Archive for the ‘Useful Information’ Category

The National Foundation for Celiac Awareness: Gluten-Free Holiday Ideas, Tips and Recipes

Monday, December 2nd, 2013

The National Foundation for Celiac Awareness has given those of us on a gluten-free diet the best gift in the world this holiday season… the Gluten-Free Holiday Tips & Recipes feature on their website.

This series is about everything gluten-free during the holidays. Whether you are newly diagnosed, or you’re a seasoned veteran of the gluten-free lifestyle, this holiday feature is worth checking out.

Here are some of my favorite parts of this series. Make sure that you click on the links to check them out:

Tip of the Day: I LOVE this! Everyday a new tip or trick on enjoying the holidays gluten-free is featured on the NFCA website and on their Facebook page. Contributed from fellow bloggers, health professionals or the team at the NFCA team, you can think of this feature as advice from your best GFF’s (gluten-free friends)! The result? A ton of sharing and idea-swapping that will have you looking forward to the next day’s tip!

Gluten-Free Holiday Blogger How-To’s: In this feature, I and a group of gluten-free bloggers have shared our best holiday how-to’s. Find out how-to save money while on a gluten-free diet during the holidays, how-to travel during the holidays gluten-free style, how- to pull-off a delicious gluten-free dessert, how-to survive the holidays as a gluten-free newbie… and more!  (Note… this How-To feature is sponsored by Crunchmaster. And speaking of saving some money… Check out this link for a $1.00 OFF coupon on a Crunchmaster product!)

TONS of Holiday Recipes! A whole bunch of gluten-free holiday recipe resources are featured on the NFCA website. Some of my favorites? The NFCA Pinterest Board featuring holiday recipe ideas (CAUTION: Do not look at this board if hungry!) and the NFCA Holiday Recipe Box which is jammed packed with tons of gluten-free holiday dishes.

ENJOY!!

Coming Clean: A Simple Guide to Get You on the Road to Gluten-Free Clean-Eating

Sunday, March 3rd, 2013

It seems that everyone you talk to is trying to eat less. Trying to eat less fatty foods. Trying to try to lose weight.

But instead of giving up the low-fat, low-calorie (and, as a result, low-flavor) foods I’ve chosen to become more aware of the foods that I am eating. To make my food choices simpler, and to really “get to know” my food – what is in it, where it came from, how it benefits and fuels my body.

Basically to clean-up my act when it comes to eating.

But I had questions about this buzzword “Clean Eating”. What does clean-eating really mean? Is it easy to follow? Is it expensive? Does clean eating fit into a gluten-free diet?

After a little research, I discovered that eating clean means eating foods that are whole and unprocessed. Foods like whole grains, lean meats, fruits, veggies and any food free of artificial ingredients, preservatives, sugars or trans and saturated fats. In other words – foods that are minimally processed.

Needless, I was thrilled to get an email from Attune Foods with link to their “Eat Clean: Gluten-Free Menu Guide” last month. This guide prepared by Alysa Bajenaru, RD is a great guideline and way to start off a gluten-free clean eating plan.

So… for the last few weeks I have been eating clean thanks to Attune Foods. They’ve come up with several clean eating diet plans specific to different dietary requirements:  A “basic” real food plan (for those with no allergies / intolerances), a vegetarian real food plan, and also a gluten-free real food plan (the plan that I followed).

I found the gluten-free clean eating diet easy to shop for, easy to prepare, and also easy to eat, thanks to the printable shopping list, recipes and tips to keep on track!  In fact I have found a few recipes (and the blogs that they came from!) that are now on my “keepers” list… recipes I will make over and over again.

“Eating clean” is also easier than expected, I think mostly because I am so use to reading labels and not being able to eat many processed foods due to celiac disease. I guess that celiacs are half-way there when it comes to following a clean eating lifestyle.

Some of my favorite recipes included the Colorful Stir Fry (my all-time favorite! ), Meyer Lemon Slow-Cooker Chicken with Sweet Potatoes, Maple Dijon Pork Tenderloin, and making up Breakfast Parfaits layered with Yogurt, Erewhon Buckwheat & Hemp cereal and Blackberries.

Come clean! Go ahead and give the Eat Clean Menu a try! Here are a few of my tips for those who want to follow this real food menu plan:
-    Consider shopping daily if only one or two people will be following the plan. You’ll find that you’ll have leftovers, and may not have to make a dinner each night.
-    Invest in a citrus press (see photo below).  This gadget is my new “must have” gadget! I love, love this thing! The best $10 I ever spent. =) It was a godsend when making the Meyer Lemon Slow Cooker Chick Dish, and came in quite handy for adding a citrus zip into the numerous glasses of water I drank while on the plan. Which leads me to the next tip…
-    Make sure you drink tons of water while on the plan. It helps flush any leftover toxins out of your body, and as an added bonus, it will make your skin glow!
-    As always, read the labels when buying items from the shopping list. Items, such as the almond milk, can contain gluten.
-    Definitely splurge and spend the extra when it comes to buying the grass-feed beef. It makes SUCH a difference in flavor, compared to “regular” beef. The grass-feed beef tastes like beef use to taste when I was younger. It makes such a difference!
-    Don’t feel that you have to buy everything on the shopping list. Improvise and make substitutions! I couldn’t bring myself to spend $11.99 for the hemp hearts, so I passed on them; I bought regular almond butter that cost $5.99, instead of the organic at $13.99; I don’t really like mushrooms, so the cremini mushrooms didn’t make the cut to get into my shopping cart; Use soy yogurt if you have dairy allergies. Feel free to get creative with the recipes and customize them to fit your tastes, budget & allergies.

How to Keep Your Spices the Nicest: McCormick Date Checker. How Old Are YOUR spices?

Sunday, December 4th, 2011

I love my spices. My gluten-free cooking depends on them. A little cilantro here. Tarragon there. A sprinkle of sesame seeds and a dash of dill. Shake on some sage and add sassy it up with cinnamon.

But often I buy some random spice for a gluten-free recipe, use it once, place it in my spice rack and forget about it. Then time goes by. And time goes by. Until I come across another recipe that includes another teaspoon of that random spice… you know the ones… Anise, Caraway Seeds, Mace, or Mustard… the ones stuffed in the back of your spice cabinet. One of those spices that you use every so often.

And I think to myself, “How old is this?

Well, McCormick’s to the rescue! On the McCormick’s website they now have a tool to check the date of all the McCormick spices in your spice rack. The tool is easy and quick to use. First off  there are a few basic rules: If you have a spice that is in a tin (except for black pepper) or made in Baltimore, MD it is at least 15 years old… so toss it.  Next, check the spice bottle for a use by date, and it there is none, type the code at the bottom of the spice bottom into the “Fresh Tester” calculator to find out how old the spice is.

The McCormick website also gives tips on how long spices last, and other tips to make sure your spices are fresh… Is the color vibrant? Is the aroma strong? The website also gives tips on how to store spices: Store spices in a tightly-capped container and keep them away from heat, moisture and direct sunlight. Replace their lids right after use.

The McCormick website is full of tips, tidbits, useful info and delicious recipes. Give your food a flavorful favor and check out the McCormick website. It’s worth it…  but only after you check all the dates in your spice cabinet!

Halloween Gluten-Free Candy List 2011

Wednesday, October 26th, 2011

I love Halloween. What a perfect time for a kid – you can dress up to be whatever your little heart desires, troll the neighborhood with your best friends & siblings after dark, and collect a bounty of candy to boot. But when you put the gluten-free diet and food allergies into the mix, the treats collected can often become a trick.

Over the past few weeks I’ve had many BeFreeForMe.com members asking for a gluten-free (or a dairy-free, nut-free, casein-free) Halloween Candy List. So to make things easy for everyone I have found a few websites that list the most popular Halloween Candy and their gluten-free / dairy-free / nut-free / casein-free status.

Please note that some of the lists include candy that is made on the same lines as wheat or other allergens – so use your judgment if this candy should be consumed by your child (or… admit it…. by YOU!)

As always… read all ingredient labels and if you have any questions, call the manufacturer direct!

Here are the lists that I found:

SureFoodsLiving.com – Gluten-free & Allergen-free lists
MyGlutenFacts.com – Gluten-free candy list; Canadian and US lists
Celiac.com – Gluten-free candy list
About.com – Dairy-Free Halloween Candy List
Bay Area Allergy Advisory Board – Has a Peanut/Tree Nut free list; a gluten-free list and a gluten & casein-free list.

Be Free! Peace Out (Yes… I am the hippie in the upper right corner of the photo!)  And a Safe & Happy Halloween to ALL!

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: Foodfacts.com

-    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.

Webinar: Back-To-School & Gluten-Free- The Importance of School Nurse Education & How-To Strategies for Parents of Gluten-Free Kids

Tuesday, August 16th, 2011

Believe it or not, summer is almost over and whether that makes you sad or glad, it’s the time of year to start planning for back-to-school.

And if you have a child with celiac disease (or a food allergy) you have even more to anticipate, plan for… and often times worry about.

That’s why I wanted to pass along to all BeFreeForMe.com members a special back-to-School webinar that is being sponsored by the National Foundation for Celiac Awareness (NFCA): Importance of School Nurse Education & How-To Strategies for Parents of Gluten-Free Kids.

It is taking place (right in the comfort of your own home!) on Thursday, August 25th, 9 p.m. ET/6 p.m. PT. This webinar is FREE of charge! All you need is your computer and a working internet connection.

This webinar which will focus upon your child’s gluten-free needs in and out of the classroom will be lead by Nina Spitzer, President of the Celiac Disease Foundation’s Greater Phoenix Chapter.

And although this webinar is focuses on children with celiac disease, I bet that it will also be very insightful for those that have children with food allergies and other food intolerances as well.

If you want to register for this seminar click this link: Register Now!

This webinar is sponsored by Rudi’s Gluten-Free Bakery and they’re giving away some awesome prizes to some lucky webinar participants.

So… sharpen your pencils and don’t miss out on this Back-To-School webinar!

National Foundation of Celiac Awareness (NFCA): The Go-To Resource for Celiacs

Monday, May 16th, 2011

There are many resources on the internet to learn more about celiac disease and the gluten-free diet, but one of my all-time favorite go-to websites is CeliacCentral.org – the homepage for the National Foundation of Celiac Awareness (NFCA).

And for the month of May, the NFCA has featured a really great segment called “Blogger a Day”. In this segment, the NFCA features a gluten-free blogger highlighting what the blog is all about, why they’re fans of the blog and bits-and-pieces of fun info about the voice behind the blog.

The NFCA asked me to be featured in this column, and I was thrilled to become a part of this fun series (read the blog post here). I have also loved reading about fellow bloggers too – including: The Spicy RD, The Gluten-Free Travel Blog and the Gluten-Free Cerealizer. I feel like I have made 30+ new friends because of this program! Check out the Blogger A Day series… I think you’ll like it too.

And if you haven’t checked out NFCA website, or you haven’t visited for awhile, make sure that you click-through for a visit. It’s amazing to discover all the great programs designed for the celiac community the NFCA has spearheaded. Some of these programs include free webinars on managing the gluten-free diet; free videos on cooking & baking gluten-free, celiac disease segments featured on TV and information on the disease; and a section dedicated to celiac event listings. Last, there is also a phenomenal section devoted to celiac disease and women’s health.

Cheers to the NFCA and Happy Celiac Disease Awareness Month to fellow bloggers and the whole celiac community!

P.S. Also, make sure you check out the NFCA on Facebook and Twitter.

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.

The Perfect 10-Day Fix: The Livefreeda $229 Starter Kit

Tuesday, February 1st, 2011

I am currently planning a visit with my parents this winter in Bonita Springs, Florida (YES…. I have had ENOUGH of this New England Snow!). And for those like me on a gluten-free diet planning the trip involves more that making airlines reservations and packing-up bathing suits and warm weather clothes.  I also have to be concerned with planning what I am going to eat once I get there. But now, instead of packing up gluten-free foods, or shipping it down ahead of time (and spending tons of shipping fees), LiveFreeda has come to our rescue!

LiveFreeda has just come out with a Starter Kit that includes 10 full days of great tasting gluten-free products, like Amy’s Enchiladas, Applegate Chicken Nuggets, Gluten-Freeda oatmeal, and Udi’s Multigrain bread. In total there are about 23 items for anytime of day… breakfast, lunch, dinner, desserts and snacks.

These kits are not only great for those who are traveling, going to camp, or students – they are also great for those who have just been diagnosed with Celiac Disease and don’t know where to start; a nutritionist or dietician who needs to refer a easy-to-follow “starter plan” for someone just new to the gluten-free diet; or even someone who has been on the gluten-free diet for awhile, but needs about a weeks worth of convenient meals due to a upcoming hectic schedule.

The Livefreeda Starter Kit contains a range of products that can be integrated with your regular meal planning to provide you with ten full meals, lunches, breakfasts and snacks.

The meals are also between 1500-1800 calories per day and are shipped for free – just a couple of extra bonuses worth mentioning.

Ask Shelley Case: Converting Recipes to Gluten & Dairy Free

Monday, December 13th, 2010

Question: Before my household became gluten and dairy free I baked all sorts of traditional holiday favorites. I would love to bake again –but need help on where to start? Shelley, can you help?

There’s nothing as special as homemade baked goods during the holiday season. But those concerned with a gluten or allergen free diet often struggle with “relearning” how to bake and adapt to these special dietary needs. By understanding a few basics in gluten-free and allergen-free baking, using a gluten-free flour mix and using your imagination when it comes to creating desserts, you will find that piping-hot cookies, cakes and other goodies can once again be enjoyed… even when on a restricted diet.

Here are the answers to a few of the most common questions I am asked about gluten-free baking.

Do you know any good gluten-free flour blends? It seems so overwhelming, and confusing!

Making your own flour blend for gluten-free baking does not have to be complicated or expensive. Carol Fenster, the President and Founder of Savory Palate, Inc., author of several best-selling gluten and allergen-free cookbooks, and an internationally recognized expert on gluten-free cooking developed an extremely versatile blend of flours that can be used as the basis for many gluten-free baked goods. Keep the following blend in a tightly sealed container in your pantry so you’re always ready to bake whenever the need arises. Here’s Carol’s recipe:

Carol’s Sorghum Blend
1 ½ cups sorghum flour
1 ½ cups potato starch or cornstarch
1 cup tapioca flour
Whisk ingredients together until well blended. Store, tightly covered, in a dark, dry place for up to 3 months. You may refrigerate or freeze the blend, but bring it to room temperature before using. You may double or triple the recipe.

For more of Carol’s gluten-free flour blend recipes using different flours check out this link.

Are there any tricks to convert my favorite recipe to be gluten and dairy free?

To answer this question I turned to Jean Duane, gluten-free, dairy-free (GFCF) expert and author of “The Complete Idiot’s Guide® to Gluten-Free Cooking”. Jean shares with us her secrets learned from years of GFCF baking trials and errors. What follows are general guidelines to convert a traditional wheat-flour recipe packed with dairy into a gluten-free and/or dairy-free version.

How to Convert a Traditional Recipe to Gluten and/or Dairy Free:
1. Start with a combination of flours in these ratios: 50% grain flour (brown rice or sorghum), 25% starch (cornstarch, tapioca or potato starch) and 25% protein flour (navy, fava, garbanzo, soy, gafava flour) or different grain flour. One cup of wheat flour translates into 1/2 cup of grain flour, 1/4 cup of bean flour and 1/4 cup of starch.
2. Add 25-50% more leavening (baking powder, baking soda or yeast) than the original recipe.
3. Add 1/2 to 1 tsp. acid (vinegar, citric acid, ascorbic acid dough enhancer, cream of tartar or citrus juice) to the original recipe.
4. Add 1/2 tsp. of either xanthan gum to the dry ingredients or guar gum to the wet ingredients for every cup of flour, or 1/4 tsp. of each. For smaller baked items, gums can be omitted.
5. Substitute butter with oil, cow’s milk with nut or rice milk (ideally with the same fat content).
6. Let the batter sit for a few minutes to absorb liquids before baking.

After you get the hang of it, it really is easy to covert your favorite recipes to a gluten-free and dairy-free version. For an example, check out Jean’s blog to see how easy it is to covert a simple brownie recipe.

Why do gluten-free recipes often contain xanthan gum or guar gum? What are they? Why are they needed in gluten-free recipes?

Gluten plays a big roll in the composition of flour. Specifically, gluten helps make dough more pliable, stretchy and “doughy”… all the attributes that is associated with gluten-containing flours.
While creating recipes with gluten-free flour blends, adding in a small amount of xanthan gum or guar gum will give the flour blend the elasticity that gluten would normally add. These gums, in essence, make the dough sticky!

Shelley, do you have any other ideas of baking without gluten?

There are plenty of delicious recipes that don’t use any flours at all. Recently, there have been many “flourless” cake recipes popping up in even the fanciest of restaurants. Other gluten-free and flourless recipes include Crème Brulee, meringues, custards, puddings, flans and desserts that include fruit as the main feature.

Experiment while baking and before you know it you’ll become a master patisserie baking up delicious and mouth-watering holiday favorites in your very own kitchen!


Note: A special thanks to Carol Fenster and Jean Duane for their contributions to this feature blog…

Carol Fenster, PhD, and President and Founder of Savory Palate, Inc., a gluten-free publishing and consulting firm. As well as being an internationally recognized expert on gluten-free cooking, she is  also the author of nine gluten-free and food-sensitivity cookbooks including 1000 Gluten-Free Recipes; Wheat-Free Recipes and Menus: Delicious, Healthful Eating for People with Food Sensitivities; Cooking Free: 220 Flavorful Recipes for People with Food Allergies and Multiple Food Sensitivities.

Jean Duane, Alternative Cook, LLC produces instructional DVDs (Chocolate, Mexican, Italian and Kids’ Meals), video streams (alternativecook.com) and Bake Deliciously! Gluten and Dairy Free Cookbook. She shows how to cook without gluten, dairy and other food-allergens. She has produced several spots for Comcast’s Video on Demand, made television appearances on PBS and has been a featured speaker at the 2009 and 2010 International Association for Culinary Professionals’ Conferences. She has developed recipes for Betty Crocker and for Beautiful Sweets bakery and is featured in the Better Homes and Gardens 2010 Christmas Cookies publication. A regular speaker and magazine writer, she won Kiplinger’s “Dream in You” contest in 2006.

Ask Shelley Case is a feature of BeFreeForMe.com. It is published the second Tuesday of each month. Shelley Case is a Registered Dietitian, Consulting Dietitian, Speaker and Author of Gluten-Free Diet: A Comprehensive Resource Guide. Visit Shelley and get more gluten-free tips & info at: www.glutenfreediet.ca


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