Archive for Gluten-Free Eating Help

Cheerful Wednesday – Sunshine Awards

Sharing the Sunshine

Last summer, I was honored when Heather at Gluten-Free Cat nominated me for a Sunshine Award. A blogger awards this to 10 other bloggers who “positively and creatively inspire others in the blogosphere.”

I waited a bit to post mine – on purpose – so that the fun could start up again. Recipients first answer 10 questions about themselves. Then they thank the person who gave them the award, linking back to that blog, and they choose 10 blogs for the award, linking to their blogs in the post and telling them they’ve won the award. Here’s the cool image of the award that each should use in their own post when they make their awards:

First, I’ll answer the 10 questions about myself. I think you’ll be blessed by checking out the blogs that follow.

1. Favorite Color: Purple. Pretty much any shade of purple.

2. Favorite Animal: Almost any baby animal. I think God made them cute so we’d want to take care of them :)

3. Favorite Number: I don’t think I have one. But I did get married on 8/8 so maybe that’s my favorite.

4. Favorite Drink: Water. Yes, it’s boring but that’s almost all I drink.

5. Facebook or Twitter: Facebook. I’ve tried to get into Twitter, really I have. Heather at Gluten-Free Cat even gave me some tips but I haven’t found my Twitter rhythum yet.

6. Good Movie or Good Book: Good book. I relax every night by reading in bed. I love movies but they don’t relax me this way. Of course, that could be because I enjoy suspense/action movies.

7. My Passion: This will probably be the same for most bloggers; their passion is whatever they’re blogging about. I enjoy helping people, I want them to be healthy, I want them to enjoy their lives as they’re on that journey.

8. Giving or Getting Presents: Giving. I enjoy scouting down the right gift for someone and seeing the expression on their face when they open it. I’m also a sale/bargain shopper so that adds another exciting element to the hunt.

9. Favorite Day of the Year: I’ll have to change this to Favorite Season. I look forward to the Christmas season.

10. Favorite Flower: Almost any flower is my favorite at that moment. I love a splash of color on my dining room table.

Sunshine Awards

Now for my 10 Sunshine Awards. It’s hard to whittle this down to just 10 because there are so many great blogs out there. I have interviews with Shirley, Megan, Lauren and Jenn on this blog – just enter their name in the search box.

Shirley at Gluten-Free Easily, GFE. Shirley’s can-do, positive attitude brings me sunshine with every post she writes. You can’t help but feel that you can be gluten-free and happy when you spend time with her. Her blog emphasises a diet that’s naturally gluten-free.

Alta at Tasty Eats at Home. I met Alta this summer when we were searching for bloggers to host Adopt A Gluten-Free Blogger. She’s just as kind working with something like that as she appears to be in her posts. Her blog is gluten-free and dairy-free.

Lauren at Empowered Sustenance. She’s taken what most would see as negative (ulcerative colitis) and turned that into a way to help herself and others heal. I’ll be making a couple of Lauren’s recipes for the current Adopt A Gluten-Free Blogger and you’ll see more about that then. I admire Lauren and her positive attitude.

Jenn at Jenn Cuisine. Most of us have had to knuckledown and learn to gluten-free cook for ourselves or our kids. Jenn fell in love with a man who couldn’t eat gluten and not only learned to cook it but created a gluten-free blog. She’s an American living in Switzerland and takes amazing photos so her food journey’s interesting by itself.

Caralyn at Gluten Free Happy Tummy. Like Lauren (coincidentally the same diagnosis), Caralyn has a great attitude. And her food – generally vegan – looks gorgeous. I mean, it’s stunning!

Kelly at The Spunky Coconut. I bought one of Kelly’s cookbooks early in my gluten-free life. She’s creating food to help heal her autistic daughter. And she is getting better. Following Kelly’s blog feels like being part of the family and I like that.

Sunny at And Love It Too. How can I not give an award to someone who maintains a great gluten-free and dairy-free blog – with a Paleo slant to it, is a teacher and has five children? She deserves this and many more awards! She’s one of the bloggers I’ve enjoyed “meeting” as I’ve learned the ropes.

Megan at Allergy Free Alaska. Megan’s upbeat and keeps pushing ahead no matter what. I respect that. Whole Food Fridays is a feature on her blog and it always has great recipes. (And I’m not saying that just because I regularly contribute to it :)

Heidi at One Creative Mommy. When Heidi’s daughter recently received a celiac disease diagnosis, this blogger rose to the occassion and added a gluten-free food carnival to her existing blog.

Lauren at Celiac Teen. Lauren’s a teen that not only accepts her gluten-free diagnosis with joy because she now knows what’s been wrong, she makes great recipes for her blog, and has been since she was 15. This is a great place for your teen to spend some time.

Lunch Ideas

I was recently honored to be part of a great month of lunch ideas that Sunny at And Love It Too is hosting. I shared ideas for using leftovers. (I love leftovers.) Check out not only my post but all of the wonderful ideas that others have shared.

 Healthy Lunchbox 2012: Shannon from Enjoying Gluten-Free Life.

Gluten-Free on a Budget

Plugging the Gluten-Free Money Drain

Organic produce

I’ve been thinking about how to save money on the food budget and suspect many of you are wondering the same thing. When I first started eating gluten-free, finding the right foods seemed to be all I could focus on. That, in itself, was almost overwhelming.

As time passed, I started adding more organic foods to our diet, both meat and produce. Between that and being too busy to cook some days (I’m a freelance writer) and going out to eat, the total spent on food grew.

Eating out now tends to be more expensive than it was before, partly because we ate a lot of fast food. I’ll be honest with you: I liked fast food. An Egg McMuffin and hash browns for breakfast, Arby’s sandwich for lunch, Taco Bell burrito for dinner. I would love to be able to stop at Taco Bell for a .89 bean burrito but that isn’t going to happen any time soon. (Believe me, I know this wasn’t the best diet.)

With all of this in mind, I’ve had to think about how to slim down the food budget. I believe that what I eat matters for health so I’m not going to lower the quality of our food. Eating out less is one obvious option and I think we’re doing better on that. That’s been helped by planning ahead a bit but not as much as I should and that takes me to the first option.

Menu Planning

I’ve attempted meal planning but in a halfhearted way. Growing up, my mom would often ask us what we wanted for dinner in the morning so that may be why I have a hard time getting my tastebuds in line for the meal I planned days before. I’m also not a huge planner in general. With that said, those excuses are going to be pushed to the side and I’m going to more seriously work on meal planning.

Cooking in Advance (Freezer Meals)

While looking through my library’s cookbook section, I came across some books on making meals in advance. Sometimes referred to as once-a-month cooking, this is something I can get into. The book I chose to check out had the option of spending a whole day cooking or doing it as a mini-session for a couple of hours using a particular meat. (Example: pounds of ground turkey, roast or chicken turned into several different dishes.)

Buying in Bulk

This one relates back to the last category. Ten pounds of something can be made into meals for later. Take advantage of sales but have a plan for what you plan to do with the food. I currently have just the freezer under my fridge, but I’m seriously considering buying a chest freezer.

Remember, don’t confuse buying in bulk with buying from bulk bins at the store. Those may not be gluten-free. You don’t know what was last in the bin, you don’t know if it was cross contaminated when it was filled (same scoop as something with gluten, etc.) and you don’t know how other customers are using it (same scoop as something with gluten, etc.)

Preserving – Can, Freeze, Dehydrate

I’m giving serious thought to all three of these. I love the idea of not only saving money by buying in bulk but also that I can savor the tastes of summer on a cold January day.

I helped my mom when she made preserves and froze produce we’d picked such as wild blueberries and cranberries – I’m originally from Alaska. I’ve seen much of it done but never done it myself. This makes me nervous. :)

Special sales

When you find a mailorder company you plan to come back to, get on their email list to receive their discounts. Three that immediately come to mind are Honeyville, Tropical Traditions and Better Batter. All offer occassional discounts such as a percentage off or free shipping.

Shop Around

You probably have companies you’ve found that have great prices. I like for both its service and prices. I know that when I order $40 or more, I get free shipping on top of those prices that I’ve already found to be lower than shopping locally. (Check my home page for an iherb discount code.) Some people have found Amazon great for low prices on gluten-free products but I haven’t tried them for food yet.

Bake it Yourself

When it comes to gluten-free treats, the cost of buying them pre-made would almost always be higher than making it yourself. You also have the ability to control the ingredients you use to make them lower in sugar and higher in fiber than many bought baked goods.

If you don’t think you have time, consider making enough muffins at one time for a week or two and freezing them. If you’ve never learned to bake, like many things, it isn’t anywhere nearly as complicated as it appears. To help new bakers, I tell them to remember when they were learning to drive. My guess is that they didn’t drive in a straight line or parallel park perfectly the first day. But with practice, it became something that came naturally.

What are you doing to save money in your gluten-free life?

Living Local

Enjoying the Local Bounty

Danielle from Naturally Knocked Up issued the challenge of eating locally for the month of August. She lists four good reasons why we should in her post. I haven’t officially signed up but she definitely made me stop and think. I had that idea in mind as I shopped at the farmer’s market this morning.

I grew up in a small business so I saw first hand how money handed to the business owner went to support that person’s family. I like handing my money to the farmer who grew the food and I also like being able to ask him or her about how it was grown.

We’re fortunate here in the Nashville, Tennessee area to have great farmer’s markets. I drove a bit further to go to the Frankin Farmer’s Market today because they have the best selection of meat – the one closest only has beef and fish. This is one of my favorite places to buy meat:

The bag on the counter is mine. I’ve found that organic meat tastes better and makes me feel better than what I used to buy at the grocery store. When I’ve let it thaw for two or three days (it’s usually only available frozen), and open it, it’s virtually odor free. It smells clean, for lack of a better word. And there is evidence that grass fed beef and pastured eggs are healthier.

I have a pork roast from another seller in the crockpot right now. When I asked about how they grew the pork, it was in their front yard. :)

This is another booth I’ve bought from before. Another benefit of the farmer’s market is that they often have tips for cooking what they’re selling. I learned about roasting green beans today from the woman here. (Rub with olive oil, add a bit of garlic, salt and pepper then roast at 475° for about 20 minutes until it starts to carmelize.) I bought some of her green beans and will be trying that in the next few days.

My produce purchases today (top photo) made me very happy. I’ve never tried tomatillos before and didn’t know that either they or apples grew in this area but I found both. The tomatoes in the center are heirloom varieties – for those who don’t know, that means varieties that our ancestors grew. Heirloom varieties tend to have more flavor but might not be as pretty as those in the store. I’m ok with that trade off.

Am I going to try eating completely local? I like the idea of it but I wouldn’t be able to eat almonds or avocados, bananas or saltwater fish. I’m going to do my best to eat locally including signing up for a new CSA this winter that will have bi-weekly boxes of greens and winter veggies like broccoli and cauliflower. But I’m not ready to make the total leap into local.

Are you?



Specific Carbohydrate Diet – An Overview

Before Gluten-Free

Almond Flour Zucchini Muffins - Review on a recent interview with Danielle of Against All Grain

Do not take this article as medical advice. I am not a medical professional. Thank you.

Before the gluten-free diet was proposed, Sidney V. Haas, M.D., spent decades helping children with celiac disease, eventually writing a medical textbook on it, “Management of Celiac Disease,” in 1951 along with his son, Merrill P. Haas, M.D. Building on previous research that celiacs didn’t tolerate carbohydrates well, Haas developed a grain-free diet that focused on the foods listed below. After keeping the children on this diet for at least a year, and with ”no recurrence of symptoms, forbidden carbohydrates may be added . . .” He says, “When the cure is obtained, there should be no relapse.”

The theory of gluten being the culprit in celiac disease was first proposed in 1950 and the less restrictive diet took hold. (I’m not saying a gluten-free diet won’t work; I’m giving the history of diets for celiac disease.)

It’s proven that not everyone responds to the gluten-free diet and that those people may be given the diagnosis of refractory celiac disease. A 2007 article in The New England Journal of Medicine said, “Approximately 5% of patients may have refractory celiac disease, defined as persistent symptoms and villous atrophy despite scrupulous adherence to a gluten-free diet.”

A Bit of Background

Elaine Gottschall was an accidental hero. When her 4-year-old daughter was diagnosed with ulcerative colitis in the 1950s and was unresponsive to drugs, doctors suggested removing her colon and having an external bag collect waste – a terrible prognosis at any age but especially for such a young child.

Refusing to accept this fate for her daughter, Elaine went from specialist to specialist, receiving no new answers until she learned of 92-year-old Sidney V. Haas, MD. The diet he had spent his lifetime perfecting healed her now 8-year-old daughter, but the elderly doctor died not long after so some of her questions had no answers.

Elaine spent the rest of her life learning more about what she would call the Specific Carbohydrate Diet, a term mentioned in Haas’ book. After earning her B.A. and Master’s degree, Elaine researched how the diet worked then wrote and self-published “Breaking the Vicious Cycle, the book that became the bible for the diet and has now been translated into many languages and has sold more than a million copies.

I recommend that everyone on a medically necessary gluten-free diet at least read Chapter 6 of her book, “Beyond Gluten.” The background she gives on the science of gluten-free vs grain-free is fascinating. She also discusses the validity of the intestinal biopsy. I would love to believe this statement from the chapter’s last paragraph true. “The Specific Carbohydrate Diet has been shown to completely cure most cases of celiac disease if followed for at least one year.”

The diet is used by those with ulcerative colitis, crohn’s, celiac disease, diverticulitis, irritable bowel syndrome, and autism.

Basics of the Diet

Note: This is not intended to be a comprehensive directory but an overview. Please refer to “Breaking the Vicious Cycle” or to the official website for specifics which must be followed.

The foods that are allowed on the diet have a different composition from those that aren’t allowed, and your body uses them more easily (chapter 5 of the book). On the SCD, processed foods are avoided to eliminate added sugar and undesirable starches. This makes purchased ketchup, mayo, pasta sauce and other things you may have found to be ”gluten-free” now unacceptable. Canned vegetables can have hidden sugars and starch so they aren’t allowed.

  • Meat, fish, eggs, aged cheeses
  • special homemade yogurt that cooks for 24 hours.
  • Fruits
  • Many vegetables – not potatoes, yams, sweet potatoes, parsnips
  • Most legumes including black beans, kidney beans, green beans and peanuts – not pinto beans, chickpeas (garbanzo beans), soybeans, mungbeans or faba beans
  • Nuts
  • Honey but no cane sugar, maple syrup or molasses. (Honey is a monosaccharide and the others are disaccharides – the body digests them differently)
  • No chocolate or carob

At this point, you may be thinking this is even harder to follow than a standard gluten-free diet. Consider this: the foods on a gluten-free diet may or may not be contaminated with gluten. It’s a constant process of reading labels and verifying with companies that a product is safe. The SCD uses very little processed food and the rest are naturally gluten-free foods.


There are many resources for recipes both on the Internet and in cookbooks. I recently interviewed the co-author of this one. A few sites are:



I want to thank Jenny Lass for the wonderful history of the SCD that she wrote for the beginning of “Everyday Grain-Free Gourmet.” She also told me that Dr. Haas’ book had been reprinted so I ordered it inter-library loan and was delighted to have one of the original 1951 copies sent to me.

Elaine Gottschall died in 2005. She gave of her time to help others even as she grew old.


Tips for Gluten-Free Baking

Start Your Oven

I think we always assume that whatever we do well or we have a lot of experience at is easy. Some are good with numbers, other making things with their hands or photography. I’ve been baking since I was a kid. I would come home from high school and bake a cake from scratch. (I’ll have a post in a couple of days about a 13-year-old’s gluten-free cookbook!)

I assume everyone understands baking. But some of you didn’t have a desire to bake before you or a family member was diagnosed with a gluten problem or food allergies. Since bought baked goods offer limited options and costs can be higher, you may be thinking about giving baking a try.

Now, even though I’d baked for years, I still had a learning curve for baking gluten-free (and I’m still learning). Here are some tips for those who are new to baking and some for those who have been baking for a while but are new to gluten-free baking.

Before you start making the recipe, read all the way through it. An unexpected ingredient could be near the end or something may need to be prepped in advance.

My Cup Overflows
The way you measured regular all-purpose flour mattered but it wasn’t critical. There seemed to be room for error (or at least a small amount of error). Measuring gluten-free flour is very different. If the recipe’s writer says how they’re measuring, follow that technique. For example, Better Batter’s Naomi Poe says to spoon her flour into a cup and level it off. Otherwise you might get too much flour. Elana of Elana’s Pantry dips the cup into her almond or coconut flour (the two she uses) then levels it off. She says you’ll have too little flour if you do it the other way. Note: If the method of measuring is not specified, assume that you should spoon and level.
You may want to make the investment in a scale. They’re inexpensive and easy to use and, if weights are offered instead of or along with cups, you can get an exact measurment.

The Scoop
Cookie scoops make your life easier. They’re a small investment but have become some of my favorite tools in the kitchen. (I put them on list of things I wanted for the holidays.)

  • They make the same size of cookie every time. (They bake evenly and are prettier.)
  • Make it easier to get batter into a muffin or cupcake pan without making a mess.

Wrapped Up
Some gluten-free flours (almond and coconut come to mind) stick to pans and regular cupcake wrappers. These are a miracle. (I have no investment in the company but probably should.) Their parchment paper is excellent too.

Metal Matters
When I first started baking gluten-free, I had a mix of cupcake pans and cookie sheets, some stainless steel, some nonstick. I quickly learned that the bottoms easily burned on the nonstick pans but not on the stainless steel. Whether it’s the weight of the pans – the nonstick are lighter- or simply the way the metals conduct heat, I don’t know but I went ahead and bought a second stainless steel cookie sheet. A note: you can’t always find stainless at local stores – I had to order this cookie sheet from Bed Bath and Beyond. They aren’t as inexpensive as the others but I save on the cost of flours, etc., and on stress by not burning what I’m making. Glass square and rectangular pans have also worked well.

It’s About Time
Always set a timer when you put something in the oven. It’s way too easy to walk away and forget it until it’s too late.

NEVER assume the baking time is correct. Always, always, always set the timer for less time than the recipe says. Every oven is different and different pans cook differently (see below).

Follow Directions to the End
Read directions to see what it’s supposed to look like when it’s done. If it needs to be tested (most baked goods do) I like to stick a round toothpick in the center. When it comes out clean, it’s done. Don’t stop reading directions here. After you take it out of the oven, do whatever the recipe says to do. Here’s a delicious looking example of this. She says for her bread to cool one hour and I’m sure she has an excellent reason.

The most important thing to remember is to go ahead and try baking. You will have successes and probably a few failures. But even those teach us something. When it came to special occasions, I started by using mixes from a company I trusted (King Arthur Flour) so I could know dessert was going to be perfect.

Shirley from Gluten-Free Easily taught me to use “mistakes,” not to pitch them. Dry mistakes can become part of a pie crust (crush it up like graham cracker crumbs), crumbly mistakes can be layered in a parfait with pudding or whipped cream (dairy or non-dairy), etc. Oh, those cupcakes at the top of the page? They were supposed to be red velvet and have a cake-like texture. They came out more dense like a brownie but still good so they were enjoyed with cream cheese frosting on top. So, don’t worry. Just give gluten-free baking a try.