The Easiest Gluten-Free Bread Recipe Ever, and it Even Tastes Good

I found this recipe a couple of years ago on the Gluten-Free, Soy Free Vegan blog (http://glutenfreesoyfreevegan.wordpress.com/) which includes a collection of consistently good recipes.  Since trying it, I have done away with other gluten-free bread options altogether.  This recipe is by far the easiest for gluten-free bread I have ever tried, and it really is pretty good.  Your hands and wrists will be happy to know that there is no kneeding required, unlike your standard wheat-based breads!  You do not even need a bread maker for this -it would just make the job harder!  The other great thing about this recipe is that it is allergen-free and vegan, so in addition to being easy, it is likely the least inflammatory bread you’ll ever eat.  Below is the recipe from the GF, SF, Vegan site, along with some of my own notes thrown in,  Enjoy!

Makes 1 loaf

Note: Since there’s no gluten to get tough from over-mixing, you can mix until you’re confident.

In a large mixing bowl combine:

3/4 cup millet flour
1/4 cup teff flour or brown rice flour
1/2 cup sorghum flour
1/2 cup cornstarch (or double the potato starch if you can’t eat corn)
1/2 cup potato starch
1/2 cup tapioca flour
2 tsp xanthan gum
1/2 Tbsp salt
1/4 cup sugar (or sucanut or palm sugar to make it low(er) glycemic)
1 Tbsp active dry yeast (not rapid rise)

Add:

2 tsp olive oil
1 and 1/2 cups + 2 Tbs warm water (not hot)

Mix with electric mixer–using paddle attachment, NOT regular beaters or bread hook–for two minutes. The bread dough will be more like cake batter than traditional bread dough.

Two options for the rising:

For the best rising: While mixing the bread, create a proofing box from your microwave. Microwave a small mug or ramekin with water until the water boils. Leave the water in the microwave. Pour the bread dough into two non-stick or well-greased pans. Tuck the loaves into the microwave with the water—the container of water should not be touching the pans. (I have to remove the turntable in my microwave to do this.) Allow to rise until batter extends a bit over the top of the pans–generally 30-50 minutes.

Standard method: Pour into two non-stick or well-greased loaf pans, place on a warm surface (such as on top of the pre-heated oven), and cover with a towel. Allow to rise until batter extends a bit over the top of the pan–generally 50-70 minutes. (Batter should take up about half the loaf pan before rising.)

Bake at 400 degrees for 10 minutes. Remove loaf pans from oven and cover with aluminum foil. Return to oven and bake for an additional 35-45 minutes, depending on your oven. (Insert a toothpick or knife into the center to see if it comes out clean or doughy, if you aren’t sure when you pull out the bread.)

As with most breads, it is easiest to slice if you allow it to fully cool. But who can wait that long? I usually let it cool for a little bit, and then remove the loaves from the pans and place them on a rack to cool more while I slice it up. The bread tastes delicious warm, dipped in olive oil and herbs or spread with honey and ghee. It also works well for sandwiches after it has cooled. If you won’t be eating it within 2 days, after it’s cooled, slice it, wrap it in a couple of layers of plastic wrap, and freeze it. Never refrigerate this or other bread—it will get dry and hard if you do. If you leave the bread on the counter (wrapped), it will be good for all purposes for a couple of days. After that, it will be best used for bread pudding, French toast, croutons, etc.

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The Difference Between Pleasure and Pain: More on Food

Writing about thoughts and emotion is draining, so I am going to be continuing my series “Carrying All That Baggage is Just Going to Make Your Hands Hurt Worse:  The Role of Thought in RA” a little later. 

In the meantime, I have received a comment from a reader that I wanted to address more fully because I don’t think she is alone in her curiosity….

I was diagnosed with RA 9 years ago and it’s been a struggle for sure. I’m just now at a point in my life (turned 30 in June) where I’m reading things such as your post and realizing maybe it’s me….maybe I’m causing this pain to myself? I’ve never thought about becoming a vegan or going gluten-free, but after reading your success with it….it makes me curious. My problem is….I love food….I love flavor and it’s hard to pass on sweets! Not that I couldn’t do it….it would just be 30 years of one habit…changing. Can you give me an example of what a meal would be…being both vegan and gluten-free?

 I love food too.  I am no tofu-eating, wheat grass drinking health nut.  I appreciate good ol’ artery clogging, gut busting American food.  In fact, if you ask anyone who knew me before all this, they would tell you that they would have bet the farm that I would never in a million years change the way I ate.  I just loved food too much.  I was well-known for my sweet potato, apple,  and authentic Nation of Islam bean pies ….made with butter and lard ;). 

There was a point when the symptoms of my rheumatoid arthritis just got to be too much.  They were robbing me of my motherhood, my body, and my life.  I would look in the mirror and all I’d see were the black circles under my eyes and my swollen, prematurely aged face.  I always looked exhausted and haggard.  I know I should post some before-pics, but I am just not quite ready to share with the world.  (I am kinda sensitive about pics of myself.)

Few things were as humiliating or infuriating to me as to not be able to simply hold a glass and take a sip from it.  I’d be damned if I was going to sit and allow myself to be assisted with tasks I learned as a baby!  And with that, the food that I loved, even lived for just days before, suddenly just didn’t matter so much anymore.  My self-respect and independence was paramount. 

I have said it before, and I will say it again:  old habits die-hard, especially eating habits.  Too many of us food lovers have a tendency to use food as a comforter in stressful times, so it is important to understand and accept that lasting change will take some time.  I was 28 when I first started to change my diet and my entire food transformation took about 3 years to complete.  It need not take that long, but even if it does, the important thing is that the changes are being made.  Just cutting out gluten can result in significant improvement in flare symptoms.  Removing red meat and dairy along with gluten can yield even better results.  I opted to go gluten-free and vegan because I experienced such phenomenal results. 

It is amazing.  You really don’t know how awful you feel until you get an opportunity to actually experience what it’s like to feel good.  I thought I knew what “good” and “awful” felt like until I went gluten-free and vegan.  I really didn’t have a clue.  It turned out that it good felt SO good, that I didn’t want to ever return to feeling awful.  And awful was a nightmare I never wanted to re-live.  RA’ers take a lot of drugs, but there is nothing like the high of feeling good.  Nothing compares to it.  The only way I know to achieve “good” is through proper nutrition, which for me, does not include gluten or animal protein.

I hesitate to say that we are causing our own pain and disability through the foods we eat and lifestyles we choose to live, but only because it assumes that we all know exactly what we are doing and we don’t care.  I don’t believe that.  If people knew and believed that how they lived and ate were  directly responsible for their unbearable pain, there wouldn’t be so many of us taking prescription cocktails and I wouldn’t have a blog about RA.  The truth is that the media, drug, and food industries are powerful lobbyists with deep pockets.  They need us to stay fat, sick, and dependent on them so that they can stay stinking rich.  They are allowed to convince  us of virtually anything that is deemed lucrative to them, and they do at the expense of our lives.  Our health is our own responsibility, but good advice is hard to come by.  That is why I have started this blog; to try to disseminate the good from the bad advice using myself as the lab rat.  I am here to attest, that yes, foods have an enormous influence over our pain.  In fact, everything we eat is either an investment in our health or an investment in our disease.  Nothing more.  What you choose to do with that information is up to you. =)

Vegan and gluten-free foods have flavor, but flavor does not mean the same thing as it once did to me.  Before, flavor is what I sought to get a fix.  It is what I did to comfort myself when under stress.  Now, flavor is actually the flavor of the food itself, and it tastes good.  I eat to nourish, not to comfort.  Once you separate the emotion from the food, it is a whole lot easier to make the transition and your tastes will begin to change.  Once you experience truly feeling good, that will be the new flavor you’ll crave.

I eat a lot of seasoned brown rice and vegetables,  fresh salads with homemade dressing, smoothies, and juices.  It may sound boring, but only because those foods don’t satisfy any emotional need or food addiction. There are ways of making  cookies, cakes, brownies, and all kinds of sweets that will nourish the body and reduce your pain, while also tasting delicious.   My favorite cookbook currently is Living Raw Food by Sarma Melngailis.  Doesn’t she look great?  She is awesome and while I don’t recommend starting  with her cookbooks (too hard to start with), I do highly recommend getting your hands on them simply just to look at the pictures of her food.  They are gorgeous and taste as good as they look.

Start by removing just one thing from your diet (gluten). Go at your pace.  After a week or two or nine, take another food out (dairy) and see how you feel.  You may want to get the support of a dietician to help you with this process. They can guide you with an elimination diet to identify and remove foods you are sensitive to.  Keep a food journal of all things you eat, so that you can easily track offending foods.  There are no absolutes; no cold turkey unless you know you will be most successful with that approach.  I still indulge in potato chips, chicken, and sugar on occasion, but the majority of food I eat is an investment in my health, not my disease. 

So much to write.  So little time.  More on food and recipes tomorrow Folks!

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Favorite Gluten-Free Flour Mix

Gluten-free baking is just a tad bit different from your standard wheat-flour-based baking.  It’s a whole different chemistry, but it isn’t hard once you get the hang of it.  In fact, it is a far more creative art than typical baking!  Gluten-free baking is best when a combination of flours are used.  Below, is the combination of flours I use most when baking, it’s the one I personally like best.  There are many combinations, and everyone has their preference.  At the very least, this combination can get you started replacing the gluten in your favorite recipes.  For more winning flour combinations, see Living Without Magazine.

When modifying a recipe to be gluten-free, you can substitute flours on a 1:1 ratio; for every cup of glutenous flour called for by the recipe, substitute one cup of gluten-free flour.

Food Philosopher Gluten-Free Brown Rice Flour Mix

Servings:  3 cups

2 c. Brown Rice Flour

2/3 c. Potato Starch (NOT potato flour)

1/3 c. Tapioca Flour

**Taken from Gluten Free Baking Classics, by Annalise Roberts**

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5 Essential Steps For Going Gluten-Free

1.  Communicate your intended change to your loved ones.  Some may already be gluten-free, but others may need time to understand what you are doing.  Letting them know and explaining your reasons is more likely to result in their support sooner rather than later. 

2.  Obtain and familiarize yourself with the list of gluten-y ingredients.  Keep it with you so that you can refer to it while grocery shopping. http://www.celiac.com/articles/182/1/Unsafe-Gluten-Free-Food-List-Unsafe-Ingredients/Page1.html

3.  Learn with which foods are naturally gluten-free.  There are way more foods that are gluten-free than there are otherwise! http://www.celiac.com/articles/181/1/Safe-Gluten-Free-Food-List-Safe-Ingredients/Page1.html

4.  Create a simple gluten-free menu or meal plan to prevent accidental “poisoning.”  Once you have an idea of what foods you should and should not eat, planning a simple menu won’t be too difficult.  At first, you may just want to keep your diet based on fresh or frozen fruits and vegetables, rice, lean white meats, and fish.  You may also begin to sample gluten-free products if they are readily available in your area.  If they aren’t, no worries, you can live quite well without ever buying gluten-free bread, cookies, or gravy mix.  Homemade is best whether or not you are gluten-free.

Know that eating in restaurants that aren’t certified gluten-free is always a huge risk.  Even eating establishments that claim to serve gluten-free food do not tend to understand the importance of keeping foods, work surfaces, and tools separate. If you must eat out, opt for Mexican if possible.   Mexican food requires the least amount of gluten when compared to other styles.  Always double-check to make sure that there is no flour used in the enchilada sauce, rice, or corn chips, and be sure and ask for corn tortillas rather than flour.  In my experience, the restaurants that taste best don’t generally use flour as thickeners or fillers anyway.  In case you were wondering, the word for “(wheat) flour” in Spanish is “trigo” (pronounced: tree-go) and the word for gluten is “gluten.”

 5. Decontaminate your kitchen as soon as possible.  If others in your home are still eating gluten, establish a system to keep foods separate.  You cannot see or feel it, but gluten is sticky and can mess your day up if it gets on your food.  Your kitchen wares will need to be thoroughly washed in hot soapy water and run through the dishwasher.  If you do not have a dishwasher, you should boil what you can to ensure that all traces of gluten have been removed.  Some people are more sensitive than others.  You may be just fine washing your dishes the same way you always have or you may require more.  Your gut will be sure and let you know ;).

Cutting boards used for slicing bread, toasters, bread boxes, bread machines, colanders, pots and pans, wooden items, and virtually anything that has been used to prepare gluten will need to be addressed.  You will need to decide whether you will try to scour the gluten off of your kitchen wares, or if you will just replace them.  The bottom line is that if you want to keep yourself safe, you must keep gluten and anything it comes in contact with separate from your gluten-free food.  If your kitchen will still house some gluten, be sure to stay on top of the crumb situation.  Wipe surfaces with hot soapy water and disinfectant immediately after preparing anything with gluten in it.

Initially, I overhauled the contents of my kitchen only because my reaction to gluten was so severe.  However, I have since received my grandmother’s flat, dinner, and glass wares and was safe simply washing them and running them though the dishwasher.  You just have to do your best with your own situation. 

Remember!!  Be patient and kind with yourself!  Know that you will conquer gluten and that this will all be second nature soon.

 

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First Recipe Up: Mom’s Crispy Oven-Baked Chicken and Fries

Writing down recipes is a lot harder than you’d think.  Anyway, here is the first installment in what I hope to be a diverse and reliable source for allergen-free recipes.  I will be posting pics of this dish soon.  I am sorry, my mother and I are largely vegan now, so we don’t cook chicken quite as much as we used to =).  However, I think that it is importatnt that the transition to gluten-free be as easy and comfortable as possible.  Chicken is both easy and comforting.  It is ideal when making such a big change.  Today we tackle gluten, tomorrow perhaps meat….we will wait and see.  I have asked her to make this recipe for illustrative purposes, so thank you in advance for your patience.  In the meantime, I will say, that it looks like crispy fried chicken and tastes even better.  Have fun with it and please let me know what your thoughts if you try it.   

Mom’s Crispy Oven-Baked Chicken

Serves: 3-5

Ingredients:

  • 1-2 lbs. Boneless chicken breasts or thighs (or 6 – 10 chicken legs if you prefer not to have to slice)

Use just enough of the following to coat chicken:

  • Potato Starch
  • Erewhon Gluten-Free Corn Flakes
  • Olive Oil

Seasonings:  1 – 2 Tbs. or to taste

  • Granulated garlic
  • Parsley Flakes
  • Salt
  • Pepper, 1 -2 tsp.

 

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

2.  Prepare the cereal coating:  In food processor, lightly process corn flakes and seasonings into a course meal (3 pulses or so of the power button ought to do it).  Do not over-process into powder.  Set aside in a shallow bowl or pie plate.

3.  Set up coating station:  Using two shallow bowls or pie plates, pour just enough potato starch to cover the bottom of one of the bowls.  In the other bowl, pour just enough oil to cover the bottom.

4. Prepare chicken:  Rinse chicken and pat dry.  Slice into  about  1″ x  2″ rectangular pieces suitable for dipping. Sprinkle with a pinch of salt.

3.  Transfer the chicken to the dish with the potato starch.  With your fingers, roll the chicken pieces until lightly coated. 

4.  Transfer the chicken from the corn starch to the bowl with the oil.  Again, using your fingers, toss the chicken in the oil to lightly coat.

5.  Finally, transfer the chicken to the bowl with the cereal mixture and roll it until it is covered entirely.

6. Lightly coat a cookie sheet with oil and place the chicken on the pan leaving 1/2 inch spaces or so between each piece.

7.  Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes or until the chicken is no longer pink in the middle.

Enjoy with your favorite sauce or condiment.  My mother will usually mix gluten-free ketchup and mayonnaise together to make a tasty sauce.  She advises that you mix it to taste and not be afraid to get creative.  She sometimes will add a dollop of mustard, horseradish, or even relish to the mix.  Just do what tastes good….or just stick with boring old ketchup =).

 

Oven Baked Fries

Serves: 3-5

Ingredients:

  • 5 Russet, Yukon Gold, or Red potatoes, scrubbed and cut into fries
  • Canola oil
  • Granulated garlic
  • Salt

Optional:

  • Pepper
  • Paprika
  • Gluten-free seasoning of choice

 

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

2. Wash and scrub your potatoes.  Remove any black spots and slice the potatoes length-wise into long uniform strips.  You can make them thicker or thin depending on your fry preference. 

Note: This is a great opportunity for family members (especially kids) to come and help.  Have them wash and cut the fries.  Fries are easy and very forgiving if not cut perfectly.  If others aren’t an option, you can also use the slice function of a food processor, mandolin, or other handy gadget to slice your potatoes.  There is no rule that says they need look like traditional fries.  The important thing is that they are uniform in thickness and that you are comfortable while cooking.

3.  Place the potatoes into a large bowl and drizzle just enough oil to lightly coat each fry.  If you use too much oil, reserve it to be used to coat the pan.  Add your seasonings and stir to coat evenly.

4.  Transfer the potatoes to a cookie sheet and bake at 350 degrees for about 45 minutes or until golden brown.

5.  Serve and enjoy!

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How Do I Start a Gluten-Free Diet?

The quick and simple answer is: just commit to eat gluten-free.  At least that is how I did it:  I just, did IT.  But that’s just me;  I tend to be a bit intense.  If you are the kind of person that gets an idea in their head and sticks to it like a pit-bull, then do it my way. 

However, if you are like most people, it will take some easing into, like adjusting to the water in a pool.  Either way, you need to pick an approach that will ensure your success.  There is no wrong way, except the way that doesn’t meet your needs.  My mother and my journey to becoming gluten-free are two very different stories.  I was more like the pit-bull and she the tortoise.  Allow me to explain….

The Pit-Bull

 

The pit-bull latches on to an idea or a way of doing something and clings tenaciously to it.  She is an all-or-nothing kind of gal; there are no baby steps with her, only big leaps.  Her commitment is only rivaled by her unbridled enthusiasm.  When a pit-bull goes gluten-free you’d better move out of her way and by golly don’t go near her with a doughnut!  She has made up her mind that she is going to do this and there isn’t anything that is going to stop her.  She tends to be obsessive and  research crazy; constantly reading everything she can get her hands on about her fixation of the day: gluten, gluten-free food, gluten-free recipes…. you get my drift.  And when she isn’t reading about gluten, she is yakking away about it to anyone who will listen.

If this is the type of personality you identify with, then by all means, go for it!  Throw out all of the gluten in your house, or give it away to your friends, neighbors, or local food bank. While you are at it, scour all of your pots and pans, counters, cupboards, and utensils to remove all residue of gluten.  Heck, toss the toaster and the bread box out altogether and start fresh.   The sooner you rid your life of all traces of gluten, the better!  Let your friends and family know that you are going gluten-free and that in order to be successful, you need their support.  Let them know that there will be no more gluten purchased and brought into the house.  Warn them now that this change is a whopper, so it will be your discussion topic of choice until you have gotten the hang of your new diet.  Invite them to embark on the journey with you, but do not get your feelings hurt if they decline.  Know now, that there are people who do not believe that gluten, or any food, can have such a profound influence over ones health.  Do not engage them  in a debate over food.  Instead, convince them with your actions.  When they see how much better you look and feel, they are much more likely to rethink their position.  If you can, find a buddy or a group that will support your effort, especially if you’re getting static at home.   Set extra time aside for grocery shopping because you will be busy reading each and every ingredient on every item you pick up; sometimes twice. 

There will likely be a day when a loved one will inadvertently “poison” you and it will make you very angry.  You will have explained gluten to them repeatedly, but for whatever reason (most likely an overlooked barley ingredient), they still won’t  quite get it.  Forgive them and move on because their intentions will be good.  Also, you will be suspicious and terrified of all foods that you do not make yourself or that are not “certified gluten-free.”  You will confirm and re-confirm with the server at the restaurant about your food needing to be gluten-free.  You trust  no one and expect  that you will invariably be “poisoned.” And let me not forget the times when you will accidentally “poison” yourself.  It will suck, but don’t beat yourself up.  Remember, what you are doing takes time to master, and each mistake and setback is not only an opportunity to learn, it is a step closer to mastery. 

The Tortoise

Much like in Aesop’s fable, you are slow and steady, but once you decide to go gluten-free, your success is certain.  My mother who also has autoimmune disease would qualify as a tortoise. I (being a pit bull at the time) drove her crazy for a year about my gluten-free diet.  To get me to shut up, she decided to try it.   Within a week, she felt better and was convinced, but her transition was much different from my own. 

First of all, she took baby steps. Rather than purging her house of gluten, she finished off the foods that had already been opened and began only purchasing gluten for my dad.  If she had a large amount of something like flour, she offered it to her neighbor or tossed it if it was nearing the end of its shelf-life.  Unopened foods were either used by my dad or donated to the food bank, depending on how often she used them.  For instance, bread was a staple so even the loaves she had stored in the freezer she used.  However, she gave things she used on occasion,  like cake mixes and unopened bags of flour, away.  The process of transitioning her kitchen to a gluten-free one is still in progress two and a half years later,  but since she’s done it at her own pace,  her changes have become a way of life.   

There was a period after my mother had gone gluten-free when I would not eat anything from her kitchen (sorry Mom) because I was afraid of cross-contamination.  For months after her switch, she would overlook my dad’s  gluten-y bread crumbs in her margarine tub!  Like most of us, my mother did not appreciate the importance of preventing cross-contamination until she and I both “poisoned” ourselves accidentally in her kitchen.  Since learning her lesson the hard way, my mother has become diligent in keeping her gluten-free foods separate from all gluten.  She uses separate cutting boards and has designated gluten and gluten-free slots on her toaster.  She even keeps separate margarine containers to prevent cross-contamination.  Gluten is always prepared separately from gluten-free items, and work surfaces and tools are thoroughly cleaned after every use.  Although it is not visible, gluten is actually very sticky.  It took a few months for my mother to master cross-contamination prevention, but it is now just a normal part of life at my mother’s house.  I don’t think she even thinks about it anymore, it has become habit.  I eat at her house now and no longer worry about being “poisoned.”

Unlike a pit-bull, a tortoise may not require the moral support (or absolute submission – lol) of those living with her.  My father is still transitioning to living gluten-free (not sure he is even aware); my mother has been gradually switching his foods for two years.  She has patiently worked around my father’s reluctance to follow her diet changes and has been very successful.  If she had forced herself or my father, they would have given up long ago.  But because she was willing to take her time and go at her own pace, she not only has been able to transition herself, but my father,  and most likely my brother as well (shhh, don’t tell him).  Despite dismissing my mother for several months, my dad has been gradually allowing his gluten-y bread and snacks, to be phased out.  He still indulges in imported sausages, specialty breads, and Chinese food now and then, but has come to accept and even respect my mother’s dietary changes.  He will even take my mother out to restaurants he knows are sure to offer gluten-free selections. 

I am very surprised and impressed by my father’s evolution over the last few years.  He was very set in his dietary ways.  I never thought in a million years he would support my mother’s decision to go gluten-free.  In fact, I believed that my mother would be unable to make the switch because of my dad’s perceived unyielding closed-mindedness.  I am not one to bring religion into the mix, but when I think of my mother and the way she has dealt with my father, I can’t help but be reminded of the  verse in the Bible that goes….

“4Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 6Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7 It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.”   –That’s I Corinthians 14:4 for all of my Christian readers.

My mother never demanded or even asked my father to join her in going gluten-free.  She knew he’d say no, so she made the choice to switch on her own.  Over time, my dad witnessed my mother’s health and appearance improve.  She wasn’t sick all the time anymore. I have to believe that caused him to take notice of what she was doing differently, and caused him to become more receptive to dietary changes.

Unlike Superman, Kryptonite Won’t Kill Us

Like me, my mother got a hold of gluten a few times before mastering the lifestyle Those slip-ups and accidents confirmed for us that we were really not meant to eat gluten.  The reactions we suffered were terrible.  Gluten is my kryptonite and will send me into a full-body-bind flare that will last at least two weeks.  My mother’s reaction is bad, but it doesn’t make her wish for death like me.  Once I realized just how sensitive I was to it, I would do just about anything to avoid it.  I became obsessive because I feared the pain and the cage that accompanied it.  Essentially, it wasn’t so much my personality that made me a pit-bull, it was self-preservation!

The good news is that a gluten-free lifestyle becomes as natural and automatic as the life you live now.  It becomes second nature.  You learn how and what to eat, and what to avoid.  Moreover, if you are indeed gluten sensitive, you will know after your first slip.  If you have a severe reaction, take comfort in knowing that once your body is given time to heal, your reactions will not be as brutal.  In fact, my own goals include becoming healthy enough to eat at one of Chef Ramsey’s restaurants and return to Philadelphia to have a bite of cheese steak without any adverse reaction.  Some would say that these are unrealistic goals for someone like me, but I don’t believe it.  The body is capable of recovery and healing on levels that medicine hasn’t even begun to understand.  I am not convinced that I have achieved my best yet.

As long as you approach going gluten-free in a way that works for you and your family, you are sure to be successful.  It can be an instantaneous overhaul of your life, a gradual transition that takes months or even years, or somewhere in the between of these two extremes.  Finding what works best for you will largely depend on your personality, your current lifestyle, and how sensitive you are to the gluten.  Best of luck =)

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A Day in the Life of a Gluten-Free Diet

So here it is!  Below is the food log of what I eat in a day while gluten-free….

Going gluten-free is like a gate-way to health for a lot of us with autoimmune diseases.  Once we take the plunge, our symptoms improve.  I personally was so amazed at my own improvement that I became curious to see how far I could go with diet alone – I am happy to report that I got really far.  In my pursuit for health, I changed my diet repeatedly.  In fact, over the last four years, my diet has gone from one end of the spectrum to the other.  For the purpose of offering a more realistic and accessible food journal sample, I felt it was necessary to post summaries from two different points in my own gluten-free journey.  I hope they are useful.

I don’t expect everyone to eat like me.  The logs are only an example of some of what can be eaten while gluten-free.  The point is to illustrate that one can easily eat heartily and healthfully.  I will be posting a link to many gluten-free recipes soon.  There are a ton of gluten-free recipes on the web, but personally, I find them all to be overwhelming.  There are just too many that don’t work or that are not good.  My link will only include recipes that I myself use and like.  No more guessing and hoping.

In the meantime, for those of you eager to get started, I encourage you to go on over to the Living Without Magazine website.  Most of their recipes work, so they have that in their favor.  They also print a lot of really neat variations on old-gluten-y favorites, like cinnamon rolls and cannoli.  When you are done scouring the website, head on over to your local library and check out an actual copy of Living Without Magazine.  The photography is like Playboy for your appetite; you will be salivating. 

 

 

Ok, ok, on to the food logs for real…..

Food Log of the Past Current Food Log
Breakfast:

  • Bacon, eggs, and gluten-free hash browns*.  Tropicana orange juice.

 

* BEWARE! Not all hash browns are gluten-free.  Always double-check.  Ore-Ida are NOT gf!

 

Breakfast: 

  • Homemade smoothie with a variety of fresh fruits and a protein such as hemp seed , or a powder such as Vega brand.

 

Lunch:

  • Turkey sandwich on Udi’s Gluten Free Bread with havarti cheese, lettuce, tomato, Vlasic dill pickles, and Boar’s Head Oven Gold sliced turkey.  Lay’s Original or Wavy Potato Chips.  Pepsi.

 

Lunch:

  • Brown rice bowl with fresh and steamed veggies, topped with a cashew sauce, salad dressing, or Ethiopian shiro. Water.

 

  • Homemade masa (corn) tortillas, with salsa and guacamole for dipping

 

Dinner:

  • Oven fried chicken* and fries.  Frozen corn. Pepsi

 

  • Chicken breast and homemade pesto pizza or pepperoni pizza* on Namaste brand, Glutino brand, or homemade gluten-free pizza crust.

 

* Recipe available in Patrice’s Allergen-Free Recipe Box on sidebar.  If it is not listed there yet, it’s because I am working on it and will be done soon. 

Dinner:

  • A fresh garden salad with a nut or seed based dressing.  Sounds boring, but the salads change daily depending on what is in season and on special.  You can get quite creative with ingredient combinations and dressings.

 

Desserts & Snacks:

  • Glutino Pretzels
  • Glutino Cookies
  • Homemade “Rice-Krispy*-like” treats made with peanut butter, and Erewhon puffed rice cereal

 

*BEWARE! Rice Krispies are NOT gluten-free! They contain malt flavoring which is barley based.

Desserts & Snacks:

  • Fresh homemade fruit or veggie juice
  • Nut based smoothie “shakes”
  • So-Delicious Brand Chocolate Mini popsicle
  • Tempt brand ice cream with Let’s Do Gluten brand cones
  • Incan Gold brand plantain chips

 

 

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Consistently Good: The Top 5 Gluten-Free Food Brands

I can only imagine what Chef Gordon Ramsay would say about this list, or for all gluten-free food for that matter.  How fortunate he is not to have to make such choices with his diet.  😉 In addition to a Top 5 List, I have also included a list of the “5 Gluten-Free Foods Most Likely to Make Chef Ramsey Hurl” at the bottom of the post.  Enjoy!

With so many gluten-free products on the market, it is difficult to know which ones are good and which aren’t fit for consumption.  And believe me, there are plenty out there that aren’t fit for consumption!  I have compiled a list of brands that are consistently good and worth the added cost associated with buying gluten-free.  These are brands that I have come to trust in providing a wide selection of palatable, even good tasting food.  Fresh and home cooked are by far the best, but sometimes, especially early on in the gluten-free transition, easy and accessible food is key, and there is nothing worse than spending $6 for a tiny box of cookies that are rock hard pieces of crap.  Allow me to help you navigate the hit-and-miss world of gluten-free foods. 

I have posted links to each brand as well as a link in the sidebar that will take you directly to Amazon.com’s Gluten-Free store.  I prefer to get my gluten-free products from Amazon because they have a good selection, the items are often reviewed, and their prices are lower than most grocers’.

Offers a variety of snack foods including pretzels, cookies, crackers, candy bars.  They also offer cereal and frozen pizza.  I think of all the brands, Glutino is the most consistent at offering consistently good food. http://www.glutino.com/

Ian’s is more of a “kids” brand, but they aren’t bad.  They offer frozen meals, including tv dinners, pizza, french toast sticks, waffles, fish sticks, chicken nuggets, corn dog poppers, and dairy-free macaroni and cheese.  Ian’s also makes cookies and other prepackaged snacks typically aimed at kids.  While gluten-free food has improved over the years in leaps and bounds, the same cannot be said for the level of sophistication in frozen foods.  Ian’s is about as good as it gets, which isn’t too bad.  Moreover, Ian’s foods are not just gluten-free, but allergen free as well – Most contain no nuts, eggs, or dairy in addition to being gluten-free.  Ian’s and others like Namaste are the direction that gluten-free food needs to go in.  Most people aren’t just sensitive to gluten, most of us have multiple sensitivities to deal with.  http://www.iansnaturalfoods.com/

Namaste makes bread, pizza, and pastry mixes, as well as, pasta kits similar to Kraft’s box Macaroni and Cheese.  Like Ian’s, their items are not just gluten-free, they are allergen-free also.  Namaste foods do not contain gluten, potato, corn, soy, wheat, dairy, tree nuts, peanuts, or casein.  www.namastefoods.com/

Udi’s is one of the best gluten-free bread, pizza crust, and muffin companies in mass production.  Their foods are great as long as you can tolerate eggs…..which I cannot.  It’s really a shame too because they have really good stuff which probably wouldn’t be quite as good if they omitted the eggs.  Oh well.  http://udisglutenfree.com/

Organ is a company out of Australia and like Namaste and Ian’s specializes in allergen-free foods.  Their items are gluten, dairy, soy, egg, yeast, and GMO free, as well as vegan and include everything from gravy mixes, to canned pasta (think Chef Boyardee), to cookies, soups, and breakfast cereal.  I have not personally tried all of their products, but all that I have tried have been decent.   http://www.orgran.com/

  

Other good bets:

 

Now what we’ve all been waiting for…..

The 5 Gluten-Free Foods Most Likely To Make Chef Ramsey Hurl

 Ener-G Foods Breads

Enjoy Life Cookies

Bob’s Red Mill Masa Harina

Most gluten-free dry pasta, save for perhaps Tinkyada

Soy-free soy sauces

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The Kids Are Alright: How My Children Went Gluten-Free

This week I will be focusing on gluten as it marks the four year anniversary since I went  gluten-free.

When my children came in and saw me uploading pictures of Dick’s Drive-In onto my last post (see “Glutton to Gluten-Free”) they all simultaneously began audibly salivating at the image of the logo.  Amazing how old habits die hard, even when we are young.  My children and husband are all gluten-free with me by choice.  They very kindly made the switch as an act of support and solidarity.  Besides, when I first went gluten-free I,  much like a new-vampire, had a very one-track mind and would become frenzied at the aroma and sight of tasty, gluten-ous vittles.  There was just no way that I was going to be successful if any gluten was to come into the house.   Yeah, yeah, I am weak and my story with gluten could be Homer Simpson’s story with gluten, but unlike Homer, I am no longer fat and sick.

 My kids were 8, 5, and 3 when I made the switch to go gluten-free.  Up to that point they ate how I ate.  Our family meals rotated between pizza, hamburgers and fries, cheesy macaroni and beef, fried chicken, and extra cheesy macaroni and cheese…..and those were just the meals that I made myself at home! This did not include all the restaurant and fast food my family and I were also consuming.

The kids made a relatively smooth transition to eating gluten-free mainly for two reasons.  First, I was very open and honest about what gluten was and what it did to my body. Second, I allowed them to make their own choices about the foods they ate.  I never forbade them from eating gluten and I still don’t. 

What They Don’t Tell You About Going Gluten-Free

 When my family went gluten-free it wasn’t easy.  There was a learning curve that we all had to overcome.  It is mind-boggling how many foods actually contain gluten.  I mean, ice cream?  French fries? Soy sauce?  C’mon!  After a little time reading labels it is easy to begin to ask yourself, “What DOESN’T have gluten in it?”  When you first stop eating gluten, you begin to feel better right away, but it is typically short lived.  Hidden gluten disguised by long-unpronounceable ingredients will come out of nowhere and undo all your hard earned progress.  Any symptoms you had before going gluten-free will come back with a vengeance.  When this happens is when most people quit, or get really paranoid about the food they eat.  Of course, I was one of the paranoid.  I didn’t trust anything that I myself didn’t cook.  The benefits of going gluten-free far outweighed the life that was waiting for me if I didn’t, so I didn’t give up.  Rheumatoid arthritis was not going to take me.

Gluten 101

Gluten was a hot topic in our house for several months while we learned to navigate the gluten mine-field.  My children and I discussed food a lot.  I wanted them to understand that their mama needed their support; that they were integral in this transition. To help them understand why I wasn’t going to buy or eat gluten-y food any longer,  I explained what gluten did to me on a level that they could comprehend.  In addition to reading several books on anatomy, and giving the simplified scientific explanation of gluten being a large protein that damages the villi of the small intestine and disrupts the absorption of nutrients,  I broke it down even further by telling them that gluten was like a large jagged rock that would bang, scrape, and injure their small intestine.  I described the small intestine as having little arms like a sea anemone that would suck up vitamins from food.  When the “gluten rocks”  would hurt the villi, they made it so your body couldn’t absorb enough vitamins and you would get sick. I think it is pretty safe to say that my kids “got” it after all my effort.

Gluten is also very sticky, and easily adheres to the foods and surfaces it touches. That is why gluten-free folks have to be particularly diligent when eating out.  To illustrate how gluten could contaminate other foods and cooking surfaces, I used the analogy of the half-eaten lollipop that sticks to everything it touches and leaves behind a sticky mess. 

Forbidden fruit is always the sweetest

I do not forbid my children from eating anything that I have deemed unhealthy for myself because  I don’t ever want them to feel as if they are missing out or are powerless in the choices that they make.   So, from the beginning, when the opportunity presented itself, like at a party or at Costco, I would always remind them that they were free to indulge .  At first, the kids were conflicted.  A part of them felt that if they were to eat , they were somehow being disloyal to me, but another, much louder part of them just couldn’t pass up the offer of cookies and cake.  I couldn’t blame them, I could hardly pass those foods up myself!  Something very interesting happened when the children switched back and forth between gluten and gluten-free diets. They noticed that gluten made them feel bad.  My son had the first and most pronounced reaction.  He had always been a sickly child.  He had asthma and ADHD-like behavior that made him high-maintenance to parent.  He noticed that when he was gluten-free, his asthma disappeared.  His dad and I noticed the behavior differences.  He wasn’t bouncing off the walls any longer; he could actually focus and stay on task as long as he was eating gluten-free.

My middle daughter suffered with joint pain, canker sores, and severe mood swings that would always end in crying jags when she would go back to eating gluten.  My youngest would get diarrhea and eczema. Even when they only ate a little bit, the effects would be severe and they’d last for days.

Despite knowing the physical consequences of eating gluten,  I still allowed the children to decide whether the food was worth it.  At first they could not resist and would justify themselves to me by saying that a little would not hurt them;  but gluten is highly addictive, so “eating a little” is always a slippery slope.  Inevitably, they would end up sick and very uncomfortable.  Needless to say, it did not take long before the children joined me as one of the food paranoid.  To this day, they all avoid gluten like the plague – not because I forced them, but because they were given a choice and allowed to feel the consequences.

Dealing with my own health problems while trying to be a good mom is difficult enough, I never want to add a power struggle over food to the mix.  

Kids Aren’t as Stupid as They Look

Our children are capable of understanding and enduring a lot more than we give them credit for.  My children were very young when I began this journey to health and healing, but I have included them in every step of the way.  It hasn’t been easy on them – they have been my hands and feet when I have been too crippled to get out of bed.  They have been shoulders to cry on when the pain was too great, and my comic relief when death would have been a welcome release. They have witnessed all that the human experience has to offer in their short lives and more.  The experience has made them compassionate and wise beyond their years. 

Childhood is not impervious to the injustices of reality and children should not be sheltered from the adversity of the family.  We can’t really hide anything from them anyway, so why insult them?  Through respectful age-appropriate communication children are able to comprehend a lot.  Moreover, when they are an active participant in the family, they will rise to the to the occasion when they are called upon.   Adversity isn’t always harmful, in fact, it presents many learning opportunities if the right approach is taken.  Yes, rheumatoid arthritis sucks for everyone in my house, but it is the challenge that life has presented us.  How we choose to deal with it is within our power.   My children are well adjusted, happy, self-sufficient kids who can cook, clean, shop for groceries, care for pets, and make a plan and execute it as a team.  Their success didn’t come from a parenting book or class, but is simply a response to their mother’s rheumatoid arthritis.

Your kids are not your joints.  They need not be permanently damaged by rheumatoid arthritis.  In fact, they have a lot to gain if allowed to walk with you and keep you company through this journey.

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From Glutton to Gluten-Free

 

Dick’s Drive-In is a local drive-in burger joint in Seattle, Washington.  It has been around since 1954 and has become a sort of tradition.  The restaurant’s large bright-orange logo that is emblazoned on every sign, bag, and employee can be counted among the city’s numerous icons.  At any time of day or night, you can find the place hopping with lines of eager patrons waiting to fill their bellies with the deliciously simple burgers, fries, and shakes that the drive-in is famous for.  While growing up, I would sometimes go there four or five times a week to get my fix; and when I became a mother, I was thrilled to make the trip with my children, past at least a half a dozen McDonalds’ for burgers and fries at Dick’s Drive-In.  Little did I know that August 11, 2006 would be the very last time that I would eat at my beloved fast-food joint….

On that day, my life changed forever.  That was the day that my doctor told me that I was gluten sensitive…..  

What is Gluten?

Very simply, gluten is a large, sticky protein found in many grains including wheat, barley, rye, and oats*.  When consumed, some people will experience adverse reactions that can include but aren’t limited to,  gastrointestinal problems, asthma, eczema, depression, anxiety, and joint pain.  Some medical organizations specializing in celiac disease and gluten sensitivity estimate that up to 60% of Americans may actually be sensitive to gluten, but most are unaware.  It is often only when symptoms manifest themselves  in the form of a disease like celiac,  rheumatoid arthritis, or gastritis that people become aware of gluten.  That is what happened in my case;  I had been diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis so my doctor ordered that I be tested for gluten sensitivity.  Until then, I really didn’t understand what gluten was.

*Oats do not contain gluten naturally, however most crops grown in the US is contaminated with gluten because it is usually grown and processed among wheat and other glutenous grains.  Always eat oats that are certified gluten free. 

Testing

There are blood tests that your doctor can administer to determine the presence of celiac disease.  While these are fairly accurate at finding celiac, they don’t tend to pick up on gluten sensitivity.  You can defininately be gluten sensitive and NOT celiac.  That does not mean that symptoms of aren’t as severe if you have a sensitivity rather than celiac; with either condition, your body treats gluten like a foreign invader marked for death.  There is one and only cure for celiac disease and gluten sensitivity:  a gluten-free diet. 

Obtaining a diagnosis of either celiac or sensitivity can be tricky.  Testing is designed to detect severe cases of celiac disease… I could go on all day about the pleasantries of the intestinal biopsy test for diagnosis, but I think I will skip that in favor for a less intrusive and much more accurate way to determine gluten sensitivity….

I personally had a blood test to determine gluten sensitivity and it came back negative.  So when my doctor ordered a second test, I protested.  I didn’t understand why I should need to undergo another blood draw for a test that had already determined gluten was not a problem.  My doc explained that his test did not collect blood, it collected feces….<blush>….yes, as in poop.

I am not going to go into the details of the test, but Enterolab is pioneering a method that uses poop to test for gluten sensitivity.  My doctor and his team were trying the lab out for themselves, except they were going to use me (and my pooh) as one of their guinea pigs.  Enterolab contends that testing through the digestive system, where gluten is actively processed, is a much more effective and logical means of determining whether the body is reacting to gluten.  Yes, that makes perfect sense to me and anybody else who reads their website. However, Enterolab’s credibility is hotly debated on the web.  And why not?  Anything new or unconventional is always scary.  Doctors can pooh-pooh  (no pun intended) the lab in favor of gold standard blood and biopsy methods all they want, but the fact is, they are largely ineffective at identifying gluten sensitivity. It cannot be argued that Enterolab shows great promise with their research and testing methods.

As a patient and the mother of an Enterolab patient, I can honestly say that Entorlab delivers on its claims.  My results from Enterolab came back positive for gluten sensitivity (as they usually do from Enterolab.  You don’t tend to require such a test if you aren’t showing signs of needing it).  When my doctor was finished explaining the results to me, I decided then and there to commit myself and my family to a gluten-free lifestyle and we have not looked back. 

Going Gluten-Free

Before going gluten-free I was addicted to food, particularly foods with gluten in them.  I was overweight and my body was swollen with inflammation.  My skin was always broken out in ugly red sores, which consequently, were a direct reaction of the gluten.  I was depressed, quick to anger, and forever in a brain fog.  I could never organize anything and worst of all my body was succumbing to the RA rapidly.  My hands and feet were developing nodules and I was living in a constant flare.  So, in summary, I was an ugly, evil, cripple who could eat like a farm animal…..  That life just wasn’t worth it. 

Transitioning to a gluten-free lifestyle was challenging.  There weren’t nearly as many options as there are now.  The few breads and cookies that were available were inedible.  Thankfully, gluten awareness has gone mainstream since my conversion and the product market has exploded with palatable foods (I will be writing about some of the better items, as well as recipes).   You can now find gluten-free selections at large grocery chains and restaurants in metropolitan areas.  Those who are just making the switch to gluten-free have it a lot easier when it comes to food options.  However, breaking the psychological and physiological addiction to gluten is a very personal journey. 

Don’t Let Anyone Tell You Gluten Isn’t Addictive

I was a mess for the first few months of gluten-free life.  I would find myself bawling for hours, for no reason.  It was difficult to think about anything else but food, and I was constantly trying to justify in my head ways of “accidentally” getting a fix.  I know it sounds crazy.  I sound as if I was trying to kick a drug habit or at least, something more serious than food, but what I describe is absolutely true and my account is only a taste of what I experienced.  I was profoundly addicted and when I came through that battle, I learned that I had no coping skills at all.  I used food to comfort and subdue my emotions, but that is another blog post entirely….  Anyway, I know I should write that anyone can overcome gluten and that it is easy, but that just was not true for me and to lie and say it was would undermine my struggle.  It was hard, but again, I would do it over again a million times to get to the level of health I am today. 

Gluten Freedom

Today, my rheumatoid arthritis is under control.  I have no nodules on my joints, in fact, you would not be able to see that I have rheumatoid arthritis by looking at my hands.  I have lost weight, my skin is clear for the first time ever, and I can finally think clearly.  I am not depressed, in fact, I have learned to be a much happier and patient person.  All this has happened as a result of simply removing a single protein from my diet.  The best part is that my RA symptoms improved within a week of going gluten-free.  If there was just one thing I could recommend to help someone with rheumatoid arthritis, (or any autoimmune disease for that matter) it would be to go gluten-free.  It makes a world of difference.  

Related Articles and Resources:

 “How Accurate Art Blood-Antibody Tests?”

http://www.celiac.com/articles/32/1/How-accurate-are-blood-antibody-tests/Page1.html

 “Challenges of Gluten-Free Living: The Addictive Nature of Wheat”

http://www.associatedcontent.com/article/1038974/challenges_of_glutenfree_living_the.html?cat=5

Entrolab Website (lots of info!)

https://www.enterolab.com/

One Last Thing….. 

The gluten-free diet has become popular in the last few years.  As a result, there is a ton of conflicting and mis-information on the web.  For more, reliable information on gluten, and for a list of gluten and gluten-free foods, I highly recommend: 

Celiac.com

http://www.celiac.com/

Gluten Intolerance Group of North America

http://www.gluten.net/index.php

By Me