Aldi Goes “Gfree”

Earlier this month, I made my first trip ever to an Aldi grocery store because Lauren Greutman, known to many as “I am THAT Lady” (www.iamthatlady.com) posted that there was a new line of gluten-free products called "liveGfree." Well, that's all I needed to know before I high-tailed it over to the location near me in Fayetteville, NY.  Here’s a photo of my stash. So far, my daughter tried the cheese pizza, which she said was comparable to other brands sold in supermarkets. I will keep you posted as we try the others.  For now, I can tell you that the prices are great, and lower than another grocery chain's gluten-free brands. I got everything pictured, plus a couple of items for a neighbor and one brand name gluten-free cereal, for a little over $40. (Trust me, that's a bargain in the gluten-free world.) One of the cashiers said that Aldi plans to offer the products maybe more than once per year but the more you buy, the more inclined the higher-ups would be to continue to offer the products (hey, I did my part, now it's your turn!).

A few things to know before you go to Aldi:

1) Bring a quarter to unlock a shopping cart (really!). I had no clue what was happening (or not happening, as I couldn't pull a cart out from the line).
2) Bring your own grocery bags, or the cashier will toss your items back in the cart like they do at warehouse clubs, which is no biggie, just letting you know. (Of course, I left my bags in the car. Thankfully, it was a nice day to be bagging groceries trunk side!)
3) There's no shoppers' club/loyalty card but you can get an app on your smartphone and/or sign up for Aldi’s weekly newsletter (www.aldi.com).
4) Cashiers at location I visited were  friendly and helpful, striking up a conversation with me about my interest in gluten-free products and, as I mentioned, giving me info on future availability.

I would definitely go back to this location when in the area. Please share this post with anyone you think would benefit!

As you can see, it is a great time to be gluten-free!

Making Tracks for Celiacs

I thought about writing two separate posts but with this year’s celiac walk falling on my daughter’s birthday, I decided to incorporate information on both my local Central New York Celiac Support Group (CNY Celiacs) and some of my journey about what it was like raising a celiac child way before the gluten-free diet was trendy.

As many of you may know, May is Celiac Awareness Month. This past Saturday, May 3, I had the privilege of participating in the Central New York Celiac Support Group’s 13th Annual “Making Tracks for Celiacs” Walk-a-Thon. The Walk was held at Jamesville Beach Park, Jamesville, New York.  The CNY Celiac Support Group sponsors this event and works tirelessly to put it all together. There were fabulous raffle baskets with great prizes as well as several local vendors offering samples.

Local contributing main sponsors to the walk included Wegmans, King David’s Restaurant, and Haylor, Freyer & Coon, Inc. Other contributors included Price Chopper, UNO Chicago Grill; Lockheed Martin; Holistic Blends; Tops; Yum Yum’s Gluten Free Bakery and Broadway Café and Arctic Island.

After expenses, all funds benefited the Center for Celiac Research at Mass General.

According to The Central New York Celiac Support Group website (www.cnyceliacs.org) the group was formed “to share support and understanding in helping us manage our lives well without gluten, and to create greater understanding of celiac disease and gluten sensitivity in both the lay and professional community.”  The group has a board of directors as well as a medical advisory board; they also work with a registered dietitian.

My older daughter—who was diagnosed with celiac disease at 15 months of age—celebrated her 23rd birthday on the day of the Walk so this year’s event held special meaning for me. My daughter was diagnosed in the early ‘90s--way before the Internet and before being on a gluten-free diet was all the rage in Hollywood. Back then, there were no gluten-free bakeries like Yum Yum’s nor did restaurants offer gluten-free pasta on their menus. Heck, people didn’t even know what gluten was back then. Dining out was stressful and birthday parties even more so. I was working full-time outside of the house when my daughter was diagnosed so my days off consisted of trying new recipes—and tossing many of them in the garbage. At that time, it was nearly unheard of to blend anything other than rice flour, potato starch and tapioca flour when baking. Blending flours to turn out great-tasting gluten-free foods was unheard of. Most finished products resulted in that awful grainy taste that most celiacs know all too well. Yuck.

I made bagels from scratch and probably could have gotten hired by H&H after perfecting the gluten-free version of their heavenly offerings. (“Seinfeld” fans and Manhattanites will appreciate this reference.) I spent countless hours calling food manufacturers (no websites to jump on or people to tweet) to request gluten-free product lists that they would then send by regular postal mail. It would be about two weeks or so before I received any information and by then it was possible that that information was already outdated. I was told by customer service reps all the time that “formulations change” and the best thing to do was check the labels in supermarkets, as if there was time for that during each grocery trip. I was too busy hoping my daughter wouldn’t throw up in the cart from hidden gluten as I tried to navigate this new, frustrating diet.

Though it wasn’t easy, I take pride in the fact that I “earned my stripes” as a parent of a celiac child when dealing with the gluten-free diet seemed like the least fun ever. Back then, the world seemed chock-full of people who thought your child was a picky eater because she wasn’t enjoying pizza like everyone else. They’d ask, “Can’t she just have ‘a little bit?’” (Umm…no.)
I refused to say that my child had an allergy just so strangers—and even some family members—could understand what it meant for a little girl to watch other kids eat cupcakes until her mom learned to make (and decorate!) ones that looked and tasted like the real thing.

The celiac community has come a long way—“making tracks”--and I am proud to be a part of its evolution. This progress is thanks to many different people--not the least of which are groups like CNY Celiacs--for sharing information, helping others and holding fundraisers like the Walk-a-thons; vendors like Wegmans and Price Chopper for expanding their product lines to include gluten-free options; and people like Erin Gridley of Yum Yum’s taking chances on starting gluten-free businesses. Thanks to all of you, and to all the others that I haven’t mentioned here.

I hope that after reading this post you will make a commitment to support one or more of the above organizations or businesses and any others in your area that you know that are “celiac friendly,” especially the small businesses. I also hope you will sign up to follow my blog and join me on my journey to help you be “CeliacSavvy,” too. After all, it is a great time to be gluten-free!

 


 

Super Bowl Snack

What would a Super Bowl party be without a great dip? This is a family--and fan!--favorite!

Ingredients:
1-8oz package PHILADELPHIA cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup FRANK'S RedHot Buffalo Wings Sauce
1/2 cup Wegmans Creamy Ranch Dressing
2 cups of shredded, cooked chicken
1/2 cup Wegmans Fancy Shredded Mexican All Natural Cheese

Directions:
Combine all ingredients in a 1-quart baking dish and bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes.

For a smaller crowd, we serve our dip in the Tastefully Simple brand crock that you see in the photo; however, if you are doubling (or tripling!) the recipe for a large crowd, putting the dip in a crockpot set on warm works just as well.

Serve with your choice of dippers--wings, tortilla chips, veggies, whatever your crowd enjoys!

And may the best team win!

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Book Review: Gluten is my Bitch by April Peveteaux

Book Review:
Gluten is my Bitch: Rants, Recipes and Ridiculousness for the Gluten-Free—by April Peveteaux

Review by Christine A. Krahling

Peveteaux dedicates Gluten is my Bitch to her mom, with a parenthetical note that says, “Sorry for all the cursing.” Readers; however should not be at all sorry. This book is a gem, written by someone who is not afraid to call the gluten-free life what it often is—hard. (Peveteaux prefaces the word “hard” in her book with a colorful adjective that I’ll leave to your imagination, dear reader.)

While the 50 recipes Peveteaux provides are mouth-watering enough to get you to flip through the book, it’s her no-holds-barred advice and sound information that keep you hooked—and wanting more. She covers everything—sneaky sources of gluten; the abundance of produce, cheese and meat that celiacs can enjoy; cross-contamination; how to dine out on various ethnic cuisines, and the even more delicate situations of how to handle it when your child has celiac disease and how to address well-meaning relatives who say, “Oh, surely she can have a little” [gluten]. For a real laugh-riot, see Page 113—“Who Are the People in Your (Gluten-Free) Neighborhood, to deal with friends who seem disappointed (read: inconvenienced) by your new gluten-free diet.

In the section titled, “A Short Conversation About Flour,” Peveteaux discusses  a few different brands and offers suggestions on which flours to use for baking and cooking, as well as explaining what xanthan gum is--along with when you need it and when you don’t--vital information for the newly-diagnosed celiac.  

Bottom line: Run, don’t walk, to your nearest bookstore (yes, I still shop at real bookstores, and you should, too!) to grab a copy of Gluten is my Bitch. You may still not give thanks every day for being diagnosed with celiac disease after reading it but you’ll certainly be able to brave the condition armed with some solid information, good laughs and fabulous recipes to boot.

Visit glutenismybitch.wordpress.com for more rants.

A few yummy-sounding recipes to try:

  • Prize Coffee Cake with Streusel Filling
  • Crispy Garlic Smashed Potatoes
  • The Most Amazing Mac & Cheese You’ll Ever Eat
  • Italian Cream Cake
  • Jell-O Shots, Three Ways (yes readers, she went there, booze and all!)

Classic quotes from Gluten is my Bitch:

On being a writer in the digital age:  “After all, I’m just a writer, and we all know how the Internet has ruined all of our chances of ever making money again. So thank you for buying this book and allowing me to purchase my very expensive gluten-free saltines.”

On having “amazing restaurant experiences” as a celiac: “I also know that a little charm goes a long way. Don’t rule out a low-cut blouse, ladies. OK, that might have just crossed a line. But I’m not here to judge, just to provide helpful suggestions other than “kick some ass, and take some gluten-free names.”

On people who follow a gluten-free diet for “hipster” reasons: “It’s totally true that you’re helping to spread awareness, if not annoyance, and for that I suppose I should thank you. So thanks for letting everyone know that there’s something called a ‘gluten-free diet.’ Your work is done here; now please move on.”

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Winter Warmup!

How about some fabulous gluten-free cornbread on a cold winter day? Wegmans Food You Feel Good About Gluten Free Honey Cornbread Mix hits the spot. The mix yields one 8x8 inch pan of cornbread or 12 muffins, with each recipe calling for just milk, vegetable oil and an egg. The cornbread goes great with winter crock pot meals and the muffins are a delightful snack; add a smidgen of butter or your favorite gluten-free spread for increased yummie-ness!

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Post-turkey Sweets!

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

This recipe for Gluten-free Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies was passed along by a friend. We're still trying to find out its origin to give credit for the original recipe where it is due and I'll post that as soon as I find out. I tweaked it a bit and you can, too (maybe you want to add more pumpkin to your taste, etc.). Enjoy!

Gluten-Free Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies

INGREDIENTS:

1/2 cup unsalted butter

1 cup sugar

1/2 cup packed brown sugar

2 eggs, slightly beaten

1 cup canned pumpkin

1 tsp vanilla extract

1-1/2 cups white rice flour*

3/4 cup tapioca flour*

1-1/4 tsp xanthan gum

3 tsp baking powder

1 tsp baking soda

2 tsp cinnamon

1/2 tsp nutmeg

1/2 tsp ginger

1/2 tsp salt

1 cup semisweet or dark chocolate chips

*I used Bob's Red Mill Stone Ground White Rice Flour and Bob's Red Mill Finely Ground Tapioca Flour.

(NOTE: In gluten-free recipes, tapioca flour and tapioca starch are interchangeable.)

INSTRUCTIONS:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Using a stand mixer, combine butter, sugars, eggs, pumpkin and vanilla and beat on medium speed until well-blended. Combine dry ingredients in a separate bowl and then add to creamed mixture. Beat on low until well-blended. Scrape down beater attachment and sides of bowl with rubber spatula, then stir in chocolate chips with wooden spoon. Drop by teaspoonfuls onto a greased or non-stick cookie sheet. Bake for 12 minutes. Cool on wire rack and store in airtight container.

Makes approximately 36 cookies.

 

The Power of Networking: One Blogger's Quest to get Blogging Again

One of the great things about being a blogger is the opportunity to network with other bloggers, and attend workshops to learn how to be a better blogger. Today I attended a social media marketing panel program hosted by Women TIES (www.womenTIES.com)  where I listened to Tracy Higginbotham speak on blogging. (Tracy is the WomenTIES Promoter and Advocate of Women Entrepreneurs. Check out her blog at www.womenTIES.wordpress.com). Among other things, Tracy taught us bloggers that we have "more content than we think" and that if we don't blog every day that that is okay. Whew! Love that "get out of jail free card," thanks, Tracy!

Other topics included discussions on how to best use Twitter and LinkedIn, presented by Robin Taney of Studio4PR and Michelle Arbore of Savvy Social Media 4U, respectively (check out these great ladies on Twitter). I must admit, some days it's much easier to compose a 140-character tweet than it is to compose a 300-500 word blog post and I'd be lying if I said I'v been spending more time on my blog than on Twitter. But today I left the panel discussion with the idea that it's quantity, not quality, And I'm vowing to be a better blogber and see what happens. 

How about you?

Follow my blog--I'll be more inclined to post if I know there are people out there waiting to hear what I've got to share about living well on a gluten-free diet!--and follow me on Twitter @celiacsavvy. Because it's a great time to be gluten-free!