Archive for December, 2010

WIN-It-Wednesday: Glee Gum

Tuesday, December 28th, 2010

In honor of the most gleeful time of year, this WIN-It-Wednesday prize is the most fun prize we’ve had yet! I am so happy (or rather I should say…gleeful) that once again Glee Gum has decided to participate in BeFreeForMe’s WIN-It-Wednesday.

Gum is just fun. And being happy knowing you can enjoy it without the worry of allergens and additives is even better.

Glee gum is full of flavor (They come in six varieties: Tangerine, Triple Berry, Peppermint, Cinnamon, Bubblegum and Spearmint) yet it is free of gluten, dairy, soy and nuts. It also has no preservatives, artificial flavors, artificial colors or artificial sweeteners.

And to make things interesting, Glee Gum is the only gum made the old fashioned way, with chicle, a unique gum base which helps preserve the rainforest, not the synthetic stuff most gums are made with these days. Even the boxes are “green” made from 100% biodegradable, recycled cardboard.

Sometimes it’s the littlest things that make you happy. So why not let a ¼” square piece of Bubblegum flavored Glee Gum put a smile on your face?

How Can You Win?

Reply to this blog and tell us what little thing made you happy today. How easy is that?! (My daily dose of happiness you ask? Snowman making and good old fashioned snow ball fights!)

What Will You Win?

We will randomly pick six (6) winners (3 each week) to win the following prize package: One Mini Glee Variety packs (21 delicious Mini Glee Gum packs in kid-friendly Tangerine, Triple Berry and Bubblegum flavors) PLUS a Buy-One-Get-One FREE coupon for the Glee Gum of your choice.  There are two chances to win… one between Wednesday, 12/29/10 and Tuesday, 01/04/11 and another from Wednesday, 01/05/11 and Tuesday, 01/11/11. So make sure you enter twice!

Good Luck, Be Happy and as always… Be (gleefully) Free!

Friday Favorite: Cedar’s Aegan Edamame Salad

Thursday, December 16th, 2010

The Aegan Edamame Salad made by Cedar’s Mediterranean Foods is fresh, crisp and full of a variety of flavors. Found in the refrigerated department of grocery stores, alongside the hummus, grape leaves and other Mediterranean foods, this salad is a flavor-powerhouse.

Made with Edamame (soy), roasted corn and red peppers, and tossed with just enough cilantro, this salad is perfect side to compliment a sandwich, atop a fresh garden salad, or even sprinkled over cooked fish or chicken.

But beware… this salad is addictive! I can easily finish off a tub of this in a couple of days… all by myself.

I’m all about trying something new, and discovering my new favorite “can’t live without it” food; which is exactly what Cedar’s Mediterranean Aegan Edamame Salad has turned out to be. All these reasons are why this all natural and cholesterol-free salad is receiving the Friday Favorite honor on BeFreeForMe this week!

WIN-It-Wednesday: Glutenus Minimus Baked Goods

Tuesday, December 14th, 2010

This week’s WIN-it-Wednesday it full of the sweetness that we all deserve during the holiday season.

The kind of sweetness that you get when you walk to the corner bakery during a snow-globe-type-of-snowstorm all bundled up in mittens and hats, and gets a whiff of fresh still-warm baked goods that just came out of the oven. Or the kind of sweetness you got as a kid, all pink cheeked, cold and wearing a snowsuit full of snow and bursting into an oven-warmed kitchen, with fresh baked chocolate chip cookies that are “coming out of the oven in a minute or two.”

These are the simple sweetness’ that life offers us this time of year.

And thanks to Glutenus Minimus (don’t you just love the name?!) sweet measures such as these are made possible for those of us that are on a gluten-free diet, or have other food allergies.

Natalie McEachern, the owner of Glutenus Minimus, started her company baking gourmet gluten-free baked goods, a  little over 2 years ago after getting diagnosed with celiac disease 6 years earlier when she was a senior in college. I met Natalie at a celiac convention shortly after she started her business, and just loved all of the baked offerings that she was sampling, along with her mother, who was Natalie’s partner in developing these delicious gluten and allergen-free recipes.

If you are lucky enough to live close enough to Natalie’s bakery in Belmont, Massachusetts (a close suburb of Boston), make sure you stop by her shop at 697 Belmont Street. Otherwise, you can order her delectable baked goods on-line. My favorites are the Classic Chocolate Chip Cookies (gluten & nut free), Sugar Cookies, and Carrot Cake Muffins (gluten, dairy & nut free).

I am so excited that Glutenus Minimus is sponsoring this week’s WIN-It-Wednesday and offering three (Yes, 3!) LUCKY BeFreeForMe members a gift pack containing Holiday Sugar Cookies that are ready-to-eat, and a Chocolate Chip Cookie Mix that you can bake-up yourself.

How can you win?

Reply to this blog and tell us your sweetest holiday memory (Me? Ice skating during Christmas break with my sisters, and our neighbor, Gail, on the frozen cranberry bog down the street).

All entries must be received by Wednesday, December 29, 2010 at 12 midnight EST.

Good luck, hold close the sweetness of the Holidays and as always…

Be Free!

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 ( 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 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:

Friday Favorite: Wholly Guacamole

Thursday, December 9th, 2010

On the way to an after-work holiday get-together and need to bring an appetizer? Looking for a quick game-day snack? For a quick, fast, grab-on-the go, no-fuss, no-worry and yummy appetizer idea… reach for Wholly Guacamole!

All natural, gluten-free, and made with 100% hand-scooped Haas avocados Wholly Guacamole is a perfect appetizer choice.

Found in your grocer’s refrigerated section, Wholly Guacamole tastes like the guacamole I’d make myself if only I had the: 1.) Time and 2.) Several perfectly ripened avocados that never seem to be available when needed.

I also love this stuff smothered on my gluten-free bread and topped with smoked turkey, and jalapeno cheddar. Yums.

Convenience, good taste and never needing a ripe avocado again in my life are all the reasons why Wholly Guacamole is this week Friday Favorite on

Tax Deduction Guide for the Gluten-Free / Allergen-Free Diet

Sunday, December 5th, 2010

Right now the holiday season is in full-swing, fun is in the air and good-times are being had by all. But before we know it, the decorations and gifts will be packed away, we’ll have rung in the New Year, and the holiday season will turn into tax season with a blink of the eye.

That is why I was so intrigued when I found this article on the National Foundation for Celiac Awareness (NFCA) website on how to deduct the costs of a medically required specialized diet on your tax returns. It’s a great resource that lists information, forms and IRS guidelines for you, and your accountant or tax preparer. Thanks NFCA for providing us with information such as this!

This article highlights the  key points such as having a note from your doctor stating that you need to be on a gluten-free / allergen-free diet, making sure that you keep your receipts, and determining the amount that is deductible. In addition to these key points I also have a few tips to assist in deducting food costs on tax returns:

– Highlight the items on your receipts after each shopping trip: Most supermarkets abbreviate the description of the items bought. That is why it is so important to note the items that you can deduct by highlighting each deductible item after each shopping trip. Otherwise, you’ll be scratching your head right before tax time, pawing through receipts and trying to remember what items are tax-deductible.

– Keep a spreadsheet of the costs of the “regular” items: I know that Lean Cuisine frozen meals cost about $4.96 per unit on, which I noted on my “Regular Food Cost” spreadsheet.  Now, whenever I buy a gluten-free frozen meal I use the difference from this “base-line” cost to determine the tax deductible amount.  This spreadsheet prevents me from having to search for the price after my next shopping trip. As an example, my favorite gluten-free frozen meal, Lillian’s Healthy Gourmet cost about $7.99 per unit. That is a difference of about $3.00 – the tax deductible amount.

– Keep all receipts for food in one place: I have a big manila envelope on my desk in my kitchen. Whenever, I go to the grocery store, natural food store, or even order food products on-line, I put the highlighted receipt in this envelope.  At the end of the year, during tax-prep time this solves the dilemma of searching for receipts.

– Plan ahead & reap the benefits: Make sure that you start the organization of this “tallying” of deductible amounts before the New Year begins. Be ready to go for January 1 of next year! Make sure that you set up an appointment with your accountant or tax preparer to discuss these deductions with them.

Eventually, saving & tallying your food receipts will be second-nature. Another benefit? You will start to see trends and unknowingly track where the best gluten-free and allergen-free food deals are!

Friday Favorite: VerMint’s Ginger Mints

Thursday, December 2nd, 2010

Made with Organic crystallized cane juice, organic Vermont maple syrup, and ground ginger root VerMint’s Ginger Mints are one of my favorite mints.

Different than other peppermint or cinnamon mints, these sassy ginger VerMints have a spicy taste that are great for soothing a tummy while traveling, or after a meal.

Made in Vermont with organic ingredients, they are also gluten and nut free. These Friday Favorite mints, that come in fun little tins, put a little sweetness and spice into a great stocking stuffer idea!

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