Winter Veggies – 3 Bean Salad

In the wintertime we eat a diet that is quite a bit heavier than we do during other times of the year.  To break the routine of meat, potatoes and applesauce, I like to whip up some 3 Bean Salad.  I’m using canned beans, but you can use cooked fresh beans if you’ve got them.  It’s just a nice change of pace.

3 Bean Salad

  • 1 Can Green Beans
  • 1 Can Wax Beans
  • 1 Can Kidney Beans
  • 1 small onion, sliced thin
  • 3/4 C sugar
  • 2/3 C white vinegar
  • 1/3 C corn oil
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp pepper
  • 1/2 tsp celery seed

Drain and rinse beans and mix with onion.  In another bowl mix the rest of the ingredients together well.  Pour liquid dressing over beans and toss lightly.  Refrigerate at least 8 hours before eating.

Gluten Free Frozen Peanut Butter Pie

Thanksgiving Spice Wall, designed by Alyn

Thanksgiving Spice Wall, designed by Alyn

In honor of Thanksgiving I’m putting up a recipe for one of my family’s pre-celiac diagnosis favorite desserts.  The good part is now that Mi-del is selling gluten free graham cracker crusts we can once again enjoy this fuss free dessert without messing with making a crust by hand.  But if you can’t find the graham cracker crust, just use gluten free graham crackers and follow this recipe. OR just spoon the filling into a dessert dish.  Yum.

Gluten Free Frozen Peanut Butter Pie

  • 1 C smooth peanut butter
  • 8 oz cream cheese, softened
  • 1/3 C sugar
  • 1/2 C milk
  • 4 oz (half a tub) of Cool Whip, thawed
  • Gluten Free Graham Cracker Pie Crust

Blend peanut butter, cream cheese and sugar in a bowl.  Gradually add in milk.  Fold in Cool Whip, blending well.  Spread into pie crust OR into dessert glasses if you are omitting the crust.

Freeze at least 4 hours and then let stand at room temperature for 10 min to cut.  Top with cool whip and chopped peanuts.  A drizzle of chocolate syrup is always nice too.

PS.  Yes I know Cool Whip is like the most horrible non-food food in the world, but occasionally we do splurge on things such as this.  You can try whipped cream instead but make sure your peanut butter is VERY soft.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Grandpa Larry’s Gluten Free Apple Crisp Recipe

Time to call Larry, we're making crisp!

Time to call Larry, we’re making crisp!

I still had a few deer apples left from my last batch and needed to use them up.  I decided to make a batch of apple crisp instead of more applesauce.  This is a hit at our holiday gatherings, especially with Grandpa Larry who always asks for seconds so I’m naming it after him. It is definitely good with ice cream, but also good with milk.

Grandpa Larry’s Apple Crisp

  • 6-7 apples, peeled, cored and sliced (or enough to fill your baking dish)
  • 1 1/4 – 1 1/2 C oats (we use Bob’s Red Mill)
  • 2 T Gluten Free flour (optional)
  • 1/4 cup cold butter
  • 1/4 – 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 – 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 – 1/2 tsp nutmeg
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • Optional:  raisins, dried cranberries, currants plus orange juice, apple juice or brandy
  • Optional: walnuts, pecans

This is a throw together kind of recipe and my measurements are guesses. You can really modify this a lot to suit your needs.

  1. 30 minutes before beginning, soak dried fruit in juice/brandy if using.
  2. Preheat oven to 400F
  3. Put prepared apples into 9×9 non-metallic baking dish (or whatever size you are using)
  4. Add dried fruit and nuts if using.
  5. In separate bowl mix flour, oats, butter, spices, brown sugar and vanilla together with your hands or a pastry cutter until they resemble crumbs.  The flour really doesn’t do much here so if you don’t have any, don’t sweat it. Just don’t substitute corn starch. It doesn’t work here.
  6. Sprinkle crumb mixture over apples.  (This amount will not cover the dish, we don’t like tons of topping but if you do, double it.)
  7. Bake at 400F for 30 min or until apples are soft to a fork and topping is brown.  This time can vary considerably depending on what type of apples you are using so start checking around the 25 min mark.  If it is browning too fast, drop the temperature a bit.
Get the milk!

Get the milk!

Variations to this are unlimited. I like to add plums to the apples or sweet cherries.  Fresh or dried.  Most days I just throw in what I have and it is always tasty.  I don’t put sugar or seasonings in with the apples but you could if you like more spice and sugar.  Dots of butter on the apples give a richer dish as well.

Finding Cheaper Gluten Free Foods

Buying gluten free foods usually means that you are paying more per ounce than a similar gluten filled product. Whether the package is the same price and a smaller box, the same size and a higher price, or, my favorite, a smaller package and a higher price, the results are the same: eating gluten free is more expensive than if you were following a regular diet. As a celiac or gluten intolerant patient, this distinction is important because in order to remain healthy we have to stay gluten free and that has an impact on our monthly budget. There is no getting around the fact that we have to pay more, but there are ways to narrow that gap and make eating gluten free only a little less expensive.

Before I get started, I’d like to say that I’m not going to tell you to cook at home more and not use packaged or processed foods because not all people who eat gluten free can do that, and there is the issue that staples, like pasta, are 3-4 times as expensive as those made with wheat. There are also times when you get caught out and need to grab something to eat and don’t know what the choices are.

First, when you are in your regular grocery store check and see if there is a discount rack. Date coded products that expire soon, damaged packages, day old bread, items that aren’t selling, and post-holiday closeouts (think Easter or Halloween candy) wind up here. Discount racks are one of my best places to find large quantities of gluten free foods like pasta, soup, cereal, cookies, snacks, and cake mixes, often at 33-50% off. Stock changes often. If you find something you like go back and buy more A.S.A.P! I’ve bought something, tried it in the parking lot, and gone right back into the store to buy more. Don’t pass up a good deal if you can. Your bank account will thank you.

Next, if your grocery store has a separate gluten free section, browse the shelves whenever you go shopping. Before the last remnants of an item are moved to the discount rack, they are often marked down on the shelves first.

Buying in bulk is the other strategy for saving money when purchasing gluten free foods. I do this in two ways: through a local health food store and on-line.

The local health food store offers a discount of 15-25% when ordering full case lots of a product. Though the retail price in this store is a bit higher than my grocery store, for something that we use a lot like pasta, the savings are still significant overall. If you have any independent grocers in your area call them and ask if they will offer you a discount. You have nothing to lose and dollars to save.

Amazon and other on-line retailers offer a huge variety of gluten-free products at very competitive prices. With little more than a few mouse clicks you can shop, compare, and buy. With services like Amazon’s subscribe and save, you can save even more money on products you use regularly. If I can’t find it local, or need it often, the Internet is where I got for gluten free needs.

Buying gluten free foods will most likely always remain more expensive. Being a consumer in a niche market this is unlikely to change. I hope that these ideas help you save a little time while staying gluten free.

Do Oats Contain Gluten?

In a word, no.  However, oats do contain a chemical known as avenin which is a compound found in wheat that can cause problems for avenin sensitive celiac patients.

What seems to be a more common issue, however, is cross contamination of oats with wheat, barley, or rye when harvesting, storing, and processing oats because of the similarity of these grains.  This was made apparent to me when speaking with the staff of Arrowhead Mills, who take great precautions to insure their gluten free line is not contaminated, and was told that they cannot guarantee their oat products are gluten free because of shared fields and equipment.

If you are a celiac patient or other who would like to continue to have oats in your diet, try Bob’s Red Mill Gluten Free Oats.  I have been eating these since my diagnosis without any issue.  Bob’s Red Mill sources these oats from farmers who grow only oats, and then test the final product using the R5 Elisa test to insure the oats do not contain gluten.

If you would like to read more about gluten, see this post: What is Gluten?

Sources:

Diversity in Oat Potential Immunogenicity: Basis for the Selection of Oat Varieties with No Toxicity in Coeliac Disease
Peroral Small Bowel Mucosal Biopsy
Can Oats Be Taken in a Gluten Free Diet?  A Systematic Review
Gluten Contamination of Commercial Oat Products in the United States

What is Gluten?

If you are trying to live a gluten free lifestyle or have been diagnosed with a gluten intolerance or celiac disease, it is important to understand what gluten is and what you need to avoid.  Gluten is a protein composed of gliadin and glutelin found in wheat and the related grains barley and rye, and is found in all varieties of wheat including durum, emmer, einkorn, and spelt.  These other names are important to remember when reading a label because they may not be listed plainly as wheat.

Gluten gives dough it’s elasticity, traps the carbon dioxide created by yeast to make bread rise, and gives the final baked product that nice chewy texture.

What Foods Contain Gluten?

Gluten is found in wide variety of foods including some that you might expect, like bread or beer, but it is also used in imitation meat including seitan or textured vegetable protein, and as a stabilizer in other products like ketchup or ice cream.

These secondary uses for gluten, especially as stabilizers, are some of the hidden sources of gluten in food.  Read all food labels every time. If you eat something and your symptoms return, look at what you ate over the last several days that was different so you can locate what may have made you sick.

What about Corn and Rice “gluten”?

Corn (maize) and rice both include proteins that are sometimes called gluten, but this is not the same as the gluten found in wheat, barley, or rye.  For people with a gluten intolerance or celiac disease, corn (maize) and rice are perfectly safe to eat in all forms, though reading the label is still important to look for potential sources of gluten.

If you would like to learn more about celiac disease and gluten free foods, please read this introduction: What is Celiac Disease?

What is Celiac Disease?

As someone who has lived with the diagnosis of Celiac Disease for nearly three years, and having suffered from it for a decade before finding the root cause of my health problems, there is a great deal of confusion over what this disorder is when first diagnosed or trying to explain it to friends and family members.  I am not a doctor, but wanted to share this information in a personal way so that if you are diagnosed, or know someone who is, it will make understanding the issue easier.  This and other posts on celiac disease and living gluten free come from my own experience, reading lots of books and web articles, and conversations with my general practitioner (GP), as well as my gastroenterologist.

What is Celiac Disease?

You will find this disorder called be several different, though related, name:  Celiac Disease, Celiac Sprue, or Coeliac.  All of these are the same issue: a disorder that causes the immune system to attack gluten in the small intestine, leading to intestinal damage, and which results in nutritional absorption problems.  Though easily described as an allergy, it is not, it is an autoimmune disorder.

What are the Symptoms of Celiac Disease?

The symptoms of celiac disease can include abdominal pain, gas, bloating, indigestion, diarrhea, nausea, vomiting, and unexplained weight loss. Undiagnosed or untreated celiac disease can lead to nutritional absorption problems which may lead to secondary symptoms such as hair loss, depression, anxiety, fatigue, itchy skin, muscle cramps, joint pain, and even seizures.  Because celiac disease can effect the whole body the symptoms may seem unrelated to the immune system or digestion.

My primary symptom was diarrhea, which would happen within an hour or so of eating a gluten heavy meal, like pasta, pizza, sandwiches, or subs.  Initially, my diagnosis was Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS), which lead to a phenomenon my GP at the time referred to as “bathroom counting” and said that once I knew where every public bathroom was in the area that my problem had probably advanced from mild or moderate to rather severe.  Once my youngest daughter was born, and we were trying to do more activities as a family, I realized how bad the symptoms had finally gotten pretty bad and needed to talk to my doctor about what was going on.  Before it was easy to stop in some place, visit a bathroom, and then continue on my journey.

What Are the Tests for Celiac Disease?

I underwent 4 different tests to check for celiac disease.  One was a simple blood test to look for two specific antibodies: antitissue transglutaminase antibodies (tTGA) and anti-endomysium antibodies (EMA).  One came back positive and the other inconclusive.  That was enough for my gastroenterologist to schedule me for a colonoscopy and upper endoscopy. Other than the preparation for the procedures, both were simple procedures that went well, and confirmed the initial blood tests and diagnosis: I had celiac disease.

Is there a Cure for Celiac Disease?

At this time there is no cure for Celiac Disease, but it can easily be controlled by going on a gluten free diet.   Once my doctor confirmed the diagnosis he ordered a gluten free diet and included some pamphlets on how and what to eat, as well as literature on a local and national support group, the Gluten Intolerance Group.

What is a Gluten Free Diet?

A gluten free diet is one that does not contain any ingredients derived from wheat, barley, rye, or contaminated oats.  Finding these on a nutritional label is fairly straight forward.  However, it is products derived from wheat, barley, and rye that can get someone with celiac disease in trouble.  These following items may include gluten:

Food Starch (unless the starch is declared, such as “Corn Starch”)
Modified Food Starch (unless the starch is declared, such as “Modified Corn Starch” or “Corn Starch, modified”)
Vinegar (unless it says that it is distilled or apple cider)
Yeast,  Yeast Extract, Nutritional Yeast, Brewers Yeast (Torula Yeast is OK)
Malt Flavoring
Caramel Color (if made outside the United States.  Caramel Color from the U.S. is made from corn)

How Long Before the Healing Begins?

The amount of time it takes to recover from the damage caused by celiac disease will vary by each individual.  If someone has gone a long time without a diagnosis it may take longer for their body to heal, but I have not heard of any cases where the body cannot or will not recover.  Within 4 days of beginning a strict gluten free diet it my symptoms went away.   From conversations with my gastroenterologist he said that it would take 6-8 weeks for my small intestine to recover from the damage and my body would begin absorbing nutrients properly again.

What Happen if I Eat Gluten After Being Diagnosed?

Your symptoms may return.  But once you go back on the gluten free diet, they will go away again and your body will heal.

With so many foods to choose from, it is easy to grab something you think is gluten free only to realize it isn’t.  Recently I was eating having some potato chips at a friend’s house, chips that I had read the label on before and said were gluten free,  when I looked at the label on the current bag and there was the allergen warning: CONTAINS WHEAT. The manufacturer changed the recipe, and I hadn’t thought to check to see if it was safe.  Too late.  I had eaten gluten.  The next morning I had some issues, but they cleared up quickly.  Be careful, read labels, and do your best.

How Long Must I Stay Gluten Free with Celiac Disease?

If you are a big fan of breads, cakes, and pastas, it can be disheartening to hear this, but you must remain on a gluten free diet for life. There is no cure and even though the symptoms go away, they will return if you start eating gluten again.

Where Can I Buy Gluten Free Foods?

Many grocery stores now have gluten free foods in their health food section or scattered among the regular items.  My local grocery stores, Giant and  Weis, do a mix of these methods, with specialty items like gluten free granola and gluten free baked goods in the health food section, and gluten-free versions of regular products, like Bisquick, in the aisle with the normal product and a gluten free tag on the shelf.

I have found, however, that one of the best retailers to buy gluten free foods from is Amazon.com.  They have one of the largest selections, often with bulk offerings, and with the subscribe and save option on many items, you can set up regular deliveries of your gluten free staples and save an extra 15%.  Follow any of the links below to look through the gluten free options on some staple products.

Gluten Free Bread
Gluten Free Cereal
Gluten Free Cookies
Gluten Free Pasta
Gluten Free Snacks
Gluten Free Soup
My Favorite Book on Celiace Disease:

Celiac Disease: A Hidden Epidemic
The cover on this book is unfortunate because it looks like an unreadable text book or medical reference, however, it is one of the most easy to read, straightforward books on celiac disease that I have encountered to date.  Tons and tons of useful information rest withing the covers especially on what foods and food additives are safe and which to avoid.

References and Additional Reading:

PubMed Health: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmedhealth/PMH0001280/
Mayo Clinic: http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/celiac-disease/DS00319

Quinoa Cookies

Gluten-Free-Orange-Essence

For being such a whole grain, low sugar (4g/serving), cookie Andean Dream Quinoa Cookies are delicate, flavorful, and have a good texture.  Where some gluten free cookies feel like a mouthful of sand when you start to chew them, these come apart into big crisp crumbs that are a little chewy.  The orange essence is clean and lingers on the tongue for a few minutes after eating.  Each cookie is individually wrapped which makes them easy to grab and take with you.  Having bought quite a few boxes, since they were onsale, I toss some in my pocket whenever we are going out so I have a safe snack.

http://www.andeandream.com

Redbridge Gluten Free Beer

Redbridge is a gluten-free beer made by Anheuser-Busch, who also makes Budweiser (the American version, not the awesome Czech beer, which is now being sold in the U.S. as Czechvar), Michelob, Becks, and others.  This beer is made, according to the label, with only water, fermented sorghum (sorghum, corn syrup), hops, and yeast.  A 12oz bottle is 127 calories and contains 0 fat, 12.3g carbohydrates (<1g sugar), and <1g of protein.

But really, you didn’t come here to read all the technical details of this beer, you want to know how it tastes.  Well, as an amateur zymurgist who brewed his own beer and felt Guinness stout was a little too light for polite company, it has been difficult to adjust to these lighter gluten-free beers.  However, as my palate slowly loses it’s memory of greater things, and by taste testing among friends who usually drink beer with a color closer to straw or amber than caramel or pitch, the overall impression is, “That’s not bad, it reminds me of an <insert one> Miller/Coors/Budweiser.”  If you are looking for a beer, it is a nice choice.  On a warm day, with a nice slice of (gluten-free) pizza, it is reminiscent of those times before a Celiac Diagnosis when a bottle of beer made for relaxing afternoon.

Thankfully, my wife likes Redbridge and at $30-35 for a24 pack of 12oz bottles, we can keep a case or two around should some friends stop by.

Tinkyada Rice Pasta

Tinkyada, the brand of wheat free / gluten-free rice noodles with the cartoon rabbits on the packaging, has become the staple noodle choice in our family, largely because of availability and price. Some other brands of pasta that are better in certain shapes, such as De Boles Corn Spaghetti, but are not always on the store shelves. With Tinkyada, that is not a problem and it is consistently between $3 and $4 per pound.

Any place a wheat based pasta would be used, these rice noodles can go. Macaroni and cheese, whether baked or creamy, stuffed shells, beef and macaroni, or spaghetti. Our favorite dish is lasagna and 9 sheets of lasagna noodles are enough to fill a 9”x13” pan 3 layers deep, 3 noodles wide.

For our extended family members who are not used to a gluten-free foods, the lasagna is a gateway meal to realize that GF isn’t that strange. Though they may eat lasagna with us several times, eventually they will look at their fork and quizzically ask:

“Scott, I thought you couldn’t eat pasta?”
“I can’t.”
“Then how are you eating this?”
“It’s gluten-free lasagna.”
“Really? It’s so good! I never would have known.”

And on we go through the rest of the meal contented that we will eat together many times, happily, even though the food is gluten-free.

One recommendation I will make when using these, or any other rice based noodles, is to follow the Easy and Energy-Saving Cooking directions rather than boiling the pasta for the whole cooking time. Though Tinkyada states their pasta is not mushy, it can become super sticky if under cooked, and slimy if over-cooked. Perfectly cooked is a very fine line and the energy-saving method provides a more consistent meal every time.

If you are new to the gluten-free lifestyle, you can’t go wrong stocking up on Tinkyada you eat pasta regularly. Save those more expensive GF pasta for special occasions knowing you can eat well, at a fair price, any time you want with Tinkyada.