Self-proclaimed font of Celiac knowledge, Libby writes about the lifestyle of wheat allergics, gluten sensitivites, and Celiacs. Recipes, product reviews, and tips 'n tricks on healthy gluten free living can all be found here. A writer for healthline.com, this is Libby's personal blog space.

Gluten Free Gamble

Posted on October 24, 2012

Yesterday, my two Welsh friends flew into San Francisco. After letting them rest and attempt get over jet lag, we decided to go on a mission to the beach. This morning before leaving for the coast, I decided to take quick shower. Meanwhile downstairs in the kitchen, the two lads prepared themselves breakfast. As I got out of the shower, I smelled the sweet, strong scent of cinnamon and raisin toast. I quickly threw on my robe and rushed downstairs in fear that they used my gluten free toaster. My fears were luckily wrong when I discovered they had not; however, I did notice, as they munched away, that the lid was off my contamination-free stick of butter container. It is moments like these that a Celiac must remember to explain all details to house guests, even if they seem really obvious.

After briefing them on the daily intricacies of my life, we packed up and finally headed for the beach.

It was unusually sunny for Half Moon Bay and we had a very pleasant drive over the foothills. The beach had a cool breeze and it was thoroughly refreshing to dip our toes in the icy water. We scrambled over the rocks and poked our fingers into the tide pools, attempting to close up every sea anemone waving in the salt water.

Once we grew tired of the tide pools, we drove to another beach for a proper sandy experience. There, as if placed strategically to entice the hungriest of surfers, was the most beautiful Taco Bell. Positioned directly on the beach in Pacifica, this Taco Bell stands out like a beacon of light for those in desperate need of Mexican fast food. The boys obviously wanted to go, never having experienced Taco Bell before. I warned them of the disgustingness of this specific type of cuisine, but they insisted. We walked over, the strong smell of deep fried tortilla hanging in the air.

Once inside, I felt a strange feeling. I wanted Taco Bell.

I think this is the trap of fast food, it draws you in with its dirt cheap prices and instant gratification. I have this app on my iPhone called “GF Fast Food” so I whipped out my phone to see if Taco Bell had any items listed. It had two: Tostada with Pinto Beans and Cheese and the Mexican rice. At a dollar something, I decided to indulge in the Tostada. Crunching down on the bland but oh-so-delicious shell with toppings while sitting outside on the beach was glorious. Who knows if I’ll get sick later on today; it is always risky using an app like this. But if definitely came in handy today. I will let everyone know next week if this dish is truly safe or not!

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It’s Not Easy Being a Gluten Free Foodie

Posted on September 15, 2012

I like to consider myself a bit of a foodie. I read food blogs, endlessly look at pictures of delicious meals (a.k.a., foodporn), and obsess over new cupcake shops. But I often feel like an observer rather than a participator. While I enjoy watching the programs on the Food Network, especially Ina Garten, who makes the most gorgeous dishes, I find myself getting angry the moment gluten is added to the recipe.

I enter every café or cupcakery that pops up to ask if they serve gluten free baked goods. I even go back to old bakeries over and over asking for gf items. The answer is almost always no. And if the answer is yes, it is quickly followed by “but we don’t use a different oven,” or “but we can’t guarantee it to be 100% allergen free”. 

Why do I torture myself with delicacies that I cannot eat? Maybe it is in the hope that one time, one restaurant will cater to Celiacs with a foodie desire. I want the food community to understand the gluten free lifestyle in more than a fad. If a food truck in San Francisco offers gluten free options, there is no way that purchase will be completely safe. A food truck is too small of a venue to serve dishes that are Celiac friendly. And I would know: I seem to flock to these trucks with blind hope, only to be miserable later on. 

With all this complaining, there are some gluten free gems in the Bay Area: Mariposa Baking Co. from Oakland, and Zest Bakery in San Carlos both have an amazing (and entirely gluten free) selection of baked goods, snacks, and entrees that range from sweet to savory.

So listen up, food world! Make more Celiac safe, 100% gluten free restaurants or food trucks. If you open them, people will come! 

BYO: Cookout Tips for Celiacs

Posted on August 29, 2012

I am having one of those weeks where I just feel icky.  From a constant, mild headache to a slightly irritated digestive system, I cannot seem to go more than a few hours before heading off to the nearest restroom. Unfortunately, this is not that uncommon. I often feel under the weather for a few days after a mega Celiac attack.

I know what is making me ill. It takes some detective work and a serious memory workout to retrace everything you have eaten or been around the last couple of days, but then DING! the answer is crystal clear. So, what made me sick?

A toothpick. Let me explain:

I went to a birthday BBQ in Berkeley this weekend and the group of attendees were a mix of colleges students and mid-twenty somethings. One of the main dishes was stuffed, bacon-wrapped bell peppers. These bell peppers were going on the grill and needed holding together. The team of gung-ho Cal kids were so excited to grill their bell pepper wrappers that instead of getting new, clean toothpicks, they grabbed the closest ones instead of making a run to the grocery store mid-BBQ. The closest were novelty toothpicks with little USA flags on top, that just so happened to be decorating the tops of some  freshly baked muffins.

I watched this scene unfold and after a moment of thought, I realized that I desperately wanted to eat one of those bell peppers. I went over to the production station and made my own pepper, sans toothpick. I told the group that this one was mine and explained why: Celiac Disease blah, blah, blah; muffins bad blah, blah, blah. You get the idea. So when everything was cooked and ready to be eaten, I was the first to choose my bacon encased morsel. I carefully inspected all of them, until I found my toothpick-less pepper.

Or so I thought.

Three bites in, and CRUNCH. I bit a toothpick in half, swallowing some tiny pieces in surprise. I spat out my mouth full (discretely by a bush), but then did something very stupid. I finished the pepper! Do not try this at home. My decision was a combination of irrational choices from the flavor of the bacon and the hunger I was experiencing. I also kept thinking that the muffin crumbs were just in that middle part of the pepper, which I already consumed so I would be all right.

I did not get terribly sick, but this incident sent me to the bathroom two times that night, and has since made me feel uncomfortable.

I think the lesson here is this: eat before BBQs or bring your own food. It is just too risky to eat what is being made in a large group. And do not get tempted by bacon in a recipe, no matter how delicious it is. You can always make your own bacon wrapped whatevers at home.

(On a sidenote, I highly recommend bacon wrapped figs stuffed with goat cheese. Recipe for that coming soon!)    

Keep Your Friends Close, But Your Toasters Closer

Posted on August 24, 2012

This may be surprising, but I did not realize that toasters are very dangerous for Celiacs. When I was diagnosed, my family and I set aside one slot in the toaster to be gluten free. We had no idea that this adjustment did nothing to prevent cross contamination. As it turns out, the toaster is a complete danger zone. In my mind, this one slot was safe because no other bread would touch it, but since Celiacs are so sensitive to gluten, even the tiniest of crumbs can make us ill. 

It was such a “DUH!” moment when I discovered that I was still getting sick because of the toaster, but at first, the littlest detail can escape you. Around the same time of my toaster problem, I went though a phase of renaming everything with gluten connotations to “death.”So, Wheat Thins were Death Thins, beer was death soda, and toasters? Yep, deathsters. It was pretty immature, but it was a little joke with myself that create a little fun out of a difficult situation.   

My solution to the toaster slot was going out and buying myself my own toaster, and then putting it in a different part of the house, away from the kitchen. A gluten eating person is not something your toaster wants to be around, especially not in the morning. Morning grogginess can result in the need for a new toaster.  When I went to college, I took a toaster with me and stashed it in my dorm room.  The university specifically said “NO TOASTERS” in the dorms for fire safety and such, but a girl’s gotta do what a girl’s gotta do. And has anyone eaten gluten free bread not toasted? Not very pleasant, to say the least!

Later, when I moved into a house with roommates, the toaster got an upgrade as I wrote “This is GLUTEN FREE only” across the front in black Sharpie. I am about to move into a new house, and I have decided to buy a new toaster. I feel like I am changing my toasters every season as if it were a fashion accessory, but mistakes happen and roommates can, and will, slip up sometimes. Oh, how I yearn for my own, large kitchen stocked with endless gluten free goodies and every appliance under the sun never touched by the evil gluten protein, but I’m not there yet.

Living with roommates is fun, but it definitely has its pitfalls when you’re on a restricted diet. Finding roommates who understand your needs and health issues is key to living a happy and healthy life. Having to worry about your own cooking space is the last thing that anybody wants to deal with, so keep your roommates updated on your disease. Let them know casually when you have been sick, and explain what Celiac Disease means in full detail. It keeps the concern of gluten contamination in the forefront of everyone’s minds.

And remember: Keep your friends close, but keep your toaster closer. 

Don’t Eat the Cookie

Posted on August 22, 2012

The story I am about to tell is a little embarrassing, but very helpful to newly-diagnosed Celiacs.

Back when I was freshly 18 and a recent graduate of high school, I had a silly summer crush. I had just returned from a big Eurotrip with my best friend and was enjoying my last weeks of freedom before college when I met a boy I really liked. He was cute, con?dent, and seemed to like me, so I thought I could have a fun little relationship before leaving for the dorms.

We had never kissed, but one night the two of us were hanging out and I knew something was going to happen. The chemistry was palpable, and it was the first time we had seen each other alone, instead of a group situation. Imagine being 18 with your crush, you’re over analyzing every movement, every word, trying to pick the right moment to lean closer ever so slightly. I was nervous. My hands were so clammy that I kept thinking, “I hope he doesn’t hold my hand.”

But then, the worst thing happened: he broke out a bag of cookies. Famous Amos Chocolate Chip cookies to be exact. I could not believe it! The whole situation was unraveling before my eyes. Suddenly, my vision turned to slow motion and I knew I needed to stop the inevitable. “Don’t eat the cookie!” I shouted at him, my hand jutting out to literally swipe the cookie out of his hand. I knew in that split second that if he were to munch on that cookie, that all hopes of kissing would go down the drain.

I knew I would get sick from the crumbs.

Instead of being a hero (for myself) and getting the guy after all, I ruined the vibe with my awkwardness and nothing happened. In hind sight, this was a very good thing. Who wants a new boyfriend before college? But let this be a lesson to all Celiacs out there: if your partner eats gluten, they must wash their mouth out before anything romantic happens. My boyfriend knows my gluten free living inside and out, and is often more vigilant than me. His tricks are waiting 20 minutes after a beer or gluten food, washing out his mouth with water and/or mouthwash, teeth brushing, and chewing gum among other things. It makes kissing less spontaneous, but Celiacs need to be safe rather than impulsive when there is gluten around.

And of course, you can always share cheek kisses in the meantime!

Just Desserts

Posted on August 20, 2012

Living a gluten free life often means that the most indulgent part of eating — dessert — disappears. Like a faint memory of childhood, dessert can seem like a thing of the past for those of use who are gluten intolerant.

Or so I thought! Being a Celiac means you have to get a little more creative with cooking, buying groceries, and eating out.

Just this weekend, I attended the Outside Lands music festival, where dozens of food stalls were selling gourmet snacks and dinners. From Malaysian nachos to Haagen Daz’s ice creams, there was every type of cuisine available. Amid this food mecca was a small food truck, tucked away in the woods of Golden Gate park. It was Kara’s Cupcakes, and yes, they offered gluten free vanilla and chocolate. The smell was oh-so-good, and so stood in what felt like a never-ending line in hopes of purchasing one really small, really expensive piece of round gluten free cake.

I was not disappointed. The cupcake was delicious, moist, and held together — a true feat of gluten-free baking (I have tried some awful cupcakes recently). Gluten free bakeries are popping up all over these days. I blame the “gluten free fad diet” that is all the rage now, but hey, if the product is tasty and cross contamination does not exist, this “fad” can be my new best friend.

But Celiacs and those with gluten sensitivity don’t have to go to boutique bakeries to satisfy your craving for sweets. Check out this killer peanut cookie recipe that I have adapted next time you’re in the mood for a treat!

 

 

 

 

Ingredients

  • 2  cups Skippy’s natural peanut butter (creamy, but still natural: most all-natural peanut butters will not work for this recipe)
  • 1 1/2  cups  granulated sugar
  • 1/2  cup  packed light brown sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 2  teaspoons baking soda
  • 2  teaspoons gluten free vanilla extract
  • 1/2  teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cup of King Arthur’s gluten free ?our (or any other brand, however this is my favorite)

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350° F.

Using a hand or stand-up electric mixer, beat the peanut butter and sugars until fluffy, up to 3 minutes. Reduce speed to low and beat in the salt, vanilla, eggs, and baking soda. The batter is done!

Roll large tablespoonfuls of the dough into balls was a measuring spoon and put on parchment paper lined baking sheets, spacing them 2 inches apart. Flour a fork with your chosen brand of gluten-free ?our and press the dough balls into a ?-inch thickness, while making a crisscross pattern on top of each one.

Bake, rotating the baking sheets halfway through, until the edges are set, for about 12 minutes. Cool slightly on the baking sheets, then transfer to wire racks.

These will last for up to 5 days in a container.

Tip of the Hat

Posted on August 15, 2012

In regards to my previous post, I’d like to follow up by discussing the need for gluten-free hair products for those of us who are Celiac or intolerant. In the past, I never actively searched for gluten-free shampoos or conditioners. For my health’s sake, though, it’s time to change my ways. It’s not that I chew on my hair or lick hair gel for fun, but there is always that “what if” factor, and the risk of getting sick because some hair product residue got into my system.

I was in need of a new conditioner about a month ago, and being a girl that never really knows what’s best for her hair, I was shopping around for the cheapest bottle. At Costco, I spotted a gigantic 40 oz. bottle of store-brand conditioner (called “Kirkland Signature”) that boasted “healthier, softer, shinier looking hair” and “organic extracts” to the tune of about $10. Sold. I plopped it into my shopping cart and headed to the check out aisle.

It was not until the next day that I noticed something interesting about this bargain conditioner. On the face of the bottle, right under it’s ultra-luxurious statements of moisture and nourishment, were the words “Gluten Free.” I am officially hooked. Not only will this one bottle will probably last me more than 6 months, but I now feel safe in all aspects of my gluten free life. (Oh, and the conditioner is pretty amazing, my hair is incredibly soft now. Well done, Kirkland Signature of Costco!)

More often than not, being a Celiac means learning about the struggles of gluten free living the hard way. There’s a lot of trial and error, but every experience offers valuable lessons. Once you find solutions to eliminate potential causes of contamination, you can feel healthy and happy knowing that you are in control of your digestive system.