Archive for December, 2008

Gluten Free: The Top 10 Food Trends of 2009

Tuesday, December 30th, 2008


Based on research conducted by The Food Channel one of the Top Food Trends for 2009 are the words gluten free being noted more frequently on labels and menus.

I knew that the words “gluten free” or “allergen free” had to be somewhere amongst this list – and I was thrilled to see it! Everyone knows someone or is someone who is affected by a food allergy or intolerance.

I hope that food manufacturers and restaurants realize that to some of us these dietary habits are more than a “trend” that will come and go. The word “trend” brings to mind fads like pet rocks, leg warmers, fondue pots, mood rings and troll dolls – not my medically needed gluten free diet.

The gluten and allergen free demographic is here to stay!

In 2009 let’s all start to identify and thank those manufacturers and restaurants that recognize allergens and gluten. Write a letter, thank a manager, and tell a friend… that’s a trend that is worth starting and continuing for our gluten free and allergen free lifetimes.

Cookies & Candies & Cakes – Oh My!

Friday, December 19th, 2008

Watching one of my all time favorite classic movies this weekend, The Wizard of Oz, I realized that Dorothy and her group of friends have so many lessons to teach those of us who have been diagnosed with celiac disease or food allergies.

After my diagnoses with celiac disease I discovered that I wasn’t in “Kansas anymore”. Tragedy will strike us all at some point in our lives, but by no means is a diagnosis of celiac disease or a food allergy a tragedy – it may be life-altering, but by no means life-shattering. This is always, always, very important to remember, and the most important advise I can give the newly diagnosed celiac and food allergic.

The greatest lesson that Dorothy and her friends teach is to always believe in yourself, be accepting of who you are and respect the obstacles that are handed to you.  I know that believing in myself and being accepting of my celiac diagnosis has made me a stronger, healthier and better person, both inside and out.

It also takes brains, courage and a heart to embrace a celiac and food allergy diagnosis:

Brains / Knowledge:
The wizard told the scarecrow, “What they have that you do not, is just a piece of paper”. The lesson to be learned here is to always believe in yourself and your abilities. Having celiac disease or a food allergy makes us savvier when it comes to food. Be smart. Think ahead. Research. Learn. And most importantly share…

The Cowardly Lion learned through his journey that the key to success does not lie in the absence of fear, but the ability to embrace your fears, and tackle them headfirst. Face your celiac diagnosis or food allergy straight on. Be brave. Explore. Try new things. Be adventurous. 

The Tin Man searched for a heart, knowing that he could not be complete without love. From this we must learn to be enthusiastic about our new lifestyle changes. Give back to others in the celiac / food allergic community. Be passionate and embrace your new dietary lifestyle. Be happy. Keep in mind that some “Ha-ha-ha’s. Ho-ho-ho’s. And a couple of Tra-la-la’s” are always good for the soul!

Through the lessons learned from Dorothy and her gang, we should all realize that everything we need and seek to be healthy and happy while living with celiac disease and food allergies is right inside us all the time.

How Sweet it is… Holiday Baking Gluten & Allergen Free

Friday, December 19th, 2008

Let’s face it. At one time or another we all sat at a table while others enjoyed sweets. Whether it’s during the wrap-up of a business dinner meeting, at a family birthday party, while having a cup of coffee with a friend at a coffee shop or while attending a gathering where homemade fudgy brownies with nuts are the only offering for dessert.

Take out those rolling pins, pie plates, candy thermometers and ramekins my friends! Over the next few days, BeFreeForMe will feature different dessert recipes for the gluten and allergy free.

This holiday season become the volunteer to bring the dessert to your family and friend’s gathering! Now that a reason for all guests to rejoice!

Brunch: Munching and Merrymaking Mid-Day

Sunday, December 14th, 2008

Brunch is just another term for merrymaking mid-day. It is a welcomed alternative to nighttime festivities, especially around the holidays when there just seems to be so many parties, and too little evenings!

For those of us with food allergies and gluten intolerances, brunch can be a tough meal to attempt. Not quite breakfast, but not yet lunch, brunch is typically laden with allergen- after-allergen… you know the spread – Eggs, bagels, cream cheese, salmon, pecan strudels.

Most brunch menu items are usually prepared ahead of time, heated – if needed, then displayed buffet-style for guests to enjoy. Because of this make-ahead nature of most dishes, adjustments and changes to adapt to a specific allergen or to make gluten free is not possible. That leaves the food allergic and gluten free folks at a mid-day loss. 

If you are hosting a brunch this holiday season, make sure that you have a few dishes that are free of each common allergens and follow the suggestions below.

– Get in on the act: If guests ask if they can bring a dish to the brunch, ask them if they, or anyone in their family that will be in attendance, has any food allergens. If they do, ask them to bring their favorite dish that is free of that particular allergen.

– What’s in this? Ask every guest who bring a dish to the brunch to also bring the recipe and all ingredients used in that recipe. This is not only helpful to those with allergens, but for swapping recipes too!

– Ham it up: If you plan on serving a dish of bacon or other breakfast ham, make sure it is free of gluten.  Yes… meat can contain gluten too!

– Get fruity: Always have a fresh fruit salad on your brunch buffet table. Every guest will love it – not just the allergen and gluten free!

– It’s not just about the food… really!: Since brunches are held early in the day – plan activities that enjoy the sunshine. Sledding, ice skating and cross country skiing.

‘Tiz the Season of Appetizers

Sunday, December 7th, 2008

Appetizers are the ultimate party food. There is nothing more engaging for sociable gatherings and entertaining than numerous types of finger foods that can be enjoyed while mingling among a crowd of old (and new!) friends.

What many don’t realize is that appetizers can be a tough course for those that are on a gluten free diet or have food allergies, since most appetizers are made ahead of time and can not be modified to adhere to special dietary requirements.

If you’re hosting a sophisticated cocktail party, a family holiday or a neighborhood gift swap – use the tips below and plan ahead to include gluten and allergen appetizers to your menu. You’ll find they’re fun to eat, elegant in appearance, and more simple to prepare than you can imagine… plus, your guests with allergens or intolerances will be more than appreciative of your gift of thoughtfulness!

Dips and Sauces: Easy to prepare and so versatile – dips, sauces and spreads are the ultimate party noshes since they encourage mingling around a common area. Make sure that you use gluten and allergen free crackers or better yet, compliment these dishes with fresh veggie sticks or allergen free Vegetable Chips (find the recipe in the BeFreeForMe recipe section.)

Serve hot and cold gluten free and allergen free appetizers: This allows you to serve different appetizers at different times – rather than all at once. Serving hot and cold appetizers also allows those guests that arrive at varying times to enjoy some of the appetizers while piping hot; while the cold appetizers are for all to enjoy throughout the event. This method of combining hot and cold appetizers to your menu also allow you to mingle more with your guests, rather than being tied to the oven – Now that’s a reason to party!

Choose appetizers that can be prepared in advance: Gluten and allergen free dips, spreads, cheeses, olives, and antipastos makes the event graciously streamline, where mingling, chatting and tasting is encouraged and gives all your guests different flavors and tastes to enjoy!

Always veggie it: A veggie platter is the safe haven for those with food allergies and intolerances. A good rule of thumb is to always include a veggie platter at each event you host. A veggie platter is not only enjoyed by the gluten and allergen free, but also those guests trying to watch their middle during the holiday season. Serve the veggie crudités with an assortment of dips, on the side, that take into account different food allergens and intolerances.

A few other appetizing tips:

  • Keep the recipes for all gluten or allergen free appetizers you make handy, since guests may want to see the ingredients prior to enjoying.
  • Many appetizers can be made into the main course – keep all options open!
  • Consider labeling each appetizer as dairy free, gluten free, nut free… your guests will appreciate your consideration!

Soups On!

Monday, December 1st, 2008

The chilly weather is with us! It is the perfect time for a nice, hot steaming bowl of soup for a simple supper (with leftovers that can be enjoyed over the course of a few days!).

There are no limitations to what soups can offer… soup is one of the most versatile of dishes for those following a gluten free diet or having food allergies. For the most part, soup is forgiving and most recipes allow changes to the recipe depending on your tastes and preferences, and also your food allergy or intolerance.

Soups are also economical. As well as “a lot going a long way”, you can also adjust recipes to include items that you already have in your cupboards or refrigerator. Usually when I make soup, I toss in extra veggies, beans or rice that I have on hand. The results are usually so good that I make permanent changes to my original recipes!

Over the next week, BeFreeForMe will be exploring some economical and satisfying gluten and allergy free soups in our recipe section. What is your favorite gluten free or allergy free soup or stew recipe? We look forward to you sharing it with us in our “Share a Recipe” section!

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