caren and I covered the basics of celiac disease, the most common symptoms, what people on a gluten-free diet can eat and what is taboo, and let everyone know about NFCA’s activities and programs so they can find more information and support. Between the three of us, there were tons of handouts that workshop attendees took home.

Most interesting was the response from the folks participating in the workshop. Several of them have been wondering about their own symptoms, from migraines to neuropathy to “brain fog.” This workshop gave them a chance to share their concerns and to get tips on how to move forward.

The workshop wasn’t all talk and no play. Marykay and Caren made sure everyone attending learned that gluten-free food can be delicious and healthy. Thanks to Jacquelyne Rennie, owner of JayBee’s Café of Skippack, PACeliac Workshop Attendees , we enjoyed fabulous gluten-free treats.

An added treat came from Marykay’s chef sister-in-law: Quinoa Salad!  Fortunately, I was able to get the recipe, and I’m sharing it with you fine folks. (See below.)

Marykay and Caren plan to hold another workshop in 2011. In the meantime, we all can make that New Year’s resolution to eat in a more healthy and nutritious way, including those who are gluten-free!

Quinoa Salad

from Chef Helen Lojewski
Gulph Mills Golf Club

1 cup quinoa (uncooked)
1 small cucumber sliced and cut in quarters
1 -1 ½ cup cherry tomatoes (halved)
½ small red onion chopped
Salt and Pepper to taste
Apple Cider Vinegar to taste (about 2 T)

Cook quinoa (see below).
When quinoa has cooled, gently mix in remaining ingredients.
Serve at room temperature.

How to cook basic quinoa:
Bring 2 cups water and 1 cup quinoa to a boil.
Cover and simmer for 15 minutes.
(Note: Some quinoa requires soaking before cooking. See individual recipes.)


December 21, 2010 at 12:34 pm Leave a comment

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