Some Tiny Things: Gluten Free Bread, Mini Reese’s, and My Daughter

Now that I’ve been through my first gluten free week, I’ll try not to bore you with so many details and just focus on the new stuff. I’ll stick to mentioning things that involve a new learning experience, a new product or a recipe I haven’t posted yet.

Avocado BLT on Udi’s whole grain toast.

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I think this bread is great, actually. At least toasted it is. I haven’t tried it not toasted yet. Before this I was using Food For Life Ezekiel sprouted grain bread, which is not gluten free. I think this Udi’s bread tastes more like typical sandwich bread than the Ezekiel does. At first I thought the slices were a bit small, but it turns out, I actually like that about this bread! I now think all that other sandwich bread is too big and that this actually makes a perfectly sized sandwich. My daughter agrees with me. My husband, however, does not appreciate the tiny bread as much.

Like I always did with the Ezekiel bread, I just pop this in the toaster right from the freezer. For this sandwich, I simply spread some avocado on the toast and added a few tomato slices, a handful of raw baby spinach and two slices of cooked turkey bacon.

Easy, yummy, nutritious lunch.

Frozen Yogurt. 

So, these self-serve frozen yogurt places are the new big thing. My kids definitely love them. In fact, when given the choice between the ice cream sundae shop and the frozen yogurt place, my 5-year-old chooses the frozen yogurt place. Why? It’s a toppings free for all! When we go, I let them go crazy with whatever toppings they want. I really wish I had a picture of one of my 5-year-old daughter’s creations. It usually involves 3 or 4 different candies, always gummy bears or gummy worms (yuck!), some cereal, sprinkles. It’s ridiculous.

At our first visit to the yogurt place after giving up gluten, I was pleased to see they had the gluten free yogurts marked as such right on the machines. Most of them were gluten free. The toppings, however, are a bit trickier. I knew I wasn’t going to be able to have my favorite topping, crushed waffle cone. And, of course, you can just stick to the fresh fruit and nuts and know you’re being safe. But I decided to do some quick research to see if I could indulge a bit more and put some of the mini Reese’s cups on my chocolate yogurt. The Hershey’s website lists Reese’s cups ALL except seasonally shaped items on their Gluten Free list. So I went ahead and had them and some shredded coconut on my chocolate yogurt.

As for the gummy thing, I just want to say that as someone who loves almost all food, gummy bears and gummy worms are one of the few things that I just can’t eat. I find them repulsive. And on ice cream? Just, no. Kids are weird! I just wanted to put that out there.

I’ll finish today with a recipe. A very easy one. And one that my 5-year-old declares as one of her favorite dinners, Grilled Spiced Chicken with Chickpeas. I serve it with roasted kale. And, obviously, no pita bread. But I’ve never served it with the pita, even before giving up gluten.

I’ll also try to get better about pictures. I, for one, love food pictures. And I usually take them a lot, but for some reason once I started keeping track of all the gluten free food I’m eating, I stopped taking pictures.

For now, I’ll leave you with a totally unrelated picture of my 5-year-old. After all, we did talk about a few small things today (bread, mini Reese’s cups). She’s small. Plus, she did make a few appearances in today’s post. And maybe I just like showing off my kids…

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Starving for Soccer? Trying Gluten Free at the Stadium…

So this is the day I have one of my first gluten free challenges outside of the house. I started the day with one of my usual breakfasts.

Breakfast: egg, turkey bacon, sautéed spinach, chickpeas & sauerkraut

Yes, sauerkraut. I know you’re probably thinking … ew. But I swear, it’s good. In fact, it was my non-sauerkraut-eating husband who started this. I have always loved sauerkraut. I could eat it on just about anything. On the other hand, I don’t think I EVER saw my husband eat sauerkraut in the first 17 years or so we were together. Then he started the Tim Ferriss 4-Hour Body diet, which is what really started our breakfasts of egg, turkey bacon and vegetables. Apparently, in the diet book, it says something about fermented food like sauerkraut being good for you, so my husband started making it with breakfast sometimes. And even this sauerkraut loving girl thought it was weird, but I had to try it. And, well, it’s good. Really.

Lunch: Pad Thai, Thai iced tea

We were out shopping in the afternoon. My daughter was starting tennis lessons and needed a tennis racket. We stopped for lunch at a Thai restaurant near the the sports store. Rice and rice noodles! Perfect. When our waitress came over, I asked if the rice noodles were totally wheat free. She said they were and asked if I had an allergy. I said yes. As an aside, I always actually feel bad saying I have an allergy, but it also doesn’t seem worth explaining that it’s really just an intolerance. She asked if I liked shrimp and recommended the shrimp pad thai as a safe dish. I’m not sure what was wrong with the chicken. Maybe it is floured or prepared in a gluten containing sauce. That was fine though because I prefer my pad thai with shrimp. So I enjoyed another fairly stress free dining experience.

Snack: Food Should Taste Good olive chips. Yes, I love these things.

ImageAnd now onto my first difficult gluten free experience. A sporting event. We had tickets to a New York Red Bulls soccer game. It was a 7pm game and we planned on leaving the house around 5 to deal with traffic and parking. We were going to have to eat dinner at the stadium. We started discussing over lunch how I knew this was going to be a problem. What was I going to eat at a sports stadium? My husband insisted they must have some safe options, but I knew they probably wouldn’t. So I researched it before we left for the game. I did find that a lot of major stadiums are now offering gluten free options. In fact, my favorite team, the Philadelphia Eagles, was one of the first to open a completely gluten free concession stand a few years ago with offerings including gluten free hot dog buns and beer! Yay, Eagles! However, this was not the case at the Red Bulls stadium. I even found one blog post expressly stating that the only gluten free option at the stadium was italian ice. Oh well. I told my husband it was fine. Maybe I would just have some popcorn and I could eat something at home after the game if I was hungry. I’d be okay.

At halftime, my husband went to get hot dogs for him and the kids. I told him to just get me a water and I was fine. Another aside, before this whole gluten free thing, I probably would have had a beer. Anyway … my husband came back with their hot dogs and … a skewer of sausage, onions and peppers. On a skewer, no bun. Good job, honey. Again, I wondered about the sausage since I had no idea what brand it was, but I ate it. No problems. I didn’t have to starve. But, it sure would have tasted great with a beer…

And, it was an amazing game. The Red Bulls won the game in stoppage time. Very exciting. I didn’t get my beer, but I did get food, we got a great soccer game and all had a fun night.

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Home is Where the Gluten Free is Easy

I started Gluten Free Day 5 with what is one of my usual breakfasts. You’ll see it a lot here.

Breakfast: egg, turkey bacon, sautéed spinach and chickpeas, coffee with almond milk

Lunch was simply leftovers from the night before.

Lunch: tarragon chicken, roasted cauliflower, green beans

Dinner was a favorite summer meal.

Dinner: Spinach Salad with Sausage, Malbec

Moving on to Day 6…

Breakfast: Yogurt Parfait, coffee with almond milk

I layer greek vanilla yogurt with frozen berries and Udi’s gluten free vanilla granola. And we can just assume from here that I am having coffee with almond milk with breakfast every morning. That is always the case unless I make a smoothie or a homemade juice.

Lunch: homemade tuna salad on toasted Udi’s whole grain bread, Food Should Taste Good olive chips

Dinner: roasted veggie mac & cheese, turkey sausage

We don’t eat a lot of pasta here, but I was interested in trying some gluten free pasta. I made this recipe with Tinkyada Pasta Joy Brown Rice Penne and Bob’s Red Mill all-purpose gluten free flour.

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The results? It was really good. I do think a mac and cheese dish is the perfect setting for a gluten free pasta because you notice the pasta texture a lot less in a cheesy, gooey dish like this anyway. So I will definitely have to try the pasta in another dish for a final judgement. But this was delicious. For the turkey sausage, I have always used Shady Brook Farms, which is gluten free.

Day 7. The last day of my first gluten free week was also a pretty basic day.

Breakfast: egg in avocado

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I saw this picture on Twitter. I honestly can’t remember who tweeted it. I thought it looked fabulous, so I had to make it for breakfast. I made the mistake of not scooping out some avocado to help my egg fit so the egg kind of overflowed the avocado, but it tasted amazing. I sprinkled some Emeril’s Essence seasoning on top (a favorite) and baked it at 425 for 15 minutes. Easy, Healthy, Delicious.

Lunch: grilled chicken, grilled bell peppers, red pepper hummus

Snack: Food Should Taste Good olive chips

Dinner: leftover mac & cheese, turkey sausage

The conclusion from these three days? It is really easy to eat gluten free at home. I really was mostly doing it anyway which probably explains why my symptoms were worse at times than others. A streak of eating out probably equaled a streak of not feeling well. Tomorrow, however, I have one of my first on-the-go gluten free challenges…

My Lame Cleanse Attempt and A New Appreciation for Allergies

Day 3 of being gluten free was a bit different. I don’t want to give TMI, but let’s just say one of the symptoms that led me to the decision to give up gluten made me think I needed to take a day to stop putting food into my body until I cleaned a bunch of stuff out. So, anyway… For breakfast and dinner, I had some greek vanilla yogurt with ground flax. Other than that, I snacked on some dried fruit and nuts that afternoon and drank hot tea with lemon and cayenne. And drank a lot of water.

After getting through this day, I honestly don’t know how anyone ever does a proper multi-day cleanse. I was completely dizzy by bedtime. So, the next day, it was definitely back to normal eating for me.

I started Day 4 with a slice of toasted Udi’s cinnamon raisin bread topped with almond butter and honey with a cup of coffee with almond milk. I actually already had this bread in my freezer because my daughter likes it.

My daughters and I had lunch out that day. After not really eating the day before and only having toast for breakfast, I was starving and still feeling a bit dizzy.

Lunch: steak with chorizo, red peppers and onions, roasted potatoes, all topped with an egg

I was a little concerned about the chorizo in this dish and pulled out my phone to try to do some research. From what I read, most are gluten free but it is possible they can be seasoned with something containing gluten. I ate it. I was so hungry. I felt fine. Although that wasn’t too hard considering I already felt awful from barely eating the day before.

I must say this has all given me a greater appreciation for people with severe food allergies. And I already had a pretty good appreciation. I am someone who always goes out of my way to accommodate food allergies and dietary restrictions for others. But it is so hard knowing exactly what is in everything when eating out. And if I mess it up, I might end up feeling not so great later that day, but it’s not a life threatening situation. I can say, I’m going to eat this and maybe I’ll pay for it later with some discomfort, but I don’t need to worry that I am putting my life at risk.

Dinner: tarragon chicken, roasted cauliflower, green beans

If you have not tried roasted cauliflower, you have to. It’s so easy and so delicious. You can use either fresh or frozen cauliflower. If fresh, cut into florets. Put it on a baking sheet, drizzle with olive oil, and toss it with a few cloves of crushed garlic to taste (I like a lot of garlic). Put it in a 375 oven for about 45 minutes until the cauliflower starts to brown. It’s so delicious, I usually start eating it right off the tray before it makes it to the table. You can also throw it in the food processor after roasting it with a little more olive oil to mash it. I do this in place of mashed potatoes. Sometimes I add a little thyme for an earthier flavor. Whatever you do, never try to make mashed cauliflower without roasting it first. If you just steam the cauliflower, your mashed cauliflower will be terrible. The roasting is essential!

P.S. If you see a link like the “tarragon chicken” above, it’ll take you to the recipe. You’re welcome.

So Far, So Good: Gluten Free Day 2

Breakfast: egg, turkey bacon, Moroccan spiced chickpeas & tomatoes

Lunch: Cosi adobo chicken bowl

We drove into New York City for the day to visit the Museum of Modern Art. There were two exhibits going on that were of interest to us, Le Corbusier and Claes Oldenburg. My husband started college as an architecture major before finishing with an art history degree. And Oldenburg is just interesting. I had never seen his The Street collection. This poster is my favorite:

Claes

We got into the city at lunchtime so I started researching my food options around the museum on our way in. I found an interesting place a few blocks from the museum that offered “chickpea flatbread” pizza. I was actually very intrigued by it and looking forward to trying it. Unfortunately, the place was closed when we got there. My husband mentioned that we passed  a Cosi on the way there and I could probably get a salad. So, Cosi it was. To my delight, Cosi actually marks items on their menu as gluten free. I went with the Adobo chicken bowl. adobo

I was pleased. I actually didn’t covet my husband’s sandwich one bit. It is pretty spicy though, so I wouldn’t recommend it if you don’t like spicy food.

For dinner, we stopped at a restaurant not too far from our house that we had been wanting to try.

Dinner: filet mignon topped with crumbled blue cheese, sautéed spinach, smashed potatoes, cabernet

Pretty basic. But delicious. And, yes, I know in rare instances wine barrels can be sealed with a gluten containing substance. I did my research. In fact, I probably do too much research! I am not going to stop drinking wine because in a few cases gluten can be introduced from the wine barrel seal. I think my intolerance can withstand that.

Dessert: Rita’s gelati – key lime with vanilla custard

Gluten free. Pretty much all of the ice and custards here are gluten free, except the obvious ones with cookies, etc. in them.

So my first day out on a gluten free diet went pretty well. I was happy to see there were many delicious options available to me even at a place like Cosi where I figured a plain salad would be my only option. And they made my options easy to identify! So far, so good.

My Continuing Love of Food, Minus the Gluten

Day 25. I have been gluten free for 24 days, working on 25. Why? The short version is what I am finding to be a common story in the gluten free community. I wasn’t feeling well for quite some time. I’ve been to doctors, I’ve had tests. I’m sick of not feeling well. I’ll give it a try. I was waiting to start talking about it until I gave it some time to see how it went. I’m ready now. I’m on Day 25, but I’ll start with Day 1 until I catch up.

I am by no means a gluten free expert. I’m new to this. So I’ll be writing about my learning experience. Especially as a food lover. I love food. I really love food. Really. There is not much I won’t eat. The thought of a dietary restriction was really hard for me. I hate dietary restrictions. But I guess I hate feeling like crap more. I actually went from really hoping this was not the answer to hoping this was the answer. Simply because it’s an answer. And a much better one than an illness of some sort. I’m still working on figuring out if it is the answer, but I do know I feel a lot better than I did three weeks ago.

So, let’s start at the beginning…

DAY 1:

It’s Saturday. July 20th. I’m sitting at my kitchen table having breakfast with my husband. I have been feeling like crap for two weeks. Now, I haven’t been feeling great on and off for several years, but this is a particularly bad stretch of feeling bad. Flu like, plus some other weird stuff going on. My husband started a new job this week and I figure once our new insurance cards come, I’ll go to the doctor. I know, I should just go. Pay out of pocket and get reimbursed. And I might have done that if I wasn’t used to feeling like crap. I’ve been here before. Tests. Bloodwork. Well, nothing shows up but they’ll give me some antibiotics just in case. So I figure I’ll give it some time to pass on its own. If the cards come and I still feel bad, I’ll make an appointment, again.

So, anyway, I’m talking to my husband about feeling like crap and being sick of feeling sick. He mentions that some of my symptoms really remind him of a friend’s experience with giving up gluten. He mentioned this to me before, months ago, and I dismissed it as ridiculous. But after breakfast, driven by my frustration with all this, I go and read the friend’s blog post about his experience. I feel like it could have been mine. This sounds like me! Two symptoms of his really hit me as oddly familiar beyond what you’d expect, chest soreness and scalp rash. I need to keep reading. I want to find every story of people who realize they have a problem with gluten. And I do spend the rest of the day trying to do just that. It’s all so familiar.

But, why am I feeling particularly bad the past few weeks? Well, I don’t actually eat that much wheat on a daily basis. My husband has been on a low carb diet for almost two years (4-hour body), so wheat hasn’t been a big part of our diet anyway. But starting Fourth of July weekend, that hadn’t been the case. There was the long holiday weekend, we had been eating out more. Just in that past week, I had pasta for dinner and a big sandwich for lunch at restaurants. I had probably ingested a lot more gluten in those two weeks than I normally do. Because even though gluten containing foods are not a big part of my daily home diet, when I eat out, that all goes out the window. As I’ve said, I love food. And when I am out, I want to try all the food. All of it. This is part of why I try to eat very healthy at home, so I don’t feel so bad indulging when I am out.

So, after all my reading and relating to these experiences, I figure I already happened to have a gluten free breakfast, I guess I’ll give it a try. If I’m waiting to go to the doctor anyway, I might as well. (Spoiler alert…It’s Day 25, I have my new insurance card, and I still haven’t made that doctor’s appointment). But, back to Day 1…

Breakfast: egg, turkey bacon, sautéed veggies, coffee with almond milk

I made the veggies with dinner the night before and we reheated them to go with breakfast.

Lunch: grilled chicken, grilled zucchini, red pepper hummus

This was actually what I planned to make for lunch before I made my sudden decision that morning to go gluten free. Like I said, I don’t normally eat a lot of gluten at home anyway.

Snack: Food Should Taste Good olive chips. I love these and had them in the house already.

Dinner: Take out from a local pizza place. Salad with roasted veggies and fresh mozzarella, chicken wings with blue cheese dressing.

This is where, in retrospect, I might have made my first gluten free mistake. But that’s expected on Day 1 after a sudden decision to drop gluten, right? Even though the wings were naked (not breaded), which I prefer for chicken wings anyway, they were still fried. I have since learned that fried food is a problem in most restaurants because even if the food itself is gluten free, it most likely shares fry oil with other breaded items. If I have a problem with gluten, it is an intolerance and not an allergy, meaning I am not going to have a horrible immediate reaction. So it’s not an emergency, but something to avoid if I am really trying to eliminate gluten.

As for the dressing, I did some research before ordering to learn that not all but most are gluten free. And I went ahead and ate it feeling that chances were it was probably fine.

I drank water with dinner. This is notable because normally if I am having wings, I am having beer. This made me realize that beer was going to be one of the hardest things for me to give up. Not because I have a problem, but because I love beer. For the taste. I love good beers. Craft beers. I love trying new beers. And ales are my favorite. Malty, wheaty ales. Sigh. And with all of the gluten free food options out there, I know real beer will be one of the hardest things to replace. But you better believe I will try. I mean, football season is coming! My favorite beer time of the year. Anyone who knows me knows how much I adore fall beers. I look forward to them all year. It’s going to be a rough fall beer season.

The day before my suddenly giving up gluten, I had a Flying Fish Farmhouse Summer Ale for the first time. I declared it my new favorite summer beer and looked forward to finishing off the summer enjoying more. I’ll remember that beer for a long time as my last real beer.

But, I’ll also remember the weeks of not feeling so great that accompanied that. And I’m definitely not going back there. So, my search for a beer replacement will continue as part of this learning experience. The experience of a girl who plans to continue her love affair with food, minus the gluten.

Happy New Year

champagne

Well, it’s been quite a while since I’ve been here, hasn’t it? Someday I’ll stick to this blogging thing. For real. Instead of starting and stopping. And starting. And stopping. Last year at this time I made a resolution to blog more. I’m not going to do that again. In fact, I’m not going to resolute at all. And, yes, I know that’s not actually a verb. Too bad. This year, no resolutions. They’re so lofty. I’m going to take it one day at a time. I resolute to take it one day at a time. But not in the lofty, auld lang syne formal resolution way. I didn’t lie about not resoluting. I’m just saying, I’m going to do it. One day at time. See, like, right now, I’m blogging. Success. I’m going to celebrate with some chocolate and a glass of champagne. Oh wait, I already did that. Good for me.