Archive for the ‘Thoughts’ Category

Dear Abby Advice: Great for those with Food Allergies & Celiac Disease

Thursday, August 25th, 2011

I haven’t always been 100% pleased with the advice that Dear Abby gives her readers regarding food allergies, celiac disease, food intolerances, and the like (See one of my past blog post here for an example).

But as I was reading my morning paper (yes… the good old fashioned kind delivered right to my door every day!)  this past week, I was thrilled that good ‘ole Dear Abby gave some advice that was right on target for those of us with celiac disease, gluten-intolerance of other food allergies / intolerances.

Yeah, Abby! Here it is:

Dear Abby:

As a former paramedic and also a food allergy sufferer, I’m acutely aware of the problems caused by this condition. Food allergies vary widely and are not limited to common ones — nuts, shellfish, gluten or strawberries. We know what we are allergic to, and we do our best to avoid those foods.
Sometimes it’s difficult to tell what’s in some tasty-looking dishes at potluck gatherings. An ingredient may be used only for seasoning, but sometimes just a trace of it is all it takes to trigger a reaction. That’s why I have established a practice that has always been well-received. I print out a card to attach to the dish I brought. On it I name the dish and list the ingredients.

I hope you’ll find this suggestion helpful enough to pass along. It could save a life.

Joe in Janesville, Minnesota

And Dear Abby’s reply:

Dear Joe:

You’re right; it could — and that’s why I’m printing it. I met a widow whose husband suffered an allergic reaction and died at a dinner party, despite the frantic efforts of several physicians who were also in attendance. Forewarned is forearmed.

Right on Dear Abby! Thanks for printing a column with some good, solid, useable and real life advice. But on top of her advice, I also have some of my own thoughts to add:

–    Include not only the ingredient – but the brand: Often times a certain brand of a product may carry a certain allergen, when another does not. Did you use Hellmann’s Mayonnaise in your potato salad? Was it Yoplait yogurt used in your spinach dip? Make note of them!

–    If you have the ingredient labels of the products you used bring those along too! Although many people now have smart phones and can quickly look up ingredients of most manufacturers brands in a heart-beat, bringing the labels often times would be a time-saver and well-appreciated! Note: For those of you with smart phones and you need a quick look-up of product ingredients, try this website out:

–    Write up extra recipe cards: Why just bring one card listing all the ingredients in your dish? Bring a bundle – since your dish will be the hit of the party – and everyone will want the recipes to make themselves!

Want to let Dear Abby know that you appreciate her advice? Or give her your own thoughts on this column? You can email her here.

BYOC: Bring Your Own Cone – My Gluten-Free Ice Cream at Dairy Queen

Friday, July 1st, 2011

Summer is here my friends and it’s time for the lazy, hazy and crazy days of summer. And what would summer be without ice cream?

But those of us on a gluten-free diet understand that ice cream in a boring little cup is, well…. just that…boring. There’s something to be said for ice cream that is licked, slurped and thoroughly enjoyed from a good old fashioned ice cream cone. Cups just can’t stand up to a cone.

That is why I bought my own gluten-free ice cream cones on and bring my own cone to my local Dairy Queen for a soft-serve treat that is so very, very, very much appreciated by this ice-cream-loving-gluten-free gal.

For those of you who weren’t aware, Dairy Queen soft-serve ice cream is gluten-free and they also have an extensive list of gluten-free treats. Note: If ordering a Blizzard make sure they know ahead of time you’re gluten-free so they can clean the equipment  to avoid any cross-contamination.

By now I’m sure my local Dairy Queen employees knows me as “the girl that brings her own gluten-free ice cream cone”. But to me I’m just one happy gluten-free gal… taking life one single lick at a time.

The Mind, Body, Spirit Connection: A Celiac Journey

Sunday, March 27th, 2011

The day after I was diagnosed with celiac disease I woke up and made a commitment to take the step to do what it takes to make my body well again.

This was a commitment that totally changed my life.

Six years later my body has healed. I’ve done this by keeping gluten out of my diet, while learning as much as possible about celiac disease, gluten-free diets, other autoimmune diseases and how lactose can affect those with celiac disease, while staying abreast on new research and more.

And although I feel the healthiest that I have in years, this past week a friend challenged me with this question: How do you keep your soul & spirit healthy?

And I realized that although I take almost daily walks and try to take a bit of time for myself each day, even just to read a book or a new magazine, take a bath or catch up with friends, I recognized that I am not scheduling in and spending the amount of time I really need for myself. For my soul. For my spirit.

So, I decided to commitment the amount of effort, energy and enthusiasm I undertook when embarking on the gluten-free diet on a new journey – a journey to make my complete self healthy. And with my friend that challenged me with the question earlier in the week, I signed up for 60-days of yoga at a local yoga studio, bCalm Power Yoga. By doing this I hope to make the commitment to have a scheduled time that I can carve out for me, myself and just I.

And as when I started my gluten-free lifestyle, I am approaching this journey of complete health with open arms. But this time I realize that in order to be truly healthy, my body, spirit and mind must all be involved, as one, in taking that next step to better & complete wellness.

Note: Have any of you taken up yoga and have any words of encouragement & wisdom to share?  How do you think it has helped with dealing with the daily stresses of life? I would love to hear what others think… so please share!

Eat Your Heart Out Fanny Farmer: Gluten & Allergen Free Valentine Candy Ideas

Sunday, February 6th, 2011

When I was a little girl my dad would come home from work every Valentine’s Day with one big red heart for my Mom and three more mini-versions for me and my sisters, all jammed packed with assortment of chocolate candies.

These are sweet memories. I’m not sure if it was the way these chocolates were presented, each in their own little brown paper holder, nestled side-by-side inside this shiny heart or the fact that these chocolates were a gift from my dad – but these Fanny Farmers were the best chocolates in the whole wide world.

But as Forrest Gump reminds us, “Life is like a box of chocolates… you never know what you’re gonna get”, and in our worlds what we’ve “got” are things like Celiac disease, nut allergies, dairy allergies and other food intolerances. These are the things that life throws our way that sometimes make the red heart moments in life a little more challenging.

But luckily for us, there are companies out there that make gluten and allergen free chocolates that are excellent – companies like gluten-free Angell Crisp Bars, nut, egg & dairy free  Divvies and gluten and allergen friendly Enjoy Life Foods. Also, be sure to check out this blog post on BeFreeForMe that lists resources to help you find candy that is free of gluten and other allergens.

The BeFreeForMe staff has also come up with recipes for delicious Valentine Day candies to make yourself, or with your loved ones, at home. Making Valentine Day candies is easy, fun and doesn’t require any fancy equipment.  These recipes include Chocolate Candy Clusters and many more that will be featured this whole week on the BeFreeForMe website.

So enjoy all these Valentine Day candy ideas – I promise they’ll taste just as good as those that come in those red valentine hearts… Cross my heart.

Revelations about My New Year Resolutions

Sunday, January 2nd, 2011

Let’s face it… this is the time of year that we all start making up lists of the things that we are or are not going to do for the coming year. A list of resolutions that we coulda, woulda and shoulda been doing for the past 12 months, but needed the fresh clean start of a shiny New Year to get the motivation to begin.

In the past most of the resolutions I made were doomed for failure. But this year is going to be different. This year I am actually going to make resolutions that I can keep.

Resolutions that are fated for failure are ones that are typically super specific… I WILL run 4 miles every day; I WILL loose those extra 10 pounds by the first day of summer; I WILL eat only 1600 calories a day; I WILL have lunch with different friends at least once a month; or I WILL save $50 every week.

This year I decided to make my New Year’s resolution ones that are qualitative in nature, and not quantitative. Resolutions that let me enjoy the journey of becoming a healthier and happier person – both physically and mentally. My rule: No menial counting allowed with my resolutions this year.

I figured that by recognizing and then repeating all the little things along the course of the day that make me a better person –  a person that is in good health and more content – all the super-specific aspirations will inevitably and naturally fall right behind.

When I rejoice at a beautiful spring day, I’ll walk a little bit longer to enjoy the day even more; When someone in the office makes a gluten-free birthday cake for a co-worker I’ll join the festivities and enjoy a small slice… calories and all; and when a friend calls me, even on my craziest of days, and asks to go out that night to “catch up” I’ll join her and enjoy every moment.

So this year instead of counting calories, miles, or how much I have saved in the bank, I’ll be counting my blessings and all the little things that make every day of the year as shiny and bright… and promising… as the day before.

The Gluten-Free Diet: The Newest “(Don’t Get) It-Diet”

Friday, November 12th, 2010

Yesterday I had lunch at PF Chang’s in my local mall. Jammed packed with tons of shoppers off from work and school for Veteran’s Day, there was a 20 minute wait for a table. Luckily a couple had just left the bar, and I was able to grab one of the two side-by-side seats they vacated.

As I settled into place, I envisioned the mouth-watering Lettuce Wraps & spicy General Tsao like-chicken I was soon to devour. Glancing up at the TV, I caught the tail end of CNN showing a clip of that Carnival Cruise boat docking in California, packed with those poor folks that had nothing to eat for the past several days except for Pop Tarts & Spam. Guiltily, my soon to eat feast felt that much more sacred.

Suddenly a gal impeccable dressed in Burberry and made-up like a run-way model, barged her way into the empty seat next to mine all the while wrestling with several shopping bags bearing the names of Gucci, Juicy Couture and Louis Vuitton.

As she plunked herself down, she loudly and immediately asked the bartender to change the TV station to “anything but the news” since, “she never watches it because it’s so depressing”. Her commanding presence had that TV channel changed in no time flat.

Suddenly that 20 minute wait for a table didn’t seem like the eternity in which my much craved lunch was surely about to become.

As I ordered my gluten-free meal, Ms. Gucci squealed in delight proclaiming “O’ma Godddd! I’m on that new ‘It-Diet’ too! Just like Gwyneth and all those others in California!”

Thinking that maybe, just maybe, it might be worth trying to explain, I clarified that I was on the gluten-free diet, not because it was the new “It Diet” but because I had something called celiac sprue disease. In a flash, Ms. Gucci backed her stool away from me as if I had some kind of catchy flesh-eating disease that if contracted may keep her penned-up and away from the mall for months. Although I was grateful for the extra elbow room in such tight quarters, I kept my composure, and in my most simple and childlike language I could muster, I assured her that celiac disease  is not catchy, and further went on to explained that the “cure” was a life-long adherence to a strict gluten-free diet. I also explained that those with celiac disease can’t eat anything with gluten, even the things you wouldn’t imagine would, but do; things like the regular soy sauce served at most restaurants.

It was then that she let me know that she and “hundreds of her friends” just don’t eat things that have “real gluten” in them… things like bagels, pizza, pasta, cakes and cookies.

Really? I mean… Really?

It was then I realized that this whole deal of the gluten-free diet being the “It Diet” really should be called the “Don’t Get It” diet.

After finishing up my lunch, in which (thankfully) Ms. Gucci was so enthralled with texting on her newest smartphone that we didn’t find the need to converse any longer, I gathered up my shopping bags from Sears and JC Penney, and bid my goodbyes to my haphazard dining companion.

But before leaving, I decided to mention to Ms. Gucci today’s newest “It Diet”. A new diet that surely she hadn’t heard about yet. A diet that has been covered by every news station. The newest diet craze that thousand of folks in California have just discovered. Yup… the “Pop Tart & Spam” diet.  I told her to give it a try, and leave the gluten-free diet to those of us who “get it”.

Food Allergies, Celiac Disease and the Pursuit of Happiness

Monday, September 6th, 2010

Today when I was grocery shopping I was accused of being “too happy”.

This accusation, my friends, came from a young gal who was just recently diagnosed with celiac disease and a dairy intolerance. I randomly met this girl in the gluten-free section of the supermarket.

As I approached the section, a girl was just standing and staring at the shelves of gluten-free products. After I selected a few packages of pretzels and crackers and started to walk away, the girl turned towards me, and barked, “Don’t you just hate eating gluten-free?”

I stopped dead in my tracks, turned, and stared.  I had to actually rewind in my mind what she had just asked me.

Don’t you just hate eating gluten-free.

And without much hesitation, I looked at this despondent girl and said, “No, I don’t hate eating gluten-free, and the trick is to stay positive and enthusiastic.”

Quizzically she looked at me blankly, then asked how anyone could ever be happy about eating gluten-free, never mind positive and enthusiastic. I then started jotting down names of great resource books; gluten and dairy-free products that are must-haves; and tidbits of information that any newly diagnosed would ever need.

Halfway through my frantic scribbling of resources and tips on the back of my shopping list, she stopped me, looked me square in the eye, and asked me to help her with the real question she had asked: How can you be happy eating gluten free.

Caught off guard, I asked her to give me time to think about the question, and that I would answer it on this blog within a day. With some guidance and tips about finding happiness from the book, “The How of Happiness” by Sonia Lyubomirsky, here is how I have become a happy, positive and enthusiastic celiac – who, matter of fact, does loves to eat gluten-free.

Don’t Stew: After I got diagnosed with celiac disease I gave myself one day, and one day only, to grieve the loss of the foods I could never eat again. That day was full of crying and venting. It sounds crazy but it actually helped me to mourn the loss of bread, crumpets, pizza and beer, as I once knew it. After that day, I moved on and start living my life without it. No tears allowed!

Which leads us to the next tip…

Count Your Blessings: Being gluten free has helped to appreciate the little things in life. Things like simple sliced strawberries for dessert, fresh vegetables from my garden, a gluten-free cupcake made by your best friend so you can share in a birthday celebration. Every day find the little things that you appreciate, and maybe took for granted before your diagnosis.

Look on the Bright Side: There are plenty of people in this world that have worse problems than not being able to eat bread, beer from a keg, or ice cream. Get over it.

Build Relationships: Do what I did and join a celiac or food allergy support group. Share, share and share! Remember, you’re not in this alone!

Manage Stress Serenely: When times get tough, and yes indeed they will, don’t get angry, pout or feel sorry for yourself. When I start to feel the stress, I go for a walk, page through a cookbook packed with yummy gluten-free recipes, or call my sister who also has celiac disease. For me – fitness, food and family always make things better.

Respect Your Body: I know its cliché, but your body really is your temple. Take good care of it physically and emotionally. Also, sneaking a bit of gluten here and there and cheating on this diet is a HUGE no-no. Don’t do it. Ever.

Pursue a Life-Long Goal that You’ve Been Neglecting: Have you always wanted to get involved in volunteer work? Help out with projects at your local support group. Have you secretly wanted to write and publish your thoughts? Start a blog about your new allergen-free journey. Interested in cooking? Sign up for an allergen or gluten-free cooking class.

Whatever it is you desire, use your recent diagnosis as a spring board to reach your goals. I’ve done this… and it makes my life that much more meaningful, and my celiac diagnosis a reason to make myself, and the world I live a happier & better place – even without gluten.

Got Celiac Disease? Hopefully Chelsea Clinton’s Gluten-Free Cake Has Many Saying “I DO!”

Sunday, August 15th, 2010

Without a doubt Chelsea Clinton’s July 31st wedding will be dubbed the event of the year, if not the century.

The wedding was picture-perfect: The bride’s Vera Wang wedding ensemble, and the Oscar de la Renta dress worn by Hillary; the swanky Rhinebeck, New York venue, Astor Courts Estates, which hosted the 500-plus guests; and the absolutely perfect weather for the estimated $3 to $5 million dollar extravaganza, which ultimately proved to me the Weather Gods absolutely, positively, and without a single-doubt have to be Democrats.

Chelsea made some fabulous choices when planning the details of her wedding, but what really caught my eye, and I’m sure had millions of others across the globe pining to find out more, was the gluten-free wedding cake.

From the bottom of my celiac-heart, thank you, Mrs. Mezvinsky.  (That’s Chelsea for those of you that didn’t know her married name).

With Chelsea saying “I Do” to a gluten-free wedding cake, she brought world-wide recognition to the gluten-free diet. The world has been abuzz with this wedding, and having a gluten-free wedding cake being the choice, and in the spotlight, of this former sweetheart of a first-daughter’s wedding, is big time for me, and the rest of the gluten-free set.

This 4-foot tall, nine-tiered, vanilla sponge cake layered with dark-chocolate mousse,  made by La Tulipe Desserts in Mount Kisco, New York, has sweetened the concept of being gluten-free. This famous cake has people chatting about the gluten-free diet and celiac disease; how “everyone knows someone with celiac disease”;  and most importantly, asking question about the disease, the reason why I and over 3 million other folks, just in the US alone, should be adhering to a gluten-free diet – not by choice, or by fad, but by medical necessity.

I am not exactly sure why Chelsea Clinton-Mezvinsky decided to choose a gluten-free cake on the day she said “I Do”, but thanks to her choice of cakes, and the publicity this famous gluten-free cake has garnered, my hope is that those with undiagnosed celiac disease all around the globe will become more aware of the disease, more conscious of the symptoms and have them questioning their doctors that maybe “I Do” have celiac too.

Want to find out more about Chelsea Clinton’s Gluten-Free wedding Cake? Check out this links:
Today MSNBC Article

or video

The Best Life Can Offer: Served on a Simple Paper Plate

Sunday, August 1st, 2010

When the weather is hot outside, and even hotter inside, who in the heck wants to even think about melting over a hot stove?

When I was a little girl and the weather was hot hazy n’ humid, my Mom would make her way out to the garden and pick, rather than cook, our supper. Topped with a can of chilled tuna salad, our dinner plate was complete. The perfect ending to steamy hot summer day.

Seasonal herbs and vegetables can be the fantastic starting ground for a gluten and allergen free meal. Top these seasonal gems with a can of quick and easy tuna (or canned chicken or beans, if seafood allergies are a concern) and you have a no-cook supper that is full of protein, fiber, nutrition and healthy ingredients.

I find it amazing how “my” fond childhood memories of a cold tuna salad plate on a hot and steamy summer night are also shared by so many other people. And for us all, even in our adult lives, cold tuna salad plates are triggers of happy summer food memories alongside the all-time classic favorites such as popsicles, s’mores, hotdogs and lemonade.

And because of these happy memories this tradition thankfully carries on for many of us today.

Many associate the smell, warmth and complexity of meal preparation as the components of their most comforting food memories; however, the ease and utilitarian nature of effortlessly whipping together this summertime dish make this meal one of my most favorite food memories. A sweet memory that’s so simply unique and dependent on the current pantry stock, and what’s ripe in the garden, each of these meal becomes even more mystifying because it could never exactly be duplicated again.

I’ve decided that my childhood memories of these cold salad plates are the result of the perfect storm: Hot, sticky New England weather with thunder clouds threatening in the distance; ripe vegetables hand-plucked from the garden; canned tuna, chicken or beans dug out from the back of the pantry, and three hungry pony-tailed little girls eating a simple supper from paper plates that will become a meal engraved in their memories forever.

Simple, no-frill, practical meals and memories are the ones you somehow hold closest to your heart; the ones that can never be duplicated again. A once in a lifetime event.

Funny how life sometimes whips-up the best it can offer on a simple paper plate.

Summer Meals: It’s time for Fruits & Veggies… Fresh and Exciting!

Sunday, July 25th, 2010

Summer is a time when fruits and veggies are in abundance. Backyard gardens are bursting at the seams with the bounty of the good earth, with a new harvest arriving each day. Fruit and vegetables are falling off the vines, ripening to perfection and begging to be picked.

And every day as I am filling up my garden basket with more and more lettuce, tomatoes, blueberries, blackberries, green beans, zucchini and squash (plus more!) I laugh to myself.  What seemed like a ridiculously small and “definitely not big enough” garden plot last April is now producing enough fruit and veggies to feed a small, but well-fed and health-conscious army.

Not a bad problem for a super-frugal gluten and allergen free gal like me to have.

This abundance of fruits and veggies got me thinking of new ways to incorporate the rewards of my garden into every meal. My mission? To eat and enjoy healthy gluten and allergen free dishes made with as many fruits and vegetables as possible, every single time I prepare a meal, without getting tired of the same old thing day after day.

This mission means that I have to start thinking beyond a boring tossed salad, ho-hum rabbit food and leafy greens drenched in salad dressing. Just like the Kool and the Gang song of the 80’s, I need to makes sure that my summer produce is not only fresh… but also exciting. (And yes… that song is now stuck in my head every time I go into my garden!).

Here are some of my ideas on ways to incorporate and enjoy summer fruits and vegetables throughout the season, while keeping things fresh, exciting and so inviting to me:

Enjoy local flavor: Don’t have your own garden? Visit a local farm stand or farmers market instead. One visit will get you hook on just-picked produce and healthier eating!

Get fruity: Get crazy with your fruits! Toss some sliced peaches on top of a dinner salad; Add a sprinkle of berries to your gluten-free cereal; Make a fruit-smoothie for breakfast… better yet make two, freeze one and enjoy it for an after dinner dessert.

Spice it up: Use fresh herbs to season and flavor your food. A sprinkle of chopped cilantro gives a boring chicken breast a southwestern flair; Rosemary sprigs chopped and tossed with olive oil and potatoes gives instant sophistication and complexity to an unexpected side dish. Fresh herbs are often the secret ingredient some dishes crave. Think fresh herbs instead of salt and pepper to healthily season any gluten and allergen free recipe.

Beyond butter: Those with  a dairy allergy or intolerance need to skip butter altogether, but even those that can indulge, should look beyond the butter dish when in comes to seasoning vegetables. Try spraying olive oil or balsamic dressing on fresh steamed veggies. Better yet, try white balsamic vinegar instead of regular balsamic vinegar to enjoy a milder and cleaner flavor.

Build a salad with a base of lower calorie options and work your way up: If you want to enjoy tons and tons of fresh vegetables, make sure that you base the bulk of your meals around the lowest calorie ingredients, and then sparingly incorporate the higher calorie add-ins. Some example? Build a salad using fresh lettuce, tomatoes, cucumber, peppers and other fresh picked produce, then sprinkle with lactose-free cheeses, nuts (if nut allergies are not an issue), and gluten-free croutons; or, steam some fresh picked zucchini and summer squash, top with chopped basil and a dusting of Parmesan cheese.

Make it a meal deal:
Fresh produce and fruit can be the main course of any meal, if you add in a bit of protein to tie-it all together. Some options to add to your steamed dinner veggie platter include meat, seafood, cheeses and beans.

It’s in the presentation:
All salads don’t have to be tossed. All vegetables don’t have to be diced and boiled before serving. Try serving your salad “salad-bar style” on a large platter – let your family pick-and-choose the topping they want on their own individual salads; Use the grill to cook a zucchini that is halved lengthwise and brushed with olive oil, cracked pepper and fresh herbs.

Get creative: Use fresh seasonal vegetables in unexpected ways. In a veggie omelet for a healthy breakfast, or even dinner; chop up tons of summer vegetables for a wide assortment of toppings on a taco salad.

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