Sunday, July 29, 2012

Simply Delicious Bread

Just a quick post today to share one of my all-time favorite gluten free bread recipes from the baking book Easy Gluten-Free Baking by Elizabeth Barbone (my go-to resource whenever I want those classic breads, quick breads and desserts but can’t find anything in the store or a bakery that rivals the mouthfeel and texture of gluten-containing breads).  I have not yet shared any recipes on the blog, this will officially be my first, but was inspired by @CeliacRunner to share this bread recipe.  An avid runner, she has completed more marathons than you can count on your fingers and is using her experiences to inspire others with Celiac Disease to be healthy and active…her discipline and drive are such a motivation for my own marathon training!

I am happy to be able to share this delicious bread recipe with you that are looking to finally find a homemade yet simple bread recipe to replace the freezer-dwelling over-priced pre-made loaves you find in the store.   You’ll love this recipe for its texture and mouthfeel, plus its simple…no kneading or proofing. I use this bread for cold and hot sandwiches, French toast, bread pudding, and croutons. Enjoy!

Wet Ingredients

1 ¾ cups warm water

1 packet active dry yeast (I use Fleischmann's brand)

2 tablespoons vegetable oil (I use canola)

2 large eggs

Dry Ingredients

2 ½ cups brown rice flour (I use Bob Redmill's brand)

2/3 cup cornstarch (I use Clabber Girl brand)

2/3 cup instant nonfat dry milk (I use Carnation brand, its fortified with vitamins A & D)

1 tablespoon xanthan gum

1 teaspoon salt

*You will need a 9x5-inch loaf pan – lightly greased with gluten-free cooking spray

How to Make

1. Combine warm water and yeast. (I combine them in a spouted measuring cup for an easy pour later)

2. In a medium bowl (I use the mixing bowl for my KitchenAid mixer), whisk dry ingredients. 

3. Add yeast mixture, oil, and eggs.

4. Using an electric mixer (I use the paddle attachment, NOT the dough hook), mix dough for 5-minutes. The dough will be soft, thick, and sticky (it will NOT form a cohesive ball). If the dough seems tight or dry, add another tablespoon of water and mix for another 30-seconds.

5. Spread batter evenly into the greased loaf pan. Lightly spray a piece of plastic wrap with the cooking spray and lightly lay the wrap over the loaf (do NOT secure the wrap tightly around the pan, air needs to be able to move in and out over the dough).

6. Allow the dough to rise for 1 hour. Preheat oven to 350°F at some point during that hour.

7. Remove the plastic wrap from the loaf and bake for 55 minutes or until internal temperature reaches 208-211°F. If the crust is getting too dark, you can lightly cover the loaf with a piece of aluminum foil.

8. Remove the loaf and turn over onto a wire rack to cool. This bread freezes well, too (slice before freezing).

Be well,


Saturday, July 28, 2012

A Call for Support & Sensitivity

Having celebrated our two-year wedding anniversary this past week, I have done a considerable amount of reflection on the past couple of years, and how I have gotten to a place of confidence and peace with my autoimmune diseases and gluten free lifestyle.

Looking back on my life I see a whole lot of challenge and struggle related to autoimmune diseases; challenge and struggle I would not have overcome so earnestly without the support of my parents and siblings.  My parents were the first to teach me the meaning of grace, and I got a lot of practice with it during my high school years and struggles with Graves Disease and undiagnosed Celiac Disease.  It was difficult and confusing as a 15 year old to recognize and somehow try to reconcile my adult teacher’s ignorance about my condition, and on top of that show her grace when I was sure she fell miserably short of it.

Years later, after having been married for only 5 months, my newly-wed husband had to not only adjust to non-touring-drummer married life, but the drastic lifestyle change that accompanies a Celiac Disease diagnosis.  I was sure he was going to be eternally dissapointed and annoyed by my new way of life, but I’ll never forget the first night after my “you definitely have it” endoscopy: Austin (my husband), came right home from work and cooked the first real meal he ever had in his entire life – Plain grilled chicken and…honestly, I cannot even remember, I was still loopy from the anesthesia J.  He was scared and cautious while preparing my meal, mostly because he understood the seriousness of this change, but partly because he would be using my brand new Cuisinart Green Gourmet pans! I was so grateful for his effort, care, understanding and attentive response. 

Austin and my family have also supported me in making our house 100% gluten free, which I always recommend others to do as well, although I realize that is not always possible.  Whenever my parents and my sister, brother-in-law and my nephews and niece visit, they eat completely gluten free while here.  Austin eats gluten free at home, but I encourage him to nosh on some wholesome, vitamin-mineral-and-fiber packed whole wheat when he’s out with his friends.  
My family’s support continues to amaze me and extends beyond keeping my house gluten free: my parents have taken an active role in (and my dad has become President of) their hometown Celiac Support Group in Western New York “Against the Grain,” and I look forward to the calls I get from my niece and nephews when they’ve found a new gluten free product at the store and can’t wait to bring it next time for me to try, I also especially love when Austin grills me about something I’m about to eat when we are out of the house, “is that GLUTEN FREE?!” And what a bonding experience it’s been for my brother Ricky and I who are currently the only two (obviously there are others, but they’re being stubborn and will not get tested) in our family who share a Celiac diagnosis. I am so proud of the way my immediate family has embraced and champoined our gluten free way of life!

I have been blessed with a wonderful support system that also includes friends who have Celiac, their spouses and other friends who are just sensitive and gracious enough to learn about this disease and how best to accommodate.  I worry about my Celiac peers, though, that I’ve met that do not have a support system at home or otherwise.

If you have Celiac please speak up and advocate for our community at home, work, school, at restaurants and the like to help others understand our lifestyle, especially for those who feel as if they do not yet have the voice to do so.  At the same time be gracious in understanding that others may be completely unaware of what it is like to live with Celiac Disease. Please also get involved with your local support group to connect with others who may not have the support with which you may have been blessed.

If you do not have Celiac but know someone who does, please consider the sacrifices and challenges they face on a daily basis.  Please be sensitive and aware that while the gluten free lifestyle may not make sense to you, it is the only course of treatment for this disease and needs to be taken seriously.  You, too, can support and advocate on behalf of those with Celiac Disease by getting involved with a local support group, participating in a charity run or even just being sensitive to the needs of those who are gluten free.

To learn more about Celiac Disease and how you can get involved:

Click here to see a list (although it is not exhaustive) of Celiac and Gluten Free Support Groups by state.

Click here to visit The Celiac Foundation’s website.

Click here to visit Columbia University’s Celiac Disease Center website.

Click here to visit The Maryland Center for Celiac Research website.

Be well,


Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Celebrating Marriage & Gluten Free Food: A Restaurant Review

Yesterday (July 24th) my husband, Austin, and I celebrated two years of marriage! I am extremely grateful to have a husband that goes above and beyond when it comes to offering me support and encouragement with my special dietary needs (SDNs), especially because I have seen, too many times, situations in which this is not the case.  Over the past two years it has been a joy to watch Austin at my speaking events, wellness fairs, autoimmune charity events, etc. advocating for and raising awareness about Celiac and Graves Disease and the gluten free lifestyle. 
If you have Celiac, you know that it’s not unusual to spend every holiday planning and preparing food for yourself and any others who are gluten free.  That is why I love traveling around and doing Special Dietary Needs – specifically gluten free – restaurant kitchen overhauls and staff trainings! Not only does it raise awareness about Celiac Disease and the realities of SDNs, it also broadens my opportunities for socializing (something I have missed so much since having to go gluten free), and I can rest assured that my food is being prepared and served in a safe and thoughtful way. 
One of the restaurants I have worked with most recently is an ethnic fusion restaurant in Albany, NY called Mingle.  I had a wonderful time working with the owners and staff at this restaurant and learning about their mission to offer quality food with a conscience to the “vast minority.”  They have partnered with local farmers and food co-ops to support sustainable community-based food systems; their mission and vision is evident in everything they do and every meal that is created. 
This restaurant is on the right track and is leagues ahead of many food businesses I have seen that advertise “gluten free food” (what a danger some of them are!).  The owners were open and supportive of the changes I recommended they make,  from a structural redesign of their kitchen that included: purchasing new separate, covered and hooded preparation stations to expunge any opportunity for airborne cross-contamination, as well as all-separate and color-coded pots, pans, cutting boards, utensils, etc. to partnering with a local 100% gluten free bakery for bread products, and trainings in which I educated chefs and sous chefs in safe SDNs food preparation, as well as wait-staff in menu-guidance and table service for SDNs.
This restaurant has quickly reached the top of my favorite places to eat list for both atmosphere/food and SDNs safety! I do not need to go in to detail about the food, because it tastes as good as it looks…as you will see from the pictures.  There are so many creative options on the menu, and that goes for the gluten free menu and vegan options too…you will not be disappointed with the variety they offer! This is a great place to spend a quiet dinner with someone special or a Friday night out with friends, probably not somewhere for young kids, though.
If you are in the NY Capital District area and are looking for a tasty out-of-the-box gluten free meal, Mingle is a must.  Ask for Jose or Julie and let them know I sent you, they will be sure you have a wonderful time!

Our two-year anniversary dinner
We ordered two gluten free entrees to share (we will get both of them again!)
·         5 Cheese Lobster Mac  - Creamy and smooth with notes of sharp garlic (contains
        dairy...a lot of it!)
·         Filet Diane – Perfectly prepared and topped with meaty mushrooms in a sweet cabernet sauce, layers of flavor.  Comes with sliced/roasted sweet potatoes that I would order as an appetizer if I could!
For dessert:
Raspberry Belgium Chocolate Mousse –  It might not look like enough to share, but it is rich and filling, it was a great way to end the night.

Heres to happy eating J
Be well,


Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Color Me Gluten Free

Everyone knows all of the benefits of staying fit and active, and there is no doubt it is even more important for those of us with autoimmune issues to challenge our bodies in safe and healthy ways to keep them strong and on-point.  Knowing the benefits of exercise and actually getting exercise are two totally different things, though! Even for those of us who enjoy staying active it’s easy to get stuck in a routine and just get bored with the same gym setting.  If any of what I just said resonates with you, then I suggest you find yourself the closest Color Me Rad run and get yourself signed up ASAP!

What’s great about Color Me Rad is not only does the money you put toward registration go to support charity, you can be a serious runner or someone who just needs a really entertaining reason to get out for a 3-mile walk and still enjoy what this event has to offer. Not to mention, it’s a great gluten free way to get some out-of-the-ordinary exercise, because the color dust is gluten free cornstarch!

Two weekends ago my brother Ricky (who also has Celiac), my friend Jen, and I did the Color Me Rad run in Boston.  We ran as team “Tighty Whities” and had such a great time; you'll see we do not neccessarily belong to the "serious runner" category!  A special thanks to Jen, a very crafty artist and a fashion blogger (Jen Loves Kev), who designed our shirts, which we then hand painted (I’ve already tried wearing mine to work J). 

Warmin' Up

Warm-up Litmus Test - Check

Let the Color Begin

The Lebron James

Totally Rad - Gluten Free Style

The "Tighty Not-So Whities"

Hope you had as much fun looking at the pictures as we did making them happen!

Be well,


Footnote: Whether it’s a silly run with your friends or a competitive triathlon, get yourself signed-up for something to keep you motivated to stay active!

Saturday, July 21, 2012

In the News

I was excited and more than happy to have, in May, joined Phil Bayly of Channel 13 News for the Capital District Region in NY to talk about Celiac Disease and being gluten free.  Whenever there is any chance to speak out from a public platform and raise awareness about the reality of Celiac Disease, I mic-up, practice dulling down my expressive hand gestures, do a couple of rounds of “ow, now, brown cow” and the “arsonist had oddly shaped feet” (Anchorman, the movie) vocal warm-ups (I seriously considered doing some at the studio, but figured it might not make the best first impression), and start talking! Although there was so much more I wanted to say and talk about, I was glad to have had the opportunity, and was impressed that this news station has stepped-up to give a voice to our community!

For those of you who watch Channel 13 news and Phil Bayly, I like to call him Philly Philly Bay Bay (no I don’t, but I’ve always wanted to!), he is just as friendly and smooth talking in person as he is during his morning news segments and banter with weatherman Paul Caiano! Also, after arriving at the studio and meeting him, I realized that you never see a news anchor’s shoes during broadcasts!!! I will forever now be distracted during the news.

Be well,

Footnote: sending this video is a great way to get solid Celiac Disease and Gluten Free lifestyle information and advice to anyone that might need it, without you having to do all the work.  Feel free to share!

Friday, July 20, 2012

Where it begins...

Well, this has truly been a long time coming. I have, for many years now, been working academically, professionally and personally to make a difference in the lives of those around me, and now based on a series of events I've landed in the “blogosphere” (do people really call it that? I don't know?...I’m new to this!). It started with my own autoimmune diagnoses and has continued to develop in ways I would have never imagined. Like many of the twists and turns my life has taken this one feels a little uncomfortable but is something I have been encouraged by friends, family, clients and complete strangers to do. In the past year I came to the conclusion that blogging might not only be an opportunity to reach and connect with more people, but also a way to examine my life from a different perspective in which I have chronicled all of the experiences and adventures I have had as well as the ones to come; something that I think will be invaluable to myself and someday my kids and grandkids. 
My desire to perfect, package and publish whole systems and programs has served me well in academy and the professional world, but is partly what has held me back from launching this blog, until now. I want to be sure to clearly communicate exactly what it is about me and my experiences that I want others to connect with and understand. I have realized, though, it is impossible to ask others to connect with you, through their unique experiences, and yet at the same time direct and dictate their perception of you; plus, whether I want to accept my Myers-Briggs personality profile or not (ENTJ, by the way if you were wondering), I am an extrovert who is energized by “real-time” relationships and interactions, so the uncertainty of an online atmosphere has kept me from diving-in and getting started. Nevertheless, it has taken me some time to learn that I cannot possibly write every detail and connecting thought I’ve ever had (although I did try…attempt #24 at starting this blog!), and instead I have relinquished control to the reader to reconcile the myriad (I find that a more elegant word for mess) of facts, thoughts, and information that will ensue and take it for what it is worth to you!
I hope to not only make a difference in the lives of those who have Celiac Disease, other autoimmune diseases and those with special dietary needs (SDNs), but to also raise awareness and and help to bring about sensitivity and understanding in those who do not. I look forward to helping the world be more aware and educated, as well as sharing my experiences and hearing about yours too!

I hope you find this blog is something you can connect with whether you have autoimmune issues, SDNs, or just find me fascinating enough to read my blog anyway J

Be well,


Footnote: To give you a better sense of who I am and how I got this way, my personal and professional life with autoimmune diseases, and some stuff in between, I am working on a larger series I am calling, “A stage, a Lake & a Porta-John: My Life with Autoimmune.” In the meantime, get ready for some random facts about living gluten-free and personal rants about the insensitivity of "the public" when encountering us SDN "crazies" (a personal term of endearment :)