“So where do I start?”

That was the question that was asked at the end of my Gluten-Free tips and tricks class this past week.  It was a two-hour course that went over three main points, what to eliminate, how to transition to a gluten-free lifestyle and what gluten-free products to substitute into your pantry.  It was a lot of information in a very small period of time.  Especially for someone who has been medically forced to go gluten-free.  My initial response recommended that she go “full tilt” and replace everything in her pantry with gluten-free products.  This response was made before she had time to digest all the information she just received during my class about product names and where to buy them.

I had completely forgotten how overwhelming it was 4 1/2 years ago when I went gluten-free.  I left the class and had an immediate flashback of me standing in my food pantry searching for something familiar to eat.  Nibbling on dry rice cakes, horking down potato chips and being starved when I left the house unprepared for the gluten-full world outside my house.  I forgot how long it took me to get gluten out of my diet because I didn’t know what I could eat, or what I wanted to eat.  Being unprepared led me to let my guard down and open myself up to ingesting gluten and feeling miserable.

Now that I’ve had time to look back and see the world through my students eyes, I’m better prepared to answer that question “Where do I start?”.

Here is a plan on what to do….

1.  Write down 3 items you like to eat for each meal of the day (Breakfast, lunch & dinner)..

2.  Look at each item on your meal plan/recipe and decide what items contain gluten or might contain gluten.

Example:  For lunch, check to see if your lunch meat and chicken salad are g.f.photo 2 (2)

3.  Create a grocery list to include gluten-free items that you need to complete those menu items.  This will help to prevent buying products that you might not need in the future.  Gluten-free pre-packaged foods are very expensive, so try to only purchase what you need.  This is a good time to try to use as many “clean” ingredients that you might already have in your home.  Instead of purchasing a marinade for your steak, make your own using balsamic vinegar, garlic and rosemary(see recipe below).  It’s a good idea to have ingredients on hand to make 4 or 5 quick recipes that you know your family will enjoy.

Remember to make eno ugh of each item to cook once, but eat twice.  Dinner tonight can easily be lunch tomorrow.  Don’t forget to have 3-4 quick and healthy “Go-to” snacks available at all times.  Low carb power bars are great to have as well.  Some of my favorites are fresh vegetables, fresh fruit, hommus with baby carrots, celery with Laughing Cow cheese, G.F. chips and salsa,

photo 1 (2)

So, to answer my student’s question of where to begin, start by planning 3 meals and writing a good shopping list of what you need to complete only those meals.  Also, keep some snacks on hand to satiate your hunger quickly.

Remember to be prepared with healthy snacks and items to take with you when you leave your home, just in case there is no g.f. options available.

Marinated Flank Steak

1 flank steak (1.5 pounds)

1/3 cup balsamic vinegar

3 cloves garlic, minced

1 tsp. dried rosemary

1/4 tsp. salt

1/4 tsp. ground pepper

Combine all ingredients in a shallow dish or resealable bag.  Pierce meat with a fork and add meat to bag.  Refrigerate in marinade for up to 24 hours.

Gluten-Free Tips and Tricks Class

I have a secret ambition to be a teacher.  I should’ve been one, but my path took me other directions.  Now it’s my time to work toward what I love the most…educating others!

If you, or a friend, live in the Chester County, PA area, I am teaching a Gluten-Free Lifestyle course on two different dates, Wednesday, April 2 and April 9th.  It’s the perfect class for newly diagnosed as celiac, gluten-intolerant, thinking about going gluten-free or have a need to know how to help a family member or friend who is gluten-free.

For $29 you will get lots of great information and LOTS of samples and fun conversation.  Classes for Chester County Night School are easy to sign-up for. Spread the word and see you there!

 

Maisy’s Farmfest Sunday, September 22nd

Hi All!  If you’re in the Eastern, PA vicinity, please come out to Glenmoore, PA to support a wonderful local farm.  I started going to Maisy’s farm when my children were just babies.  It was a local CSA that allowed its shareholders to pick-up organic vegetables weekly.  For the first 4 years of my children’s lives, this was our school.  The farm gave me to tools to teach my children where our food came from and how important organic farming is.  I’ll never forget seeing my children’s faces when they saw how brussels sprouts grow.  To this day, they enjoy eating raw vegetables more than cooked ones, probably because they were taught at a young age (through Maisy’s), that food tastes better when you pick it fresh and enjoyed on the spot. 

Now it’s time for me to give back…

Maysie's FarmFest 2013

Tomorrow Maisy’s is sponsoring an all day Farmfest to support their farm.  There will be a dozen different local bands, local organic/non-GMO food vendors and lots of local craftspeople.  I’ll be on the Mic as the co-MC, so you’ll get to hear my lovely voice on the microphone all day talking about the importance of sustainable, organic and non-GMO farming. 

It’s going to be a BEAUTIFUL day, so please come out and support this wonderful event.  Gates open at 11:30.  Bring a chair or blanket and plan to spend the day enjoying….Great Food, Great Music and FUN activities for the children.  Hope to see you there!

Link

Chester County Night School

Do you know anyone new to gluten-free?  Are you thinking about going gluten-free (or being forced)?  I’m teaching a class in October on how to start a gluten-free lifestyle.  It will be filled with great information, recipes, tips, samples and lots of enthusiasm and encouragement!!!  If you live in the Philadelphia area, please consider signing up through Chester County Night School website.  Just click on the link above or cut and paste the following link… https://chestercountynightschool.org/CourseStatus.awp?&course=13FFH785

Quick things come from boxed cakes…

It seems that I’m always volunteering for something. Church, school, local events, you name it, and I’ve helped. My favorite is helping with the children’s activities. This morning we helped out at church and provided childcare while the parent attended a talk. At the end, we all get together (parents and children) to enjoy some light snacks and conversation. I usually end up watching everyone else eating, but lately I’ve been bringing fun creations that take no time at all.

My lovely sister-in-law introduced me to The Cake Mix Doctor. She made some wonderful muffins and shared her secret recipe from the Cake Doctor’s Gluten-Free recipe book. This morning I made Gluten-Free Chocolate Chip muffins using Betty Crocker’s gluten-free cake mix. This time, I didn’t have to stand behind and watch everyone else enjoying the muffins, I got to enjoy them too. I even made a few extra and put them in the freezer for the future.

The best part of the book is that the recipe variations contain ingredients I already had in my house (sour cream, vanilla, applesauce, etc), so not having to go out for special ingredients was wonderful. She even puts in little bullet points to show how to make certain recipes Dairy Free as well.

This is a great gift for someone you know that is starting their gluten-free journey. What a nice way to spread the gluten-free Love! :)

Be Prepared…

I’ve been talking to so many people this past month who want to start a gluten-free lifestyle, but don’t know where to begin.  My mantra has always been, “It’s about substitution, NOT elimination.”  But, when your hungry and you want to eat a donut, it’s hard to think clearly about what to substitute.  That’s why preparation is so important.

Before you go gluten-free, you need to think 2 steps ahead.  Not only do you have to think about what to have in your own house to snack on and prepare foods, but you need to think about what is available when you are not at home.

Here are some things to keep in mind when preparing to go gluten-free…

Home:

Eating at home takes the fear out of cross-contamination.  Whenever you can prepare items yourself, you can take ownership of the process and that takes the anxiety out of eating.   It’s hard to do, but planning a menu is very helpful to make sure you have ingredients on hand.  Most gluten-full recipe ingredients can be substituted with gluten-free ingredients.  Taking the time to read the recipe beforehand, will give you time to see what you need to purchase or can substitute.  There is nothing worse than standing in the pantry when your hungry trying to figure out what to make.

Snacks needs to be quick, easy and healthy.  Portion control is important with snacks, so keep a measuring cup close by for nuts, or read the serving size for each item and stick to it.  When in doubt, go fresh and local and eat whatever is in season.  Here are some things to consider keeping on hand…

SNACKS

  • Nuts and seeds (almonds, pumpkin seeds, pistachios, sunflower seeds)
  • Gluten-free pretzels & humus
  • Celery with laughing cow cheese or peanut butter
  • Gluten-free corn chips and salsa
  • Yogurt with fruit (add nuts & seeds)
  • Prepackaged gluten-free cookies (Annie’s, Enjoy Life, Trader Joe’s, etc.)
  • Gluten-free Chex mix (make a big batch – it lasts for weeks!)
  • Cut-up veggies and ranch dressing
  • Gluten-free crackers and cheese

FOOD PREPARATION

  • Gluten-Free bread crumbs (Panko Style and Regular)
  • Gluten-Free Bisquick
  • Corn Tortillas
  • Rice Flour & Corn Starch for breading or thickening
  • Quinoa, Wild Rice, Brown Rice, White Rice (Great side dishes)
  • Fresh potatoes and sweet potatoes (Great side dish)
  • Canned beans (Refried, black, garbanzo, etc.)
  • Jarred salsa
  • Gluten-Free Pasta (Rice for White Sauce / Corn for Red Sauce)
  • Gluten-Free broths (Chicken, Beef & Veggie) – Great for cooking rice & quinoa in!

Eating Out:

Eating out takes whole different kind of preparation.  It can be very stressful for people and some people would rather stay home than deal with the inconvenience of their diagnosis.  I like to be prepared so I don’t have to make a “big deal” about what to order.  This is “my” eating problem not everyone at the table.  Therefore, I want everyone to enjoy themselves without being concerned about what I’m going to eat.   I also want to make sure that what I’m eating isn’t going to make me sick, so I usually do the following…

  • Research the restaurants reputation in preparing gluten-free menu items on the internet (Gluten Free Philly is a great Blog locally).
  • Review the menu and choose something before I get there.
  • Contact the chef before dining to see if they are knowledgable – otherwise…let the eater BEWARE!
  • Keep notes and frequent gluten-free friendly establishments.
  • Contact local groups to see if they have a list of restaurants they support (Gluten Intolerance Group (GIG).

FOOD ON THE GO

If you are like me, I’m on the go all the time.  I’m in one door and out the other.  We are a busy family with activities every night and all weekend.  My family is not gluten-free, so I need to balance what I can eat in their world.  My problem is not their problem, so I make sure I have food with me all the time as a back-up.  Here are some things I keep in my backpack or purse, just in case we end up in a facility that cannot accommodate my diet restrictions.

  • Protein bars (Kind bars are my favorite and are like a meal replacement)
  • Raw nuts
  • Peanut butter (snack size)
  • Gluten-free crackers, pretzels or rice cakes in plastic containers so they don’t break.
  • Gluten-free soy sauce (Tamari)
  • Gluten-free salad dressings
  • Sliced gluten-free bread
  • Cheese sticks
  • humus (snack size)

The most important thing I bring when we go on vacation is homemade granola.  It’s simple, lasts a long time and is great for breakfast, snacking or as a dessert.  It takes the stress out of eating for me at hotels and on the road.  I eat it with yogurt or vanilla almond milk in the morning for breakfast.  It’s great on fresh fruit, ice-cream or by itself.  It makes a large amount, so keep it in an airtight container and enjoy it for weeks.

Remember…

“Poor planning on your part, doesn’t make an emergency on mine.”

It’s ALL about Choices

I’ve read so many articles lately about how gluten-free eating is not healthy and it is a passing fad.  Well, I am here to DEFEND gluten-free eating.  First of all, it’s all about CHOICES!

If you choose to eat a box of cookies (gluten-free or not), you will get fat!  Yes, it’s true that gluten-free products are high in fat and calories and sugar, and the portion sizes are much smaller than gluten-full products.  But, if you are dependent on eating processed foods before going gluten-free, than you have a much bigger problem that gluten-free eating can help.  Portion control is a huge issue for many people, and gluten-free foodies need to be even more aware of it.

When I first went gluten-free I did notice that I lost several pounds very quickly, probably from reduced inflammation.  But, then I put the weight back on, probably from eating high fat things to satiate my need for carbs.  My main food for the first year was homemade granola.  It was perfect to snack on and I would eat it all day long.  Problem was, it was really high in calories and fat and I didn’t measure it out, I just grabbed it by the handful.  Once I  figured out the portion I could eat per day, I dropped the weight and was back to where I wanted to be.

My answer to the “Is eating gluten-free healthy” question, is to eat less and eat fresh and local.  If you can’t do that on a gluten-full diet, than you won’t find the benefits of being gluten-free either.  I was asked by a friend recently what I eat when I’m hungry now!  When in doubt…eggs are a quick and easy thing to eat.  I try to eat egg dishes that contain a little of each food group (proteins, vegetables, dairy, etc.), so Quiche is a great way to get them all in one meal.

Here is an easy recipe for a Crustless Ham and Roasted Red Pepper Quiche.  No kidding, it took 15 minutes to prep and 30 minutes to bake.  It freezes well and is great for breakfast, lunch or dinner.

 

Roasted Red Pepper Crustless Quiche

Ingredients
8 thin slices bacon, about 6 ounces or ¾ cup of ham cubed (cooked and crumbled)
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more for seasoning
2 medium shallots, finely chopped
1 tsp. minced flat-leaf parsley (or ½ tsp. dried)
¼ cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
2 cups half-and-half
4 large fresh local eggs
2 large egg yolks
Freshly ground black pepper
Generous pinch freshly grated nutmeg
4 ounces grated Gruyère or Swiss cheese, about 1 cup
1 roasted red pepper (from jar or made fresh)

Directions
Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Cook shallots in olive oil until tender add cooked ham/bacon and parsley. Remove from heat, cool slightly.

Spray a 9-inch glass or ceramic pie pan with butter flavored cooking spray and sprinkle evenly with the grated Parmesan and shallots. Scatter half the Gruyère into the pan and crumble the bacon/ham mixture on top of cheese.

Whisk the half-and-half, eggs and yolks in large glass measuring cup. Season with salt, pepper, and nutmeg to taste. Pour the custard over the fillings. Top with remaining slices of red pepper and remaining cheese.

Bake until the Quiche is just set in the center, about 30-35 minutes. Cool completely on a rack before serving.  Can be made in cupcake pan and cooked for 15-20 minutes or until set.

To roast pepper, remove stem and seeds.  Cover outside skin with vegetable oil.  Sear over open flame of gas stove or grill.  Allow the outside to char, but not catch on fire.  Turn frequently.  Put charred pepper in a brown paper bag and allow to steam.  Remove skin, slice and store in dish with olive oil.