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Archive for the ‘Allergy Aware Advice’ Category

Take delight in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart. (Psalm 37:4 NIV)

Le Fou, I’m afraid I went shopping.

A dangerous pastime….

I know.

Especially GROCERY shopping, when one has food allergies. This particular trip was fraught with more-than-usual peril, for a couple of reasons. First, I was hungry. We all know the Most Important Rule of Shopping, right? Well, I broke it. Second, I was craving pizza. No, not craving pizza, CRAVING PIZZA!!!. And doughnuts.

My sensible brain knew that this meant I needed to examine what I’d been eating lately and see if some gluten had accidentally slipped in. (Later, I did just that and discovered the culprit: a snack bar I’d bought for grab-and-go mornings without reading the label carefully enough! This is my number one reason for not shopping while hungry or tired.) But my sensible brain was out to lunch or otherwise not functioning, due to those selfsame cereal bars, no doubt.

As a side note…I read a fascinating article in the most recent issue of Living Without magazine on the topic of gluten sensitivity and depression. As mentioned in the article, unreasonable sadness and lethargy, brain “fog” and body aches are some of my first indications that I’ve accidentally eaten gluten, but I often don’t notice them until the more obvious symptoms show up. I found it an interesting read, and a good reminder of things of which I should be aware.

Anyway…back to my shopping trip. See the verse up there at the top? I firmly believe it! And I believe that it applies to little, everyday things as much as to big, life changing things. We are “worth more than sparrows” and our Heavenly Father cares about our daily lives. My “heart’s desire” at that present moment was Pizza. At least, I thought it was. Another wonderful thing about God, though, is that He knows us better than we know ourselves….

I could tell you a long story about all the things I found in the store that I considered special blessings for my frustrated heart, but it would take a loooooooong time. I shall give you, instead, the condensed list:
1. Red grapefruit, which is one of my Favorite things, was on sale!
2. A lovely ranch dressing for my salad
3. Many of the things on my shopping list were on sale.
4. Salted Caramel Häagen Dazs bars…require no comment.

And the pièce de résistance…..

5. When I got to the specialty frozen foods section, whence I meant to buy a frozen pizza from Udi, if it didn’t cost an arm and a leg, I found……

Not only were the pizzas ON SALE (and you and I both know what a rare occurrence that is!), but they also had a NEW item from Udi…….Flour Tortillas!

Almost overcome with excitement, I checked out and hurried home!

If you are eating gluten free, you’ve probably experienced several attempts at a “flour” tortilla; those frozen brown things that crumble when thawed, or those stiff ones that wouldn’t even dream of rolling up. Maybe, like me, you’ve even made your own. Homemade ones can be pretty good, but only fresh out of the pan. What you don’t eat, you may as well make into chips because they’ll be chips tomorrow whether you like it or not, amiright?

Not these. These are Amazing. They came frozen, but I stuck them in the fridge to thaw, and tasted one as soon as I could! I couldn’t believe my mouth…chewy, dense, flexible….exactly as I remembered gluten flour tortillas! (and no, I don’t work for Udi)

I made this….

20130418-210713.jpg

See how they folded over without cracking?!??!!!? I put those under the broiler with cheese sprinkled on top, then folded them as I put them on the plate!!!

They are amazing to eat. So….real. And “real” is what I was really wanting, that day in the store.

Does it surprise you to hear that I haven’t yet eaten the frozen pizza?

That guacamole on top is easy-peasy, too. I’ve been seeing a lot of über complicated guacamole recipes lately, and I just don’t understand.

“Oh, Bert! Why must you complicate things that are really quite simple?”

Why, indeed? Try this one. Mary Poppins would approve.

1 avocado, peeled and pitted, mashed or diced just as you like (or more than 1, to have enough to share!)
Some:
Cilantro
Lime juice
Salt
Pepper

Optional:
Tomatoes, diced
Onion, diced
Jalapeño, diced finely

I say “some,” because guacamole is really a matter of taste. Start with a little. Taste. Add more. Taste. Repeat until it’s good! The “optional” ingredients are all good, but you can make good guacamole without them. I like tomatoes, but my last batch didn’t have any and it was still mighty tasty! If you’re feeling Really lazy, throw in a jar of salsa!

Thanks for sharing my day of delightful blessings!

Trust in the Lord and do good; dwell in the land and enjoy safe pasture. (Psalm 37:3 NIV)

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It’s summer!!! 

That means a lot of lovely things like swimming, popsicles, beach trips, or just relaxing in the shade.  It also means a warm house (even with air conditioning, sometimes!), and perhaps not so much energy for cooking.  Sometimes, it’s nice to go out and let someone else cook, right?  However, when you have food allergies, finding a restaurant you can eat at can be more of a hassle than cooking at home, heat or no heat.  A little research before hitting the road will save a lot of time and headache later.  Lucky you!  I’ve already done some of it for you!

Also, it is very important to ask questions.  Ask about subsitutions, cross contamination prevention, ingredients, etc.  The answers are important, but the attitude of the restaurant is equally crucial.  If the server, or manager, seems ignorant or uninterested in meeting your needs, be cautious.  Most places, I have found, are very willing to do what they can to serve you.  They want you to come back!

We don’t eat out too often, as the array of allergies in our family makes it tricky to find a place we can ALL eat, but just recently we’ve encountered a few places that fit the bill for us…

Burgerville

We’ve eaten at Burgerville more than any other fast food restaurant in the past few years, for several reasons.  First, they cook their fries in a dedicated frier, which means they are segregated from the gluten-containing onion rings and crispy chicken.  I like fries, and all of Burgerville’s are gluten free!  Secondly, they buy their meat from clean, local sources.  It is good quality, and free of antibiotics.  Thirdly, they have always been willing to do something special (like replace a bun with a lettuce wrap) to make the food safe for those with allergies.  In addition to all of this, Burgerville has just recently added gluten free hamburger buns!  Yes, that picture up there is a gluten free burger!  And it was delicious!

Taco Bell

Taco Bell isn’t quite as allergy-friendly as other places, but they do have some tasty choices for those who are gluten free.  This salad, for instance, is one of their new “Cantina Bowls.”  They are gluten free, but do contain eggs and dairy.  I just had this option recently, and I was impressed with its deliciousness.  Gluten free diners can also request a burrito without the tortilla.  A favorite in my family is the XXL Burrito, which can be further dressed up at home with extra veggie goodness:

Other gluten free options at Taco Bell are crunchy tacos, rice, and beans.

Cruise In Country Diner

This little restaurant, located in Hillsboro, Oregon, is a great option for gluten free diners.  (If you look them up online, you can see their whole menu.)  Their burgers all have a gluten free bun option, and they also have gluten free chicken strips!  At this time, the gluten free buns do contain dairy, but there is also a lettuce wrap option for dairy free people.  Fries are gluten free, cooked in rice bran oil, and come with free refills (when you get them in your meal basket).  The burgers are so thick and juicy, you may not have room for extra fries, though!  For drinks, their house rootbeer is delicious, and their milkshakes come the old fashioned way–with the mixing container!

PF Changs

For Chinese food, gluten free style, PF Changs is a good choice.  They have quite a few gluten free choices, including a dessert!  When you ask for a gluten free menu, your server also brings a tray of gluten free sauces for dipping/topping.  Your food even comes on a special plate, so you can be sure it is gluten free!  Their whole menu is available online.  If you order the gluten free chocolate cake, be sure to have a friend to share with or plan to take some home; it is incredibly decadent!

Around your town, there are probably many other little restaurants with gluten free options or who would be willing to make adjustments to fit your needs.  A little researching and being willing to ask questions can open up our culinary horizons beautifully!

What’s your favorite restaurant?

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When you first find out you have serious food allergies, it’s really easy to immediately start looking for substitutes for the now-forbidden foods.  We rush to the store and ask, “Where’s the gluten free baking aisle?  Where are the cookies?  Is a gluten free doughnut possible?”  We buy everything that might allow us to keep eating the old familiar foods.  Then we are often disappointed by sawdust-like texture, strange flavors, and exorbitant prices.

My friends, there is a better way.

Please don’t misunderstand me; I love to replicate my old favorites!  But one of the unexpected blessings of a required change of diet is the opportunity to try out new foods.  Take the soup in the above photo, for example.  It is gluten free, dairy free and delicious!  And it was thrown together out of random stuff in the cupboards.  (recipe to follow!)

Take a food adventure this week.  Try something new!  Branch out beyond pizza, burgers and fries.  🙂 

Here’s a few suggestions:

-Homemade Chili (recipe in next time’s post!)
-Quinoa (cooked like rice, in water or chicken broth, or eaten like oatmeal, with milk and some sugar)
-Amaranth (can be cooked like rice, pounded into flaked cereal, or popped like popcorn!)
-Chicken curry (or any meat!)
-Rice of many kinds (try long grain brown basmati for fried rice, shorter grains for rice pudding or risotto)

When the blindfold of “I CAN’T HAVE GLUTEN EVER AGAIN” falls over our culinary vision, it is easy to overlook the many things in our pantry that are naturally gluten free and delicious.  Don’t panic!  I know it is easy to do, but take a deep breath and reintroduce yourself to some of these lovely foods…..

-Eggs (a plethora of cooking options exist!)
-Nut butters (you can even grind your own!)
-Canned fish (I prefer salmon, in eggs or mixed with mayo or cream cheese)
-Salad (topped with boiled eggs, meat, cheese and a veggie rainbow–an excellent meal!)
-Chicken, Beef or Vegetable broth (I prefer organic varieties as the base to dozens of different meals)
-Fresh fruit, ice cream, yogurt, cottage cheese (together or separate, these all make excellent desserts)

Welcome back to enjoying food!   

Quick Asian-Inspired Soup

Ingredients:
8 cups chicken broth
1 box MaiFun rice noodles (or your favorite thin rice noodle)
fresh ginger, sliced into 1/4″ slices
fish sauce (make sure it is gluten free)
garlic vinegar (rice vinegar would be good, too)
garlic (powdered or fresh, minced)
salt
cayenne pepper
sausages (optional)

Method:
Heat chicken broth in a large stock pot.  Pour in some fish sauce and vinegar.  Sorry that’s not very specific, but it depends a lot on your personal taste.  I used about 1/2 a cup of vinegar, but I LOVE “hot and sour” soup in Chinese restaurants, so I made our soup pretty vinegary.  You might want less.  Or maybe more!  I used about a 1/4 cup of the fish sauce, or maybe a little less.  Toss in your ginger slices.  If you want to leave the ginger in the final soup, you should peel and dice or julienne it before adding.  Otherwise, just slice off a few pieces and toss them in.  (We keep our ginger in the freezer–it stays good a long time that way, and the fresh stuff tastes much better than powder in this kind of food!)  Sprinkle on a little garlic powder, or stir in a couple cloves of minced garlic.  Then add a dash of cayenne (or a bit more if you are so inclined) and salt to taste.  Let it all heat and steep for a little while (5-10 minutes).  Now, taste!  Adjust flavors as needed.

When the broth tastes perfect, you are ready for the noodles!  Before you put them in, remove any unpeeled ginger and bring the broth to a boil.  Add the noodles to the boiling broth and continue to cook for a few minutes.  (Read the directions on your noodles, and treat the broth as the water in those directions.)  When the noodles are soft, serve!

We sliced up a few sausages (chicken and apple for the dairy free folks, artichoke and cheese for us dairy-eaters) and cooked them in skillets while the broth was steeping, then added them to the soup just before serving.

You could also add…
-shrimp
-waterchestnuts
-mushrooms
-green onions
-julienned carrots
-tofu
-eggs (beat, then slowly pour into broth–before adding noodles–while stirring with a chopstick or spoon handle)
-pork
-chicken
-anything else you like….the sky’s the limit!

What are some of your favorite foods?

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