Monday, December 28, 2009

To have or not to have a gluten-free menu

I recently read a post regarding restaurants with gluten-free menus where the author is of the opinion that just because a restaurant has a gluten-free menu doesn't mean 'anyone' at the restaurant understands the gluten-free diet. This statement really should be qualified to distinguish between chain restaurants and local/family-owned restaurants.

I agree that a number of chain restaurants with gluten-free menus have not been properly trained on the gluten-free diet, so their ability to prepare a safe, cross contamination free meal isn't guaranteed. This situation is not applicable to our beloved Outback in Roswell, where EVERYONE is trained on accommodating the gluten-free diet from the hostess all the way up to the servers, chefs, etc. This situation is also not applicable to Legal Sea Foods, where all of their staff are also properly trained.

There are gluten-free restaurant training programs out there available from the NFCA and GFRAP, but these programs are only effective if every staff member is trained and not just the General Manager and the chefs. Keep in mind that there is a high turnover number associated with many chain restaurants, so keeping all staff members trained can be a daunting task.

However, gluten-free menus offered by local/family-owned restaurants are usually created by the chef/owner using the utmost care and consideration to provide a safe, cross contamination free meal. In these cases, the availability of a gluten-free menu should evoke confidence that these particular menu items are consistently prepared gluten free and are safe. It is also a huge step on the part of the restaurant to reach out to the gluten-free community and show them that they value their business and care about their well being. Granted some of them are just doing it to make a quick buck, but the majority of them start offering gluten-free menu items because a friend or family member is on the gluten-free diet.

As more and more restaurants make gluten-free menus available, please support their efforts by patronizing them. If you happen to have a bad experience, please give them your feedback directly, so they can take steps to correct the situation.

It has never been easier to eat out gluten-free, so I for one am in favor of the gluten-free menu!

Sunday, December 20, 2009

An opinion is an opinion...stop being so touchy

I have been eating gluten free for almost 13 years now and the one thing that remains constant with the gluten-free diet is that all pallets are not created equal. I have been working as a GF Product Specialist for 3 1/2 years, so I get paid to eat and make recommendations on products the store should carry. I don't like all of the products we carry at the store, but we are very customer service oriented, so we bring in the products needed to meet customer demand.

I admit that I have a hard time selling products that are not my favorite, but I would not go out of my way to prevent anyone from buying a product (only if it isn't gluten free) that I don't like, or talk negatively about said product.

Recently I have been surprised to see how many people are taking their review of a product, or their opinion as fact and get offended if you don't agree. Liking or not liking a product is very subjective and it is based on your individual experience with the product. Providing feedback or a review does not and should not equate to influencing someones opinion on a product. Everyone should form their own opinion on a product based on actual experience.

Additionally, a person should not be attacked for their opinion or review of a product. Everyone is allowed to speak their mind and they are not always going to agree on any given topic, but that doesn't mean that they are trying to influence you to purchase or not purchase a product.

Also, don't comment on a product if you have not tried it personally. I have experienced this recently where someone will post feedback from a third party. Why would you do that? Let the person who has the feedback provide their own opinion.

Going forward, bloggers and people who write on websites will have to disclose if they were sent free samples to review and if they have any level of relationship with the company.

Let's just agree to disagree and stop attacking each other. There is nothing I hate more than having to defend my opinion and I shouldn't be put in that position.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Felt like a GF Ritz Carlton Buckhead

I recently attended a Christmas party for my husband's work. I followed my own advice for GF Party Etiquette and contacted the catering department of the hotel throwing the party. I spoke with a very nice young lady who told me either her or the Executive Chef would call me back. They were very familiar with the term/definition of gluten free and assured me there would indeed be plenty of 'safe' food for me to eat.

Imagine my surprise when I was contacted the next day by the Executive Chef himself. I wasn't able to return his call prior to the event, but he gave me his cell phone number and asked me to call him directly. Of course, I lost the piece of paper on which I wrote the number, so when I arrived at the hotel, I spoke with a staff person. I relayed my story and told her that the Chef asked me to inform him when I arrived.

The Chef came out from the back and offered to prepare me a meal in the back to ensure that it was free from cross contamination and asked me what I liked to eat. I told him that I liked just about anything and thanked him for his willingness to meet my dietary needs. To this he replied "it is my pleasure".

About 10 minutes later he arrived with a beautiful plate of food that included: an avocado and tomato salad, sliced grapefruit, shrimp cocktail with a spicy sauce and two beautifully seared lamb chops. The plate was decorated with a palm leaf and each food item was in its own dish with a garnish. As I walked across the room to sit at a table, my food was the envy of everyone. Many heads turned to see what I was eating.

To say my food was good is an understatement. Not only was it fabulous, but I felt like a GF Queen. The rest of the diners didn't have lamb, or the two salads and I am pretty sure my shrimp cocktail was prepared fresh. How wonderful to attend a party and feel like my needs were not only considered, but exceeded in every aspect.

"It is my pleasure" should be the motto of all restaurants and food service industries. I am already thinking of reasons to go back to the hotel and eat for random occasions.

Don't be afraid to eat out and don't be afraid to discuss your dietary concerns with the staff. You never know what lengths the staff is willing to go to meet your needs.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Gluten-free party etiquette is Christmas/Holiday party time, which is normally a fun time, but really makes me a little panicky. By following just a couple of guideline you can enjoy yourself and eat a safe meal whether you are attending a catered event, or a meal in a restaurant.

Here is my advice for enjoying a Christmas/Holiday party gluten-free style:
1 Plan ahead by contacting the event facility/restaurant and ask to speak to the caterer/chef. They should be able to identify safe dishes. This should work for events being thrown in a private and public residence.

2 Eat a snack before you attend the event. Having a snack should keep you full during the event, on the off chance that you are unable to determine if there is any gluten-free fare.

3 Stick to those foods that are naturally gluten-free, like vegetables, cheese, salad, unmarinated/unbreaded meat, beans and fruit. Bring some gluten-free crackers with you to enjoy cheese and crackers.

4 Stay away from the dessert options, as there will not likely be a gluten-free one available.

5 Be polite. Remember this is not only a time to eat too much rich food, it is also a time to spend with family and friends.

Have a drink and strike up a conversation with someone new. This is a great opportunity to make a new friend, enjoy yourself and be merry!

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Gluten Free Dinner Clubs - what's with the 'add on' dishes?

I thought the whole point of a Dinner Group was go to a restaurant with gluten-free options and eat a safe meal off of their current menu. Lately it seems that the restaurants are offering more and more 'add on' main dishes and appetizers that are only available for that particular meal. While this is a nice concept, I find it annoying. I usually find myself liking that 'add on' dish and I am frustrated that I will never be able to get it again.

Wouldn't it be more beneficial to get diners to use their current menu options? I would encourage the organizers of these groups to dissuade restaurant owners from 'add on' dishes (unless it is dessert) and encourage them to create a 'set' gluten-free menu(if they don't have one). Having a set menu not only makes it easier for diners to order on a daily basis, but it promotes a sense of confidence in the gluten-free diner that these 'set' dishes can be prepared safely.

I applaud the efforts of the volunteers who organize these groups all over the United States. I myself am the volunteer board member for the Atlanta Metro Celiacs, so I don't mean to complain, rather offer advice from the perspective of the gluten-free diner.

Keep up the good work and keep it simple!

The art of blogging

I recently read an article by a Twitter friend who stresses the importance of blogging weekly. I have to admit that I have gotten away from blogging because I am lazy. Using my Twitter account is a great way to share information on a local/global platform with little effort. It is also a great way to 'drive' people to your blog, website, etc. and relieves you from taking/adding photos, adding a personal point of view or alliteration. It is basically a 'sloppy' way for those of us busy people to get the word out.

I have become pretty obsessed with my Twitter account and now spend more time looking for people to follow, checking to see who is following me, checking for Direct Messages and reading what everyone else is writing. This is leaving me with little time to actually 'tweet', which is why I am coming back to my blog.

Even though I don't have a lot of followers, I feel the people who take the time to read my blog share an interest and can actually, possibly learn something from me.

So, I am committed to writing a post a week. I hope those of you who have a blog will consider investing more time in your blog than your Twitter account.

Yeah for Social Media!

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

When is enough..enough

I have to say that I have been seriously reconsidering the amount of time I spend doing volunteer work. It isn't that I don't enjoy helping people or that I am looking to make money, but it is that I am so tired of complaints.

It seems all I hear lately is complaining and no compliments. People don't seem to be satisfied with me giving, in some cases, 4+ hours a day of my time. No, they want to ask me to take on even more responsibility and add to my work load without pitching in to help.

If it weren't for that handful of people who send me complimentary emails and who go out of there way to say positive things, I definitely would have given it up by now.

My challenge to you is to encourage you to go out and volunteer your time for a worthy cause. October is Celiac Disease Awareness Month and I am sure you can all think of some way to donate your time and or money to help increase awareness and raise research dollars:
* Patronize a local restaurant and encourage them to provide a gluten free menu.

* Wear “Gluten Free” gear (hats, t-shirts). This is a great way to strike up a conversation with a stranger and educate them about the disease.
* Write to your local media (newspapers, local TV stations, etc.). Suggest they run a story about Celiac Disease while you share your story and serve as their interviewee.
* Subscribe to a magazine on the gluten-free diet, like Gluten Free Living, Living Without, or Delightfully Gluten Free
* Start a local blog and share your experiences with the gluten-free diet
* Participate in a local health fair by volunteering your time or showcasing gluten-free services
* Join a local support group: Atlanta Metro Celiacs and Georgia's R.O.C.K. Chapter
* Join the local Atlanta Gluten Free Dinner Group, meet new people, share information on their message board and dine at local restaurants
* Set up a display at a local health food store, library, etc., to promote Celiac Disease awareness.

Before you criticize someone think about what you can be doing to help.

Friday, October 9, 2009

We need regulation in the U.S. NOW....

I just read an article about a bakery in Australia that was fined more than 1,300 for selling a gluten-free cake that was not gluten-free. The owner of the bakery was charged another $660 for not taking the necessary steps to prevent cross contamination.

We can't even get the FDA to define gluten, let alone police the companies that are currently producing questionable gluten-free products. What will it take for the FDA to realize that gluten is poison to people on the gluten-free diet? Despite what some celebrities say about it being a food allergy, our autoimmune disorder is nothing to take lightly and it is insulting to say the least that they (FDA) aren't even interested in helping to regulate this issue.

I have been working as a GF Product Specialist for more than three years and it is quite disturbing to see the number of companies that are jumping on the band wagon by labeling their products gluten free.

I personally research companies to determine their manufacturing practices prior to making a purchasing decision and I highly encourage everyone to do the same. Just because a product is marked gluten-free does not mean that you can 'trust' that is it completely safe. Contact the company directly to learn about how the product is made to see what else is manufactured on the production line and what other raw materials are stored in the manufacturing facilities. Remember that most companies do not own their own production lines, rather they share, so they need to be liable for the safety of the finished product.

Stop taking things at face value and do your own research. You are responsible for what you eat, so you need to your own research to be comfortable with the safety of what you eat. Remember there are many foods that are naturally gluten free, so you don't have to invest in all of the processed products.

Hopefully we can get our act together in the US soon and catch up with the system adopted by Europe that has been working for more than 30 years.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

What's Next...gluten free ice?

I have to say that I am amazed at all of the products that are being labeled gluten free these days. Most people thought the new labeling law and the upcoming definition of gluten-free by the FDA would have the exact opposite effect. I recently saw it on a jar of peanut butter and a box of tea bags. What's next..gluten-free ice?

While it is important to read labels on product to check their gluten-free status, I feel some companies are going a little overboard. The gluten-free status should be reserved for products that are being tested in a professional lab to ensure there is less than 20 parts per million of gluten; however, more and more companies are just slapping the label on their products without doing any testing. These are the companies that should label their products 'made with gluten-free ingredients'.

This over aggressive labeling is leading to confusion and many questions from consumers. Some people really don't know the difference between a product that has been tested and one that has not, so they believe the products are 'safer' if they contain "Gluten Free" on the packaging. Unfortunately, this isn't always the case.

I would ask that as a manufacturer you are proactive and make sure your products are actually in compliance with the proposed 20 parts per million requirement being established by the FDA. People who follow the gluten-free diet are very loyal consumers, so show us how trustworthy you are and we will be a consumer for life.

Being gluten intolerant/sensitive is not a choice, it is a required life style change that we will be with us forever. Make sure you are not 'poisoning' us and work to keep your products safe.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

What's with all the Whining?

I haven't posted anything in a while because I have started writing for as their Gwinnett Gluten Free Food Examiner. There are a number of people writing about living gluten free. The vast majority of them are writing about positive experiences and encouraging people to support their local restaurants, grocery stores, etc.

Then there are the ones who are constantly whining about how things aren't good enough and we need to demand more. Some even think we are being treated as second-class citizens. What is wrong with these people? When I was diagnosed more than 12 years ago, I had a hard time just finding groceries. Eating out was just something I didn't do for fear of the unknown. I didn't know how to order properly and I just didn't want to risk a problem, so I learned how to cook for myself and spent my entire weekend cooking and packing lunches.

This is a great time to be on the gluten-free diet. Take time out to support those local companies who are stocking gluten-free products, providing gluten-free meals and teaching gluten-free cooking classes and be happy that people know, understand and are able to accommodate the gluten-free diet.

Be positive. It can only get better!

Monday, June 29, 2009

Local Dieticians who specialize in the GF Diet

When I was first diagnosed, I was sent to a dietitian. Back 12 years ago, dietitians really knew relatively little about following the gluten free diet. My dietitian gave me a hand out that had four or five recipes on it and told me not to eat gluten. When I asked her to define gluten, she stumbled a bit and then handed me more pieces of paper with information on gluten. Unfortunately, the information contained on these pages was far from complete and made my first grocery shopping trip a very emotional and frustrating ordeal.

I have since found there are a number of local dietitians who are very capable of helping patients navigate the gluten free diet. I really think it is important to work with a dietitian to learn about not only eating gluten free, but how to eat healthful foods. There are a number of prepared GF products do not contain fiber and/or protein.

I am listing our local dietitians below:

Bailey Koch, RD, LD, CNSD
993-D Johnson Ferry Rd., NE, Suite 440
Atlanta, GA 30342

Danielle Devenie, Certified Nutritional Consultant and Lifestyle Counselor
Body and Soul Nutrition

Amy Roark, RD, LD, CDE
1240 Jesse Jewell Parkway, Suite 500
Gainesville, GA 30501

Bernadette Saviano

Carren Sellers, MMSc, RD, LD, CDE

Julie Taube, MS, RD. LD, HFI
750 Hammond Drive
Building, 7, Suite 350
Atlanta, GA 30328

Julia Turner, MMSc, RD, LD
2000 Iron Mountain Road
Canton, GA 30115

Naturally Gluten Free Foods

I just worked with a customer at Return to Eden over the weekend who brought in her 16-year-old son who was diagnosed a week ago. She is going to have the whole family eat gluten free and she was struggling with what she could feed everyone. I realized she thought she needed to buy prepared gluten free products to be able to accommodate everyone.

It is quite easy to find and prepare naturally gluten free products. Many foods are naturally gluten free:
o Plain, unbreaded, unmarinated meats (beef, pork, ham and canned tuna), fish and poultry
o Vegetables and Fruits
o Legumes (beans and nuts)
o Dairy Products and Eggs

I rarely eat gluten free bread any more and have found that I really enjoy tuna fish rolled inside of a lettuce leaf, a hard boiled egg and some bean salad for lunch. Breakfast usually consists of scrambled eggs, bacon and fresh fruit. I do like to make baked fish with potatoes and broccoli for dinner. I am listing some food options that are naturally gluten free below:

Breakfast Ideas:
o Scrambled Eggs, Omelets, Poached Eggs
o Fresh Fruit, Yogurt
o Bacon or Sausage

Lunch Ideas:
o Tuna fish or chicken salad rolled in lettuce
o Salad topped with grilled meat with hard boiled eggs, cheese and bacon

Snack Ideas:
o Cheese and nuts
o Raw Veggies and dip
o Apples with peanut butter or Celery filled with peanut butter and topped with raisins (ants on a log)

Dinner Ideas:
o Baked fish, chicken, pork chops
o Potatoes (mashed, baked, fried), Rice, Quinoa
o Fresh vegetables

Lean to think outside of the box when it comes to naturally gluten free foods. It will save you time and money in the grocery store and it will teach your other family members about safe, gluten free options.

I pulled the photo below from a blog on the Internet. This person provided a diagram of a grocery store to help everyone shop for naturally gluten free products. I can't remember who authored this diagram, so I hope they will forgive me for not attributing proper credit.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

GF Bread - My Favorites

I get asked a lot about my favorite GF breads. This question is hard to answer because GF bread likes/dislikes are very subjective. If I am eating bread it needs to have a great texture and taste, but I also want to have some fiber and protein. Most of the GF breads contain little to no protein because they are make with a rice base and don't include the fiberful grains like Teff, Amaranth and Quinoa to name a few.

Bread used to be a staple in my diet, but over the last couple of years, I have gotten used to eating meat without buns and sandwiches wrapped in lettuce or brown rice wraps. It is very nice to have options available for when that bun craving hits during summer cook out time!

I break down my favorite breads down into a couple of different categories: Ready to Eat, Mixes and Frozen.

Ready-to-Eat breads - these bread can be used right out of the package without being heated, thawed or toasted.

- this bread is my favorite bread of all time (to this point) due to its flavor, texture and ability to eat it right out of the bag with no heating or toasting. It also had a good amount of both protein and fiber for a premade bread. I keep this bread in my refrigerator and eat it straight out of the bag with a little butter, peanut butter or apple jelly. It is soft, moist and spongy and sort of tastes like a cross between pumpernickle and rye. This bread is at a higher price point, but it is well worth the cost.
Protein = 4 grams; Fiber = 4 grams
***This bread is currently on sale through Gluten Free Trading Company for $2.99 a loaf. This bread usually sells for anywhere from $7.50 - $9, so this is a fabulous sale to take advantage of.

Ener-G Light Tapioca Loaf - although this bread does not have a healthful aspect to it, I find it to be the best bread to make french toast, grilled cheese and cold sandwiches. You do have to heat the bread to make the cold sandwiches, but you can make french toast and grilled cheese right out of the bag. This bread is vacuum sealed, so you do not have to refrigerate it or freeze it prior to use, which makes it easy to store. Once you open the bag, you need to refrigerate it.
Protein = 0; Fiber = 1

Frozen - sold in the freezer and need to be heated, thawed or toasted to taste their best

The Grainless Baker - makes fabulous hamburger/hot dog buns and hoagie rolls. Their hamburger buns are used by the Outback in Roswell, GA. They are so undetectible from their gluten counterpart that I found myself double checking to make sure they had given me the right bun. I like to use the hoagie rolls for sub sandwiches, french dip or a cheese steak sandwich.
Hamburger Bun = Protein = 1 gram; Fiber = 5 grams
Hot Dog Buns = Protein = 1 gram; Fiber = 5 grams
Hoagie Rolls = Nutritional Information not available on website

Joan's GF Great Bakes
- makes the best bagels and english muffins I have ever had. Joan's products are shipped as premade 'dough' that you defrost and bake to your liking. This company offers a large product line that is worth investigating, but I would guess that her bagels are the best selling products.
Bagels - Protein = 5; Fiber = 2
English Muffins - Protein = 4; Fiber = 2

Kinnikinnick - I like their Brown Rice bread the best because it almost tastes like pumpernickle and has a small amount of fiber. I am also partial to their hamburger and hot dog buns that have recently been reformulated to decrease the sweetness and amount of left over bun and improve their elasticity.
Brown Rice Bread - Protein = 2 grams; Fiber = 2 grams
Hamburger/Hot Dog Buns - Protein = 5 grams; Fiber = 4 grams

Mixes - self explanatory

Breads from Anna - I believe this to be the most well known line of bread mixes. The company has undergone a couple of name changes: Manna from Anna, Breads from Anna and finally Gluten Evolution. These mixes are tailored to meet the need of most people as they are available dairy free, yeast free, soy free, rice free and nut free. They started making three varieties of Muffin/Pancake mix earlier this year.
Nutritional Information Not Available on Website

Gluten Free Naturals - offer a multi-grain bread mix that makes two one-pound loaves. you don't need to use a bread maker and you proof the bread in the oven while it is heating up. This bread stays fresh for a couple of days on the counter, but then must be refrigerated or frozen.
Protein - 1 gram; Fiber = 2 grams

Tracey's Treats - I have been a big fan of this bread for a number of years. We used to carry this bread mix at Return to Eden, but it is a tad bit more expensive and I had a hard time convincing customers that it was worth the extra money. This bread is made with Millet, a GF grain that contains both fiber and protein. It is easy to make using their mix, or you can buy it frozen in a 'ready to use' baking pan. It smells like real bread while it is baking and it rises and has the texture of a 'real' bread. I like to use it to make french toast and sandwiches.
Nutritional Information is not available on their website

I continue to try new breads because the GF market is expanding by leaps and bounds, so there is always something new to try. There are a number of online bakeries all over the US whose products are well worth trying.

Please don't limit yourself and continue to explore the new bounty of bread products. You just never know what fabulous treat is waiting for you!

Friday, June 19, 2009

UPDATE on GF Breakfast Items at J. Christopher's

I made it in to J. Chrisopher's to try the new GF breakfast items on Tuesday. I sampled the GF pancakes and Strada made with apples with my good friend Julie (Yes, Julie from the Outback). When we arrive, the owner's son was waiting for us and told me I was instructed to try the Strada by his Mother.

It turns out that the Strada dish is the item they want to promote due to the ability to prepare this item without any cross contamination concerns. They prepare this item in the 'skillet' pans in advance and then warm it up to order. I have to say that the Strada was very good. It was almost like eating apple pie between two pieces of bread. You could taste the cinnamon and the butter as they melded perfectly with the apples. It wasn't too sweet, so that it needed ice cream, but very tasty and a perfect breakfast item.

The pancakes on the other hand were a miss for me. The pancakes were flat and crusty around the edges. I learned that they are using a substandard mix, so I am going to work to get them a sample of Pamela's Products Pancake and Baking Mix, so they can see the difference. I love making Pamela's pancakes at home and blogged about them being my favorite mix last month, so I would just love to be able to go out and order them.

We are going to work together to schedule a lunch/brunch/luncheon to debut all of the breakfast items very soon. The owner is working to create a set gluten free menu, but it is still in the initial stages.

Please everyone go out and visit J. Christopher's Monday through Friday to sample their Strada, French Toast and Pancakes. We need to support their efforts by frequenting the restaurant.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

GF Breakfast Items Worth the Drive

I was recently made aware that the J Christopher's in East Cobb is offering new gluten free breakfast items Monday through Friday. These items were created specifically by the General Manager, Joanne Hardin, whose husband is gluten intolerant.

Monday through Friday they offer Gluten Free Pancakes which you can add blueberries, strawberries, bananas, or pecans to if you wish. This item is only available Monday through Friday due to the potential cross contamination on our grill. This mix is made with brown rice flour, tapioca flour, arrowroot flour, rice milk powder, cream of tartar, xanthan gum, baking soda, sea salt, ground vanilla bean and water.

Since they are unable to offer this item on Saturday and Sunday they created a new item that resembles a baked french toast. Their Gluten Free Strada is brown rice bread, egg batter and fruit: either apples, peaches, cherries and soon pumpkin pie filling.(The strada is only available with one filling at any time, not made to order) The rice bread is toasted and soaked in our egg batter and layered with filling. It is precooked, so it only needs to be reheated when ordered. It is served with fresh fruit on the side.

They can also prepare Gluten Free French Toast at times when they are not busy. Again due to the cross contamination they have to limit its availability.

They are working to offer a gluten free sandwich on homemade bread. Due to the nature and size of the brown rice bread they are still working out the portion issues.

"Being on this side of the issue, I am aware of how hard it is to create gluten free menu items that can be prepared without any cross contamination. At this time these gluten free items are only available at this location. Please feel free to contact me if you have any other questions or concerns."

Joanne Hardin
J. Christopher's East Cobb
General Manager

Let's all go out and support the efforts of this restaurant!

Tastes Just Like Jiffy Corn Muffins

For those of us who were raised on Jiffy Corn Muffins, you will relate to this story. I have been eating GF for 12 years and have yet to find a corn bread mix that tastes just like Jiffy and is as easy to make. The search is finally over. I have found yet another Pamela's Products mix that tastes like the real thing. As usual, the package is loaded with recipe variations, but I just follow the Sweet Old Fashioned Corn Bread recipe.

The mix is very easy to make and has both a good taste and texture. The mix does not contain dairy. The recipe I use does require butter, but you can replace oil for butter. Click here to read the ingredients.

According to Marion, the traveling cupcake maker for Pamela's, you can bake the mix in a cast iron skillet in your oven, so the cornbread comes out with a fabulous golden crust on the top and bottom, but it soft and moist in the middle.

My grandmother was from Kentucky and her cornbread was always a little crusty on the outside, but soft in the middle. I thought this was the norm, but when I moved down to Georgia, I discovered people put sugar in their cornbread and like it undercooked.

Only two other mix came close and they are by Really Great Foods and Gluten Free Pantry. All of the other mixes, to me, tasted like cake or had too much grit to be enjoyable.

I highly recommend picking up a bag and giving it a try. This is a fabulous product to use for breakfast or any other meal. I will definitely use it to prepare my GF Cornbread Stuffing at Thanksgiving.

Yeah Pamela's...keep on creating new mixes!

Betty Crocker to the Rescue

Well, I went to the in-laws this weekend to celebrate my husband's birthday. This usually means we will have a gluten cake for dessert and I will have ice cream and berries. Not so this year. My mother-in-law announces that she wants to make me a GF cake and has scoped out some GF mixes in the Health Food section of Kroger in Athens, GA. I tell her to look for the Betty Crocker mixes, since they just arrived on the market last week.

So anyway, I arrive in Athens and I am presented with a GF Yellow Cake with homemade Chocolate Icing (my mother-in-law knew I wouldn't eat the GF prepared frostings) sitting on a plate next to the gluten cake. I don't have to tell you it almost brought a tear to my eye. The cake was soft, moist and had a great taste/texture. My mother-in-law ate some just to give it a try and couldn't distinguish it from a gluten cake.

I can't believe someone finally made me a GF cake. While I was writing this my husband (then boyfriend)reminds me that he made me a GF poundcake back when we were dating (98), but it was inedible. I don't believe I had really gotten the hang of baking GF yet, so I probably didn't give him the best flour to use.

Oh, and I just remembered that a good friend made me GF brownies. He had to make them without eggs, since he is a Vegan, so they didn't quite turn out, but it is the thought that counts, right?

I always make my own sweets for every occasion. I just feel more comfortable knowing what dessert I can have and don't feel like putting anyone out to make something for me. Even 12 years later, I don't want to burden friends/family with my dessert needs.

It was sooooo nice to have someone else bake for me and I hope the trend continues!

The GF Betty Crocker mixes are available at all grocery stores and are priced at $4.49 per box. They make GF: Brownie, Cookie, Chocolate cake and Yellow cake mixes. Tell your friends and family about these mixes and they just may surprise you with a special treat!

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Could the G-Free Diet Actually Help People? I have not read the book. I just can't fathom spending good money on a 'book' written by a 'celebrity' when the title is called the G-Free diet. After all, eating gluten free is not trendy, rather it is a necessity.

I have been relying on all of the published reviews to confirm my suspicion that the book is full of misinformation. I mean even her 'website' contains misleading information about safe food. She called CD a 'wheat allergy' in numerous interviews and advises people to try the diet to get an 'energy boost' and as a way to loose weight. I don't know about you, but I gained weight when I was diagnosed because I had been 20-30 pounds underweight my whole life.

So I was about to write off the book when something interesting happened at my daughter's daycare on Friday. I am the 'cool' Mom who takes in baked goods from time to time for my daughter's class to enjoy for their afternoon snack. Nothing fancy, but always gluten free.

Miss Jessica is my daughter's new teacher. She approached me the day after I brought in the Gluten Free Pantry's Chocolate Truffle Brownies and asked me if they were gluten free. I told her yes and then she proceeded to ask me if I had Celiac Disease(CD). Well, I don't have to tell you how shocked I was that she knew what CD actually is, but I was very intrigued. Apparently she learned about CD by watching one of the many interviews Elizabeth Hasselback did on her new book and wanted to ask me how I was diagnosed and what my symptoms had been.

She then goes on to tell me that she has suffered from stomach problems for 10 years and was diagnosed with IBS and even had her Galbladder removed. Nothing has seemed to relieve her constant headaches, iritability, stomach bloating, anxiety, etc., etc., etc. The same story we have all heard from the newly diagnosed.

I advised her to visit her Gastroenterologist and have her doctor run the CD pannel. She was shocked that it would only take a blood test to get a diagnosis. I had to tell her to keep eating gluten until her blood had been drawn. I also warned her that they might need to do an endoscope to confirm diagnosis.

I told her not to waste her money on the G-Free diet and advised her that there were a number of books written by medical professionals that would help her understand CD, if indeed she has it, and metioned that she could be Gluten Sensitive and not Intolerant depending on her test results.

I am left wondering if the publicity from this 'book' could actually lead people to a diagnosis? If so, then I have to applaud Ms. Hasselback for FINALLY talking publically about CD, but also scold her for not consulting a medical professional when writing this book and for trying to trivialize an autoimmune disorder.

What I am left with is mixed feelings. I guess any publicity is good publicity, as long as it can help people.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Airport Guide for Summer Travel

I just found a fabulous website that is perfect for the travel season. Airport Guides offers a listing of every airport in the US and some International airports. The listing is broken down into several categories, one of which is Restaurants. The restaurants are listed by area/gate, so you can look in advance to see if your terminal has a Chick-fil-A or a Wendy's (my favorite gluten free fast food) prior to your trip.

I don't know about you, but I find it comforting to know my food options in advance at the airport. I always travel with an abundance of food, but it is nice to be able to get something hot at the airport that is safe.

Some of my favorite foods to travel with are:

Tools to take with you
Plastic Utensils

Condiment packages- salad dressing, mayo, catchup, mustard, etc.

Salt/Pepper packets

Napkins/wet wipes

Toast - It Bags for bread toasting at your final destination

Hard boiled eggs - you can use mayo and salt packets to make egg salad

Tuna in a foil bag

Trail Mix

Protein Bar

Dried Fruit/Fresh Fruit

Dried soup mix in a cup - you can make this on the plane or anywhere you can find hot water

Cookie 2-packs - Enjoy Life Snickerdoodle or Liz Lovely Ginger

Coconut/Curry Wraps by Improveat - these wraps are great for chicken salad, tuna salad, or just with a little hummus.

Peanut butter/Almond butter by Justin's Nut Butter - these are individual foil packages of nut butter, so there is no trouble getting it through security and it is easy to get it out of the package with no mess

Dried Vegetables - green beans, peas and carrots

St. Dalfour - canned meals (compact) that come complete with a fork and salt and pepper packets. These meals can be eaten cold or microwaved in the container. Their Three Bean and Salmon with Vegetables meals are gluten free and available at Return to Eden

Carrots and Celery

Dried Cereal

Ener-G - Light Tapioca Loaf for toasting, sandwiches and french toast

Enjoy the travel season!

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Guide to Eating Gluten Free Pizza in Georgia

In my experience, the top thing people miss the most when they go on the gluten free diet is pizza. We are fortunate that we have so many local places offering gluten free pizza now, so I wanted to provide you with a summary below to help you make a decision on where to go eat pizza!

During these trying economic times, it can be difficult to eat out, but lets try to do all we can to support our local companies. Our request for gluten free pizza has finally come true, so we need to do our part by going out and supporting their efforts.

Belly’s Pizza ( - has begun serving gluten free, thin-crust pizza.

I have not been to this restaurant as I only found out about it last week from a support group member, so I am unable to post any comments/feedback.

Pizza Crust – 10” Domata Living Flour rice crust
Dessert – n/a
GF Beer –n/a at this time, but one should be coming soon
GF Menu – GF offerings are on the regular menu
Location: King Plaza, 885 Woodstock Road, Suite 330 Roswell, GA 30075, 770-594-8118
Open: Sun - Thurs 11:30 am to 10:00 p.m. and Friday & Saturday 11:30 am to 11:00 p.m.

Pepperoni's Pizza - offers gluten free pizza on two different crusts. Specify which one you want when you place your order. If you do not specify, then you will get the French Meadow crust by default.

Their homemade marinara sauce is made with shallots and wine, which creates a fabulous taste that I haven’t found at any of the other pizza places. Their pizza is cooked the most consistently, so you don’t end up with a burnt or underdone pizza. They have calibrated their pizza oven, which works like an assembly line and drives the pizza through as it cooks, to produce a perfectly prepared gluten free crust.

Pizza Crust – 10” Domata Living Flour and French Meadow Bakery – both thin crust
Dessert – French Meadow Bakery’s Chocolate Chip Cookies
GF Beer – Bard’s Tale
GF Menu – n/a; ask staff which toppings are gluten free prior to ordering; sausage is not gluten free; barbeque sauce is gluten free
Other- Gluten free pasta with marinara sauce is also available (Tinkyada)
Location - 2750 Buford Highway, #5b, Duluth, 770-232-0224; Closed on Sundays

Pizza Fusion (www.pizzafusion) – they use organic, fresh ingredients and hybrid vehicles for delivery (yes delivery). Their topping options are extensive and are all gluten free except the sweet sausage and the barbeque sauce. All of their salad dressings are gluten free except the goddness dressing. They only offer Boylan’s sodas because they don’t carry any carbonated beverages with corn syrup. Don’t worry, they also offer juice boxes for the kids, Vitamin Water and Greens Ice Tea.

In my experience, this is the best local pizza around. The organic mozzarella, sauce and plentiful toppings make this pizza worth the money. The crust is crunchy on the outside and soft on the inside, which makes for a fantastic texture. They also offer a couple of specialty salads that can be ordered in a small or large portion that are a nice addition to the pizza.

Pizza Crust – Still Riding Pizza Crust – thin/thick crust that is only available in a Large. The crust is shaped more like an oval/rectangle as are the pizza boxes.
Dessert – Vegan/Gluten Free Brownie (Arrowhead Mills mix) topped with powdered cocoa and berries
GF Beer – Green’s Beer
GF Menu – GF menu offerings are on the regular menu
Other - They offer a lunch special that includes a personal sized pizza, small salad and drink for $13.50

They offer Vegan/Gluten Free Cheese (Follow Your Heart) for those who are lactose/casein intolerant

Still Riding Pizza trains everyone who buys their crusts on avoiding cross contamination. The pizzas are baked on one specific rack in the oven and cut with dedicated utensils.
Location - 2233 Peachtree Road, Suite M, Atlanta, 404-351-9334

zpizza ( –has been offering gluten free pizza made on Domata Living Flour’s ( pizza shells since October 2008. zpizza has completed the NFCA’s Gluten Free Restaurant Awareness Training Program, so they verified their gluten free ingredients and are able to properly prevent cross contamination.

In my experience, the pizza can be overdone/burnt making is too crispy or underdone/soggy. I have yet to have to experience the pizza cooked properly. They have a number of ‘specialty’ pizzas and toppings to choose from and also offer salads. Their pizza sauce is organic.

Pizza Crust – Domata Living Flour – 10’ thin crust made from rice
Dessert – Brownie and Carrot Cake made locally using Domata Living Flour (only available at the Alpharetta and Duluth locations)
GF Beer – Bard’s Tale
GF Menu – Yes, they have a laminated menu at the counter
Other – gluten free pasta with two types of sauces: marinara and pesto; can add chicken
5315 Windward Parkway, Suite B, Alpharetta, 678-205-4471
11720 Medlock Bridge Road, Duluth, 770-817-0526
860 Peachtree Street, Suite D, Atlanta, 404-745-9911,

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Gluten Free Ice Cream Cones

Summer is here and it is time for ice cream. There are a number of companies who make a gluten free ice cream cones and I have listed some below.

I highly encourage you to take a GF cone to your favorite ice cream place and ask them to use it. I have been to Dairy Queen a couple of times now and they gladly take my cone over the counter (using a napkin) and apply soft serve ice cream. Make sure to take in the box of cones, not just a cone in your hand, so they can see that it came from a box. There are 'food handling' issues that may prevent some places from using your cone.

Let's Do Organics (in the blue box) - cake cones
Barkat - both cake cones and waffle cones that are certified Kosher.
Cerrone Cones - waffle cones
Goldbaums Cones - cake cones that are certified Kosher

Enjoy your summer!

Sunday, May 31, 2009

Wildefire Restaurant's GF Wine Dinner on Thursday, June 25th

Wildfire Restaurant is hosting a GF Wine Dinner on June 25th. It's a four course, gluten-free wine dinner, which is priced at $55/person, all-inclusive. The reception starts at 6:30pm, with dinner starting at 7. This dinner is currently limited to 50 guests.

You MUST make reservations to attend the event. call Ali at 770-730-9080. The menu is shown below.

Assorted Gluten Free Pizzas
shrimp & pesto, fresh mozzarella & tomato, roasted vegetable & goat cheese

Danzante Pinot Grigio ‘08

First Course
Citrus Cured Salmon
baby greens, hazelnut vinaigrette

Estancia Monterey Chardonnay ‘06

Second Course
Braised Short Rib
roasted root vegetables

Hess “Monterey/Mendocino” Syrah ‘06

Pear Tartlet
crème anglaise

Robert Mondavi Moscato d’Oro ‘06

Matt Albertario, Executive Chef
Larry Donahue, Guest Speaker

This restaurant has a 'set' gluten free menu that includes burgers on Kinnikinnick Buns, Au gratin Potatoes and Flourless Chocolate Cake, to name a few.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

GF Bakeries, Caterers and Chefs in Atlanta

The Atlanta Metro Celiacs put together a listing of local Bakeries, Caterers and Chefs in the metro Atlanta area that can provide gluten free services. The listing can be found on their website

This list is offered as a guide only. GF offerings from establishments can change at any time. Please verify GF offerings for yourself to insure you are fed safely. Food and its preparation may vary from item to item and the Atlanta Metro Celiacs cannot guarantee that the food you receive is 100% gluten free.

Although we do not have a dedicated bakery in Atlanta yet, the bakeries on the listing take every necessary precaution to prevent cross contamination. We are hopeful that a dedicated bakery will be opening up soon, very soon!

This list continues to evolve on a daily basis, so please let me know if I am missing any companies.


Eating Out Gluten Free In Georgia

Eating out gluten free can be a very daunting task, especially when you are newly diagnosed. The Atlanta Metro Celiacs created their GF Restaurant Listing to aide in this task by providing a list of local restaurants that can provide a gluten free meal. This list is available on their website.

They do their best to make sure these restaurants understand how to provide a good gluten free meal, but they don’t have a formal review process in place. The restaurants on the list come to us from our members who have had a good gluten free meal at the establishment.

The Restaurant Listing denotes which restaurants have a gluten free menu verses the ones that modify dishes from their regular menu. It is highly recommended that you try to restaurants with a gluten free menu first, until you become comfortable with the ordering process. Then you can branch out and try to restaurants that modify dishes.

We offer the following guidelines when utilizing the restaurant listing:

o You are highly advised to contact any restaurant in advance of arrival to ensure you will be able to get a gluten free meal. You should also remind your server of your dietary restrictions as you are being seated. This will allow your server to check with the Chef regarding your menu options before you order.

o I would further advise that if you are going to a restaurant for the first time that you do not go during peak dining times because the restaurant is less likely to have time to work with you to fulfill your dietary needs.

o As always, request to speak to a Manager or the Chef if you feel your server doesn’t ‘grasp’ the concept of gluten free. Do not feel self conscious or embarrassed. It is always better to be safe than sorry!

o It is always a good idea to carry a Gluten Free Restaurant Card or Restaurant Guide. They can be purchased from a number of sources and they help restaurants understand what products can/do contain gluten:

• Triumph Dining ( ) – they offer a package of 10 dining cards in one language; 10 dining cards in multiple languages and the Restaurant Guide (3rd Edition in print) which lists restaurants by state that can provide a gluten free meal.

• Living Without ( ) – offers a package of 10 dining cards

• Gluten Free Passport ( – offers dining guides in multiple cuisines and languages for various prices.

o There are a number of online restaurant review websites that have a gluten free section. This is a great way to find a restaurant close to you and see what other diners had to say about their meal.

Urbanspoon offers a section on Gluten Free Friendly Restaurants by city. They also rank these restaurants by the 'best' received reviews.

Gluten Free Registry - only lists restaurants with gluten free menu by state. They also include local grocery stores, caterers and bakeries.

If you still have a bad experience at a restaurant on the GF Restaurant listing after following all of these guidelines, we want to know (email Jennifer Harris at Your experiences will be used to decide which restaurants remain on the restaurant listing. We will let everyone know if a restaurant is removed and what caused us to take this action.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Why I love My Job as a Gluten Free Product Specialist

When I was diagnosed with celiac disease more than 12 years ago, I couldn't have imagined it would lead me to a new career. I am the gluten-free product specialist at Return to Eden, a health food store in Atlanta. And it's the most fulfilling job I have ever had.

Through my job at Return to Eden, I get to be the person I desperately needed twelve years ago. Someone who could help me grocery shop, find recipes and give me cooking tips. Someone who could help me find restaurants with gluten free menus, direct me to local support groups, and most importantly "hold my hand" and guide me as I negotiated the gluten-free diet. I can't describe the joy I feel when a customer's face lights up after having discovered there is good gluten free food at their fingertips.

I do a lot of things at the health food store to help gluten-free shoppers, but most importantly, I label all of our gluten-free grocery products with a purple "Gluten Free" sign. The sign makes it really easy to identify the gluten-free products available at the store while eliminating all the tedious ingredient label reading (unless there are more allergens to avoid).

The second most important part of my job is to research and recommend new gluten free products. After all, all gluten-free food is not created equal, so it needs to be evaluated by someone with gluten-free expertise before a decision is made to carry/not carry the product. With the growing number of vendors manufacturing gluten free products, there is almost an overwhelming amount of new products to consider, so it is crucial to have someone with experience reviewing them.

The third most important part of my job at Return to Eden is giving guided store tours. I point out all the gluten-free products we carry while walking a customer through the store and I let them sample products. The gluten free diet can be quite expensive, so it is nice to be able to try a product before buying. I personalize their shopping experience.

Meanwhile, the kinds of things I do continue to grow as the needs of our gluten free shoppers evolve. I participate in support group meetings, coordinate in-store events, speak at local doctors offices and attend trade shows. I stay current on gluten-free topics through research using magazines such as Gluten-Free Living and groups, such as National Foundation for Celiac Awareness

I feel so lucky to have found my calling as a gluten-free product specialist. I suspect there aren't too many others out there with a job quite like mine. I worked in the 'corporate' world for more than ten years prior, so I know how hard it is to find the one job that is completely fulfilling and meant for you.

Return to Eden is a Natural Foods Market that has been in business for more than 15 years. They strive to support those who are on restricted diets, especially the wheat-free/gluten-free diet. They have made it their mission to provide pure foods and supplements, support organic products and encourage health education. Check out the website for more information.

My Favorite GF Pancake Mixes

I just love making gluten free pancakes. So much so that I have tried just about every gluten free pancake mix on the market. While I don't consider myself to be much of a cook, I can make great pancakes from mixes. I have narrowed down my favorites mixes to the following and in this order:

Pamela's Products Baking and Pancake Mix - this mix contains buttermilk and can also be used as a substitute for bisquick. The pancakes are easy to make with a great taste and texture. I like this mix because it is so versatile. I have used it to make drop biscuits, scones, quiche, etc. This mix does contain powdered buttermilk, so it isn't dairy free.

Really Great Food - this mix requires you to let it rest after it is mixed up because it actually rises in the bowl. These pancakes rise very high once flipped in the pan. I usually don't like syrup on my pancakes, but the syrup soaks into these pancakes quite nicely. This mix is dairy and soy free. This mix is made in a dedicated facility. I don't know anyone who sells it locally, but you can order it via their website.

Maple Grove Farms - this mix rises in the pan as you flip the pancakes. It makes a light, fluffy pancake. This mix does contain Soy Flour and I believe this is what gives it such a nice wheat-like texture. This mix isn't available locally, but you can order it via their website.

Kinnikinnick - this mix makes very delicate pancakes that I use to make pancake sandwiches by adding eggs, cheese, sprouts, etc. I find that they don't rise the way the other mixes do, but was told by Kinnikinnick that they will rise if you separate the eggs, beat the eggs whites until fluffy and then gently fold in the mix after the other ingredients are incorporated.

Breakfast should be enjoyed by all, regardless if your diet is restricted.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Gluten Free Camps in Georgia

It is that time of year is out and parents are arranging summer camps for their children. We are fortunate that our local R.O.C.K (Raising our Celiac Kids) chapter partnered with Camp Twin Lakes to create Camp WeeKanEatIt, the first ever gluten free camp in Georgia.

Camp WeeKanEatIt had its first Family Camp Mother's Day weekend 2008. This year the camp offered two options: a Family Camp Mother's Day weekend and a week long Summer camp. The Summer Camp runs from July 26-31 at Camp Twin Lakes (Camp Will-A-Way location in Winder, GA

This camp week will be exclusive (no other camps joining) with all of the meals and snacks being gluten free. Other dietary restrictions (dairy, egg, soy, etc.) can be accommodated. The dedicated staff will work to develop a gluten free version of a traditional camp menu, complete with gluten free smores, pancakes, donuts, etc. I volunteered my time to help organize both the menu (2008) and the goodie bags/snacks (2009).

Since the camp really prefers that parents not serve as cabin counselors/volunteers (so the kids get the whole "camp experience") – they would love to get some volunteers from the celiac community. Volunteers must be 18 yrs of age (by Sept 1st) and a high school graduate. Camp covers all of the volunteer costs.

All of the forms for registering or volunteering are posted online on the Camp Twin Lakes website (, go to "partner organizations", then find Camp WeeKanEatIt and you will find the forms). They are anticipating 75 campers.

I hope some of you will consider volunteering your time for this worth while experience. Serving as a mentor to these campers is one of the most rewarding experiences.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Walk Now for Autism - Unless You Follow the Gluten Free Diet

Return to Eden, where I work as a GF Product Specialist, has participated in the local Walk for Autism for the last two years. We are consistently the only company who brings gluten free/casein free samples. The food area offers wheat bagels and muffins, while fruit is put out only after the walk is over. We were all set to participate this year, when we were told that we didn't have enough samples to hand out, so we were unceremoniously uninvited.

Now I have to admit that there is no direct link showing a benefit from being Autistic and following the gluten free/casein free diet, but there is a definitely a group (think Jenny McCarthy) who believe following the diet is the key to managing Autism, whether you have a gluten sensitivity or not.

I can't for the life of me understand why the organizers of this event consistently do not take into consideration the dietary needs of their walkers. I also don't see why they wouldn't want someone like me handing out literature, coupons and other pertinent information that will help parents manage the gluten diet and show them where they can shop (personal tour) for gluten free products.

This event should be more about providing options to the parents of Autistic children and less about how many samples I am bringing.

I sincerely hope the organizers of this event are not as restrictive in the future and take into account not only the dietary restrictions of the participants, but their informative needs as well.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Suffolk County Gluten Free Vendor Fair

Hurray, I am going to the Suffolk County GF Vendor Fair on Sunday and I can hardly wait. I organize our local Vendor Fair for the Atlanta Metro Celiacs, which attracts anywhere from 500-700 people. Their fair attracts more than 1,500 people and vendors sell out of product in two hours.

Mike Thorn, organizer of the event, has been a wealth of information for establishing our fair, so I am excited to meet him and their local vendors. I will be sure to take pictures and give a summary of all the goodies available. After all, the Northeast is a mecca for gluten free products and we just don't have that down here in Georgia.

If you want to attend this event, please visit their website at: for more details.