Posts tagged ‘year of you’

15 Cheap Gluten-Free Things To Do This Summer In and Around Philadelphia

As the National Foundation for Celiac Awareness (NFCA) revs up for Appetite for Awareness in Philadelphia, we asked our local volunteer Annsley to share a few places that make this city great. Annsley is a teacher, a mom, and owner of Gluten Freedoms, a gluten-free consulting business. She also is an avid Philadelphian!

My daughter is not one to sit still (and neither am I).  So, summer is the perfect time for us to play in the sun and share precious outdoor moments that don’t involve gluten.

  1. Go Fruit or Veggie Picking – If you’re looking for Organic, Integrated Pest Management (IMP), or just run of the mill fruit, this is the season.  Strawberries have come and gone, but there are still blueberries, blackberries, raspberries, and peaches to come.  At Longview Center for Agriculture, you can pick fresh veggies like kale, collards, basil, mustard greens, and thyme as well as blueberries.  (They happen to also make AMAZING gluten-free smoothies).  Call ahead to see if what you want to pick is still in season.

    Blueberry Picking

    My daughter and I picking blueberries.

  2. Go Hiking or Camping – It’s easy to get caught up in the busy city life.  One of the most peaceful and relaxing things we do is find a trail where we can stop, look, and listen to nature.  Philadelphia has one of the largest urban park systems in the world, spanning about 10,500-acres!  You can find trails close at the Horticulture Center or at the Wissahickon Valley Park, (our favorite place), that has over 50 miles of trails that follow the Wissahickon Creek.  There are plenty of state parks and the Pocono Mountains have no shortage of campgrounds and cabins.

    Hiking on the Wissahickon Trail

    Hiking the Wissahickon Trail

  3. Engage in Water Play – You can stay right in front of your home with a hose and a squirt bottle or within the neighborhood at spraygrounds, swimming pools, and creeks.  In Philadelphia we are lucky to have a newly created urban wet zone called Sister Cities Park.

    Playing in the Pool

    The girls cooling off in their ducky float.

  4. Visit Frog Ponds – A city is full of wildlife; you just have to know where to find it.  It’s pretty cool to watch the tadpoles swim, the camouflage frogs leap in the air, and the croaks reverberate all around.  The Schuylkill Environmental Center, Wissahickon Creek at Mt. Airy Ave., Pastorious Park all have ponds with croaking frogs.

    The Frog Pond

    We spotted a frog!

  5. Create a Frozen Treat – There is nothing better than a cool, sweet treat on a hot summer’s day.  Once my daughter and I have picked our delicious berries, we often make them into frozen popsicles.  In a pinch, we will use fruit juice or frozen fruit to make popsicles.  Ice cream is also a delicious summer treat.  If you don’t have an ice cream maker, there is always the fun plastic baggie method!

    Homemade Popsicles

    Homemade Popsicles

  6. Make and Play with Bubbles – Need an afternoon activity for the summer heat?  Mix your own bubble mixtureand/or make your own bubble blowers out of pipe cleaners or old hangers.  Of course, the store bought method is also excellent!

    Blowing Bubbles

    Blowing bubbles

  7. Preserve or Can Fruit– I learned how to do this while spending summers with my grandma in Alabama.  When we have leftover berries, we preserve them to keep that summery flavor all year round.

    Preserved Strawberries

    Our preserved strawberries

  8. Drink Tea at The Japanese Garden – Here you can come in and have tea and learn about the Japanese ritual, which is considered an art form, a spiritual discipline, and a way to socialize.  In the Japanese culture, tea ceremonies have been practiced for over 450 years. Shofuso is the Japanese Garden next to Fairmount Park’s Horticulture Center in Philadelphia and it offers tea ceremonies and tea classes.
  9. Plant a Garden– You can plant in pots or in the ground, with seeds or buy a baby plant.  Either way, it’s fun to get your hands a little dirty and to watch as your plant blossoms before your eyes.  We like to plant things we can eat like herbs, tomatoes, and peas!

    Planting Peas in a Garden

    Planting peas in the garden

  10. Create a Lemonade Stand – Remember those youthful summer days when you made your own lemonade stand?  You can squeeze your own lemons or have a quick fix with the frozen kind.  It’s the perfect, refreshing, gluten-free drink.
  11. Bike or Rollerblade – It’s great to get out and enjoy the fresh air on your bike, scooter, or blades.  Here in Philly we have a path along the Schuylkill River banks where you can bring your own set of wheels or rent them right in front of Lloyd Hall on Kelly Drive.


    Biking on the sidewalk

  12. Go Geocaching or Letterboxing – Both are outdoor treasure hunting games where X marks the spot.  If you’re an adventurous soul who enjoys a compass and a map, Geocaching using GPS might be for you.  If you’d prefer following clues, than your adventure game is Letterboxing.


    Going letterboxing

  13. Watch the Trains – Some towns have garden railways, which are miniature worlds set up in gardens through which weather resistant model trains abound. If you are local to Philadelphia, you can watch them at Morris Arboretum or the “real” big commuter and Amtrak trains at 30th Street Station.

    Watching trains

    Watching the trains at Morris Arboretum

  14. Interact with Sculptures – Sculpture gardens meld the outdoors with art.  All ages can interact with them, and they really spur some great conversations.  We went to one at the Abington Arts Center, and my daughter stuck her hand through the mouth of the sculpture. Then she promptly told me that they were saying, “No, you may not do that!”  (Wonder where she got that from!)

    Sculpture Garden

    Interacting with the sculptures in the garden.

  15. Watch Outdoor Concerts and Movies – Most cities hold (FREE) outdoor concerts and outdoor movies, where you can pack a picnic and share with friends.  It’s a great way to go relax, be outdoors, and enjoy the cooler night air.  In Philadelphia there are multiple venues all over the city (to list a few): Pastorious Park (Chestnut Hill), Schuylkill Banks (Center City), Philly at the Movies (rotating Center City venues), Moonlight Movies in Mt. Airy, Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia’s Bike-In Movies (Center City South Street), The Awesome Fest Film Series at Liberty Lands Park (Northern Liberties), Gorgas Park Movie Night (Roxborough), Screenings Under the Stars at Penn’s Landing.

– Annsley

July 10, 2012 at 9:27 am 1 comment

5 Tips for Traveling Gluten-Free

[You learned how to cook gluten-free. You found local restaurants that serve gluten-free. Now, you have to travel gluten-free. Heading to an unfamiliar area can be intimidating, but fear not! Frequent flier Gluten-Free Mike has 5 tips to prepare you for any upcoming trip.]

Let’s face it, we’ve all had that moment of initial panic when we first received our celiac diagnosis. Speaking from personal experience, I know I was completely caught off guard and quite honestly had not even heard of celiac disease before I actually found out I had it. Sounds familiar, right?

Well, that was more than 10 years ago when the gluten-free landscape and celiac awareness were indeed at a very different place than they are today. Fast forward to today and awareness of and catering to celiacs has come a very long way, and perhaps nowhere is this more apparent than in the travel and hospitality industry.

Airplane taking off

I have been globe trekking since before I could walk, and when first diagnosed thought that celiac disease would throw a wrench into my love of travel.  To be honest, it did at first. My diagnosis came at a time when there were few good gluten-free products and they were difficult to source. Most restaurants had no clue what I was talking about and going abroad seemed to only magnify the confusion. I slowly but surely got back on the proverbial horse when I realized that celiac need not be limiting and that I needed to take control of the disease and live my life on my terms.

Over the years I have developed a few tips and tricks particularly when it comes to traveling with celiac disease, and I am happy to share some of them with you here:

1. All Airlines Are Not Created Equal.

If you are going to be flying, particularly long-haul international, check out a few carriers’ websites to see whether or not they offer a gluten-free meal option – some even provide samples of what they’ll include.  This will depend on length of flight and class of service, but most airlines will have a gluten-free option if your flight has meal service. Yes, some airlines do gluten-free better than others, and I have had some amazing gluten-free meals over the years – some even included a fresh gluten-free roll – can you imagine?  Will the gluten-free meal knock your socks off?  Likely not, but at least it is safe option to tide you over until you land.

The most important tip I can give when flying is as soon as you board, ask a flight attendant if your meal has been loaded BEFORE departure.  Oftentimes if there is a problem they can deal with it while on the ground vs. not being able to do anything at 35,000 feet. On a recent flight, my gluten-free meal was even noted right on my boarding pass – nice!  Another trick I use is when flying in a premium cabin to check out the airline’s online menus for the route. Most airlines have monthly menus for specific routes and these can be accessed online. I scan the menu to see if any of the “regular” options will work for me and more often than not there is something I can have. I have also seen more and more gluten-free snack item choices making their way on board shorter flights, which is always good to see.

2. Do Your Homework.

This sounds like a given, but just getting a feel for the area you’ll be visiting can help you enjoy your vacation (or business trip) a bit more.  I like to go online and look at the immediate vicinity around where I’ll be staying.  Where is the nearest supermarket?  What dining options are around?  Is there a local celiac group site that gives tips and advice for the area?  If a restaurant piques your interest, check out their menu or give them a ring to discuss whether they will be able to accommodate your needs. There are even an increasing number of hotel chains that now that cater to a host of dietary restrictions and food allergic travelers.  The more leg work you do before departure, the less stress you’ll have at your destination.

3. Speak the Language. 

Okay, this might be easier said than done but there is an easy solution if you find yourself in a country where you do not speak the language. Printable food allergy cards that you can either buy or download for free online.  My recent trip to Peru had me a bit leery as I do not speak Spanish.  Before I left, I printed out and laminated a few double-sided cards that  had both a celiac disease explanation and shellfish allergy notation that called out what I could and could not eat in detail.  Let me tell you that these were a lifesaver because each time I presented them, the server read them and could immediately tell me what would work for me on their menu. If I was in a location where I thought the cross-contamination from shellfish could be an issue, the servers actually brought the cards back to the kitchen for the chef and kitchen staff to read. I had zero issues or reactions on my most recent journey, which was the first time I have brought such cards along with me – and best of all they were available free online.

4. Pack Accordingly. 

No, I am not talking about what clothes to bring – though that is sometimes equally as important.  When I travel, be it by car, train, plane, or horseback (okay, that last one is a bit of poetic license) I always take along what I call my Gluten-Free Contingency Pack.  Depending on the length of my journey, I always carry a bag of nibbles so that I have something to nosh on if I find myself delayed or not having any gluten-free options readily available while en route.

So what’s in my contingency pack?  Well, I am glad you asked.  I typically include a few gluten-free snack items like chips, pretzels, cookies, or snack mix along with a couple meal replacement bars or snack bars.  Okay, and maybe there might be a chocolate bar (or two) in there.  A just-add-water type noodle snack or dry soup is also great to toss in your carry-on and I typically will carry those for ultra long-haul flights of 14 or more hours. I also like to toss a few snack items in my checked bag so I can have a snack at my hotel without having to pop-out to a supermarket right away.

5. Be Flexible.

Flexibility is really key. You might find yourself in a situation with limited knowledge of or availability of a host of gluten-free options. Don’t panic.  Regardless of the situation (and some of mine have been less than ideal) I have never gone hungry while on the road.  Sure, you might not always be able to have exactly what you want, but there will be something – trust me. I have always been amazed at how far people are willing to go to accommodate my dietary needs while on the road.  Also, a little education goes a long way.  I cannot count how many times I had someone on the road say “I had no idea that contained gluten” or “I have heard of celiac, but never knew why you couldn’t eat gluten.”  Just think, the more people become exposed to celiac disease, the less bumpy the road ahead becomes for all of us.

Perhaps the most important thing I have learned since my diagnosis is that I will not let being celiac define who I am or dictate what I can and cannot do, and you shouldn’t either.  Life does in fact continue and it’s for the better because I now know why I would get sick after certain meals and in retrospect, pre-diagnosis was actually more limiting than I have found celiac to be.

It’s a great big gluten-free world out there so please, get out there and enjoy it.  Oh, and there will be hiccups along the way – it’s just inevitable – but when they happen, look at them as learning experiences and not roadblocks.  They happen to all of us, gluten-free or not.

– Michael De Cicco-Butz

May 17, 2012 at 8:27 am 2 comments

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!


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

Dining Out Gluten-Free? 5 Ways to Try Something New

[It’s easy to get stuck in a dining rut. Chandice Probst of Gluten-Free Frenzy and CDF Arizona East Valley has some tips to help you get out there and find a new favorite place to eat gluten-free!]

For those of us living with celiac disease and non-celiac gluten sensitivity, dining out can become run of the mill with the same few places and the same dishes every time. It is time we look at dining out as an exciting adventure and something that will be satisfying and, more importantly, safe.

Dining out gluten-free

1. Try a new dish at your favorite restaurant.

Remember that episode of Seinfeld when George does everything opposite of what he would normally do and it works out in his favor? Now I am not telling you to eat gluten, NEVER. What I am saying is that if you are usually a chicken dish kind of person, go for the beef. Not a vegetarian? Try a vegetarian dish! You will be surprised by what you like that you didn’t even know you did.

2. Go Ethnic!

Some of the greatest restaurant reviews and eating experiences I have had were in other countries or in ethnic restaurants. Peruvian, Cuban, Ukrainian and Brazilian foods (I lived on Brazil’s manioc starch, gluten-free bread, Pao de Queijo, while visiting this country!). Indian cuisine is especially enjoyable for those living gluten-free. Most Indian cuisine is prepared without gluten (Naan is off limits). Those dishes that do require flour are often made with garbanzo bean flour. Make sure to always check first!

3. Find those diamond in the rough gluten-free dining establishments.

You can do that by trying new places and actively seeking out the reviews of others. Always make sure the chef is following proper practices required for those living gluten-free, then enjoy amazing gluten-free food you otherwise might not have.

Dining out gluten-free with friends

4. Make gluten-free eating fun within your own community!

Local support groups, expos and awareness events often introduce you to some of the greatest gluten-free foods and products you will ever eat! Make a day out of trying lots of new products in one place. It’s a great way to try before you buy as well.

5. There’s an app for that!

There are so many amazing resources out there that can provide you with great gluten-free reviews and advice on new, safe places to dine. One of the best I’ve found is Find Me Gluten Free. With this free app you can find gluten-free friendly restaurants based on your location. This is the app I use when traveling for awareness events and more! Knowing that the CEO has celiac disease himself gives me great confidence in knowing that I will find a safe and delicious restaurant, no matter where I am.

– Chandice Probst

May 10, 2012 at 2:05 pm Leave a comment

5 Tips to Avoid the Pitfalls of Processed Gluten-Free Food and Weight Gain

[If you’ve gained unwanted weight on the gluten-free diet, you’re not alone. Sometimes, it’s because your body is finally absorbing nutrients. Sometimes, it’s because you’re eating too much gluten-free junk. We asked Erin Elberson Lyon of Gluten-Free Fitness to share her tips on keeping your weight in check while maintaining a gluten-free lifestyle.]

Ah, the siren song of the gluten-free label.

After being newly diagnosed with celiac disease or non-celiac gluten sensitivity, there’s nothing quite so comforting as walking down the aisle of your favorite grocery or health food store and seeing “gluten-free” on a package of crackers.

Or a package of cookies.

Or a cake.

Or a loaf of bread.

Learning you have to follow a gluten-free diet for the rest of your life can be an overwhelming moment.  You start thinking of what you can’t eat, of all the things you’ll miss, and then you walk into the store and see all this wonderful food labeled gluten-free!  Maybe it will be OK.

Erin Elberson Lyon

Erin Elberson Lyon

So, you walk through the aisles and fill your cart up with boxes and bags of all shapes, sizes and varieties. You never really ate crackers before, but these say gluten-free, so better buy them!  And look – cupcakes! Better buy those, too. You know, just in case Armageddon comes to fruition and access to gluten-free food is eliminated. And, well, you deserve it. Because you are “suffering” with celiac disease.


Nope. Sorry.

Many of us with a medical diagnosis that limits our food choices have been in that thought pattern. I know I have. The joy of seeing things that are safe to eat overcomes all rational thought of if this item would be something you would have eaten before. Or, if the item is a nutritionally sound choice at all.  I have bought mixes of things I would never have dreamed of eating prior to being diagnosed with celiac.

But I bought them. Because I could. And they were safe.

As time went on, I learned to look beyond the gluten-free label and look at actual nutritional value.  To examine if the food I was putting into my mouth was taking me toward or further away from my health and athletic goals.  Many times packaged and processed gluten-free food is rich in simple carbohydrate and starches.  It also may have a higher fat content than its “gluten-y” counterpart.  These are not necessarily bad things all the time, but certainly something to take into consideration.  If you would not ordinarily have cookies after every meal, having them now because they are gluten-free is not something I can recommend. Having this abundance of packaged and minimally nutritious food can contribute to the weight gain that some people experience, gluten-free or not.

Happily, there has been an increased movement toward higher nutrition in pre-packaged foods over the past few years, and now there are some quite good choices out there.

There’s the key.  Make an educated, informed choice.  Don’t just grab because it says gluten-free.

Here are 5 quick tips to help you avoid the pitfalls of processed gluten-free food and potentially associated weight gain:

1. Learn how to read nutritional facts and ingredient labels.

Ideally, we’d all eat whole foods and fruits for snacks all the time, but let’s be real.  Sometimes you’re going to have gluten-free pasta, and you want to make an informed choice.

2. Make the majority of your diet whole, unprocessed (without a label) foods.

Many foods are naturally gluten-free (YAY!) and so need no gluten-free label.  Think fresh meats, eggs, dairy, poultry, fish, veggies, fruits, potatoes, nuts, seeds, and oils. There is a bounty of delicious, nutritious naturally gluten-free food out there, and these foods give you a lot of nutritional bang for your caloric buck. There are naturally gluten-free grains such as quinoa and rice as well, just be aware of potential cross-contamination in processing.  If in doubt, don’t eat it until you do some research.

3. Learn how to cook.

I’m not saying you need to be Betty Crocker over here.  But learning how to make a few simple dishes and feed yourself (and your family, if appropriate) can go a long way to increasing your ability to use those whole, naturally gluten-free foods in tasty ways.  Preparing food at home lets you control the quality of your ingredients, as well as how those ingredients are prepared.  And as a bonus, you can reduce your chances of getting cross-contaminated when you prepare your own food and eat at home.  Plus, it’s cheaper. Here’s my suggestion of dishes to learn:

  • Roast or crock pot cook a whole chicken. The possibilities are endless for what you can use that meat and bones for.
  • Meatloaf/meatballs. Seriously. It’s still good.  Just use almond meal instead of breadcrumbs.
  • Grill steaks, chicken, tofu, etc.
  • A good marinara sauce. You can add protein of your choice like meat or chicken sausage and serve over spaghetti squash. Delish.
  • Chili (check your seasonings for hidden gluten)
  • Tacos with corn tortillas, lettuce cups, or as a salad.

Those dishes can easily take you through quite a few meals, and are easy to learn.  Cooking can actually be fun once you give it a shot.

4. Move your body. 

Most people do not get enough activity, and it has nothing to do with having celiac disease or non-celiac gluten sensitivity. Exercise/physical activity is important.  Period. You don’t have to run a marathon, but you do have to move.

5. When you pick up a package of gluten-free food, ask yourself if it is something you truly, genuinely want to eat.

That you want to eat it for the food that it is, and not just because it is “safe” or you are “entitled.”  If so, then eat it and enjoy.  If not…reconsider that choice.  Perhaps an apple?

While this is far from an all inclusive list, I hope this helps get you started on the path to making choices that go beyond just a gluten-free label.

Eat well and be well!

– Erin Elberson Lyon

May 8, 2012 at 1:37 pm 13 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

5 Things I Learned from NFCA’s Getting Started Guide

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

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

1. Take baby steps.

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

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

NFCA Getting Started Guide

NFCA’s Getting Started Guide

2. Don’t skip out on your doctor.

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

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

3. Cup for Cup conversions.

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

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

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

5. Generic and brand name drugs can differ.

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

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

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

– Cheryl

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

Are You a Mindful Eater?

I recently asked on Twitter “How mindful are you when eating?” Most people tweeted that they’re very mindful, noting how observant they must be to avoid gluten exposure. Yes, that is a necessary part of the gluten-free lifestyle, but reading labels and being “mindful” can be two very different things.

It may sound counter-intuitive, but mindfulness is all about silencing those little buzzers going off in your head. It’s about being present, focusing on what’s in front of you, and ignoring the constant stream of thoughts and sounds that typically distract us throughout the day.

When it comes to eating, that means making healthy choices and savoring each bite rather than wolfing down a bag of chips in front of the TV. It may sound silly, but acknowledging your food can save you from saying “Why did I eat that?” more often than not.

woman eating salad

How often do you stop to enjoy your food?

Ali Weinberg, a licensed psychotherapist and Wellcoach at Engin Inspired Coaching, offered this overview to help anymore be more mindful:

“There are four components to well-being that can help contribute to increasing mindfulness and thus decreasing worry and rumination in our lives:

  1. Mindful exercise: This does not mean one needs train for a marathon.  Going for a 30-minute walk with a pet or loved one, and/or incorporating some sort of enjoyable physical movement into the day can have profound effects on the mood.
  2. Eating Mindfully: This means paying attention and being thankful for and aware of the food we are eating.  In our rushed schedules, much of the time we are holding the steering wheel with one hand while we inhale a burger, or we are reading and watching television as the fork mechanically goes from plate to mouth. Before we know it, the food is gone and our stomachs are overstuffed and unsatisfied.  By cultivating more of an awareness and appreciation for our food, we can experience the nutrients for what they are, rather than stuffing ourselves to mask and soothe our anxieties in the moment. This may mean stepping back periodically throughout a meal and checking in with fullness levels on a scale of one to ten.  Oftentimes my clients will realize that they habitually finish everything on their plates only when they happen to be eating and multitasking. When they mindfully focus on how their body feels, they realize that they are satiated earlier on in their meals, and feel energized rather than stuffed after eating.
  3. Sleeping mindfully:  Sleep is what heals us.  As anxious people, we are used to struggling with insomnia at times, and it can have many negative effects on our daily functioning when we are lacking sleep.  It is important to develop good sleep habits to help our bodies to repair and heal from daily life stressors.  Good sleep can also help to improve one’s mood and productivity in work and life.
  4. Overall development of Mindfulness: John Cabot-Zinn defines mindfulness as ‘Paying attention in a particular way; on purpose, in the present moment, and non-judgmentally.’”

If you’re ready to be more mindful, sign up for NFCA’s upcoming webinar: Maintaining a Healthy Weight While Eating Gluten-Free: The Importance of Physical Activity & Mindful Eating on April 18. As always, it’s free!

– Cheryl

March 30, 2012 at 8:59 am Leave a comment

5 Misconceptions about Celiac Disease and the Gluten-Free Diet

[Alexander Hymowitz is a 16-year-old junior in high school and has been gluten-free since age 11. He has been volunteering for NFCA by writing articles and “Pep Talks” for Kids Central. We asked him to set the record straight on common gluten-free myths.]

5 Misconceptions about Celiac Disease and the Gluten-Free Diet

1) It’s a healthy lifestyle.

I’ve read news articles online that say going gluten-free is a healthier lifestyle, and that’s not always true. It’s not a miracle diet. You still need to make healthy food choices and keep a healthy lifestyle.

Webinar: Top 10 Ways to Get Gluten-Free Kids to Eat Healthy

2) Going gluten-free is cheap.

Though the rise in gluten-free products has helped to reduce some prices, the price of gluten-free bread compared to white bread is quite significant. The gluten-free lifestyle is not a cheap way of living because you get less food for more money.

How to Keep Your Gluten-Free Holiday Low Fuss and Low Cost

3) Going gluten-free is easy.

Going gluten-free requires effort, time and vigilance. Sticking to a strict gluten-free diet requires constant awareness of what one is eating and where one is eating. It requires effort to stay gluten-free and fight urges to eat gluten-filled foods. It requires vigilance to know what is gluten-free, which places are gluten-free, where it is safe to eat and where it isn’t. Going gluten-free is no simple task, and it is not something that comes easily. You have to work at it until you get it right.

Printable Guides on Celiac Disease and the Gluten-Free Diet

4) Gluten-free can be done all by myself.

Going gluten-free and living a gluten-free lifestyle become much easier when you have someone backing you up and pushing you through it, even when the going gets tough and you have an urge to eat gluten. When I was diagnosed, so was my sister. I know that going gluten-free would have been much harder if I didn’t have someone to keep up with me and know what I was going through.

NFCA’s List of Gluten-Free Bloggers

5) There is no information out there about celiac disease.

The community is growing, and the amount of information is increasing, too. There are magazines, websites, articles, doctors and much more. One should not get lost with all this information. Take gluten-free living step-by-step until it becomes part of your everyday thing.

Celiac Disease Research News

– Alexander

Read more from Alexander:

March 9, 2012 at 8:25 am 5 comments

I Took the Alternative Appetites Cooking Challenge. Will You?

How many times have you watched a cooking video and didn’t try the recipe? Guilty. I’ve been known to watch my share of The Food Network, “Lidia’s Italy” and YouTube cooking shows only to admire, sigh, and move on to the next episode.
Time to change that.

When we premiered the latest videos in our Alternative Appetites series, I was determined to make one of the gluten-free recipes at home. I’ve made several recipes from the show before (Eggplant Casserole, anyone?). This time, the Amaranth and Black Bean Salad, a recipe sponsored by The Hain Celestial Group, Inc., caught my eye.

Black Bean and Amaranth Salad ingredients

Ingredients gathered. Ready to cook!

Let me start off by saying, this recipe makes a big batch. So big that is nearly overflowed my largest mixing bowl. If you’re sharing with a friend, it’s a good amount to last you a few days. If you’re single, I’d recommend halving the recipe.

The trick to this recipe was cooking the amaranth properly. Like many of you, I’ve just discovered the grain, so I’m still finding that point where it goes from undercooked to just right. Once the amaranth was done, I popped it into the fridge for a quick chill.

Amaranth on stovetop

This looks like a small amount, but it goes a long way.

While the amaranth was cooling, I prepped the vegetables. It took some time, but shortcuts like using canned black beans and corn helped. I also took the lazy route and used a jar of roasted red peppers, but I highly recommend roasting your own (I learned a snappy way to do it from this Alternative Appetites video).

chopped vegetables

Bring on the veggies.

Then it was on to the vinaigrette, which was done in a matter of seconds. I forgot to pick up mint (it’s always something), so I threw in a bit of tarragon and chives just to freshen it up.

Finally, it was time to assemble – all of which I completed within the length of a commercial break. Then, the first bite.

Amaranth and Black Bean Salad in bowl

All done!

You ever get that feeling when you eat something that’s filling, yet light and refreshing at the same time? Well, that’s what I got when I ate this. I consider it my mouth’s way of patting me on the back for doing my body good. The beans, tomatoes, walnuts and grains offer different textures, while the peppers and onions lend strong flavors. In fact, if you’re not a fan of red onion, I’d suggest using only ¼ of an onion. The vinaigrette and corn layer in sweetness, though I could have done with a little less dressing.

Black Bean and Amaranth Salad_close up

What's a food post without a close-up?

The best thing about this recipe is how versatile it is. You could easily add crumbled feta cheese or swap in sliced almonds for the walnuts. I added sliced beets when I scooped some out for work the next day.

So, now that you’ve read my experience, I want you to share yours. Try one of the recipes from the videos posted at, then make sure to click through the video and leave a comment on the video on YouTube.

If you have a blog, share your experience just like I did and we’ll enter you in the Alternative Appetites Cooking Challenge. Just email with the link to your post. (Cooking wins and fails welcome!)

– Cheryl

Related Content:

March 1, 2012 at 10:28 am Leave a comment

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