Wednesday, March 26, 2008

From Soups to Nuts - more gluten free favorites

Sorry this post is late but I had to report the fabulous gluten free wedding event before I could get to this. Below is a list of my favorite shelf stable and frozen products. In most, but not all cases, I've tried the competitors of these products and found them either not good, or not good enough to feed the small wildlife animals that call our backyard home.


*Bionaturae (contains soy)
*Tinkyada (used for lasagne only)
Soups / Broths

*Wolfgang Puck - gluten free items listed on their website
*Amy's - gluten free options marked on can
*Pacific Organics - gluten free options marked on box

Crackers / Pretzels / Baked Goods

*Ener-G - regular and onion flavored crackers, sesame pretzels
*Valpi-Form - Salty Crackers, Madeleines , Mini Marble Cakes - available from I Can Eat It
*Schar - buttery flavored crackers
*Glutino - twisted and stick pretzels (use for making gf Chex-like party mix)

Salad Dressings / Pasta Sauces
*Drew's - gluten free marked on bottle, some are dairy free also
*Amy's - use this lines' dressing packets for travel - available from Minimus
*Newman's Own - gluten free list on their website


Muffins / Scones / Biscuits / Pie Crusts

*Gluten Free Bakehouse - lemon poppyseed muffins, cranberry orange scones, cheddar biscuits (available only at Whole Foods)
*Foods by George - blueberry muffins
*Natural Feast - this pie crust is good for pre-made but very small

Pizza / Entrees / Dips

*Glutino - I use their plain crust to make my own mini pizza
*Amy's - cheese enchiladas
*Cedar Lane - 5 layer Mexican dip (packaging recently changed to note gluten free)

*Sherbetter - lemon sorbet
*Sharon's - raspberry and coconut sorbet (latter not fat free but incredible)
*Gluten Free Bakehouse - ginger cookies, brownies

When I posted my first 'favorites' list, including gluten free mixes, I had not tried a line from Tracey's Treats. Now that I have, I have to say their bread mix makes an excellent bread and a fabulous pizza crust, and you could open a bakery selling just muffins from the muffin mix. They are that incredible tasting! I had a little batter left over after filling up the muffin tin so I made a mini blueberry breakfast cake by sprinkling brown sugar on the top of the remaining batter and baking in a loaf pan (shown below the muffins). The pizza below was topped with pesto sauce, smoked turkey, artichoke hearts, white American chesse and Kalamata olives.
I'll end by saying that there is the most fabulous food you can imagine out there, some easy to obtain, other things you have to work to find. Either way it's up to you to buy, try and decide for yourself what your own favorites are. And don't settle for something that's good, considering it's gluten free - please set your standards higher than that. Make sure it's good enough for glutenoids and then it should be good enough for you!

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

A Gluten Free Wedding Reception - how maaavelous!

For most people, a wedding reception isn't that much to get excited about - and if you follow a special diet for health reasons, like I do, you're likely to assume you must eat before you arrive at the venue, so you don't starve when there's not one thing you can eat there. So when a gluten free friend of mine explained that most of the food at her upcoming swanky wedding reception at Swan Coach House, was going to be gluten free, I was thrilled for her. You see, my friend originally picked out her menu right before her Celiac diagnosis so everything had to reviewed and revamped to be gluten free. Luckily most everything on the first menu was easily modified to be safe for the Bride, and they would seemingly be wonderful tasty dishes!

My husband and I have grown to know the engaged couple quite well over the past year, and even though they are much younger than us, they are lovely, sincere, and very fun people whom we adore hanging out with. Therefore, we were honored to be invited to their wedding, which was mostly attended by family members and dear friends of many years. One of the guests had known the Bride since they were only four years old!

As the big day approached, I got a little obsessed and excited thinking about the fact that I'd actually get to enjoy the food at the wedding reception. To tell you the truth, when I ate gluten I don't ever remember eating any stellar food at any wedding - ever. No matter how fancy a wedding was, not one meal or dish stood out in my mind as memorable. Why then was I thinking about how great it would be to eat at this event? I'll try my best to explain it, in case some of you reading this are glutenoids (people who consume gluten).

When most people attend a company holiday party, a friends birthday or anniversary party or a wedding reception, they just eat whatever is being served - assuming they don't have any food allergies to worry about. When we attend such functions we have to employ all kinds of tricks and tips to insure we don't try and eat the white linen tablecloths that drape the lovely tables, or gnaw our own arms off in desperation. This is because in the US, gluten is in everything and on everything (the food I mean) and that's just a fact we have to accept and be prepared for, every time we leave our homes. You know that AMEX commercial 'never leave home without it?' - well, our saying is 'never leave home without food'. From pretzels, crackers and energy bars to dried fruit, nuts and salad dressing packets - if it's gluten free, shelf stable, and edible we try to keep it on hand at all times. We just never know when we'll be stuck out in public without anything safe to eat. Sure we can always find convenience store and grab a soda, candy bar and chips but that's really not a meal - or very healthy for that matter.

So actually, it is a very big deal to attend a function - any function - where I can actually eat and enjoy the food. I have been gluten free for over two years and have attended many events where my food options were surprisingly varied and delicious. But this past Saturday night I attended the best event of them all. Not only did I get to witness my friends exchange their vows and meet their wonderful families, I got to feel like every other guest at the reception following the beautiful service. I really don't miss gluten at all...OK - I guess I'd be psyched if Krispy Kreme brought out a gluten free doughnut...but I do on occasion miss being 'normal' when it comes to food. Not only do I sometimes feel like an alien invaded my body, but many times people treat me like they believe that as well. And that is the only bad part about having Celiac for me.

I wake up every day feeling incredibly blessed that I found out what was wrong with me, and that by eliminating gluten from my diet, I feel better than ever! I only wish that others out there who are still suffering, were as fortunate as me. For now, I'll have to settle on doing my part to drive Celiac diagnoses' in the US. With the current NIH plan addressing this issue, we're looking at another ten years of widespread suffering. We can't just sit around and wait for the government to do this for us.

Oh yea, I should probably tell you about the food at the wedding reception. It was so overwhelming that I forgot to take pix, even though I had permission from the wedding photographer to do so. There was a huge gorgeous Salmon with cucumbers decorating it like scales (darling), roasted seasonal vegetables, stuffed chicken with goat cheese and sun dried tomato, rosemary potatoes, spring mix salad with balsamic dressing, baked brie and another type of fantastic baked cheese, scrumptious fresh fruit and even a gluten free bread basket which included homemade banana nut bread. And all of this was gluten free and absolutely delicious! The chocolate sauce for the fruit could not be confirmed to be safe so we skipped it. There were gluten crackers and dinner rolls which were easy to avoid. There were three wedding cakes - the main wedding cake contained gluten, as did the Groom's cake (a precious GA Tech yellow jacket), but there was a miniature replica of the main cake that was gluten free and chocolate to boot! The Bride is a chocoholic so that was only fitting. The gluten free wedding cake was of course beautiful (just like the large cake was) but it was also very good - moist with a great 'real' texture to it and the butter cream frosting complimented it perfectly as well!

In the end, since I didn't have to worry even slightly about the food, we had a perfectly wonderful time at the party. I felt liked I'd actually moved to Europe or something. It was totally amazing to just go enjoy something like that - not stress about what's in this or that dish...driving the servers crazy with a zillion questions about gluten - or worse explaining to them what the word gluten even! This party will go down in my book as another 'gluten free event of a lifetime', right along with the Gluten Free Cooking Spree. Of course, the wedding reception was even better because we didn't eat out of tasting sized cups (lol!) and we even got to dance! By the way, the reception was full of glutenoids and you know what? They all loved the food as well. I'm sure many of them didn't know they were eating mostly gluten!

Gluten-free in a pandemic? No problem!

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