Thursday, September 28, 2006

Introducing the newest gluten free wildlife: Sweet Tooth

Our gluten-free wildlife family just keeps expanding. This time, it is "Sweet Tooth", our local white-tailed deer, that has an insatiable taste for gluten free foods - especially sweet ones. What makes this deer particular interesting to me is that unlike all the other deer in the dozen+ herd that frequents our yard, this one really has a taste for human snack food. Other deer have just sniffed around at such things left out in the yard, and gone on to the usual feasting on our grass, flowers, trees, and the like; leaving the GF snacks for the birds and raccoon. But this one deer just can't get enough junk food.

In the picture above, Sweet Tooth is going for a gluten-free coffee-chocolate-chip muffin, and is inches away from his target. There were 4 such muffins in the yard prior to her arrival on the scene, and 3 of the muffins were gone in a couple minutes. The whole time, we just sat on our porch about 20 feet away watching the consumption take place. When Sweet Tooth could find no more, she just looked up at us in a way as to say "are there any more?". It had in fact missed one, which I pointed to, and I'll be darned if this deer didn't just go right to where I pointed, much like a well trained dog would have. All this GF food must be good for brainpower too! :)

Sweet Tooth has been back to look for more every day or two now, and has taken a liking to other treats like gluten free biscotti, leftover GF bread, and more. I'm not sure what other wildlife will be featured on the gluten free blog, but I do have a feeling I have a couple "regulars" on my hands with Sweet Tooth and our favorite raccoon (Goblin).

Monday, September 25, 2006

Gluten Free BBQ Pulled-Chicken Recipe

Homemade Gluten-Free Pulled-Chicken / Pulled-Pork Recipe

My wife created this gluten-free treat for me: her own recipe for fantastic pulled-chicken (or pork), from scratch, that is just wonderful and full of flavor imparted from the peppery and smokey combination of poblano and acho peppers, and even some gluten-free beer!  I find it quite excellent served alone as a main course, or served on corn tortillas with avocado, tomato, sour cream, salsa, shredded lettuce, etc. - for a SouthWestern style treat (a great way to serve any leftovers).

Homemade Barbecue Pulled-Chicken 

The Recipe

I placed the recipe inline (below), or you can also get it from our cookbook website recipe library here: homemade gluten-free pulled-chicken / pulled-pork recipe; substituting a pork roast for the chicken is quite simple.

Pulled-Chicken Ingredients:

2 Tablespoons Olive Oil
4 Chicken Breasts (boneless/skinless)
6 Chicken Thighs (skin & fat removed)
½ Tablespoon Ancho Chile Pepper Powder (increase to ¾ tablespoon for really spicy sauce)
½ Teaspoon Black Pepper
1 Teaspoon Garlic Powder
½ Cup Buffalo Wing Sauce*
1¼ Cup Vegetable Broth*
½ Cup Sorghum Beer
5 Garlic Cloves (remove paper skin but leave whole)
1 Medium Onion (quartered)
1 Poblano Pepper (whole)

*Note – used:
  • ½ Cup Anchor Bar (Frank & Teressa’s) – Buffalo Wing Sauce / Hotter Recipe. Label on bottle states gluten free.
  • 1¼ Cups Kitchen Basics Natural Vegetable Cooking Stock. Label on container stated gluten free.

Homemade Honey BBQ Sauce Ingredients:

3 Tablespoons Tomato Paste
4 Tablespoons Honey
2 Tablespoons Sugar
1 Tablespoon Molasses
1 Tablespoon Apple Cider Vinegar
½ Cup Water
½ Teaspoon Ground Mustard
1 Teaspoon Garlic Powder
½ Teaspoon Onion Powder
¼ Teaspoon Black Pepper
½ Teaspoon Cayenne Pepper (increase to 1 teaspoon for really spicy sauce)
½ Teaspoon Chili Powder (increase to 1 teaspoon for really spicy sauce)


Preheat oven to 325°.

Create Honey BBQ sauce by placing all ingredients in a large bowl and mixing together.

Prepare chicken by removing skin and any excess fat. In a large cast iron Dutch oven (or other large stovetop and oven-safe pot with lid), heat oil on stove-top. Place chicken in bottom of pot. Sprinkle ancho Chile pepper powder, black pepper and garlic powder over exposed chicken. Allow chicken to brown on one side (takes a few minutes); flip chicken and repeat, allowing other side of chicken to brown. Add remaining ingredients, including the Honey BBQ sauce you created, and stir.

Place lid over pot and carefully move to oven (pot is extremely hot). Allow to cook until chicken is tender and falls off the bone, approximately 2½ hours.

Remove from oven. The chicken should look like this:
Cooked Chicken, spicy and ready to be shredded.

Discard the onion, poblano pepper and garlic. Remove chicken pieces from pot (reserve juices) and shred using two forks; discard bones. Place shredded chicken in serving bowl and cover with reserved juices; serve.

Your end product, the pulled-meat dish, should look something like this:
Homemade Barbecue Pulled-Chicken

And there you have it: Gluten Free Barbecued Pulled-Chicken. We also make a pulled-pork dish that is quite similar in strategy and recipe. If anyone finds it necessary, I will try to note the differences at some time and post that too, but if you have selected a pork-roast for slow-cooking in the oven before, it is rather straightforward substitution. Hope you like this recipe!

Continue to read this Gluten-Free Blog for all sorts of gluten-free recipes, product-reviews, and related information. In addition, visit my Gluten-Free Recipes Site where many of the recipes I have featured on this blog are available.

Sunday, September 24, 2006

New Artisan-Style Gluten-Free Multi-Grain Bread Recipe

Artisan-Style Gluten-Free Multi-Grain Bread
Artisan-Style Gluten-Free Multi-Grain Bread

Gluten-Free Recipe: Artisan-Style Multi-Grain Bread

If you have been following this gluten free blog, you may have read about my pursuit of a gluten free multi-grain bread recipe. In a previous gluten-free multi-grain bread blog entry, I discussed my wife's first attempt at this, which was very close, but not quite 100%.

Well, that was then and this is now. My wife has now created a wonderful gluten-free Artisan-Style Multi-Grain Bread. That is the link to the PDF of the recipe and a color picture of the final product.

This is soda-bread type recipe that uses Flax, Quinoa flour, Sorghum, and Rice Flours, coupled with caraway seed (like rye bread uses for flavor) to achieve a wonderful flavor balance. It is simple to make and is baked in a round 2-quart Pyrex (oven safe) glass dish. The bread is finally topped with sesame seeds and poppy seeds for even more flavor and visual appeal.

It does use eggs and dairy products: sorry to any who can't consume those. And, this final version did use some Xanthan Gum to obtain optimal bread texture. This is our first "real" recipe that uses any gums amazingly enough. We have created many cakes, cookies, tortes, and other gluten free recipes (even dessert-type sweeter breads) without ever needing the gums, but this particular recipe did benefit from the xanthan. So, I guess there is a time an place to admit that some recipes do benefit from the use of added gums: I admit it as I finally have proof with this particular bread.

We taste-tested this GF bread on a few non-GF persons, and it went over very well. One proclaimed it the best bread they have ever had, which seemed a bit over the top to me, but we accepted the compliment nonetheless.

Hope everyone likes it.
I hope to bring to this blog quite a few more gluten free recipes to share with all. Please leave feedback if/when you have the chance to bake this bread and let me know what you think. Thanks.

Gluten Free Beer comparison

Hand's on Review of some Gluten-Free Beers

One thing I missed after going gluten-free was the ability to have an occasional beer. I rarely drank beer, but found it enjoyable to have one after mowing the lawn on a hot day. My preferred beer of choice in the old days would be something like a Guinness Stout or a similarly full-flavored beer. I would opt for a lighter beer once in a while too - perhaps an Amstel Light or St. Pauli Girl. These were all pretty good options.

Now, since going gluten free, I long for conventional beer especially when I watch my wife have one... feeling a weakness to sip it, though I dare not. But finally, along came some recent gluten free sorghum beers, some of which I have tried over the past few months. I started with the first one I could get my hands on around here: Lakefront New Grist's Sorghum Beer. Quite honestly, I find it much better for using in my onion ring batter, pulled pork/chicken recipes, and some other things. It does not have much flavor, and what it does have is a bit harsh in my opinion. I came across some beer-rating sites on the web that gave it 8/100 (i.e., 8th percentile rating). That tells the story rather well.

My newest find is Bard's Tale Dragons Gold sorghum beer, which on the rate beer web site scored in the 17th percentile. Note: we did a deeper product review of Bards Gluten Free Beer in this blog entry.

I picked up a 6-pack at Wild Oats last week, and just now opened a nice chilled one. My initial impression: WOW! This Bard's Tale is actually pretty decent tasting beer! That 17th percentile (compared to ALL beers), just does not tell the whole story about this Bard's gluten free sorghum beer. Bard's Tale beer is brewing this with a malted-sorghum (malted referring to the malting process; not the use of malted barley which of course would cause it to be non-GF). The results are spectacular - the beer has plenty of flavor and a decent aftertaste, done in a light American Lager style. I will not be using this for my baking; I will drink it.

The comparison to the New Grist is simple: Bard's Tale Beer Dragons Gold is so far above and beyond, easily the double that the percentile rankings of each beer would imply (8th percentile for New Grist, vs. 17th for Bard's Tale - a full double and then some).

The only down-side is PRICE — yes, it is expensive. $11.00/6-pack at Wild Oats. Rough, but worth it if you really want a decent tasting beer. For me, it is a no-brainer keeping this on hand for times when I have a craving. I so rarely drink beer anyhow, it'll only cost me a couple bucks a month.

And, as a final teaser: I have talked to Bard's, and they are working on a followup beer or two that should a god send those of us who like a darker beer. To quote them: "Our company does have plans to come out with Stout or a Porter in the next 18 months."

Woohooo!! I am looking forward to that!

This is great news on all accounts: the more companies that raise the bar for a gluten free product (be it gluten-free beer or some other food product), the better for all with Celiac Disease. Competition yields better products! And, we benefit from this.

Footnotes: Malting is a process applied to cereal grains, in which the grains are made to germinate and then are quickly dried before the plant develops

Continue to read this Gluten-Free Blog for all sorts of gluten-free recipes, product-reviews, and related information. In addition, visit my Gluten-Free Recipes Site where many of the recipes I have featured on this blog are available.

Friday, September 22, 2006

Fall Squash: a gluten free treat!

If there is one thing this gluten free blog writer loves this time of year, it is the seasonal squash. Pictured above is a beautiful Carnival (or perhaps some may call it a Sweet Dumpling) Squash specimen we just picked up here in Ohio, about an hour South of us, in Amish country (Holmes County to be exact).

I really love these particular squash, since in addition to being gluten free (as any squash), they have a rather mellow taste and are quite simple to prepare. Squash are generally a good source of fiber, beta carotene, potassium, and other nutrients too. So, it is a win-win for me!

To prepare one of these gluten free wonders, we simply wash it off well, cut the squash in half, dig out the seeds, place each half cut-side-down onto a plate with a bit of water on it, and then microwave it until the center pulp is sufficiently cooked (in our old microwave, this takes about 18 minutes). We serve these with just a bit of brown sugar. Oh are they just delicious!

The Carnival variety is especially nice due to it's more subtle flavor and rich buttery texture. It is definitely a less strong-tasting fruit than an Acorn Squash or Butternut (both of which are still quite wonderful), which makes it easier to convince children to give it a try. With gluten free diets, this is an important thing -- having nutritious options that people will eat.

Some other favorite varieties we look for this time of year include Turbin, Acorn, Butternut, and of course Pumpkin! Pumpkin is of course most popular served in pie filling - most excellent!

Throughout the year, we enjoy Spaghetti Squash too (another great gluten free alternative to real spaghetti!) - since you can dig out the stringy, spaghetti-like pulp and serve it with spaghetti sauce or pesto. Zucchini is also a nice one to just slice up into stir-fry along with yellow squash (great for colorful dishes), or to make into some wonderful casseroles.

Here's hoping that wherever you are, you have access to some of these wonderful gluten free food options!

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

First attempt at gluten-free multi-grain bread

Gluten-Free MultiGrain Bread

Gluten-Free Multigrain Bread Recipe Development

NOTE: Recipe Link to final, updated and improved bread at bottom of this article.

I have not focused much on recipes on this gluten free blog yet, but I intend to start addressing particular recipes as they come up.

Yesterday my wife made her first gluten free and wheat-free "multi-grain" bread, and I thought it was fairly good. It was a soda-bread type recipe that used Flax,
Quinoa flour, Sorghum, and Rice Flours for the main ingredients. It was simple to make and it was baked in a round 2-quart pyrex (oven safe) glass dish. It used some caraway seed (like rye bread uses for flavor) plus sesame seeds and a bit of honey on top.

Now that a day has passed, I can revise my original opinion of the bread. I found it to be just fine, and it was very good the first day. It has a bit too much flavor for a general sandwich bread, and did not hold up well enough for sandwiches anyhow. The texture was a bit more like a cornbread, which is fine for along with dinner and other foods, but not something I want to put peanut butter on. But, by day two, it was drying out and getting a bit crumbly. I do not know how much of this is attributable to the gluten free nature of the bread, since I have (in pre-GF days) had fresh Italian bread or similar get all dried out overnight too (especially when the air conditioner is on and humidity in house is low). Trust me: I am still eating the bread since I like the taste. But, I wish it would hold up better. We did not use any gums in this bread, but perhaps next time I will actually give it a try.

The bread did look rather nice at least! I took the above picture when it had just cooled after coming out of the over a couple hours prior. We will likely try making improvements to this gluten-free multi-grain bread recipe yet,... 

The Final Recipe emerged...

UPDATE: which we did, and the wonderful Gluten-Free & Wheat-Free Artisan-Style Multi-Grain Bread Recipe is now online at that link, along with a nicely-formatted PDF version of the Gluten-Free Artisan Bread recipe too.
This is what it turned out looking like:

The Wonderful Artisan-Style Multigrain Gluten-Free Bread
Continue to read this Gluten-Free Blog for all sorts of gluten-free recipes, product-reviews, and related information. In addition, visit my Gluten-Free Recipes Site where many of the recipes I have featured on this blog are available.

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Do Raccoons Prefer Gluten-Free Foods?

Do Raccoons Prefer Gluten-Free Foods? That is a question that I did not set out to obtain an answer for, but nonetheless the answer presented itself the other day.

We have a lot of mammalian wildlife in our back yard - everything from squirrels and chipmunks to groundhogs, rabbits, coyotes, skunks, possum, deer, and raccoons. These furry friends of ours tend to each enjoy certain things in our yard. The deer consume the flowers, bushes, and trees we plant. Chipmunks enjoy digging up our flower bulbs. Squirrels raid the bird feeders for seeds. Birds love cleaning up stale bread. And, then come the raccoons that like to have a snack off the compost pile now and then.

Since I was under the weather a couple of days, a 1/4 of a gluten free Chocolate Cranberry Nut Cake from a few days earlier went uneaten, so we placed it outside for the birds. We also happened to have some old peanuts (with shells) out in the yard for the squirrels to enjoy, which they very much do. And, on occasion the raccoons come by to get in on the peanut action - peanuts being a favorite of one raccoon in particular, who we have named Goblin (since he gobbles down peanuts so voraciously).

About half an hour after placing the cake and nuts outside, Goblin shows up as we are sitting on our back porch enjoying the nice day. Goblin begins sniffing around the area, and much to our surprise, passes over his oft-favored peanuts and grabs himself a nice chunk of gluten free cake! He runs to the base of the nearest tree with his bounty, and munches away for a while. Then, back for he goes for more, taking the last of the cake with him. Only after finishing off all of the cake did he then polish off all the peanuts the squirrels had yet to get.

So, from a totally unscientific study without the requisite control-groups and such, the answer is: YES! Raccoons choose gluten-free foods over non-GF foods :)

NOTE: The picture above shows him making his move on a chunk of gluten free cake in the lower-right corner.

Friday, September 15, 2006

Celiac Symptoms or Something Else?

For any gluten free and celiac persons that have experienced significant symptomatic reactions to gluten exposure, you probably have your own stories of health incidents that you perhaps can not fully attribute to either Celiac Symptoms or Something Else.

This happens to be the case with me right now. Last night I awoke at about 5am with my stomach feeling bad. First I had dull pains in my abdomen, and then it escalated quite a bit. One minute I am thinking to myself how this upset feeling will pass, and a few minutes later I am having sharper and more widespread abdominal pain coupled with a general feeling of nausea. Now, I am lucky in that I rarely ever get this type of feeling to the point I feel like actually throwing up - in fact the last time such an incident came to fruition was over 10 years ago (pre-CD period). But, what I get in return for this lack of tossing seems to be an oversensitive vaso vagal response system that makes me experience a sequence of 1) tingling all over and ears ringing, 2) blood pressure drop, 3) approaching or exceeding the passing out threshold, and finally 4) I will be utterly dripping in a cold sweat.

Yep, that was the sequence last night. I attempted to stand up and get something to drink when my stomach pain was increasing. Bad move. Precipitous BP drop. I quickly return to lying position with the edge of unconsciousness quickly taking hold of me -- and, I absolutely HATE this feeling of self control. There is this bizarre balance between the nunbing feeling of nearly being completely out, and the pain in my abdomen and associated feeling of nausea. This time, I felt luck when after lying there right on the edge of this painful delirium, the cold sweating broke and my consciousness had returned with clarity.

Today I have a fair amount of residual intestinal and stomach discomfort, a bit of a fever, and the more the day wears on I feel increasing muscle and joint pain.

As I contemplate writing this gluten free blog entry in the midst of all this, I find myself stuck pondering a question many a gluten free and celiac disease sufferer has in these circumstances. Simple, is what I experienced Celiac Symptoms or Something Else? I would swear that most everything I ate yesterday should have been gluten free. But, I just do not know. And, I see many others (on various celiac / gluten-free forums) wondering the same thing after developing such symptoms seemingly out of the blue.

I do not want to simply blame the presence of gluten in some food I consumed for the cause of my current malady, since it could just be a stomach bug or something else. It was not food poisoning, since my wife consumed all the same basic things I did without issue (she is not GF/CD). I have not been anywhere around sick people any time recently either.

So, that is one absolutely sucky thing about this gluten free lifestyle and celiac disease. Sometimes you just do not know where to point the finger of blame -- is it contaminated food, is it a virus, is it an ulcer, or what? At least the non-CD person can quickly eliminate the gluten issue from the possibilities. And, that is what I can not do easily. And, I can not easily confirm, or not, that gluten was responsible for my symptoms, so I do not know if there is something tainted that I consumed and should avoid. I do not want to avoid foods just for "suspicion" of guilt, as I would soon end up with nothing to eat. I will just have to deal with it, like we all must, and hope not to experience this hell again any time soon! And, I can just hope for a speedy return to feeling normal and healthy.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Quinoa for a Gluten-Free Dinner or Side

One of the favorite dishes this gluten free blog author enjoys is Quinoa. For those of you who are new to Quinoa, it is gluten-free (of course, or I would not eat it), and it is considered an ancient grain that dates back to the Inca civilizations in South America. It is one of the best sources of vegetable protein around, and it has a fair amount of dietary fiber (5 grams protein, and 3 grams fiber per 1/4 cup uncooked grain). The grain has a delicious, somewhat nutty, light flavor that goes well with many other dishes.

We buy the Ancient Harvest brand of Quinoa, which also happens to be certified organic for anyone that cares. And, we just follow the basic cooking instructions on the side of the box, which is basically to cook 1 part quinoa with 2 parts water (or, add some chicken broth if you like). Cooks up in about 15 minutes or so.

I have found this grain to be quite versatile. Not only is it great on it's own, it is easily complemented by other vegetables and meats. It makes for a nice change of pace where you might otherwise use rice, like in a stuffed-pepper recipe. I enjoy frying up some fresh zucchini, some chopped bell peppers (red, orange, green), and some onions to go with it. And, add a little bit of San-J Gluten Free Tamari (GF Soy Sauce essentially), and you have a wonderfully simple and tasty main course or side dish.

Time to go whip up a batch to go along with tonight's dinner!

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Cleveland Cheaper Gluten-Free Ingredient Sources

One of the things that nearly any of us gluten free types has experience with is the exaggerated prices of various gluten free ingredients (and foods). It is a challenge to locate a cheap, let alone reasonably affordable, source for the ingredients used in your gluten free baking.

If you live in the Cleveland, Ohio area, I have a suggestion for you that may be worth following, especially if you are just wheat-free or gluten-sensitive. Why especially for these two groups? Because the source of the supplies I am about to suggest, although quite cheap compared to elsewhere, is not likely to certify any of the ingredients (flours, starches, etc) as gluten free, even though there is a fair chance they are gluten free.

The place I suggest giving consideration to is the local Asian market, or in the case of Cleveland, our local Chinatown (there really is one - small, but there). This is located in downtown Cleveland around the East 30th and Payne Ave. area. There are a few Asian grocers there, with one of the largest being Tink Holl (Tink Holl 1735 East 36 Street, Cleveland, OH 44114 (216) 696-1717 ).

I buy white-rice and glutinous-rice flours by the 24# case down there, and get the stuff as low as $.39/pound; tapioca as low as $.33/pound (i.e., 3# for $1), potato starch is usually around $.59/pound. These low prices made it possible, and affordable, to experiment with a lot of recipes as I perfected various GF baking. It would have cost me a mint to buy RedMill or something for the hundreds of pounds of ingredients I used getting my recipes to perform exactly as I wanted.

Though the Asian markets flours are likely never going to say "gluten free" on the packages, I have been fine with them thus far. Another good source is Trader Joes, and there are two currently in the Cleveland area (one out in Westlake in Crocker Park, and one at
28809 Chagrin Blvd. in Woodmere). They carry sweet/glutinous rice flour in GF-labeld 2# bags for $1.49 (i.e., 75-cents/#), which is rather good. The only issue I have with TJs is they are so popular around here they have a hard time keeping the shelves stocked, so you have to buy the stuff in large lots when they have it.

I love that Asian rice-flour and the fine-grind (and the low price). I haven't noticed too much difference between the glutinous rice I get there and what I get at Trader Joe's (grind wise). My wife baked up various cakes and cookies using both just to make sure the recipes in our book worked well either way. One thing is for sure though, you can not use *stone-ground* varieties in our cakes -- the texture is just ruined, much too course of a grind. Finer grind = better texture by far for cakes and that sort of thing. The results we get are as good as wheat-versions according to our taste testers. Although the Asian stuff isn't, and probably won't be any time soon, certified GF, I have not had any issues with it thus far. Now, if anyone can get an Asian supplier to verify and certify that their flours are GF, that'd be tremendous (sorry, I don't speak Mandarin so I have no idea where to start).

So, keep these options in mind, especially if your allergy to wheat or gluten is one that would not be considered drastic enough to merit avoiding the affordable Asian option. I hope my gluten free blog entries like this help others at least discover potential options.

What should a Gluten Free Blog offer its readers?

Blogs are relatively new, and gluten free blogs are perhaps even newer. There have been a few that have garnered some significant attention recently - and, I do read other blogs to get an idea of what the Celiac community actually wants to read about or expresses interest in.

I have noticed that since I started this simple gluten free blog, I have had more visitors to the site as time progresses. And, I am honored by anyone that finds my blog information useful and interesting. I started blogging about what I thought prospective readers would be most interested in; like, the latest news about celiac disease and various scientific articles and interesting discussion about the condition.

But, after reading quite a few other blog entries and checking out user comments that were posted in response to the articles, it seems that gluten free blog entries that gain the most following and best satisfy the most readers do something a bit different. Many talk about food and show pictures of gluten free and wheat free recipes, though not necessarily the recipes themselves. One common theme I see among the more popular blogs is the use of pictures of food or places. The pictures do not have to have anything to do with gluten intolerance or allergies at all, so long as you offer pictures. Why is this? And, readers seem to be more interested in stories than in the latest news, scientific advancements, and so forth related to Celiac than they are in reading arbitrary discussion of the blogger's personal life.

So, this has me thinking: do blog readers want cold, hard, facts about CD and GF living, or do they want the facts as they pertain to the blogger and the life of the person that is writing the blog?

The bottom line is that I want this gluten free blog to be of use to my readers, and be even more than just "useful" -- I'd like the content to be compelling and give all those with a gluten-free lifestyle a reason not just to read on article, but read on an ongoing basis in hopes they will gain some insight or vision into how to lead a better life with gluten intolerance.

So, I plan to change my approach on this site a bit.
This blog was mainly about "fact" up to this point, and informative information.

Now, I will try to deliver a bit more story type dialogue - one that will keep you all reading and commenting on a long-term basis, and have you always wanting to come back for more. I am sure this will be a challenge, since I am a bit more comfortable with scientific fact and figures than I am with story telling from the perspective of a Celiac Disease patient.

So, this is the day this Gluten-Free Blog takes a step in a new direction - a step that I hope will please my varied readers. I plan to include much more discussion about my personal history with Celiac disease and gluten intolerance in an attempt to further raise awareness of this condition, and present some of the day to day challenges and solutions that I encounter.

Outside of the gluten-free blog arena, there are general signs of improvement in awareness and coping with Celiac Disease these days, with The Food Network even doing a brief spot on various lifestyles affected by food - one of which was gluten-free lifestyle.

Stay tuned, my upcoming posts will take on a creative, but still information filled, direction that will include postings about:
  • The path to publishing my first cookbook: Gluten-Free & Wheat-Free Gourmet Desserts
  • Gluten-Free Recipes: I have many that did not make the book, and plan to give them away to all who are interested - including all sorts of main dishes, other dessert recipes for cakes, cookies, pies, and more.
  • How I am living gluten-free here in Cleveland, Ohio, and my experiences and encounters with other Celiac Disease sufferers in my life and in the region
  • Places I eat and acquire ingredients to bake with - especially info about were to acquire gluten free bargain priced ingredients
  • Reviews of other gluten free blog sites and forums
  • And yes, some continued news/science stuff, since I can not ignore any breakthroughs that may help all of those on this diet or with an allergy to gluten.
  • Oh yeah: pictures! I will start adding that other side of this multimedia experience soon, since that was something that all the gluten free blog sites (that seem to garner attention) use on a regular basis.

Monday, September 11, 2006

Celiac and Delayed Reaction Allergic Responses to Gluten

I was recently discussing (on a forum) how my personal experience with gluten intolerance involves a delayed allergic reaction once I am exposed to wheat or gluten containing foods. One helpful member (Al, at provided some great information about the two types of food allergies people commonly experience.

The following is information he provided:

Technically, Celiac Disease is considered a "delayed onset". However, some people know right away when they've been [exposed to] gluten. Everyone reacts differently.

When it comes to food allergies, there are typically two kinds:

* Type 1 (Classic, Immediate-Onset, IgE-Mediated): The reaction time occurs anywhere from seconds to up to 2 hours and typically affects the skin, airways or the digestive system. Conventional skin “scratch” tests are commonly used to detect this type of food allergy.

* Type 3 (Food Intolerance, Delayed-Onset, IgG-Mediated, IgA-Mediated):
The reaction time occurs anywhere from a couple of hours, and up to 2-3 days, after consumption of the food, and any system, tissue or organ in the body can be affected.

Celiac disease is thought to involve delayed immunoreaction and patients would not generally be expected to have an immediate and violent reaction to eating wheat whereas allergic reactions of the immediate hypersensitivity type might be both immediate and violent. It is also possible that both immediate hypersensitivity and delayed reactions might be present in the same person. There is a considerable potential then for confusion between allergy and celiac disease. It may be difficult to distinguish immediate hypersensitivity reactions or allergies from celiac disease as traditionally defined, but more research on this problem is needed.

Reactions to ingestion of gluten can be immediate, or delayed for weeks or even months.

The amazing thing about celiac disease is that no two individuals who have it seem to have the same set of symptoms or reactions. A person might have several of the symptoms listed above, a few of them, one, or none. There are even cases in which obesity turned out to be a symptom of celiac disease.

People do become more sensitive to gluten once it's been removed. Smaller amounts will set off reactions, than before (e.g., before going completely Gluten Free with your diet). Many have noticed this effect.

I found all this information to be very helpful, and I hope other do to. Thanks, Al, for providing such great links, quotes, and insight into the condition.

Friday, September 08, 2006

Gluten Free food certification

I found this site (thanks to someone posting it on a GF forum) called the Gluten-Free Certification Organization. They do exactly what their name implies; they will certify gluten free food products to be truly gluten free. They are only testing for gluten, and not other allergens.

One neat page on the site is the list of certified gluten free products, that shows not just the brands and products they have certified, but lists them by date. I just noticed the SanJ brand of
Organic Wheat Free Reduced Sodium Tamari Soy Sauce that I use is now on there, as of July 2006 (thank god, since I have been sorta assuming it was GF for about a year). This is the kind of information Celiac and gluten-intolerant / wheat-free people need in order to make educated decisions about what food products they can safely use in their diet.

So, spread the word, and encourage certification. They are a step ahead of the voluntary guidelines for gluten-free that are slowly moving along at the federal government level.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Gluten-Free product labeling - state of things

A while back, it was announced by the FDA that significant product-labeling changes were coming for gluten-free products. This news article discusses all the food label changes (more than just gluten related) that were to be taking effect soon.

I think it is all great news, especially when places like WalMart, Whole Foods, and other large retailers implement some sort of product labeling even ahead of the 2008 (supposed) final date for implementation. Right now, the biggest concern is how each retailer can basically set their own standard for what they label gluten-free -- some may consider 50ppm (parts per million) an OK threshold, and others may shoot for essentially zero ppm. There was an FDA presentation on gluten-free labeling over a year ago, whereby all sorts of things related to gluten free labeling was discussed - at least at a high level.

I am greatly looking forward to the day when I can buy any food products anywhere and see clearly marked labels that let me know immediately whether the product is "safe" for me to consume. Right now, there is a lot of guesswork involved, and inconsistent gluten-free product labeling issues to work past. More to come on this, as time is ticking by and we must be getting closer to some final decisions and regulations (though, at the pace of government, I do not expect deadlines to be met -- 2008 will likely turn into 2010 or later, though I hope the FDA proves me wrong and delivers a timely final say on all this GF stuff so Celiacs have an easier go of it).

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Gluten-Free Foods vs. Ethanol Production

I just had this strange thought about the whole movement towards Ethanol-based fuel in this country, and how the demand for ethanol producing grains (like corn) has pushed corn prices up to record highs recently. I've been telling people for a long time that corn is not the answer to this nation's fuel consumption problems, since any corn diverted to produce fuel (ethanol) raises overall demand, and causes corn prices to rise.

Now, this may not sound too bad to the average person. Corn? I don't eat too much corn, so it will not affect me much. Well, we Celiac and Gluten-Free types may have a bit more direct interest in this matter, since there is a good chance we consume more cornstarch, corn meal / masa, popcorn, and other corn-based products, since it is safe for us to eat. And, what many overlook is that corn is one of the most common feeds used to raise chicken, pigs, and cows -- something nearly anyone aside from vegetarians will have a direct interest in.

I know this is a bit off topic and loosely tied to gluten-free foods, but it was just one of those thoughts that flashed through my mind when I was watching CNBC commodity prices recently. Perhaps rice will be next, or amaranth, or sorghum, etc. They are all used to produce alcohol, which is all that ethanol is. So, encourage wind and solar power so we don't raise demand for the only foods we can eat - I surely do not want to see a shortage of these "safe" grains in my future!


Sunday, September 03, 2006

Oats for Celiacs and Gluten-Free persons

A lot has been said about this subject, and it just seems that every study contradicts every other study. I have watched the Oats / Gluten debate for a long time trying to decide whether or not to include them in my diet. The issue is all about contamination basically, since the oats themselves do not contain gluten. And, that gluten contamination varies not just between brands of oats, but between each container of oats even within the same brand.

I really love the taste of oats and miss them quite a bit, but with this kind of information I am just very very hesitant about introducing them back into my otherwise GF diet. had an article about gluten contamination in commercial oats that was interesting and informative. What I found amazing was the crazy variance between containers. I guess it makes sense: one piece of wheat gets ground up accidentally into one container and not another. From the article:

"2 containers of oats representing 4 different lots of 3 brands (Quaker, Country Choice, and McCannÂ’s) were tested for gluten contamination using the R5 ELISA developed by Mendez. Contamination levels ranged from below the limit of detection (3 ppm gluten) to 1807 ppm gluten. Three of the 12 oat samples contained gluten levels of less than 20 ppm, and the other nine had levels that ranged from 23 to 1,807 ppm. All brands of oats tested had at least 1 container of oats that tested above 200 ppm gluten"

This just goes to show what Celiacs are up against when it comes to obtaining "safe" foods. All it takes is a little contamination somewhere in the chain of processing to screw things up for us. At times I wonder if I was to plant a few oats of my own, hand pick them, hand roll them or whatever, if I could truly ensure they were GF. It'd sure be nice to have the taste available again, and the potential cholesterol-lowering effects they claim oats provide, but it also sounds like too much work. So, I will just wait until someone can guarantee their oats to be GF all of the time before I will try them again (unless I have a moment of weakness!)

Friday, September 01, 2006

NIH Celiac Disease Awareness campaign.

The U.S. National Institutes of Health (NIH), in July of 2006, launched a Celiac Disease Awareness campaign in hopes to increase awareness of the disease among physicians and the medical community. The idea is to have doctors diagnose the disease earlier, and as a result, produce improved outcomes for celiac patients.

This is great news, since the medical community was (generally) educated to believe that gluten-sensitivity / Celiac disease is rare, when in fact it is on the rise and has become the most common inherited auto-immune disorder. Something as simple as an allergy to proteins found in wheat, barley, kamut, rye, and spelt just doesn't sound that bad perhaps (even Oats - since likely contaminated by other grains), but it can lead to all sorts of issues. In kids, it can cause delayed growth. In general it can lead to osteoporosis, additional risk of lymphomas, rashes, iron deficiency anemia, and neurological issues (from malabsorbtion of various minerals and vitamins). And, the gastrointestinal destruction and suffering just adds to the mess.

Hopefully this push by the NIH will update physician knowledge and move them from old-school diagnosis techniques to up-to-date and more reliable diagnosis (old methods were as vague as looking for patients that look starved/malnutritioned and/or with gastrointestinal distress). Now it is rather widely accepted that Celiac Disease can produce all sorts of vague symptoms and come on at any age for the patient. And, the whole weight-criteria is out of the window, as many with the disease could even be overweight.

So, it will be interesting to see how soon the average physician is educated on this subject. From my personal experience, I went through many a doctor before one even took me seriously when I told them I thought I had the problem. I have not seen those doctors since, but I really wonder, for the sake of others with the disease, whether those same doctors now have a clue. Perhaps this NIH campaign will help. Let's hope.