Saturday, September 22, 2012

The FDA Going Gluten-Free

I spend Friday mornings cleaning up my ‘to-do’ list and reorganizing the projects I didn’t finish over the past couple of weeks. Having been, as Leslie Knope from the show Parks & Recreation refers to it, “Jammin’ on my planner,” I realized this morning that I had not yet shared anything about my experience speaking to the Northeast New York Central Atlantic States Association of Food and Drug Officials (NE-NY CASA).
NE-NY CASA is a conference for the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) made up of professionals who diligently assess and evaluate the procedures of food manufacturers and producers, restaurants, food trucks and corner stands, etc. to ensure that the food is safe to consume. These conferences work to seek out new information in regards to issues involving food and drugs (pharmaceuticals, self-care products, etc) that then drive the national standards of practice in regards to food and drug safety (labeling, manufacturing practices, etc.) for the national FDA
You can imagine how excited I was when they called to ask if I would come speak to their group about gluten-free food service at their regional meeting at the Department of Agriculture and Markets in Albany, NY. By now if you’ve read this blog, even once, you know that I am always more than happy to raise awareness about Celiac Disease (CD) and what it really means to be gluten-free (GF). Not only did I have a chance to educate and raise awareness about CD and GF for the individuals sitting in the room, but it was doubly a great day for GF, because I also had the opportunity to educate and advocate for truly safe labeling standards and the issues that the FDAs proposed label regulations still do not address - like cross-contamination during manufacturing!
This group was a very well-educated one in regards to food service and had wonderful questions; which (1) told me they were paying attention and were interested (phew!) and (2) were receptive to hearing about this ‘new’ information. Chalk one up to Celiac and Gluten-free awareness! Now, if we could only get some of these other regional CASA conference groups to understand why this issue should be on their radar we would really be making some great progress!
Instead of detailing the whole hour-long presentation (its the weekend…you’re welcome J) here it is not in a nutshell, but in a cloud! You will notice that the most often repeated words are the largest, so its pretty obvious to see the theme of the presentation.
Have a wonderful weekend!

Be well,


Saturday, September 15, 2012

These are a Few of My Favorite Gluten-Free Things

This is what I look like after I've gotten a few of my favorite gluten-free things :)
The Sound of Music is a yearly tradition for me in the fall...haven't we all dreamed of singing our hearts out in the mountains of the European country-side?, just me?
September 13th was National Celiac Awareness Day, its like a holiday at our place.  Although, due to very busy schedules this time around we didn’t get to celebrate it in our typical pig-out-on-all-my-favorite-gfree-foods-and-treats way.  The day was still a great one for me, and I made sure to celebrate it in other ways. Amidst the busy work schedule and lots of driving time, I talked with friends and strangers about Celiac Disease (CD) and living gluten-free (GF).  I was so happy to share information and tips with an aunt of a newly diagnosed college freshman, help educate a renal physician on some of the details of CD, swap some of my GF baking tips with a friend in exchange for her expertise in regards to her delicious Indian dishes, and reminisce with a friend and my brother about some of our funniest (and not so funny) experiences with CD, and I even made room for 4 treats in celebration of the day! Since I couldn’t hit up my gfree favorites, I thought I’d do the next best thing and share them with you! Hope you can enjoy them sometime too and be sure to let me know if you ever do!

Although I never used to, I LOVE vegetables! They top my list because they are naturally GF and easy to find!
Ina Garten’s (the barefoot contessa) lemon chicken.  She did not specifically design this recipe to be GF, but each of the ingredients can be found, very easily…right at the grocery store, in a GF version. (click here for the recipe)

Wegmans (a grocery store if you are unfamiliar) Microwave Mashed Potatoes! Since being GF requires that the majority of your food be made from ‘scratch’ in your own home, I love finding whole food items that are simple to put together in a pinch and do not sacrifice flavor or nutrition.  I love mashed potatoes but amidst all of the other cooking and baking I do, I love this convenient way to enjoy the creamy-deliciousness of mashed potatoes in minutes! On top of that, Wegmans is a champion for food labeling…they label each of their GF brand products with a clearly visible (right on the front of the package) gluten-free label! It makes shopping enjoyable again! (click here to check out Wegmans)

Betty Crocker GF cake mixes! I love baking, but sometimes I need to get a dessert together in no time.  GF baking often requires the use of multiple flours and ingredients.  Betty’s cake mixes are convenient and delicious! (click here to get a good look at Betty)

My brother and I were on a non-stop hunt for a donut that even somewhat resembled the moist-cakey richness of a gluten-full donut. We tried so many (not complaining), but that buttery mouthfeel was just missing from too many of them.  Then, we found   Vin-chet’s bakery near Buffalo, NY…best donuts we’ve found so far! I’ll be making a trip out there soon and I’m hoping I’ll find some fresh made donuts (wish they would make cider donuts) with which to spend my afternoon J(click here for their website)

Sherry Lynn’s is a 100% totally gluten-free restaurant in Albany, NY.  Sherry & Howie (the owner’s & operators) serve up traditional American fare.  The kind you can’t get anywhere else and know that you are, for SURE, safe from gluten.  I always stop for their Mozzarella Sticks & Mac’n’Cheese! If you visit, tell Sherry and Howie I sent you…after being harassed for a minute for being a friend of mine, you'll get to enjoy some great food! (click here to get a good look at Sherry Lynns)
I’ve written about Mingle before!  I actually did their GF foodservice consulting to help them create a wonderful and SAFE (in regards to any potential for cross-contamination) atmosphere for anyone with CD or GF needs.  If you are ever in the Albany, NY area stop for their Lobster Mac’n’Cheese…you can also check out my review right here on this blog J(click here to Mingle)

Tis’ the season for apple picking! It’s a great GF activity to do with friends and the whole family…plus it supports local agriculture.

Picnics are fun to have during the summer at a park or in the yard and even during the cold winter months; just clear some space on the living room floor and throw open a comfy blanket.

I love bowling for 3 reasons: #1 its bowling #2 I kind of ‘weirdly’ rock at bowling & beat Austin most of the time (I espcailly love that!) and #3 bowling alleys tend to be so laid back and, frankly, often neglected (in a ‘it has character’ kind of way!), so most will let you bring in your own GF snacks and treats.  Be sure to bring snacks that you can pop in your mouth right from the package or bring lots of handy-wipes J

I come from a competitive family, so sports have been an outlet for generations.  Football season brings back so many fun memories of growing up and continues to inspire new ones.  Tailgating can be a celiac’s best friend and I love it; You can prepare your own food and keep it safe  on separate table with its own utensils, but still interact and experience the pre-game weather and chatter!  Food displayed on pop-up tables, family lounging in lawn chairs, friends huddled around cups of chili…and lots of my gluten-free goodies to share with everyone, it doesn’t get much better than that!
Be well,

Monday, September 3, 2012

Gluten-free Socializing in a Gluten-full World

These Black-bottom Cupcakes are a family favorite. I made them gluten-free, and for what its worth I added a little fruit and some greens to each one too :) They are simple to make, delicious, and no one can ever tell that the gluten is gone! Come back in a couple of days for the recipe!

Picnics will be taking place in neighborhoods all over America & Canada in honor of Labor Day.  Who doesn’t love an old-fashioned tureen-style smorgasbord where everyone brings their favorite dishes to “pass”…well...I’ll tell you who, the one with Celiac Disease (CD) or any other special dietary need.  No one wants to be ‘that one’ hounding everyone about what’s in their dish; “is that malt vinegar or distilled vinegar that you used in your coleslaw?” Person replies with: *blank stare*
It is really easy to dread these types of events all together and rightfully so, crumbs can hide almost anywhere and it’s never a good idea to take your chance on something that may be contaminated with gluten.  I hate missing out on a party, though, so I resolve that issue by always bringing my own gluten-free food and utensils to ensure that I can enjoy my friends and family without the threat of getting sick.  I, in true Celiac fashion, go to any non-gluten-free event with my own meal prepared and always try to do some research beforehand about the event’s theme and the type of food that will be there so that I can make something similar.
Instead of being preoccupied during the party trying to figure out with what and how each dish was prepared, I can spend my time enjoying the party and even talking about CD with anyone who wants to know more.  While some people are shy about Celiac and don’t like to talk about it, I love to share my experience with others and most importantly with my family.  Since CD is an ‘inherited’ disease that is passed through genes from one generation to the next, I have made a concerted effort to be an open and honest point of contact for anyone in my family that has questions about CD.  
One of the ways in which I try to include my sometimes (actually, most of the time) stubborn family in my gluten-free way of life is to bring something g-free that I’ve made for everyone to try.  Most often, for anyone who has not tried anything gluten-free, they do not fully understand what it actually is, so of course most recoil in disgust.  How could they possibly eat that cupcake without gluten in it?…upon further questioning I always find that they actually have no clue as to what purpose gluten serves in that cupcake, but the mere thought of something being “so different” and foreign to them is enough to keep them away like it’s the plague!  While I always reassure them that on a very basic level they eat a lot of gluten-free foods (fruits, vegetables, meat!), I usually tweak a family favorite picnic staple to be gluten-free just to show that foods modified to be gluten-free can still be delicious. ask someone (usually my mom or my sister) to put it out amongst the spread of gluten-full (I refuse to use the word ‘normal’ or ‘regular’) items. 
*Before bringing a g-free dish (or any item for that matter) to an event, always test it yourself to make sure that nothing funky happened to don't want to give anyone a real reason to turn their nose up to gluten-free food!
Once I get to the party and my (and my brother's) food is safely set aside, I ask someone (usually my mom or my sister) to put my g-free dish out amongst the spread of gluten-full (I refuse to use the word ‘normal’ or ‘regular’) items. My brother, husband, niece, nephews & I love to sit back and watch everyone enjoy the gluten-free dish.  We keep a Sunday-night-football-sportscaster style commentary going about the smiles, sighs of satisfaction & second-helpings that result from the food that, unbeknownst to them, is gluten-free!  Our most favorite part, though, is to reveal that, for example, the cupcakes (reference the photo up-top...I've made those cupcakes multiple times to fool gluten-free naysayers) they just ate with such bliss and delight (the ones they said they would never eat without gluten) were the gluten-free version they swore they could never enjoy!
I hope you find little ways like this to enjoy your gluten-free social life.  When you just don’t feel up to being ‘the outcast’ or ‘the one asking all the questions about the food’ find a fun way to help make gluten-free the mainstream at the next event, share it with everyone…and maybe wait to watch them all enjoy first before you tell them its gluten-free!

Happy Labor Day…here is to a day of safe, healthy & fun gluten-free day of relaxation & partying!

Be well,