Archive for the ‘Opinions’ Category

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.

Happy Chinese New Year! Gluten-Free Style

Thursday, January 19th, 2012

With any New Year, resolutions are made and promises are etched in stone. A New Year is a reason to turn over new stones, and is often the best time to try something new… to expand your horizons.

And over the past few years, I have challenged myself to try new recipes and new cooking techniques every Chinese New Year. This year’s Chinese New Year falls on Monday, January 23. So, as you can imagine the wok is getting primed, rice noodles purchased, and ginger, gluten-free soy sauce and other Asian staples stocked.

2012 is the year of the dragon. In the orient, dragons are symbolic of wisdom, knowledge, and the quest to learn more. So what a perfect time to expand your cooking horizons and taste buds, and introduce a little Asian influence into your families gluten-free dinner line up!

In celebration of Chinese New Year, BeFreeForMe will strive to expand your cooking horizons and assist you in taking in a bit more knowledge when it comes to your culinary visions. BeFreeForMe will be featuring some awesome Asian dishes in our Daily Thought emails (like our Warm Asian Noodle Salad and Toasted Sesame Green Beans and Asparagus) and also be featuring one of my favorite gluten-free cookbooks, Laura B. Russell’s, The Gluten Free Asian Cookbook, as the next two week’s Win-It-Wednesday’s sponsor. So make sure you check back next Wednesday to enter to win (and the following week for a second chance entry)!

Welcome back Dumplings, Crispy Spring Rolls, Mu-Shu Pork, Potstickers, Kung Pao Chicken and more! And hello 2012!

Why Living Gluten-Free is Like a Board Game.

Friday, September 2nd, 2011

I blame it all on Hurricane Irene. It started when we started dragging out of the closet all the old board games that have gone unnoticed & ignored since the coolest thing to hit the TV set besides “Happy Days” was Pong.

Life, Scrabble, Monopoly, Sorry, Clue and more… the list goes on.

And over the course of being cooped-up inside playing non-stop board games of yesteryear while a feverish hurricane tossed about trees and downed power lines outside, my mind started wandering and I started to draw uncanny similarities between my gluten-free life and board games.

Crazy, slightly silly, but true…. each of these forgotten board games mysteriously has given me a clue… a lesson… or even a laugh… that has made me the person I am today. Is it possible that Colonel Mustard, a land full of candy and a tiny plastic car full of pink and blue people pegs could somehow relate to life as a celiac? Read on…

Scrabble: C-E-L-I-A-C.  What? Is that a word? You have what? What does it mean? Since being diagnosed with celiac I’ve had to spell it, explain it, defend it and enlighten those that ask more times that I can count. By the way, for those of you wondering… the Scrabble word count on CELIAC is 10 points.

Clue: What a fitting name… Clue. Who knew? Who had a clue? Trying to figure out you have celiac disease is no game, but for many it takes a lot of detective work and savvy doctors to find out the diagnosis. I decided that if there was ever a celiac version of Clue the mystery would be solved by determining that the weapon of choice was whole wheat bagels, pizzas, or donuts.

Life: Ahhhh. If Life was only as simple as choosing a profession, spouse and kids… spinning the wheel and seeing where you’re headed next. This game teaches us that things unexpected can happen. Things you don’t plan for – but always, yes always, make the best of. I guess that’s life.

Monopoly: Let’s face it. Monopoly is all about the cash. As cute as it is spanning the circumference of the board as a thimble, iron, shoe or Scottie dog the object of the game is to get the cash to pay for the things life tosses your way. Yup… things like gluten-free food!

Candyland: This game is all about those tempting treats that are so very hard to resist. But through the Candy Cane Forests and Gum Drop Mountains of life, it actually is pretty easy to find the sweeter side of living gluten-free. Gluten-free cupcakes, pretzels or cookies anyone?

Chutes & Ladders: This game teaches the basics of living gluten-free: Cheat just a little and eat something with gluten in it and you’ll spiral on the chute downward; but eat healthy, eat well, and you will climb the ladder of health. Simple game… simple truths.

Do you have a favorite board game? Has it taught you anything  related to your gluten-free lifestyle?

A Bully Chef that Needs a Lesson Learned: Chef Damian Cardone

Wednesday, March 30th, 2011

All across the internet, facebook and twitter today were posts, tweets and blogs regarding a chef in Colorado who, on his public profile on facebook, ranted & bragged under a picture of a slice of cake, that he purposely served high gluten pasta to patrons that asked specifically for gluten-free pasta.

Here is an excerpt of the tag under the facebook public picture on his profile:

“Gluten-free is bull*%#@! Flour and bread have been a staple of life for thousands, and THOUSAND, of years. People who claim to be gluten-intolorent dont realize it’s all in their disturbed little heads. People ask me for gluten-free pasta in my restaurant all the time, I tell em sure, then I serve em our pasta, Which I made from scratch with high gluten flour. And you know what? Nothing. NOTHING! ever happens! People leave talking about how good they feel gluten free and guess what, They just had a full dose! Idiots!”

Here is the “snapshot” of that comment noted above, as well as more posts made by Damian Cardone where he continues to rant that chefs love to use people as, “experimental test subjects”.

Talk about a “Kitchen Nightmare”.

After reading these posts, I was doing the ranting and raving. How DARE… HOW DARE someone purposely, intentionally prepare and then serve someone gluten? Who is this man to think he has the right to “decide” if someone is on a gluten-free diet for medical reasons or not?  Even if he was joking…this is NOT funny. Does he do the same for patrons that have a dairy-intolerance? Nut-allergies? Soy-allergies?

This guy is a bully. Any way you look at it, any way you slice it a BIG FAT  B-U-L-L-Y.

But what this Bully Chef didn’t realize it that he was picking on the wrongs peeps. We gluten-free folk are of a tough stock. We also like to chat. And we like to share. And we like to spread the word… about the good and the bad.

As expected, the gluten-free on-line community was abuzz. Tweets… facebook posts… and blogs were popping up everywhere regarding this chef.

And at last look, Damian Cardone had taken down his facebook page. He’s probably hiding somewhere under one of his high-gluten flour sacks… shaking in his hopefully soon to be taken away chefs coat.

Show Us Your Goodness: Could Your Favorite Charity be the One Awarded the $20K?

Monday, December 21st, 2009

Since starting BeFreeForMe just a little more than a year ago, I have been amazed by the outpouring of warmth, sharing and compassion of the BeFreeForMe members. There have been members who have been diagnosed with celiac disease for over 15 years that have contacted me to offer their mentoring and support to the newly diagnosed. I’ve been contacted by a grandmother that has children, and grandchildren, with numerous food allergies, as well as years and years’ worth of tried-and-true recipes that she offered to share with a young, scared Mom whose toddler had been recently diagnosed with numerous food allergies. I’ve had teachers contact me asking where they could find the best resources to educate themselves about food allergies and celiac disease, since they had children in their classroom with these diagnoses and they wanted to educate themselves in order to make these children feel as welcomed and involved as possible.

One of the things I hear over and over from people that have food allergies and celiac disease is their amazement over the sense of community and goodness that has come from others that share in the same diagnosis.

I am amazed myself.

This positive energy from the celiac & food allergy community, often through the support groups, has provided me with a positive and more manageable diagnosis, and I will always be grateful.

That is why I want to share with all of the BeFreeForMe members, Show Us Your Goodness, a program sponsored by riceworks® brown rice crisps that will donate $20,000 to an inspiring nonprofit organization or charitable cause.

During this holiday season, I encourage all of you to check out the Show Us Your Goodness website and nominate one of your favorite nonprofit organizations or charitable causes. Your charity can be local or national. Grassroots or established. Recognized or not.

Also, once the three finalists are picked, I encourage you to vote for one of the nominated groups (the voting between the three finalists will take place between March 16th to April 30th . I will also blog about the three finalists once they are picked!).

If you nominate your favorite charity, or you support one of the previously nominated groups, make sure you comment on this blog post and tell us what charitable group you support. Six (Yes…6!) BeFreeForMe members that post a comment will win a FREE CASE of riceworks® brown rice crisps!  The winners will be picked on February 16th, 2010.

Some of the charitable non-profit groups which I have volunteered for and supported are listed at the bottom of this email. All of these charities have in some way helped my health and touched my soul.  I look forward to hearing about your favorite charities too!

Happy Holiday… Be Charitable… Enjoy the Spirit of the Season… and, as always…

Be Free!
Some of My Favorite Charities:

* Michael Carter Lisnow Respite Center
* Food Allergy Initiative
* National Foundation for Celiac Awareness
* Food Allergy & Anaphylaxis Network
* Canadian Celiac Association
* Celiac Disease Foundation
* Celiac Sprue Association
* Healthy Villi
* Project Just Because

Don’t Judge a Veggie by It’s Cover… New Study Reports that Vegetables are not as Nutritious as they were in the 1950’s

Sunday, September 13th, 2009

They may look a whole lot shiner, blemish-free and prettier, but the USDA says the vegetables of today are packed with far less nutrients than their counterparts 50 years ago. Yup – according to the Natural Food Merchandiser – the USDA reports that store-bought vegetables are not as good for you as they were 40-50 years ago, which were packed with far more nutrients back then than they are now.

Why? The crops of today are often bred for size and color, and not nutrients. It seems that crops today are designed to survive 1,000 mile road trips and as a result, their nutritional value has sacrificed.

Is this a reason to start planning your Spring 2010 garden? Or a reason to stake out claims in community garden initiatives or co-ops? More important, do we all need to start taking vitamin supplements to stave off flu symptoms this coming winter?

Being allergen and gluten-free I eat tons of vegetables.

I don’t know about you all, but give me back the dings, blemishes and scars of my veggies – and while you’re at it, give me back the nutrients too.

Bad Advice from Dear Abby: Invite those with Food Allergies Over Less Often!

Sunday, July 19th, 2009

My mouth dropped when I read the advice Dear Abby gave to a woman wanting to know the etiquette on inviting a guest over her house for dinner who has food allergies.

Abby’s advice: Invite the person over less often!

This is the actual copy of the question and answer in the Dear Abby column on Friday, July 17, 2009:

DEAR ABBY: Our daughter’s landlady — I’ll call her Martha — has become very close to our family. Martha and her husband are included in most of our family’s social events.

My problem is Martha is allergic to garlic and cannot eat anything cooked with it.

Abby, we are Italian. We grew up eating garlic and cook just about everything with it. My husband and I are locking horns over the fact that I feel it’s an imposition to be expected to accommodate one person by omitting a key ingredient in a dish. When you’re cooking for a lot of people who are accustomed to the way certain foods are prepared, I feel it is inconsiderate for someone to expect me to leave an ingredient out. What do you think? — MAMA “MIA” IN N.Y.

And Abby’s answer…

DEAR MAMA “MIA”: I think you should prepare a garlic-free extra dish for Martha — something not too difficult to make, like a salad — or invite Martha over less often.



Here is the most widely syndicated newspaper columnist in the world, whose column is published in about 1,400 newspapers worldwide, and has a daily readership of more than 110 million people – telling someone to invite a close family friend with food allergies over less often! I actually had to go back and read this over and over again, very slowly, to make sure I didn’t miss something and I read it correctly.

Even Abby’s advice to make something “not too difficult” for the close family friend, “… like a salad” is also an insult! To invite someone as a dinner guest and then offer just a “simple” salad, while everyone else is feasting on a huge Italian meal is just wrong! Shame on you Abby. I think you need to start reading Miss Manners column regularly.

What advice should Abby have given to MAMA “MIA” in N.Y.? Here are a few tidbits I think she should have passed along:

– While making your Italian pasta sauce make a small sauce pan of your delicious sauce san the garlic. You don’t need to make a second garlic-free version of every single dish you are making, but since you invited Martha for dinner, but make sure you offer Martha something more than just a salad. Martha is your guest (and your friend) and will surely appreciate the extra efforts.

– When you invite Martha for dinner, ask her to bring one of her favorite dishes that she can enjoy and everyone else can share with her too. Who knows… maybe everyone will enjoy her garlic-free dishes as well!


And lastly MAMA “MIA”, chances are that you, or someone in your large family, will someday become aware that they also have some type of food allergy or celiac disease. So you may want to start thinking now about how you can make some changes to those accustomed to recipes!  (P.S. And don’t worry gluten-free pasta isn’t all that bad!)

What do you think Abby should have given for advice?


Note: I gave Abby my two-cent worth and you should too! Email her today! Note: In the body of your message refer to the 07/17/09 column and the advice she gave to MAMA “MIA” in NY.

ROUND III: Betty Crocker Gluten Free Challenge: CHOCOLATE CHIP COOKIES!

Thursday, May 7th, 2009

Gluten-FREE Chocolate Chip Cookie Mix vs. Gluten-FULL Chocolate Chip Cookie Mix


The third and final round of the Betty Crocker Gluten Free Challenge, where gluten-eating friends and family compared the new Betty Crocker gluten-free baking mixes against the traditional gluten-filled Betty Crocker comparable mixes, is the taste-test for the CHOCOLATE CHIP COOKIES!

I was really excited to try these since I am a real cookies and milk kind of gal. I prefer the simpler of sweet treats. For me no fuss, quick, easy to prepare… and no fork required is a plus!
The results of the taste-test are as follows:

 – The Gluten-FREE cookies were just as moist and chewy as the Gluten-FULL ones.
– The sweetness and flavor were almost identical.
– The Gluten-FREE cookies were thinner and “spread out” more during baking… which resulted in a thinner, not as “cakey” cookie. I actually liked this!
– The only downfall with the Gluten-FREE version is that it did not have as many chocolate chips as the Gluten-FULL kind. (Adding more on your own may be a solution?)

As an added bonus, the Gluten-FREE cookies stayed “moister” longer than the Gluten-FULL type. A couple of days later the Gluten-FREE cookies were still soft, chewy and just as yummy as right-out-of-the-oven!


The ingredients needed to make the Gluten Free Chocolate Cookies were: 2 teaspoons gluten-free vanilla, 2 eggs and 5 tablespoons butter (Note: there are instructions on the General Mills website explaining how to make the brownies if you want to substitute the butter). The package ingredients do include soy and milk.

Now that I am wrapping up my final Betty Crocker Gluten Free Challenge, I want to thank those “smart cookies” over at General Mills. I lift my cookie-crumbed-filled glass of milk up high and toast you on a job well done…“Let Them Eat Cake!”

ROUND II: Betty Crocker Gluten Free Challenge: CAKE MIXES

Wednesday, May 6th, 2009

Gluten-FREE Cake Mixes vs. Gluten-FULL Super Moist Cake Mixes

The second round of the Betty Crocker Gluten Free Challenge, where gluten-eating friends and family compared the new Betty Crocker gluten-free baking mixes against the traditional gluten-filled Betty Crocker comparable mixes, is the taste-test for the CAKE MIXES!

There are two types of Betty Crocker Gluten Free Cake Mixes: Devil’s Food and Yellow. Since cupcakes are more fun – I decided to go that route, rather than a sheet or layered cake. After all, this was a fun day!

Thanks to Betty and her gang over at General Mills, walking down the baking aisle at your local grocer will soon become a cakewalk. Easy, effortless, readily available… and according to their website, affordable. If you see someone skipping down the baking aisle at your local grocer this summer, you can place a bet they’re on a gluten-free diet.

But – How do the gluten-free cake mixes compare in taste?

Let’s first start with the Devil’s Food:

The taste-testers could find “little to no” difference in the taste, texture (and look once they became un-blindfolded) between the gluten-FREE vs. gluten-FULL Devil’s Food Cake Mixes. Both were describe as being “chocolaty” and “moist”. No difference at all between the two. Good news for the gluten-free version!

I liked the gluten-free Devil’s Food Cake Mix.  I think it tastes just like a chocolate cupcake should… sweet, chocolaty, moist, and soft. Perfect! Easy to make too.

The ingredients needed to make the gluten-free Devil’s Food Cake were: ½ teaspoon gluten-free vanilla, 2 eggs and 5 tablespoons butter (Note: there are instructions on the General Mills website explaining how to make the brownies if you want to substitute the butter) and 1 cup of low-fat buttermilk or low-fat yogurt (I used Stonyfield Farm). The package ingredients do include soy.

I think next time I may try to use vanilla low-fat yogurt – since the plain low-fat yogurt can be hard to track down in the dairy case – and I was forced to buy a huge container of it.


Next, let’s move onto the Yellow Cake Mix:

The taste-testers could find little to no difference in the look of the gluten-FREE vs. gluten-FULL Yellow Cake Mixes. However, they thought that the Gluten-FREE mix was not as “sweet” as the Gluten-FULL mix. They also thought that the gluten-FREE cupcake was crispier around the edges, which some thought was a good thing.

I personally loved the gluten-free Yellow Cake Mix! I think it tasted perfect… fluffy, a touch of vanilla, and just the perfect sweetness. I liked the crispy outside and spongy inside.

The ingredients needed to make the gluten-free Yellow Cake were: 1 teaspoon gluten-free vanilla, 2 eggs,  ½ cup butter and ½ cup of milk.  The package ingredients do include soy.

The gluten-free kids that tried these cupcakes LOVED them! Birthday parties will be a lot sweeter this summer when these mixes are available… =)

Basically, I think that General Mills takes the cake on these two Gluten-free Baking Mixes. Good Job!

Additional Notes:
All of the General Mills Gluten Free Dessert Mixes are made in a gluten free processing facility.

ROUND I: Betty Crocker Gluten Free Challenge: BROWNIES

Monday, May 4th, 2009

Gluten-FREE Chocolate Brownie Mix vs. Gluten-FULL Dark Chocolate Fudge Brownie Mix

The first round of the Betty Crocker Gluten Free Challenge is about to begin! In this challenge,  gluten-eating friends and family compared the new Betty Crocker gluten-FREE baking mixes against the traditional gluten-FILLED Betty Crocker comparable mixes. The first taste-test is for the BROWNIES!

First, let’s get one thing out of the way:  The picture on the box does these splendid pieces of gluten-free dark chocolaty, chewy squares of joy no justice! I would call the picture on the box a “beige-y” – not a “brownie”. Know how the pictures of food on packaging (with the words “serving suggestion” in ultra-small print) usually looks way better than the food in real life? Well, the opposite rings true here. For proof, see the pictures of the actual gluten-free brownies in this post.

The gluten-free mix actually has tiny little chocolate chips in it, which makes the brownies extra decadent and chewy. The ingredients needed to make the gluten-free brownies were: 2 eggs and 7 tablespoons butter (Note: there are instructions on the General Mills website explaining how to make the brownies if you want to substitute the butter). The package ingredients do include soy and milk.

And the RESULTS: ALL of the taste testers preferred the gluten-free version over the “cakier”, “harder” and “less chocolaty” traditional gluten-filled mix!

Some of the comments about the gluten-free brownies included:

* “A much more chocolaty taste”
* “Chewy!”
* “Excellent!”
* “This one is better… way better. This is the one with the gluten, right?” (Note: WRONG! How about THAT comment!)
When I told all the participants that the one they ALL liked by a long-shot was the gluten-free brownie they couldn’t believe it, and even questioned if I mixed up the two!


In summary: The new Betty Crocker Gluten-Free Brownie is a keeper! Phenomenal! Line up now for the anticipated summer arrival!

Additional Notes:

Many of you have emailed me asking if I knew why General Mills decided to take this leap of gluten-free faith and develop a whole line of gluten free baking mixes. The truth is tBetty Crocker Gluten Free Brownies YUMhat they have a few employees that are on a gluten-free diet, and according to General Mills, “Their experiences opened our eyes to the challenges families face following the diet. It’s hard to be different, especially when it affects sweet moments with friends and family. No one wants to miss sharing a birthday cake or see their child have to turn down a homemade cookie from a buddy after a game.”

I say “Cheers!” and “Second’s please!” to that! =)

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