Sunday, November 29, 2009

One way to make a difference ...

The word potluck almost always makes me cringe and run in the opposite direction. I used to love potlucks. With a minimal amount of effort you were able to enjoy copious amounts of food and if it was done right it was glorious glorious food. Potlucks can be tricky things as sometimes everyone brings desserts or chips and dip and there is nothing substantial to eat. That used to be my biggest concern. Now potlucks are scary because I don't know what's in the food and because of the potential cross contamination. Contamination is huge. People without allergies are constantly sharing utensils and combining dishes in order to be helpful, not realizing they are now making something you could eat into something you can't eat.


One way to make a difference is volunteering to be involved with the organization. For instance, we have had two potlucks at work recently and I normally avoid them like the plague, but this time I tried a different approach. The first potluck was a pancake breakfast. We had a sign up sheet and I volunteered to bring the pancake mix and a coworker who knows me well volunteered to bring gluten free sausages. There was fruit, bacon and various other dishes brought. Some of the dishes of course contained gluten, but there were enough that didn't (including the pancakes) that made it possible to get full from breakfast and not be bloated! I used Pamela's baking and pancake mix, which is my favorite and I had several people ask me after wards what I used because they wanted to go out and by the same mix. See gluten free doesn't have to mean taste free.


The second potluck was themed. Again as
I had a hand in it, I requested Mexican theme as certain cultures naturally have more gluten free options than others. Mexican and Indian cuisine have lots of options, where as Chinese food does not. At this potluck I requested that everyone in the office fill out place cards for their food items. I found them through Gluten Free Girl and Beneficial Design. They are at the bottom of this page: http://beneficialdesign.com/glutenfreegirl.html. You can print them off and have them at your next potluck event. They have the name of the food, who made them and what major allergen is present. It makes it a lot easier to figure out what you can and cannot eat, and find the person who made it to double check. There is always the risk of cross contamination at home when the food is being made, but it's a start. Another trick was that my co-workers let me start on the grill first, so that I could use my corn tortillas first before they cooked with flour tortillas.

My co-workers went from knowing very little about gluten free food to knowing quite a bit. They are always interested in learning more about it and asking questions. At least they are very good at pretending to be :) I'm very grateful that they are as understanding as they are and always trying to incorporate my diet as best they can.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Steamed Milk Alternative

Not being able to have gluten is my major limit, but I have others. I can't have lactose, soy milk, chocolate or caffeine. That can limit the types of hot warm beverages quite significantly, especially when going to cafes. Yes, there is always tea, but since I try to avoid caffeine I'm limited in the types of tea and some teas contain barley, so you have to be careful what type you order. Sometimes I just want a hot chocolate.

Hot chocolates are what almost everyone craves or talks about on those cold blustery days... days where you get soaked running from your car to the front door, days when your fingers are numb from cold and snow, days when you can barely ope
n your eyes because the wind and hail are shattering against your face. Once you are inside the first thing I think of to warm up (other than a hot shower) is hot chocolate. I then immediately bemoan the fact that I can't have it anymore. I'm sure I could come up with some hot carob alternative, but the other night I came up with something even better. It's so simple and yet so good. Next time you feel like a hot drink to warm you up, try this:

Steamed Milk Alternative (aka Almond Amarula Steamer)
-Serves One

1.5 cups of Vanilla Almond Milk
1 shot of Amarula

Use what you have on hand, a pot or espress
o maker or a milk frother. I own a stove top milk frother so I just threw in almond milk and amarula into it and slowly heated it until boiling (without burning it) stirring occasionally. Once it was hot I removed it from the stove, pumped the frother top and voila I have steamed milk. Sprinkle a little cinnamon and/or nutmeg on top to decorate.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Creamy Chicken Chipotle Soup

With the days growing colder and the daylight hours growing shorter, we start slipping away from the light cool meals of the summer and move towards the heartier warmer meals. I equate it with hibernation and survival back in the caveman days when we needed to stock up and bulk up to survive the winters. We don't need to do that anymore, but it's ingrained in us. It's also partly to do with what is available for food at this time of year and partly a comfort thing. A warm steaming cup of hot cocoa or bowl of chili or bowl of soup really hits the spot when you are coming inside from the cold.

Several years ago, pre-diagnosis, I went to a pub on Granville Island in Vancouver and ordered soup. I'm not a soup or salad person in general unless it's gourmet. I love rich creamy flavourful soups and exotic salads. I never really was a big fan of canned soup. It's probably a good thing, since its nearly impossible to find canned soup that is also gluten free. It's not a big loss for me.

Every now and then I think back on that soup I had in Vancouver and wonder how it was made. The other night I tried to figure it out. It's not quiet what I had or remember having, but it's still pretty tasty. My boyfriend tried to go for thirds until I slapped him away and said that some of it was for my lunch the next day. I think there is still something missing even though it's quite tasty. Perhaps you could try it and see if you figure out that missing magic ingredient?


Creamy Chicken Chipotle Soup

8 Chicken Thighs (one package)
1/4 cup of Salted Butter
1 Yellow Onion, diced
1 tablespoon Mince Garlic
1/2 teaspoon Cumin
2 stalks of Celery, sliced
1 Leek, washed and sliced
1 cup of sliced Brown Mushrooms
3 cups of GF Chicken Stock
1 cup of Goats Milk
2 heaping spoonfuls of Sour Cream
3 tablespoons of Bob's Redmill GF All Purpose Flour
2 Chipotle Peppers in Adobo Sauce (or more if you like it spicier)

To start, cook your chicken thighs in a Gorge Foreman Grill or in an oiled frying pan until no pink remains. Dice them up and set them aside. While your chicken is cooking you can start working on the soup. In a large pot melt your butter and then place in the onions, garlic and cumin. Stir until onions are soft and golden. Then add in your mushrooms and leeks. Once the mushrooms are tender add the chicken and followed by the liquids (chicken stock and goats milk and sour cream). Stir occasionally to ensure nothing sticks to the bottom of the pot. Then in a small bowl or cup mix your 3 tablespoons of GF flour with 3 tablespoons of water or more. Just enough to make a smooth paste (so it doesn't get all clumpy in your soup). Add this to your soup and stir in well. Next throw in the chipotle peppers and stir. Continue to simmer for another 15 to 20 minutes until soup has thickened slightly. Remove peppers from the soup. Now it's ready to serve. It seems to taste even better if you put a dollop of sour cream in the center. Enjoy!

Friday, November 6, 2009

Are you having a Celiac over for dinner?

Photo By: Nik Frey

Are you welcoming a Celiac into your home either for a short term dinner party or longer term house guest (or regular guest)? Are you terrified of cooking for them? I’ve been asked by my friends and family on several occasions to help them help me when it comes to feeding me. I’ve always tried to find some helpful resources, but there aren’t that many around. All the resources are geared towards people who have Celiac and have to make major changes in their lives, not those who are merely entertaining the Celiac. What follows, hopefully, will be a helpful guide to those who want to cook for their gluten free friends.

The reason we try to be so careful with our food, is because when the smallest spec of gluten enters our bodies, our bodies register the gluten proteins as enemies and our immune systems step in. While attempting to attack the gluten our immune system also attacks our intestines, which results in all sorts of various symptoms such as bloating, diarrhea, stomach ache, etc. That is the short term results, the ones that last for a few hours up to a few days or weeks. The long term effects come from continually being exposed to gluten and continually having your intestines attacked. Long term effects begin with signs of malnutrition due to our non-functioning intestines no longer being able to absorb the nutrients in our food. They also lead to higher chances of developing Colon Cancer and other such lovely things.

Have I scared you? Good. Since Celiacs don’t react as severely as someone with an allergic anaphylactic reaction it’s hard for some people to take us seriously and insist that it’s okay to cheat or think that we won’t notice that spec of bread crumb that fell on our plate. In fact, some Celiacs are guilty of this, but they are usually the ones who aren’t as sensitive as others or don’t get symptoms at all. Me, I’m the super sensitive type who reacts to the smallest bit of gluten.

Now that you know the level of care that needs to be taken, let me tell you how easy it can be! It might take a little extra care, cleaning and reading, but feeding a Celiac can be done.

Cooking:

  • Clean, clean, clean. Using soap and water is usually sufficient, but if you feel like using something stronger, like bleach, feel free. Clean all working surfaces (counters, tables, cutting boards, stove tops, around your sink). Clean any utensil, pot, or dish that you are planning on using. Although the dishes may be clean in your drawers and shelves, these can easily (especially utensil containers) have crumbs in the bottom or corners, so it’s safest just to assume everything you use is dirty and wash it (if you plan on using) right before you use it.
  • Go back to basics. The easier the recipe and the more home-made it is, the easier it will be to make gluten free. Celiacs can eat fresh meat, fish, fruits, vegetables, eggs, and cheese (not pre-shredded), rice, corn, soy and potato products. The fresher the better, the less processed the better.
  • Read labels. If you are using anything that has a label, read it. Even if you think there is no way there is gluten in it, there probably is. My Mom swore to me that there was no way there could be wheat in Twizzlers until I showed her the label and it was listed third on the list (I think). Things such as hash browns sometimes have wheat added in the flavourings (such as McCain country style hash browns). So read read read. What you are looking for is anything that says the following: wheat, rye, barley, commercial oats & triticale, as well as, H.V.P. - Hydrolyzed Vegetable Protein, H.P.P. - Hydrolyzed Plant Protein, Malt flavouring, Malt, Modified wheat starch or other unidentified food starch. If you are unsure of an ingredient, you can double check it at the Celiac.com website which has an Unsafe Gluten Free List. If you’re ingredient isn’t on the list, you’re okay.

Baking:

Try to remember about cross contamination. Cross contamination is the biggest culprit for upset stomachs. Most people try their hardest to do something special for their Celiac friend like make them cookies with gluten free flours, but then forget that the butter was from the butter dish that had crumbs in it, and that they often put their flour coated measuring cups into their sugar bags when cooking normally without cleaning them. So if you are going to bake for your Celiac friend, try to remember these few tips.
  • Use only new or uncontaminated flours, spices, butter, and other such ingredients. Does your child like to drink milk straight out of the container after a nice yummy sandwich? Maybe try a new carton of milk.
  • We aren’t supposed to shop in bulk bins, due to the possible contamination from other customers using the wrong scoops. That and the bins are sometimes coated in flour to keep the food inside from sticking. So if possible, buy packaged ingredients (but watch out for that pesky “manufactured in a facility that also produces wheat” note, which is no good).
  • Use gluten free baking soda and baking powder.
Longer Term:

If you have a long term visitor, whether it’s a roommate, boarder, or regular family guest, there are a few things that you may want to do or have on hand as an added bonus. Most Celiacs, once they’ve been around the block a while, will come to your home prepared. They will try to bring everything that they need or isn’t easily accessible in your local stores, but they are sometimes limited by cooler space or carry on luggage. So, although you don’t need to do any of the following, if you do, your friend will appreciate it greatly.

  • Keep miniature versions of common condiments in your fridge only for the use of the Celiac person. Mayonnaise, butter, ketchup, mustard, peanut butter and jam are just a few examples of things that are commonly contaminated from the sandwich knife. Squeeze top versions of these also work, as long as you don’t clean them using your fingers after making a sandwich or burger. Another condiment that can be useful is wheat free tamari instead of soy sauce.
  • Keep gluten free burger buns or bread in your freezer. The GF bread won’t go bad in your freezer. If you do keep bread though, please note that most GF bread doesn’t hold together unless it’s toasted. So we may need to toast it and won’t be able to use your regular toaster unless we have toaster bags. We can always use an oven or toaster oven with tinfoil instead.
  • Keep fresh fruit, vegetables, eggs and rice crackers (plain) on hand for quick easy snacks and breakfasts.
  • If you have access to a dedicated gluten free bakery or a health food store that brings in products from a gluten free bakery, you can always get GF cookies, donuts or cakes (often in the frozen sections if not in the fresh) which you can offer while the rest of the dinner party has their regular dessert. Fruit sorbets work well as an alternative as well, as many Celiacs are also lactose intolerant.
Remember, the best source of information to keep your friend well fed and comfortable is your friend. Do not hesitate to ask them questions. They will be glad to help, as it's always better to be safe than sorry.

In case I forgot anything, or you would like more information, here are some other helpful links in regards to cooking for a Celiac:

So you wanna cook for the Celiac? by Strawberries are Gluten Free

Gluten Free Hospitality
by Thinking Outside the Breadbox

Preparing a meal for a Celiac by the Celiac Association of Canada

A Celiac is coming Home by Leslie Orser