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Thursday, October 30, 2008

Good Friends

You know you have good friends when they secretly send the perfect gift... what could be a more perfect Halloween present than giant eyeball, candy slime with body parts, and stickers with hairy backs and armpits???

...just the fact that it's all Gluten-free!

Thank you THANK YOU Karan!

(I do apologize for the hack-editing job. I don't have the fancy photo editor I used to have.)

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Getting Over The Gluten Hump

My family doesn't know it, but I am systematically phasing out gluten from their dinners. It's going to take some time but making two separate dinners - one regular and one gluten-free - is getting old very quickly. I spent most of the summer not cooking anything for anyone. I ate a lot of cereal in front of the TV at 9PM. Everyone else fended for themselves. That got expensive and I'm trying to help them help me. Hopefully we'll all be a little healthier in the process.

In order to make the gluten-free transition a little smoother for everyone I'm trying to find foods that everyone will eat. If you didn't know it before, or are new to reading here, you should know that Mr.G is one of the pickiest eaters on the planet. If it isn't chicken or Italian, you can pretty much forget it. I can eat a lot of chicken but CheesePuff complains if we eat it more than two days in a row. So now, instead of winging it for dinner, I've made a little calendar of dinners and made everyone aware that it exists and where it can be found on the fridge. To my surprise, they actually read it! I suppose asking for their input was helpful in the success of the calendar and I included days when they can have Chef's Choice (that's: whatever you make for yourself is your dinner) and days when they each cook for the whole family. Cheesepuff graced us with a lovely Summer Salad (a variety of lettuces, sliced apple, and toasted almonds) just tonight.

Having the calendar also helps me to know if I have to take out meats to defrost and helps me to grocery shop less often! I already know ahead of time what I'm going to cook so I don't buy ingredients I won't need (I tended to buy a lot of pretty produce that ended up in the bottom of the crisper, forgotten). I also am learning to cook smarter - I roast a whole chicken on a weekend and save the left-overs to be used in Chicken Enchiladas another day... and I already know ahead of time which day that will be so the extra chicken doesn't go to waste before I can use it or before I remember to stick it in the freezer.

This list has been helpful on many occasions to get me through the regular grocery store when I can't make it to the Organic Market:
Gluten-Free Mainstream
It's a list of products one can typically find at a standard grocery store. If you've done any checking on the Internet for sources of gluten-free foods you'll find long, long lists of foods that are ok to safely consume. Lists are helpful but long lists make my eyes glaze over. You'll also find a lot of links for Internet ordering of gluten-free foods but who has time to grocery shop on the Internet and wait for delivery? Not this chica. This list is compiled so you can look up 'spaghetti sauce' and find brands that are tasty as well as safe. I know if I came home with a jar of spaghetti sauce that boldly stated it was Gluten-Free, Mr.G would wrinkle his nose and head for the peanut butter and Ritz crackers. However, using this list and carefully reading the ingredient list on the jar of his preferred spaghetti sauce, I realize it is indeed gluten-free and it's safe for me to eat. Of course, being spaghetti sauce, I have to cook my own
Gluten-Free pasta* or slice up some yummy Polenta to go on my plate. I tried to get them to eat Quinoa pasta, but they balked and asked to not find it on their plates again.

I've been doing a lot of reading about Celiac Disease lately and I forget where it was found, but I read that removing wheat from my diet is much like breaking an addiction and some days I really feel that. I feel I'm craving donuts, cakes, candy bars... any number of things I haven't eaten much of in a long time but now that I've told myself I can't have them at all, I want them more than ever. I did find Gluten-Free Cinnamon-Sugar Donuts by Kinnickinnc Foods at the Organic Market and they are amazingly delicious. I would never have known they were gluten-free if I found them lying on a lonely plate in the breakroom at work. I told myself this was a treat to satisfy my Gluten-Tooth (like a sweet-tooth, only different). If I tell myself a thing, it must be true, right? .

*Quinoa Spaghetti and Linguini are quite delicious, but if you followed this link, you probably saw those cute pagoda-shape pastas. I tried those and honestly, the texture and taste of them was quite different from the spaghetti. Based on my last purchase, I would probably not buy the pagodas again.

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Sad Realizations

Dear Friends, I'm not only sad I'm truly heart-sick.

I have lost a very VERY dear friend.

Her name is flour.

Yes, that soft, fluffy white powder that holds the butter and sugar of cakes together. For years... yes, really... years I have struggled with unusual ailments such as allergy attacks that seemed to come out of no where and abdominal pain that came on some time after breakfast every day and many times escalated to the point that I could not breathe, much less function as a normal human. I visited my doctor many times and he sent me for more tests and scans than I care to elaborate on. When all of the poking of my insides was done and there was no clear answer, he wanted to start over and do it all again.

At some point during the testing battery, I stumbled upon the Atkins Diet. I didn't feel 100% better but any improvement was like a miracle. My doctor was happy that I was complaining less and he didn't send me for more tests. But, like any diet, I got sick of the same thing every day and slid back into my old routine and back into discomfort. I asked my doctor about allergies and he told me emphatically, "No. It's not allergies. You would have a different reaction." But added, "Why don't you keep a journal of what you eat? If you find something that hurts your stomach, don't eat it."

That was it. I went home that day and started. I didn't eat much of anything at first, which is a little scary when you think of it... But, I finally came up with quite a list of foods that hurt when I ate them. And they were so random! At least that's what I thought until I began really looking at this thing called Celiac Disease. I heard about it quite frequently and even worked with a woman who said she had it and while she new she shouldn't eat bread, she sometimes still did anyway, knowing she would suffer later. Hearing about a thing and actually relating it to yourself are two very different things, I assure you.

Then I read this book.

Find it at Amazon.

All my sudden allergy attacks and digestive ailments started to make sense for once. I began reading the ingredients list of foods I had in my cupboards and refrigerator and threw out or set aside to donate any containing wheat, rye, barley, malt... anything that was likely to cause a problem for me. Luckily, there were a few items I still had around or I think I would have simply gone crazy because I'll be honest, some of my favorite foods contain hidden wheat and I have to cut out every one of them all at once!

So now what?

I have been living Gluten-Free for one week, except when we went out to dinner. I tried to be good. I didn't think a steak and baked potato would have some wheat secreted in there, but I knew it by the time I got home from the restaurant.

I can tell you, even if Doc refuses to diagnose me with Celiac Disease, I can't go back to eating wheat.

That is going to be a big problem for me, and I don't have an answer yet.